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Charles Martinet Tribute: Let’s-a-retire!

Image from Wikipedia, Owned by: Pedro Rivera SKYP3R Photography
Image from Wikipedia, Owned by: Pedro Rivera SKYP3R Photography

Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario, Luigi and many other popular characters in the Mario franchise, has retired at 68. While he is no longer working, the impact, memories and soul that his voice brought to the franchise will never be forgotten.

Charles Martinet voiced the popular video game plumbers with his cheery tone from 1991 to 2022 with side roles in 2023’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie before finally retiring. 

Martinet was born on September 17, 1955 in San Jose, California. At twelve years old, he moved to Barcelona. He then relocated to Paris, where he graduated at the American School of Paris in 1974. During his senior year of college, Martinet began taking acting classes to combat his fear of public speaking. Over time, he grew to love using different accents and dialects.  In an interview with BBC, Martinet reveals that he was initially terrified, “Then both of my legs were shaking, and my teeth were clattering. But somehow I got through my ultimate terror in life. And people said, ‘that was great, you were the only person who wasn’t nervous!'”

 Through this positive encouragement of his friends and peers, he got through it and grew to love speaking.

In 1991, he landed the role of Mario. He arrived at the audition at the last minute, just as the workers were packing up, he had never heard of Mario or Nintendo until this moment and only had a brief description to go off of. Despite his lack of knowledge, his voice was the only one sent to Nintendo. He started out voicing Mario in different trade shows and events before his first in-game appearance in the CD version of Mario Teaches Typing in 1994.

 Martinet’s first mainline video game role was in 1996’s Super Mario 64 where Mario’s iconic voice really comes to shine, with the “Wahoo’s” and  “Let’s-a-go’s”. His clear passion for the role brought character and charm to the Italian plumber. Martinet didn’t stop at Mario though; he began to voice other characters such as Luigi and Wario for the first time in 1996’s Mario Kart 64, as well as debuting as Waluigi in 2000’s Mario Tennis. From Luigi’s cowardliness to Wario’s greed and cockiness to Waluigi’s devilish laugh and of course, Mario’s iconic cheery attitude.  All of these characters carry an iconic tone and accent that make simply hearing them instantly recognizable, 

However, Martinet’s arguably best performances come from the Mario & Luigi series of Role Playing games. The iconic brothers have a lot of small voice clips and lines in these games, but offer even more charm and style than the mainline Mario games. Most notably, there are moments in these games in which Martinet speaks a gibberish Italian, providing an endearing and simultaneously hilarious tone to the games. 

Jacob Traver, a theater teacher at Centennial, finds that Mario’s voice is so iconic because “the voice of a character makes the character. Especially in the case of Mario, a character that has very few lines of speech, the voice must be precise and call attention to the main characteristics of a character.”

Mario is definitely a man of few words, so the words he does say must stick and have impact; while this is a daunting task, Martinet positively succeeds. Considering that Mario is a cheerful character, many would simply put on a happy voice and call it a day, yet Martinet goes above and beyond by making Mario ecstatic and bold in his tone and speech, allowing players to hear the passion that Martinet has for his career.

Emma Plot, a freshman at Centennial, sums up Martinet’s impact: “He’s very talented, and I like the emotion he puts into his voices.”

A large part of Martinet’s power and skill in voicing Mario and his friends is that he has been their only voice actor until now. Over 32 years, this consistency has allowed him to refine the voice and make it more, well, Mario. Freshman Johnny Barnes appreciates this regularity: “ The voices of Mario and friends have not been changed since 1996 with Super Mario 64 and it gives each game with Charles’ voice in it a nostalgic feeling to it,” he recounts.

Charles Martinet’s career is remarkable for many reasons, but most importantly, he spread joy to those who heard his voices.


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Joey Crossney, Design Editor