With a series as iconic and long-running as his, Mario has obviously run into his fair share of frights, as these examples will attest to.
The following examples have their own pages:Main series
- Super Mario World
- Super Mario 64
- Super Mario Sunshine
- Super Mario Galaxy
- Super Mario Galaxy 2
- Super Mario Odyssey
- Donkey Kong Country series
- Luigi's Mansion
- Mario & Luigi
- Mario Party
- Paper Mario
- Wario Land series
- WarioWare series
- Wario World
- Yoshi's Island
- Yoshi's Story
Super Mario Bros. (original)
- Worlds 4-4 and 7-4. If you don't catch on that you have to take the correct forks to keep going, you might think you're trapped in a fortress that just goes on forever with Bowser and the end-of-castle axe nowhere in sight. All while the menacing and frantic fortress theme plays until you inevitably run out of time and die. Downplayed in the Deluxe and All-Stars versions, which play a chime if you take the right path and a buzz if you take the wrong one.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA)
- Phanto. Creepy pumpkin masks that guard keys; when you pick up a key, they come to live and move really fast and chase you. Then just when you think you're safe after leaving the room, they follow you into the room you escape in. The GBA remake made him even worse by adding sound effects and making him grow as he chases you, and in the Satellaview version, big Phantos twice the normal size appear and chase the player without keys needing to be there.
- In remakes, World 1-3 in particular has a chamber with a key, a squad of phantos, and a giant Phanto face in the background. When you pick up the key, the background Phanto face's eyes light up red.
- In the SNES and GBA remake, they made warping much, much eerier. When you enter the Warp Vase, a creepy tune plays in the background while the screen becomes distorted and fades to black. See the warps in the SNES remake here.
- In the ending of the SNES and GBA remake, while Wart is being carried away, you can see what looks like blood coming out of his eye sockets.
Super Mario Bros. 3
- The mini-fortress theme. Whereas the original SMB's theme gets its spookiness from how frenetic it is and its use of Drone of Dread, this one relies more on minimalism, spreading out short bursts of notes with distinct periods of silence.
- The Angry Sun made some too scared to play past World 2. It just floats in the sky with an angry scowl on its face... only to suddenly swoop in and attack you halfway into the level. Even if you do get past World 2, it makes a surprise appearance again in stage 8-2, when it comes after you from behind a hill. Oddly enough, though, you can get rid of it with a mere Koopa shell of all things.
- Boss Bass, a hungry, fast-moving fish that constantly chases you as you race against time to get to high-ground as the water level rises... if you don't make it to high ground in time, or worse, fall in the water, he will swallow Mario in one gulp, no matter how big you are, and you instantly lose a life. Unlike the Angry Sun, you cannot get rid of him for good even if you do kill him with the Fire Flower, he will return just a few seconds afterwards, just as ready, willing, and able to devour you as before.
- Chain Chomps are scary enough as-is. Then you learn that they can actually break loose from their chains if left alone long enough. Have fun.
- In the first game, whenever you access a sky bonus area, the cheerful invincibility theme plays. In this game, however, such areas, as well as the World 5 sky area and "World 9", get a very eerie and ethereal theme, which is doubled down on in the All-Stars version.
- World 6, Ice Land, has an incredibly eerie theme which stands out from the rest of the game's soundtrack. In stark contrast to the jolly and peaceful music and atmosphere most ice levels in the series seem to be made with in mind, it has a terrifying feeling of isolation that sounds appropriate for being trapped and lost in a blizzard. The All-Stars version isn't any better, and it's appropriate it'd be remixed again for when Mario receives threatening emails from an unknown stalker in The Thousand-Year Door.
- In what is probably gaming history's first instance of liminal space horror World 7's first mini-fortress is completely abandoned, save for the Boom-Boom at the end. There's one room where you can see enemy-related infrastructure, such as the center posts for the Rotodiscs and the lanerns for the Hot Feet, but the enemies themselves are missing. Also the exit is non-obvious, and someone who doesn't think to use Raccoon or Tanuki form to fly up to the Warp Pipe may get stuck and die of time over all alone. It definitely gives off the feeling something horrible happened in the fortress, be it a natural disaster or something else entirely, and you're just traversing through the aftermath.
- After completing World 7, you'd maybe expect a letter from Peach thanking you for saving the seven kingdoms. But nope, the letter is from Bowser this time, who has revealed that he's kidnapped her! And instead of a dreamy jingle playing with the letter, you get the first few notes of the boss theme and a flashing red background for good measure.
