Super Mario, the hyperactive little plumber who has become one of the best-known characters in video game history, celebrates his 30th birthday on Sunday and Japanese giant Nintendo is marking the event with the release of a creative new format.
With his blue overalls, red cap and fulsome moustache, Mario is instantly recognisable, a rare quality in the games market, matched only by a handful of characters such as Lara Croft, Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man.
So beloved is Mario that Nintendo has sold more than 310 million units featuring him since he first hit the screens under his own name in 1985, the year that Ronald Reagan began a second term as US president and the Live Aid concerts for the Ethiopian famine relief took place.
"Mario now has a status in popular culture equal to Mickey Mouse," Florent Gorges, the French author of a book on Nintendo's history, told AFP.
"He is likely to be around for some time yet because we notice that it's often parents who introduce him to their children."
Even before the first "Super Mario Bros" game was released on September 13, 1985, in Japan on the Famicom console, the character had already made an appearance in the Nintendo arcade game "Donkey Kong", but under the name Jumpman.
The Mario moniker came from the landlord of the warehouse where the US arm of Nintendo was based, whose physical appearance made the programmers think of a video game character.
Mario's creator, game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, said: "I had it in mind to make him an Italian when I was drawing the character, so I decided to officially call him Mario."