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Nintendo sells 100-millionth 'Mario' game

REDMOND, Wash. -- Nintendo of America Inc. said Wednesday it has sold 100 million units of its 'Mario' video games worldwide, the first such title to reach that level.

Mario, a character created by Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, has been in seven different Nintendo video games including 'Super Mario Bros.' (1985), 'Super Mario Bros. 2' (1988), 'Super Mario Land' (1989), 'Super Mario Bros. 3' (1990), 'Super Mario World' (1991) and 'Super Mario Land 2' (1992).

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Nintendo said 'Super Mario Land 2' for the hand-held Game Boy system has sold more than 5 million cartridges worldwide since its introduction last November.

Nintendo of America, the U.S. arm of Nintendo Co. Ltd., of Kyoto, Japan, also said Mario has become more recognizable among American children than Mickey Mouse, according to Q-score research ratings.

'Who would have ever thought that a little Italian plumber from Brooklyn would capture the imagination of children worldwide?' said Peter Main, Nintendo's vice president of marketing. 'But Mario's popularity transcends all cultural and language barriers.'

The Mario character first appeared as 'Jumpman' in 1981 with a walk-on appearance in Miyamoto's arcade version of Donkey Kong. He appeared as 'Mario' in Donkey Kong Jr. in 1982 and has been used in more than a dozen non-Mario games over the last eight years.

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Disney opened a live-action 'Super Mario Bros.' movie last weekend and it wound up fourth at the domestic box office with $8.5 million at 2,081 screens.

Nintendo also said Wednesday that it worldwide game sales have topped 750 million. It said its 'Star Fox' game had become the fastest- selling video game in history, with more than 1.7 million games sold in Japan and the United States through March.

'Star Fox,' powered by a specially designed 16-bit FX chip, features three-dimensional graphics and is designed to give the player the feel of driving a supersonic speed aircraft with the ability to see objects from above, behind or in front.

Nintendo has been locked in a bitter battle with Japan's Sega Enterprises for supremacy in the video-game field. Analysts believe Sega has taken away considerable share from Nintendo's lead in the $5- billion-a-year U.S. video game market due to its success with its 16-bit 'Sonic the Hedgehog' games.

The two giants slammed each other last week over Sega's decision to create a video-game rating system on the same day that British censors banned the sale to children under 15 of Sega's 'Night Trap' game because of its lifelike scenes of violence.

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Nintendo said the rating system could be used to justify even more violent games, while Sega accused Nintendo of hypocrisy since many of its sales come from 'fighter' games.

Nintendo Co. Ltd. recently reported earnings of $763 million, or $5. 40 a share, for its fiscal year ended March 31, up 2 percent from earnings of $750.9 million, or $5.30 a share, for the prior year. Sales increased 13 percent to $5.47 billion from $4.84 billion in fiscal 1992.

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