Most people these days know that Toad was in the original Super Mario Bros. game. Some might not realize, however, that there are seven different toads in this game, and they were not all the same character, many different times. In fact, some people might not even know that until the second game, Super Mario Bros. 2, they were only refereed to as Mushroom Retainers and not once was the name Toad mentioned.
In the 1980’s, when a game was new, children often had to come up with back stories for who characters were, and why they were there. Also, sprites often left much to the imagination, and in my home, that imagination went wild! The Mushroom retainer did not belong to a species called Toad, nor was he named Toad. Heck! We didn’t even assume that he was a he!
There were only a few things that we knew about Retainer. One: The character is shorter than Mario. Two: She looked similar to Strawberry Shortcake, a cartoon character who was around at the time. Three: She worked for the princess. Four: She seemed to wear garb similar to Jeannie, from the popular TV show I Dream of Jeannie. Five: Maybe she could teleport?
Clearly, the chin line is a bra. We were such smart children! And that fabulous red vest? Well, it’s either a vest similar to Jeannie’s or red hair! Come on! And she is either wearing a long white skirt with giant red shoes, or she is wearing puffy pants! Children aren’t dumb!
It was probably odd when we started watching The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, or when we started playing Super Mario Bros. 2, and ‘Toad’ was clearly male.
The cosplayer to the right looks closer to how I had originally pictured The Mushroom Retainer in my head than the weird collection of round objects that Toad ended up being. I can’t help but feel that the Super Mario Bros. games would have ended up being slightly better if we had been right.