Kenan Thompson’s love for Nintendo runs deep. Dating back to the original Super Mario Bros. in 1985 and other NES classics like Rad Racer, Double Dribble, and his personal favorite, Contra, the gaming giant has always been part of the longest-running SNL cast member’s life.
And now that love is coming “full circle,” Thompson says, as he joins the company as their latest ambassador for a new advertisement just in time for the holiday season. Alongside the actor and comedian are his two daughters, Georgia, 9, and Gianna, 5, who are seen in the spot playing a slew of popular Nintendo Switch games, including the brand-new Super Mario Bros. Wonder. “[Nintendo] was kind of like my childhood, basically. So to have it come full circle and be able to experience it and introduce it to my babies is really amazing,” Thompson told Pop Crave over Zoom.
Although life as a working actor and comedian keeps him busy, Thompson hails the Nintendo Switch as his go-to gaming system due to its family-friendly nature. “That’s why I like the Nintendo Switch, because if I do get a moment [to play video games], it’s usually around the fam, and [it’s] something we can all do together… Especially for me, being a family man, you always want to gravitate towards things that allow [for] that time spent together.”
He recalls filming the ad on a “picturesque” sunny day and shares that it was shot at a “really awesome house” in Montclair, New Jersey. Above all, though, it was the time spent gaming with his daughters that Thompson cherished the most. “It was just really cool to be able to do something all together, so that on top of shooting a commercial with my babies was just amazing,” he said. And despite his youngest daughter Gianna being only 5 years old, the SNL star says that didn’t stop her from getting in on all the fun the Nintendo Switch has to offer. “It was cool to play a game that my five-year-old can play as well,” he expressed of Super Mario Party.
When asked which Nintendo Switch games his family has been enjoying the most, Thompson was quick to answer: “Anything Super Mario.” He later went on to describe his longtime admiration for the Super Mario Bros. series, explaining the impact he feels it’s had on the gaming industry at large. “It’s such a solid gaming pattern,” he said of the 2D side-scrolling adventure. “And I feel like Nintendo probably set it off in that direction… I feel like Super Mario Bros. was the beginning of that, and it’s obviously the format that works because here we are talking about it almost 40 years later.”
Thompson added that he’s been loving the series’ latest entry, Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which was released to rave reviews on October 20. “We were just like, in wonder, playing Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Not to be cheesy, but it really is fascinating.”
Featured in the game is a 12-person roster, the largest selection of playable characters to ever appear in a mainline Super Mario title. Thompson praised the lineup and tied their updated, expressive personalities back to one of Nintendo’s recent ambitious business ventures—an expansion into film. “[The Super Mario Bros. Movie] was so genius recently, so just having that go hand in hand and continuing to push the fact that we love these characters so much that we get to be around new versions of them is really exciting.”
Another Nintendo Switch title he enjoyed playing with his daughters was the latest entry in The Legend of Zelda series, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Speaking of his experience with the game, which currently holds a universally acclaimed score of 96 on Metacritic, Thompson sang his praises at how far the action-adventure series has come since his days playing the original on the NES. “It was amazing to see how much [The Legend of Zelda] has grown. I remember the original was like… just a flat map. Now it’s like a whole world [where] you can run around in, swim in, and climb mountains. It’s really amazing to see how far it’s come.”
Outside of his new partnership with Nintendo, Thompson is currently back for his 21st season at Saturday Night Live, which returned on October 14, five months after Season 48 ended early due to the writers strike. “To be back is such a blessing,” he expressed.
Pop Crave asked Kenan about the long-running sketch comedy show’s seeming up-tick in Nintendo parodies, from a 2021 courtroom skit depicting Elon Musk as Wario on trial for murdering Mario to Pedro Pascal’s dystopian HBO Mario Kart trailer in February. The world’s most famous plumber was even referenced in the Season 49 premiere during the ‘Trick or Treat with Fran Drescher’ sketch, which poked fun at SAG-AFTRA’s recent guidelines barring celebrities from dressing up as famous onscreen characters for Halloween. He suggests the references are natural, considering the gaming company’s stamp on popular culture. “It’s one of those things that’s like, as American as American pie, you know what I mean? It just kind of goes hand in hand with growing up here. For me, definitely. Nintendo has been a very, very, large part of my life.”
So what’s next for Thompson and Nintendo? A Christmas trip with his daughters to Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood, fittingly.
Check out the advertisement for Kenan Thompson’s new campaign with Nintendo below.