Nintendo mascot Mario. Nintendo

Nintendo is reportedly close to signing a deal with Universal Pictures and French animation studio Illumination to bring iconic video game mascot Mario back to the big screen more than two decades after the plumber's ill-fated big-screen debut.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Illumination - the studio that made the Despicable Me movies and spin-off Minions - has been in talks with Nintendo for more than a year. Representatives of both companies refused to comment on the story.

Only one film is currently planned according to sources close to the talks. It will be based on the 32-year-old Super Mario Bros series, about a plumber and his pals saving the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser and the evil Koopas.

A deal could potentially lead to sequels, but at the moment just one film is planned.

WSJ reports that talks have been complicated by Nintendo's desire to be heavily involved in the filmmaking process.

Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto is said to have been playing a key part in the negotiations and could serve as a producer on any eventual film.

Nintendo and Universal have an existing relationship that will see theme parks based on the video game giant's renowned properties opened in Universal Studios' locations in Japan, Florida and California.

Illumination is one of the world's most successful animation studios, having made more than $3.7 billion from its four Despicable Me films, and enjoyed further success with The Secret Life of Pets in 2016.

Mario was famously brought to the big screen in 1993's live-action adaptation, which starred Bob Hoskins as the portly plumber and John Leguizamo as his brother Luigi. Dennis Hopper played the villainous King Koopa.

The film was a disaster both critically and commercially, and is often cited in discussions about the sad history of Hollywood's various video game adaptations. Despite numerous efforts, pretty much all attempts at bringing games to the big screen have entirely fallen flat.

Next year sees the release of a new Tomb Raider movie starring Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander, which will hope to shatter expectations and deliver the first great film based on a game.