Super Mario Brothers Is The World’s Greatest Piece Of Surrealist Art | Idea Channel | PBS

Super Mario Brothers Is The World’s Greatest Piece Of Surrealist Art | Idea Channel | PBS

Here’s an idea–
“Super Mario Brothers” is the world’s greatest
piece of surrealist art. [MUSIC PLAYING] [DING] Mario might not seem
that weird to you because it’s such a huge
part of our culture. But let’s say that you had
to explain it to someone who’d never heard of it before. You can eat a flower
that lets you spit fire. Walking mushrooms. There’s a guy who throws
armadillo-type things from a cloud. There are turtles that
throw hammers at you, and they are called
the Hammer Brothers. Sometimes, you can ride a
dinosaur that poops eggs. This doesn’t sound like the work
of savvy Japanese businessmen. It sounds like the
ravings of a madman. I might as well be saying stuff
like, we’re in the desert, and the clocks are melting. It’s raining businessmen. There are elephants, and they
have sousaphones for trunks. Wait. This level of nonsense
is exactly why “Mario” is a surrealist masterpiece. It’s a little complicated. But surrealist artwork is based
upon the idea of non-sequitur. Non-sequitur is kind of like
when you’re having a dream and your dad is a lawnmower and
your house is made of cheese and you go back in time to
visit George Washington. But for some reason, it
all kind of makes sense. A giant mechanical
elephant made of a boiler? Of course. Why not put a headless
woman in there, too? Big stone castle on a
floating rock in the sky. A very unfriendly-looking,
winged, wooden battleship. You go ahead and
you try to tell me this stuff doesn’t look
like “Mario,” really the only difference being
that you can play “Mario,” but you can’t really
play a Dali painting. When surrealism began, these
ideas were really radical. Now, non-sequitur is just
a part of our culture. It doesn’t even
phase us anymore. Maybe we have “Mario”
to thank for that. For instance, we don’t
even bat an eyelash at using a slingshot to launch
birds at buildings built by pigs or using a gigantic,
sticky ball to pick up objects for the space king. Because video games
are constantly challenging our ideas about
what’s normal or even possible, maybe we have them to
thank for some of our more insane accomplishments. At this point, it seems
like we might even live in a surreal world, thanks
to a tiny, Italian plumber. What kinds of stuff has
“Mario” inspired you to do? Let us know in the comments. Keep it PG. [MARIO THEME MUSIC]


  • Alix Taylor says:

    A similarly surreal gaming experience that I found especially engaging was Antichamber. Antichamber doesn't rely on bizarre, superimposed imagery (hammer throwing turtles, rock with angry faces) as much as it leans toward twisting traditional perception of space and movement. The building blocks are still there though, and certainly appeal to the part of me that likes to wonder about what it might be like to turn a building sideways, or how one might navigate an endless flight of stairs.

    A lot of modern games and television commercials seem to try to play the surreal-ness card for its own sake, and then often try to build some kind of reasoning and logic on top the surreal creation if it proves popular. This approach seems to kill the surreal for me. Feels kind of dirty and pale by comparison to the original sense of amusement and wonder. Many newer Nintendo games seem to suffer from this issue whenever they try to build on and structure the surreal nature of their intellectual property, instead of just leaving it thrown across the canvas.

  • merlin says:

    I jumped on my friends turtle when I was 5… It didn't die though dont worry, the shell didn't even brake!

  • Joe Boy says:

    Bump my head into bloks

  • Monosquevenanime says:

    i am gonna eat a flower

  • Laff Olympics says:

    Further evidence that games are art. Well let's say the good ones, I doubt Wii Sports counts

  • Chilliard2000 says:

    Mario has inspired many people to eat odd sorts of mushrooms. Come on. We were all thinking of it…

  • DesertSmeagle says:

    become a plumber, eat poisonous mushrooms, and stomp on turtles and throw their dead shells at people driving by. 

  • Harry Germano says:

    Shrooms, mario inspired me to do shrooms.

  • Sophie Talia says:

    so is adventure time surrealist? 

  • ClassicGMTrucks02 says:

    Hey!!! that's my YouTube channel picture. u copiers!!!!

  • Connor C says:

    mario taught me that is dosent matter if you defeat the evil koopa king 3 times in a row in a fight to death it still dosent mean your going to get lucky 

  • KoolTism says:

    Hi mike, great job on your vids as always. Is there anyway you or someone else could tell me the names of the records on your wall. I am looking to get into some new music.

  • satur10 says:

    Those were tubas, not sousaphones!

  • Phabel Greene says:

    No way. Adventure Time is the world's greatest piece of surrealist art.

  • Jim M. says:

    Well what about sonic and how people might think that they are actually blue and fast.

  • ELY .Foto y Video says:

    Mario made me challenge Equestrian logic.

    ……… And let the hate comments roll in!!!

  • S S says:

    And Luigi!