- World 8, Dark Land can be a severe mood whiplash from the relatively bright and cheerful worlds before. The color palette switches to crimson-ochre tones like you've gone to the hell where Bowser presides, and doesn't pull punches with giant skulls adorning two map regions. Not surprisingly, there are no mushroom houses or minigames to be found.
- Due to the color limitations of the NES, Bowsers Castle — rather than it appearing as the chateau-castle it's meant to be — looks more like an Eldritch Abomination that is made of pink flesh.◊ ready to swallow Mario up. The four giant mushrooms within the citadel walls might also add to the otherworldly feel. This was "corrected" in the updated remake◊, Super Mario All-Stars thanks to the enchanced color palette allowing it to appear as an actual castle, with a likeness of Bowser's skull built atop. The interior of the castle might not be much comfort either, as it appears to be built out of crimson fireplace bricks seen nowhere else in the game and...
- The laser-shooting Bowser statues in his castle. They look nothing more than typical castle decorations, until you approach them and they suddenly start firing lasers at you. Worse yet, there are no visual differences between the laser-shooting statues and the harmless ones, so you can easily be caught off-guard.
New Super Mario Bros.
- In New Super Mario Bros., Bowser falls into lava in the first world. Not much different from what happened at the end of every single castle in the original Super Mario Bros... until the game proceeds to show him desperately flailing in the lava, and emerging with all of his flesh melted off. Totally unexpected and freaky as all get-out.
- Later on in the game, it turns out that he's still alive and continues to live on as a skeleton.
- If you fall into lava, not only does it defeat you instantly, like in the older games, but you additionally hear a violent sizzling noise with Mario exclaiming in pain. Alongside this, you can see a unique death animation.
- In World 3-1, you encounter the Cheep Chomp, a larger purple Cheep Cheep with a bigger mouth. It follows the footsteps of the above-mentioned Boss Bass and will instantly take away one of your lives by swallowing you whole. Throughout the first two Worlds, you've probably seen Mario get defeated by an enemy by touching it, fall into Bottomless Pits, or get squished by moving obstacles in the towers, so being eaten in one bite can be rather shocking.
- Touching an Amp will have Mario scream out in pain while being shocked. This can be startling, especially for younger audiences.
- Unagi the Eel returns from Super Mario 64 and is a regular type of enemy in this game. In World 8-3, there's also a giant, invincible version◊ of it, which is easily the most terrifying enemy in the game.
- This giant version also shows up in World 4-3, moving from right to left.
- In World 4-Tower and World 8-6, the lava rises. You better start running!
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
- A platform in one of the ghost houses suddenly drops down, which can be very unnerving.
- The final boss fight first starts off with a regular Bowser-on-the-bridge boss fight. Mario looks up to what appears to be Peach, a remix of SMB1's ending music playing... before it starts Letting the Air out of the Band, unveiling Kamek in a Peach disguise. He gets on his broomstick and gives Bowser some magic...the ground starts shaking. Kamek looks down, wondering what's happening... and then, Bowser springs up, looking tremendously giant, his eyes glowing a blood red, and he is truly livid. He starts chasing Mario down relentlessly in a mindless rage, with intense orchestral music playing and only becoming even more intense in the second phase... and it's his ungodly roar that really sells it.
Super Mario 3D Land
- An Easter Egg: In the yard at the end of any ghost house, waiting long enough causes a ghostly figure to appear in the background just behind the fence and will vanish after a few seconds. This figure doesn't actually do anything and cannot be interacted with, but what makes it creepy is that the thing resembles the Shiverburn Galaxy figures. They're not trees. They're still watching. And they're getting closer.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
- Boohemoth. He just pops in out of nowhere in two of the ghost houses. Can easily frighten an unsuspecting player.
New Super Mario Bros. U
- In a certain set of haunted levels in the Soda Jungle, you can see a giant, painted, Mega Bowser in the background (pictured at the top). He has blank, milky-white eyes and just sits there looking like he wants to eat you, sometimes moving his eyes. There's also a Bowser Jr. version with the same properties.
Super Mario 3D World
- As cited from a Miiverse post, the Shiverburn figures are back. They can be seen through a reflection on a Clear Pipe Cannon on the last main level, The Great Tower of Bowser Land.
