Arguably the greatest video game of all time, Super Mario Bros. has entertained millions around the world. Gameplay takes place is the magical Mushroom Kingdom. The manual for the game tells players that the Koopas have invaded the Mushroom Kingdom and turned all of the Mushroom People into stone, bricks, and horse-hair plants. Only Princess Peach can reverse this, and only you, Mario, can free Princess Peach from her captor. This can lead to some interesting legal questions.

The thing that might stand out from the previous paragraph is that all of the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom have been turned into stone, bricks, and horse-hair plants. I have no idea what a horse-hair plant is. My imagination is not making it any better. I do know what bricks are, and I know that Mario spends a lot of the game jumping into, and destroying, bricks. Sometimes coins come out of the brick until the brick turns solid. I assume this is a rich Mushroom Person that Mario robs until their wallet is empty. When Princess Peach is rescued and the Mushroom Kingdom goes back to normal there are going to be a lot of citizens that no longer have any money. The ones that escaped Mario’s path of destruction will form into some sort of new ruling class because they own all of the money. Poorer Mushroom People are not as lucky and their bricks are just destroyed unless they are carrying an item that Mario can use. So on his way to save the kingdom Mario steals and kills with no consequences.

Mario beating someone up for his lunch money
Mario beating someone up for his lunch money

No one sees Mario performing these acts except for the members of the Koopa army, and they are constantly being killed by Mario as well. It is possible that killing Mushroom People and stealing from them is illegal and Mario getting away with it because everyone is inanimate objects and cannot tell he is doing it. He has just happened into a scenario where he doesn’t have to care about the rules anymore; he is too busy saving the universe. But eventually he will win, have pockets full of coins, some bankrupt Mushroom People, and a lot of missing Mushroom People. He could try to explain it all away, but I think if there is a semi-competent police force in the Mushroom Kingdom he will be caught. So let’s say that the laws of the Mushroom Kingdom are similar to ours. Why does Mario get away with what he does? One idea is that Princess Peach can issue a pardon. Maybe the Mushroom Kingdom is so happy to escape from their shape shifting hell that they no longer care about Mario’s wartime actions. They do not care about the costs, they are just happy to be back to normal. The ends justified the means. Another idea is that combatant immunity has been expanded in the Mushroom Kingdom. During war combatants can commit any crimes they want. There is no law of war in the Mushroom Kingdom. War is hell.

Some of the money that Mario finds is not gotten from attacking helpless citizens; some of it is just floating in the air. Every state has its own rules about how to deal with finding money out in public. It usually says that a small amount of money is fine to keep, and a larger amount of money must be given to the authorities so they can try to find who lost the money. Most of the time Mario finds one coin at a time. Sometimes the coins will be in a group of two or three. We don’t have any idea how much these coins are worth. We know that if Mario gathers a hundred of them he gets an extra life, but we never see a shop or something to teach us the value of these coins. It seems reasonable to believe that the Mushroom Kingdom has a lost chattel rule much like ours, and as long as Mario keeps happening upon small amounts of coins he does not have a responsibility to tell anyone, he can just amass a fortune off of what I can only assume is coins that Mushroom People were throwing at each other when they transformed into inanimate objects.

Mario stumbling into a room full of coins
Mario stumbling into a room full of coins

But sometimes Mario will get into an area where there are lots of coins lying around. Mario just grabs all of these as well. If the laws of the Mushroom Kingdom are like our own Mario is going to have to turn those coins in and see if anyone claims them. And then there is the whole question of taxes. Just because Mario found all these coins throughout the world does not mean he just gets to keep them without paying his due to society. Mario has an amount realized with these coins and he will have to pay taxes because of that. I am not going to sit here and make up a tax code for the Mushroom Kingdom, but there probably is a system in place. We just don’t see it because the game would not be fun if we had to fill out Mario’s W-2 after we saved the Princess.

Other than that, the Mushroom Kingdom doesn’t raise too many questions with the first Super Mario Bros. All of the intentional killing Mario does is to enemy soldiers that are invading his country. It all seems pretty straightforward. The only thing the Mushroom Kingdom has to reconcile is that Mario killed a few citizens and stole from the others while he was saving them all. It looks like everyone was willing to pay that cost, and let Mario be Mario.



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