Beloved the world over for voicing perhaps the most popular and recognized character in video game history, Charles Martinet is an American actor, best known for providing the voice of Mario, the titular character in Nintendo’s flagship video game franchise. Beyond the mustachioed plumber, Martinet also voices Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Toad, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi and a select few other characters from the same series.
Like all great stories, Charles Martinet’s road to fame had humble beginnings. Martinet was told by his friend that there was going to be an audition at a trade show in which you “talk to people as a plumber”. At first Martinet planned to talk like a stereotypical Italian American with a deep, raspy voice (which is how Mario sounded in the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World cartoons). He then thought to himself that it would be too harsh for children to hear, so he made it more soft-hearted and friendly, resulting in what Mario’s voice is today.
Martinet began working for Nintendo in 1994 as the voice of Mario in a computer generated version of the character that greeted and interacted with attendees at industry and trade events. This system was called Mario in Real-Time or MIRT and was developed by Pasadena based SimGraphics. Martinet could see the attendees by means of a hidden camera setup and a facial motion capture rig recorded his mouth movements in order to synchronize Martinet’s mouth movement with the on-screen Mario mouth movement. This digital puppetry, with Martinet’s comic performance, was a novelty at the time.
Although most fans were introduced to Martinet’s version of Mario with the 1996 Nintendo 64 game, Super Mario 64, Martinet’s video game voice over debut was as Mario in the 1995 Windows release of Interplay’s game Mario’s FUNdamentals. Since then, he has gone on to voice Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Toadsworth, Metal Mario, Shadow Mario, Piantas (Male), Mini-Mario Toys, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi and Baby Wario in most games wherein these characters speak. He also voiced the enemies Wart, Mouser, Tryclyde, and Clawgrip in Super Mario Advance. His voice work appears in the English and Japanese language versions of the games.
Not just limited to roles in Mario games, Martinet has also lent his voice to the boxers and the announcer in the Super NES title Super Punch-Out!!. He voiced the character Vigoro in Sega’s Dreamcast and Nintendo GameCube role-playing video game, Skies of Arcadia. He did the voice of Homunculus in the Konami PlayStation 2, Xbox and Windows game Shadow of Destiny, and provided voices for Reader Rabbit and The ClueFinders games. Charles Martinet wanted to voice Link in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but Shigeru Miyamoto told him that Link would remain without a voice. However Link’s grunts have been voiced by various Japanese voice actors.
In addition to video game voice overs, Martinet has worked as a voice actor in commercials, cartoons, and promotions. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show in 2005, Charles (as an Animal Crossing character) could be found roaming the virtual village featured in the playable demo of Animal Crossing: Wild World. Martinet did Mario’s voice as the announcer for Pac-Man Vs. on the Nintendo GameCube.
Fans can also hear Martinet’s voice in non-Nintendo games such as Damage as the voice of Fowl Mouth, as well as the primary voice work in several educational game series such as LeapFrog. He also voiced the dragon Paarthurnax in the 2011 video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and narrated the cutscenes and menus for the 2013 video game Bit.Trip Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.
- On November 30, 2019