"Super Mario, Pipe Dreams"
Super Mario, Pipe Dreams
Upload Date April 25, 2011
Length 7:33
Intro Art Carney - "Song of the Sewer"
Outro "Super Mario Bros. Underground Remix"
Link Super Mario, Pipe Dreams
Episode Guide
Episode 2
Series Game Theory
Host(s) MatPat
Game Super Mario
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"Is Chrono Trigger's Time Travel Accurate?"
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"Illusion of Gaia, World Wonders"
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"Illusion of Gaia, World Wonders"

Super Mario, Pipe Dreams is the 2nd episode of Game Theory on The Game Theorists.


Take the plunge into the sewers with Mario as we cover everything from alligators under New York to albino pot in this second episode of Game Theory.


Pull out your monkey wrench and just say no to crack, because we're going plumbing. Hello internet, and welcome to Game Theory. Gaming’s tangential learning experience. Since last week's first episode about theoretical physics was a little heavy, today we're going to lighten things up by spending some time with the world's most famous plumber, Mario. But, what do we really know about this international man of mystery? Has Nintendo been pulling the wool over the eyes of western audiences about Mario's true heritage? Let's find out. Mario's first career was as a carpenter, running on girders to stop evil apes in Donkey Kong. It wasn't until the 1983 arcade game Mario Brothers, that he got his start as an italian-american plumber in New York. In it, Mario and brother Luigi must combat turtles, crabs, and flies, wandering through the pipelines. So, as someone currently living in New York and figuring that flies in a sewer are a given, I ask- do we really have turtles and crabs running through the city's pipes? Well, let's start with the crabs. The long winters of New York and the already polluted and cold conditions of the sewer, would make it pretty challenging for a crab to survive. However, in Italy, with its warmer climate, crabs in the sewer date back to the year 100, when Emperor Trajan imported crabs from Macedonia, and set them free in the center of the town forum as part of a pagan crab festival. Those that escaped into the sewer thrived, and to this day, they are called Trajan Crabs, or, Sewer Crabs. But, what about turtles? Although specific data is rare, it is generally believed that the chilly, dark, and bacteria-ridden conditions of the sewer, would prevent cold-blooded creatures like turtles from surviving and reproducing underground. However, there is another side to the story. Folklore abounds with tales of unwanted pets being flushed down toilets only to flourish in the sewer. According to Robert Daley's, The World Beneath The City, New York sewers were known to contain alligators in 1935, and there have since been multiple reports of the animals being captured on city streets. One as recent as 2006 in Brooklyn, but, most telling of all, in Alexandria, Australia, rescuers found, a rare, American, snapping turtle that they nicknamed Cowabunga living in the sewers. So, maybe there is something to this after all. Moving on to our portly plumber’s signature adventures with the super mario brothers games, our red clad hero finds himself in the Mushroom Kingdom, a plumber’s paradise of pipes, clogged with fire-breathing weeds and elaborate brick sewers. I originally wanted to explore if it was possible to clean out pipes using fire balls, since that seems to be Mario's only plumbing technique, but google searching for weed in pipes, didn't give me exactly what I was looking for. However, I did dredge up this factoid: pets aren't the only things being flushed down toilets. Another popular staple of New York sewer folklore in the 1960s, was that of New York White, an especially potent albino strain of marijuana growing from seeds in pot baggies, that had been flushed down toilets during drug raids. Unfortunately, there was never any verification of this. Probably due to the alligators and mutant turtles guarding their stashes, but, on a somewhat related note, last month, 39 pounds of pot were found clogging the sewers in Arizona. So, maybe Mario had some ulterior motives when he lit up the weed in those green pipes. Speaking of green pipes, that's a weird color for a pipe to be, right? Not really. For one, many pipes are made of copper, and copper exposed to moisture oxidizes, creating a green patina, on its surface. For a classic example, just look at the Statue of Liberty. So, perhaps the plumbing in the Mushroom Kingdom is all copper and just a little aged, but there is another explanation. With the green movement in full swing, more and more companies are covering their in this “eco-friendly” color. For instance, the German company Aquatherm, has built their reputation around a signature product line, the aptly named, greenpipe. One final note about Super Mario Brothers, notice how the underground levels in the game take place in brick sewers? Well, Nintendo got lucky in making Mario from New York. If he were from anywhere else, they would have been wrong, considering that clay was the dominant material for pipe when sewers were first installed shortly after the Civil War, and cast-iron became a popular choice thereafter. New York sewers, on the other hand, are indeed brick. Influenced by the Europeans, who switched to making elaborate brick systems after a tragic experience with lead pipes, perhaps contributed to shortened life expectancies. This underground architecture, much still in use today, closely resembles some sewer designs used in Mario's later games, like in Super Mario RPG. And on that note, in the forest maze of Super Mario RPG, Mario experiences a different kind of pipe: log pipes, that function much in the same way as the normal green variety. Surprisingly, we once again find ourselves looking abroad for the real world example. Perhaps as early as the 13th century, people in England were using hollowed-out elm logs for water pipelines. The U.S. eventually caught on to the idea, installing wooden pipes, in the early 1800s. And now it's time for my final thought. We've grown up believing in what Nintendo has always told us. That Mario is a true-blooded italian-american from New York living in the Mushroom Kingdom, but, what we've seen here today, might point in another direction. We've learned that crabs run rampant in the sewers of Italy and that turtles may have a better chance of surviving sewer conditions, in warmer climates. We now know that a leading greenpipe manufacturer has a headquarters in Germany, and that brick sewer structures and log drainage systems, are more commonly found in old European cities. So, what does that tell us? Only this: that our italian-american plumber, may actually have fewer american ties than we've been led to believe, and that perhaps the Mushroom Kingdom, is actually found in the old continent. As one last nail in Mario's coffin, as anyone in New York can tell you, no real New Yorker would be caught dead wearing bright colors. His garish red garb is much more suited for the froo-froo stylings of a European man. Anyway it's just a theory, a game theory. Thanks for watching.


  • This is the first episode of Game Theory to not feature a subtitle in the thumbnail.