  • alex o'malley says:

    mario encouraged me to jerk off fuck pg

  • Surfing On Squarewaves says:

    Video games have their own particular visual language that matured along with the technology. For example, the distinction between sprites and background – collisions with sprites tend to be pixel-based, wheras background objects that hurt you typically use the whole tile as their hitbox. That's pure nature for a gamer. In sidescroller platformers, the view is a sort of mixture of the best parts of a cross-section and a side-on-view. Because this visual language has been built up over time, it feels natural, and in a way, is natural.

  • TheSimplyJJP says:

    Two plumbers killing turtles and eating mushrooms, seems fine to me.

  • Songs For Opossums says:

    Mario once inspired some one to make a terrible movie

  • voodoo2130 says:

    WAIT WAIT WAIT!! Goombas are MUSHROOMS??? O.O 

  • cj694x2 says:

    Play just about any video game from the '80s and you'll see all kinds of nonsensical shit.

  • Eleanor Millican says:

    Mario was my first ever video game, it help me fall in love. Now I play pokemon and I'm soon gonna get a legend of Zelda game :3

  • macktehduck says:

    the goombas are chestnuts

  • me says:

    Well let's see here, Regular Show, Adventure Time, Pokemon, A bunch of other Cartoon Network stuff, Pac-man… 

  • Throttle Kitty says:

    What has mario inspired you to do?
    Break my DS.

  • Michael Brew says:

    I dunno if it's necessarily surrealist, really. I mean, the concepts are a bit odd, but a lot of that can be chalked up to cultural differences. It certainly has a consistent internal logic, regardless.

  • pvcnav says:

    Okay, granted, Super Mario is surrealist. Nothing new there. But is it the "greatest piece of surrealist art ever"? I don't really see an argument for that.

  • Evan Blades says:

    Those aren't Sousaphones. They're just tubas

  • Wiavs9Luzomgo says:


  • metamorphosis says:

    Mario and Luigi were inspired by the plumbers in a surreal distopian movie called  Brazil

  • Jackwc3 says:

    I mean, maybe this goes without saying, but that's not really what surrealism was all about – it had a lot less to do with challenging our preconceptions of what is "real" or "normal" and was more about finding a pure outlet through which to channel expression of the unconscious.

  • John Allen says:

    I have  to say I'm half in agreement here. Magritte was Mario before Mario. This occurred to me a couple of times but I never had the guts to say it like this dude

    And I  diiiiid get a whole lotta poets together for a surrealist anthology called "Nouveau's Midnight Sun: Transcriptions From Golgonooza and Beyond".

  • omer dassa says:

    the main difference is that surrealist paintings catch a single moment in a surrealist world, while video game construct the whole world, in doing so they necessarily  normalize this world. it is consistent so by definition it becomes less weird and surrealist to you as you play. you can combat it somewhat by introducing more elements or areas in the world. but not completely. some things, specifically the mechanics, has to be consistent for it to be a video game.

  • SaysRobert says:

    Pronounce non sequitur correctly.

  • WizardXZD says:

    You can currently play paintings in minecraft 😛
    There is a project for that.

  • XenoTwo says:

    We watched this at school

  • Fernanda Dias says:

    Wow, it's so weird to hear Mike speaking so slowly.

  • Christian Palacios says:


  • Michaella Osborn says:

    The explanation at the beginning of the video made me think of Alice in wonderland

  • Ligia Muraro says:

    I really think all those things were put up together as the game needed assets. Like, just random, objects for test that stuck up until the game was finished. yeah, i am a mario hater…

  • Andrew Quinn says:

    Your voice got a lot higher pitched in later episodes.

  • Rory Walker says:

    Man, 15 minutes is barely long enough, and Idea Channel started out at less than three?

  • james Cardin says:

  • thepeacefish says:

    K but will you marry me please

  • Chun Ja Jitchaku says:


  • onemadhungrynomad says:

    mario inspires me to jump on turtles…

  • Jameson Moore says:

    Your voice is so much lower than it will later be.

  • ChildishAlbino says:

    Mario is an Italian made from Japanese who speaks English

  • linguaphile says:

    Who else is doing a re-run of all Idea Channel episodes? :3

  • Jack Cr says:

    I ate a mushroom which poisoned me and I had to be rushed to the hospital

  • Matthew Li says:

    Mario has given me the inspiration to shove myself down pipes and collect starbits.

  • lmno2009 says:

    I don't think mario was intentionally this artistic. Is art still art if it is made by accident?

  • Anne Honeycutt says:

    I debate pop-culture icons against other pop-culture icons on a podcast and dress up as said pop-culture icons. Thanks Mario!

  • hal says:

    This audio quality is potato

  • sonic meerkat says:

    They went to challengeing us to just being a realistic, glorified war every year.

  • coward says:

    You can't play a dhalee painting? Well… I have to keep this PG, so… Never mind…

  • Finesse God says:

    "Keep it PG?"… this is YouTube,  bitch.

  • TheLegendaryDreamer2 says:

    Here's the thing. All of the rules in the Super Mario Bros. games have always been consistent with each other across generations. Those types of things can always be considered normal in the fictional universe that the character is part of, and so it makes sense to the viewer. You don't get that in surrealist art. The character is always meant to be the one outside of that universe, viewing the painting.