- The Switch re-release adds a new mode called Bowser's Fury, at first a seemingly mellow landscape based around the Super Bell and the cat suit, with Bowser Jr. helping Mario collect cat coins... with an encroaching, inky darkness off in the distance alongside a large black spiky mountain in the distance. But that doesn't quite put a damper on things on its own. What does, however, is that lump begins twitching as the spikes in it grow longer and begin emitting heat. Eventually, the mountain reveals itself to be Bowser, who has undergone a transformation that leaves him more powerful than he's ever been, and stuck in a blind rage, presumably over one too many defeats at Mario's hands. Bowser Jr. is thus helping Mario to try and knock some sense back into his dad, not just because he wants him back, but based on his fire breath now resembling a solid ray of blistering sunlight, because Bowser could probably snap the world in two if he wasn't stopped.
- The inky darkness is actually paint from Bowser Jr.'s magic paintbrush. What makes this a different case from Sunshine is that in that game, the paint was weak enough that ordinary water could clear it off. Here, the paint is so strong that it's acting more like oil, floating on top of the water and not being affected by it at all.
- As the game goes on, Fury Bowser starts to get angrier. Yeah, the new Super Mode powered by anger isn't as angry as it can get yet. By the endgame, he's become so apocalyptically furious that the sky Turns Red, and then goes past that to become a menacing pink. And as it turns out... Fury Bowser is actually a lesser threat compared to the more aware and more intelligent Giant Bowser.
- Normally, Bowser goes back to being dormant after some time if you don't collect a Cat Shine or activate a Giga Cat Bell. However, near the end of the game, he stops doing this, and you have to do one of either to get him to stop. At 47 Cat Shines, even those and the lighthouses no longer work on him! You have to collect 50 Cat Shines and trigger the Final Boss fight to stop him!
- If that wasn't enough, user Insidious_NX made a mod that uses the more demonic-looking Giga Bowser from Super Smash Bros. as his base model, and the combination is absolutely monstrous.
- You know how in SMB1, when you defeat the fake Bowser at the end of a castle, you then go to the hallway in the back and a Toad thanks you for rescuing him while informing you that "Your princess is in another castle"? Super Mario Land does a pretty cruel twist on it. You defeat the boss in World 1-3, 2-3, or 3-3, go into the hallway behind them, and as sappy music plays you see what appears to be Daisy at first...only for her to reveal that she's actually an enemy monster in disguise while the music changes to a much more sinister jingle."THANK YOU MARIO!"
- The U.S. commercial for Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. Before Wario was portrayed as the greedy Anti-Hero character he is today, the U.S. portrayed him in a way that made most young gamers afraid of him. It depicts Wario hypnotizing the denizens of Mario Land to follow him and turn against Mario (and thus kicking off the game's plot), all set to a creepy "hypnosis" sound effect.Obey Wario! Destroy Mario!
- Super Mario Land 2 doesn't really have much scary stuff in it, even in the ghost-themed Pumpkin Zone. Except for one bizarre enemy in the boss stage of said zone called Pikku, which looks like a cross between a leech and a headless fish, and simply bounces back and forth while frantically wiggling. Just what the hell is that thing?!
- The Thwomps from Bowser's Castle in Mario Kart 64; it's that disturbing Evil Laugh. The green one in the cell is scarier for some reason. Luckily, they aren't scary in the Wii version's remake.
- Super Mario RPG:
- The Kero Sewers theme. Backed by an Ominous Pipe Organ, it's very eerie and gives a feeling of desolation in such a dark, underground area. It also plays in Land's End, which is a Palette Swapped- Kero Sewers, and in the depths of the Moleville Coal Mines that have become infested with enemies.
- The Weapon Factory. It's an apocalyptic, sunless, wind-ravaged, ghost-inhabited Death World that's Surprise Creepy compared to what's mostly been a bright, cheerful game up until now. The assembly lines are full of copies of Smithy's goons the player already defeated, revealing they weren't people but products which Smithy is now mass-producing in preparation for an invasion. The player immediately understands the Weapon Factory is what the Mushroom World will become should Smithy win. In the end, the heroes don't even fix Smithy's world once they beat him; the damage is too far done and they have to leave the place as-is, simply cutting off access to it with Exor's destruction.
- Smithy, himself. Imagine a cyborg-bearded-giant-king-mechanical being, with More Teeth than the Osmond Family, and a couple of replaceable heads, each just as creepy as the original.
- The final battle with Smithy. Never mind that he hammers his own skull into new weapons; he's a massive war machine in a playful fantasy world. A massive war machine that not only makes simpler ones in bulk, but (going by whatever the hell is going on with the Factory Basement in the second phase) is apparently self-replicating too, and the Smithy you fight is just the one currently active.
