TOKYO - Nintendo Sunday celebrated the 30th anniversary of Super Mario, one of the best-known characters in video game history, at an event where artists performed his theme music for fans dressed as the hyperactive plumber.
Super Mario series creator Shigeru Miyamoto appeared on stage as a crowd cheered at a packed live-music venue that can house up to 700 people. He watched a human-size mascot Mario blow out candles on a birthday cake.
"I was touched when I sang a birthday song with all of you," Miyamoto said.
"Happy birthday, Mario!" Video game music composer Koji Kondo played music used for newly released Mario software on a keyboard. Other musicians, including performers on a violin and an accordion, separately performed well-known Mario music.
Masako Iwata, one of the fans at the event, said she was looking forward to seeing Kondo, Miyamoto and Mario himself, whom she described as her hero.
"I love Mario. I've been playing the series since I was four or five," said the 26-year-old, sporting a hand-made Mario red cap and blue overall.
Since Mario first hit the screens under his own name on September 13, 1985, Nintendo has sold more than 310 million units featuring the plucky plumber's adventures fighting off Goombas and Koopa Troopas as he races to save Princess Peach.
The character had earlier made an appearance in the Nintendo arcade game "Donkey Kong", but under the name Jumpman.
With his distinctive uniform and moustache, the hyperactive little plumber is instantly recognisable, a rare quality in the games market.
In his best-known adventures, Mario comes to the rescue of Princess Peach, but he has also been inserted into formats featuring football, golf or karting.
The games have often been accompanied by technological advances, such as the fully three-dimensional format introduced by "Super Mario 64" in 1996.
To mark the three-decade milestone, Nintendo last Thursday released in Japan "Super Mario Maker" on the WiiU console. This allows players to create their own worlds for Mario, or use those created by other players and shared through the Internet.
Nintendo is also eyeing the booming smartphone games market - a long-awaited departure from its consoles-only policy.
The Kyoto-based company said in March it would create games based on its host of popular characters, but did not release any details about which characters would be made available for smartphones or tablets.
The company hopes to offset weakening demand for its 3DS portable game system by tapping into the smartphone games market.