  • Michael Billington says:

    Does anybody else knock the first few notes of one of the Mario themes on the front door of somebody you're visiting?

  • JalapenoStudios says:

    0:42 Actually those are tubas.

  • ThePCguy17 says:

    But pg is boring!!!

  • ntdonat says:

    why mario? what about disney's stories? what about the books disney stories are based on? looney tunes? seems sketchy to arbitrarily hand the crown to mario.

  • zoob m says:

    wow, your videos used to be this short?

  • Patt Kennelly says:

    Mario taught me to trip on mushrooms and stomp on turtles….

  • Omar Alcazar says:

    Damn, almost 4 years since I first saw this. I was a freshman in highschool when I saw this and now I'm about to graduate. Oh boy, the feels.

  • kindoflame says:


    Mario is to that water-jet-pack-thing as Star Trek is to automatic doors.

  • ella elise says:

    non sequitur, not non-sequitur

  • Wyatt Granger says:

    I think playing a video game based off dali's work would be nothing short of amazing. WHY HASN'T THIS BEEN MADE

  • VOLightPortal says:

    1/3 of the time my dream world is pretty much a Super Mario-inspired landscape that I can play in (inside the dream) and the levels / elements are insane as well as unique.

  • albert malbert says:

    are you jewish?

  • Nevo Krien says:

    defently wal jump

  • The Big Thicc says:

    inspired me to try mushrooms when i was younger… no not that type.

  • John Bainbridge says:

    I'll grant you that Mario fits the bill for surrealism, but if you want to play a Dali painting, I have only two words for you: Earthworm Jim.

  • thatthinker says:

    figured I've been a fan long enough that I should watch ALL

  • Jan Michael Vincent says:

    After four years you might want to update this video with Cuphead

  • XionixZTV says:

    Someone make it possible to "play" a Dali painting please!!

  • Wedge Wizard says:

    Eating mushrooms will make you physically double in size. Or it could allow you to die once more without game over.

  • piratecheese13 says:

    salvador dali held tons of orgies as art pieces
    so you could kinda play one

  • Jazzo44556 says:

    I knew there was a remake.

  • Alice Pow says:

    Had to rewatch this after the newest one. trips on my nostalgia

  • ionicgeorge says:

    heeeeeeey you redid an episode

  • Brock McKelvey says:

    Why this video?

  • Devid Sword says:

    Wow, this is incredible. I remember watching this episode years ago! One line stuck in my head all the way to the present – that games challenge what we even think of as being possible. Thanks, my brother. Thou and thy wondrous brain truly art God.

  • s1lverp3nguin says:

    Wow, this channel really has come a long way. I haven't necessarily kept up as closely as I could have these past few years (there was ever a time when I'd unsubbed from the channel) but to compare this video to your most recent one of the same topic is really… I dunno, it's really cool. Although I haven't been the most loyal Idea Channel fan, I will still certainly miss this channel. But Mike, I also can't wait to see where you'll go next. Wherever it is, I'll be sure to follow. Much love.

  • Guilherme Carvalho says:

    One more faithful viewer returning here from the last-but-not-really-last IdeaChannel video and I must say, amidst all my nostalgia for IC things past and future[?], torn between the joy of having known this channel for so long and the sorrow of seeing its end approaching, painfully divided twixt admiration and awe; I must say indeed:

    Comic Sans really looks like crap and positively shocked me here. I had all but forgotten its non-ironic existence in the IC world.

  • Ceul Gai says:

    Why are you so close to me? Why are you yelling!

  • Niryaad Oblum says:

    Who is here after the overthin…. Critical thinking finale comments response video???

  • ZZYZXZ Zidar says:

    How about instead of writing "this is not a pipe" on the treachery of images parody you put "this is not a world"

  • Nicholas Small says:

    Re Watching all 229 videos this will be good

  • Jada Wong says:

    Why does the Idea Channel argue that consumption is an inadequate metaphor for how people engage with media?

  • entulho2 mail2 says:

    This guy gets the wrong definition of surrealism. Surrealism was an art movement that sought to express the "real" process of thought and to allow the unconscious to express itself without the constraints of reason and logic. Mario Bros, on the other hand, follows a different school of thought, which is "form follows function". Does the enemy survive the stomping? Then let's make him an animal with a defense, let's say, a turtle. Does the enemy hurt Mario? Let's give him spikes. Does the enemy travel an horizontal line? Make him a bullet. The appearances in Mario Bros might be fantastical and unreal, but they aren't the free expression of the unconscious. They are careful, scrutinized choices that allow the player to understand the gameplay just with the visuals.

  • Brinton Patterson says:

    Mike brho did not know u was a gamer thought u was all theater and stuff

  • Suvigya Saxena says:

    Who is rewatching in 2019?

  • mickeynotmouse says:

    I remembered idea channel yesterday and got sad its gone

  • Wesley Gonzalez says:

  • Malou Lewin says:

    starting a rewatch!

  • ameanasaurus rex says:

    This channel proved to me that YouTube content can truly engage your brain. Starting my 3rd round m/

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