- The wall of Blindfold Boos in Bowser's Villa is so fast you can only escape from them while crying, and if they catch Peach they move on to swarm the rest of the screen before her position is reset.
- The Mad Boos and Mad Big Boos, which look positively Ax-Crazy, with beady orange eyes, sharper-looking teeth, and a more sinister grin.
- "Be Afraid of the Dark" is a terrifying level in a cutesy, charming game. The level's primary enemies are invincible Monster Clown ragdolls with axes chasing you throughout the stage. They can pop out from the background at any moment, make a horrific screeching sound when doing so, and one moment has them appear en masse when you hit a winged cloud. Even worse is the atmosphere, since almost everything is dark and dreary, and even the text boxes are ominous jumbled phrases that would feel more at home in a psychological horror game. And to top it all off, there's red paint on the walls as a stand-in for blood.
- Daniella and Daisy's kidnappings are played to scary effect, as Iggy and Spike grab them when they think they're safe; Daniella's is worse because it happens just after Mario leaves and her screams are cut off when they gag her. Worse, Iggy and Spike had been kidnapping other girls off-screen, and the residents of Brooklyn have no idea who took them and why.
- Koopa attempts to seduce Daisy in an incredibly creepy manner, talking about how fresh and clean she is while telling her she really belongs in the world of dinosaurs. His appearance gradually gets less human over time, including a more prominent forehead and a long lizard tongue, and when he moves in to kiss her Daisy, understandably, screams and forces him away. (Early drafts suggest he was attempting to rape her.)
- The brothers dissolving between dimensions. Mario was conscious of the fact that he disintegrated, and there's a lengthy shot of him falling between worlds without any solid ground above or beneath him.
- Koopa's Transformation Ray, which can de-evolve his prisoners into their evolutionary ancestors or worse. When the machine is first seen and activated, Toad's head is shoved into it, where his face is repeatedly stretched and grotesquely warped out of shape as the rays rewrite his DNA into a Goomba's. Toad's screams of agony make it very clear that this process is not pleasant.
- Made even worse in the deleted scene where a technician gets devolved into primordial slime and sloshes out of the chair and onto the floor. As Koopa puts it, "it's more than just death—it's being... undone". The reason Koopa had the guy devolved: He sneezed. We get that Koopa is a germaphobe, but it kinda makes you wonder how many people he had slaughtered for even the slightest "infraction".
- Halfway through the movie, Lena is fed up with Daisy and Koopa's interest in her and attempts to kill her with a knife. Daisy is barely able to stop the blade from going in, and when Yoshi rescues Daisy by grabbing Lena with his tongue, she retaliates by stabbing him in the neck and getting away. It's very intense, especially for kids, and is made worse by the Mood Whiplash of jumping back and forth from this scene to a funny scene of dancing Goombas in the elevator.
- After Yoshi helps Daisy escape, she runs down a hallway and into Toad the Goomba, who is shot by another Goomba's flamethrower and set on fire. Daisy is horrified, and it's made worse by the practical effects used and that despite being turned into a mindless brute Toad is clearly in pain and scared.
- After Lena succeeds in reuniting the meteorite piece with the meteor, energy flows across her, briefly showing her skeleton. Then she's suddenly flung into the wall and disintegrates into a skeleton, literally fossilized by the meteor energy.
- When the Bob-Omb blows up, Koopa is already half de-evolved into a dinosaur by this point and looks very freaky as he has claws, a reptilian head, and a too-wide mouth with More Teeth than the Osmond Family but still retains a humanoid body. When he's launched into the bucket, there's a very effective pause as all you can hear are faint rattling noises, before a sudden Jump Scare of his Tyrannosaurus form lunging out, its mouth filling the screen.
- After retrieving the meteorite at the night club, Lena swallows a worm that she's using like a cocktail olive. Except that the worm pleads for mercy as she drinks and then lets out a dying scream when she swallows it. It's not made any better when you realize it's a Shout-Out to The Fly (1958).
- The city itself is pretty terrifying, especially for anyone expecting the bright, cheery Mushroom Kingdom of the games. It's dark, fungus-infected (and the fungus is sentient, albeit helpful), and full off strange devices and hostile people. It also has more than a few things in common with a police state, given how Toad is arrested for singing an anti-Koopa song and prisoners are hung from the ceiling in cages. Oh, and at least one form of punishment is for prisoners to be de-evolved into hulking monsters to work for the very people who did this all to them.
- The German Club Nintendo comic Super Mario in Die Nacht des Grauens (ENG) features a zombie Princess Peach◊ with creepy black eyes and a pale, cracked face.