One of the most iconic franchises in all of gaming is Super Mario Bros. The strange thing is it didn’t start off with franchise potential. Rather, it was Nintendo’s cultivation of the character and his world that grew into a cultural phenomenon.
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Even non-gamers can recognize its characters, and the franchise’s games range from adventure to sports and beyond. It truly makes Mario and his supporting cast some of the most legendary characters in pop culture.
Waluigi might be one of the most bizarre additions to the Mario network. He first premiered in Mario Tennis of all places, but somehow fit in as the dark doppelganger to Luigi. In so doing, it gave Mario’s lesser-known brother a nemesis to play off of.
The strange thing about Waluigi’s name is that at first the “Wa” part might seem like a reference to the other dark doppelganger, Wario. In fact, that part of his name is merely how someone describes an antithesis in Japanese.
If Mario had Princess Peach as love interest, it only made sense that Luigi would get a love interest, too. Princess Daisy is the result, and she is arguably just as important to the universe as Peach is.
This concept carried over to the live action film, where Daisy, rather than Peach, was the princess in need of rescuing, and, of course, she fell for Luigi, rather than the titular character of Mario.
The idea of creating a dark, evil version of Mario is brilliant on multiple levels. First off, Wario’s appearance is in many ways a caricature of how Mario looks. There’s also the factor of his name.
While Wario’s name might have significance in Japanese, it also works in English, as flipping the “M” upside down is a subtle but clever way to create a backwards Mario. He’s so popular that some fans like him more than the star plumber himself.
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Every hero needs a loyal steed, and for some reason, Mario has Yoshi. The character is a bit of an oddity, as he is a dinosaur Mario can mount, yet he is also a character in his own right that players can choose to play golf or soccer or any other game Mario invites his friends to.
What’s interesting about Yoshi is that he is part of a larger species, which consists of many different colors. Still, green is considered the main Yoshi, and he has built quite a fan base that enjoys playing his own self-titled games.
Toad is a bit of an enigma in the Mario world. There are many like him, but he is essentially Princess Peach’s loyal servant. He’s also the most versatile of all of the Mario characters, considering all of the various roles he’s had.
In some instances, he’s just a non-player character who helps during the game. In other instances, he’s someone the player can choose as an avatar in a competition. Still, given his rather limited role, Toad has built a rather loyal fan base.
5) Donkey Kong
Out of all the Mario characters, it’s hard to think of one that has undergone more changes than Donkey Kong. The original character was the villain that fought Mario in their first interaction together in the arcade classic of the same name. Over the years, Donkey Kong has grown into a whole family where a new character has taken up the mantle.
Now, Donkey Kong has his own considerably large franchise that consists of action-adventure games, racing games, and more. However, since he’s still a part of the Mario universe, Mario sports and party games wouldn’t be the same without him.
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The damsel in distress trope was the original format for the Super Mario games. In fact, as female gamers became more prominent in the industry, Nintendo even drew a lot of criticism for that. However, those complaints don’t take into account the growth Princess Peach has undergone over the years.
She might still be the damsel in distress on occasion, but so is Mario. In her own right, Peach has grown into a strong and confident character capable of taking care of herself. This is evidenced by the fact that she can hold her own in many fighting games, and has no problem smashing a foe or two when the need arises.
Every great hero needs a great villain. It stands to reason that Donkey Kong would be that villain since Mario faced him first, but Nintendo had other plans, and introduced the Koopa family.
Originally named King Koopa, Bowser’s identity, appearance, and character morphed over time into becoming a formidable foe. While he is the primary antagonist of the Mario franchise, he’s taken many forms, such as a hero, and even golfer and go-kart driver.
Some of the best characters in gaming become characters by accident. This idea was prevalent in the Mortal Kombat series as they merely took certain characters and swapped out different color schemes. A similar situation was how Luigi was born.
At first, he was merely a green version of Mario to differentiate between player one and player two. Over time, Luigi’s character, personality, and appearance developed to the point that he grew his own fandom, and even became the star of his own games.
There’s little to say about Mario that gaming fans, and even the public at large, don’t already know. The idea that a Japanese video game company created an icon out of an Italian plumber seems kind of outrageous, yet this humble character succeeded against all odds.
In fact, his first game wasn’t even named after him. He was simply the character the player controlled in Donkey Kong, and yet Mario’s appearance and mythology grew over time to become the absolute titan of the industry that he is today.
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