After over three decades of voicing the character, Nintendo revealed on August 21 that Charles Martinet would no longer voice Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, or any other Super Mario Bros. characters in future Nintendo games. They won’t say who is replacing Martinet just yet, so all we can do is look back at Martinet’s storied history as the voice actor for one of the most well-known pop culture characters of all time and many of his friends.
Instead of criticizing this decision, which we don’t know the actual reason for, I wanted to celebrate Martinet’s career as a voice actor. Specifically, I’m highlighting six Charles Martinet performances that show just how great of a voice talent Martinet is.
In 2023, there isn’t much of a reason for adults to go back and play a game meant to teach kids typing from the early 1990s, but that doesn’t make the historical significance of Mario Teaches Typing any less important. While he’d portrayed Mario at some trade show exhibits before this, Mario Teaches Typing is technically the first video game where Martinet voiced the titular character. While this version of Mario speaks in longer sentences than the character typically would in the future, Martinet already has already got the voice down, and it’s easy to see why it’d go on to become so iconic in the future.
While Mario Teaches Typing is when Mario got his voice, Super Mario 64 is the first time most people truly heard him speak. That’s because this was the first Super Mario Bros. console game in which Martinet voiced Mario. While there isn’t much dialogue in this game, pretty much every voice clip Martinet did for this game is iconic and lives rent-free in the heads of any who grew up playing the game. It’s a simple yet memorable performance that served as a backbone for one of the best video games of all time and cemented Martinet as the inseparable voice of Mario and friends for years to come in the eyes of gamers.
While Martinet had voiced Mario’s brother before Luigi’s Mansion, this GameCube launch title is where Martinet’s performance as Luigi came into its own. This is where it was established that Luigi was the more timid and easily frightened of the Mario Bros., and this characterization was backed up through solid character animation and Martinet’s excellent performance. Martinet found subtle ways to make each of the Mario Bros. sound subtly distinct, cementing the voices for both characters that players would hear through his next 20+ years as Mario and Luigi.
While most of Charles Martinet’s voice roles are for Mario, he has appeared in other games. The most notable of these roles was Paarthurnax in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The fact that Paarthurnax was a very old dragon and experienced leader in the world of the The Elder Scrolls series, Martinet could give us a performance drastically different than anything we ever heard from him as Mario. It’s a memorable performance, too, with Martinet delivering the gruffness and gravitas you’d expect from a dragon that has been around for such a long time. And hey, Skyrim eventually made its way to Nintendo Switch in 2017, so Charles Martinet found his way back home.
If Luigi’s Mansion is Martinet’s best performance as Luigi, then WarioWare Gold for Nintendo 3DS is his best turn as Wario. This often-overlooked game was one of the last major 3DS games, and it has a surprising number of cutscenes featuring full dialogue with Wario. Many of Wario’s character interactions and cutscenes in this game are unhinged, and Martinet revels in delivering such a chaotic performance that feels true to one of the grossest characters in the Mario universe. Even though it’s tough to pick up new 3DS games nowadays, I recommend you watch this game’s cutscenes if you’re looking for a good laugh. That will show just how much joy Martinet’s Super Mario Bros. series performances could bring us.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope will go down in history as the last new game in which Charles Martinet voiced characters like Mario and Luigi. He’ll technically still voice Luigi in 2024’s Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon re-release for Switch, but that’s a performance from a decade ago. This game, developed and published by Ubisoft, is a lengthy strategy RPG with a compelling story. Mario doesn’t speak as much as many of the other characters in this game, but it still features faithful Mario and Luigi performances that feel tried-and-true to what Martinet and Nintendo spent decades perfecting.
It’s sad that Charles Martinet will no longer portray Mario, Luigi, or any of his other iconic Super Mario Bros. character roles, but at least he ended things on a high note.