Pedro Pascal’s guest appearance on the latest Saturday Night Live gave the show a perfect opportunity to spoof the grim, dystopian tone of The Last of Us — as well as the checkered history of video game adaptations — by imagining a world in which HBO brought the same “prestige dystopian drama” approach to an adaptation of Mario Kart.
“It’s-a me,” growls Pascal, “Mario,” aping his gruff demeanor as Joel in The Last of Us, in what may or may not be a dig at action hero Chris Pratt’s casting as the famous plumber in the forthcoming Super Mario Bros. Movie. The skit takes the form of a trailer for the imagined series, with Peach taking the role of Mario’s Ellie-style cargo, and Yoshi, Toad, Luigi (and his mansion), and Bowser all appearing in suitably tattooed and foulmouthed HBO form. A Goomba is cast as a Clicker, and Mario loads a shotgun with red shells.
The mashup of the two game properties is a beautifully executed, if obvious, joke contrasting the colorfully surreal nonsense of the Nintendo game with the mournful brutality and cinematic style of The Last of Us — which, of course, are exactly what made it such perfect subject matter for an HBO series. Crucially, the skit makes fun of both equally, rather than condescending to Mario Kart’s gamelike qualities. The choice of Mario Kart, rather than a mainline Super Mario game, is also inspired — if only because, if SNL had chosen the latter, the result might have looked uncomfortably close to the actual Super Mario Bros. movie from 1993, a cultural artifact so bizarre it exists beyond parody.
And if you genuinely do want to see Mario Kart’s world turned into filmed entertainment, don’t worry — trailers indicate the karts and the famous Rainbow Road will turn up in The Super Mario Bros. Movie when it releases this April. In the world of intellectual property franchising, nothing is too silly to try for real.