The Super Mario Bros. Movie begins with the Nintendo game’s familiar theme music, a siren call to multiple generations. My kids loved pointing out their favorite scenes and characters. But this animated movie goes beyond gaming, crafting background stories for all the major figures and weaving together themes of curiosity, empowerment, courage, belonging, and justice-seeking.
Enjoy watching the movie together and then select one or more of these activities to explore some of the spiritual aspects of this popular game world.
Exploring Other Worlds. Luigi and Mario find a tube that takes them to different kingdoms. Luigi ends up in the Dark Land and Mario lands in the Mushroom Kingdom. Encourage children to imagine landing in an unknown place. As they close their eyes to visualize this new world, say: Look all around you. What do you see? How do you feel? Now, imagine someone comes to greet you. What do they look like? What do they say to you? How do you feel when they greet you? What do you say back to them? Then open your eyes and take turns describing your imaginary worlds to each other.
Empowering Responses. Princess Peach explains to Mario that her kingdom uses ‘power-ups’ found in question mark boxes to complete challenges or difficult tasks. Mario and others then use cat power, firepower, and micro-Mario power-ups to defeat their opponents. Invite children to create their own Question Mark Boxes. Identify challenges they might need to overcome. Then brainstorm types of power-ups they would want to help them (e.g., meditate, dance it out, take deep breaths, rest in a down dog yoga pose) and draw a symbol for each one. Place the symbols on small boxes and scatter them where children can see and access them as needed.
Managing Fears. Luigi is scared of many things, including dogs, heights, construction sites, and his cousin. Often his fears prevent him from sticking up for himself and dealing with hard things. But in the final fight with Bowser, Luigi overcomes his fear to help save his brother. Ask: What are some of your fears? How do your fears protect you? How do your fears limit you? What might help you overcome your fears when needed?
Protecting Places. Princess Peach is motivated to save the mushroom kingdom because the citizens took care of her and accepted her as one of their own when she was a baby. Mario and Luigi want to save Brooklyn because it is the place where they grew up and their family lives there. Invite children to draw pictures of places that are important to them. Encourage them to share why the place matters and what they can do to keep it safe.
Seeking Justice. Mario’s family and Princess Peach point out that Mario never gives up on things that really matter to him, like finding his brother, protecting Brooklyn, or defeating Bowser. Research a social justice issue such as the Civil Rights movement, gun control laws, or climate change with children. Ask: What challenges have activists faced as they pursued justice? How did they continue fighting for justice even when it was hard?