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March 11, 2016

Top 12 Secondary Characters - Mario Edition

It may look like I’m running out of ideas… Eh, I don't care.

Everyone who’s spent even a bit on this site reading my reviews knows that I’m a huge fan of the Mario series, despite its flaws. And like any work of fiction that lasts longer than 30 years, this franchise has accumulated a large cast of characters, be they mooks, bosses, major villains, allies, minor characters… and some actually return multiple times afterwards. Gee, it’s like they were good enough to come back! What’s more, this series has more spin-offs than you can shake a stick at, so fan favorites get to return as playable characters and join the karting/golfing/[…]/partying fun!

For this list, I’m counting down my 12 favorite secondary Mario characters. To fit the list, the character must not be a main character of the series (thus ruling out Mario, Luigi, Peach and Bowser, and now Toad thanks to Treasure Tracker), must not have their own spin-off franchise (just ruling out Wario, Yoshi and DK), and must have appeared in at least three games, spinoffs included (though appearances in mainline platformer and RPG games kinda helps). One exception for this is the RPG characters; since there are two main RPG Mario series (Mario&Luigi, and Paper Mario), with 5 games each (both RPG series crossed over in the recent Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam), a character from those RPGs can be on this list by appearing at least twice in its series. As an example, I noticed the Mario and Luigi series had more continuity between titles than the Paper Mario series.

Let’s kick off this list with…

12. Broque Monsieur and Madame
Ironic that a French-like
character would be a tête carrée...
These two… peculiar characters made their first appearance in Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. Both appear in Bowser’s half of the plot, with Broque Monsieur serving as a Tutorial of sorts for Bowser’s regular attacks. Broque Madame is a test of Bowser’s strength when using his special attacks, which all involve hordes of his own mooks. There are many interesting elements about these two: They’re both named after a type of French dish, and they have a French accent to boot. They’re actual living blocks, which means they have crazy defense and can take all the damage you can throw at them. Third, their species also include doglike and catlike creatures (Broggy and the Blitties, respectively; the block kittens are adorable!). Fourth, they seem to know a bunch of secrets about the Kingdom, like Broque Madame who knows about the Shroobs in Bowser’s Castle. Last but not least, they were popular enough to make a comeback in the next M&L title, Dream Team, along with more characters like them (Brickle and Britta), making them no longer unique cases around the Kingdom.

11. The Shroobs
"Bwaaaaaaah! I mean... EXTERMINATE!"
Despite appearing only twice, these guys got a spot on the list. They’re a notable group of villains as the only bad guys in the entire franchise who actually managed to take over the Mushroom Kingdom and turn it into a terrifying world of darkness… in the past, no less! They were such a force that two pairs of brother were needed: The Mario brothers AND their baby versions! The reason they invaded? Their planet was a wreck. Their leaders are a lot of fun, especially both Shroob princesses, and their Juggernaut, Yoob, is a massive nigh-indestructible monster. How can one not like that species? But like any villain in the series, they’re eventually defeated. They reappear in the sequel, Bowser’s Inside Story, as a bonus fight; three Shroobs are discovered in the freezer of Bowser’s Castle. Now why they were in there, for which purpose Bowser kept Shroobsickles hidden in the depths of his fortress, no one will ever know. Well, at least defeating them gives the Brothers a new attack.

10. Queen Rosalina
I’ll admit it right away, I see Rosalina as a fad character, in that as soon as she appeared she turned out to be popular, so now Nintendo puts her everywhere to cash in on her popularity. I am not a fan of how she shows up everywhere now, despite other secondary characters of the series having appeared long before her and still getting little to no recognition. Still, I can see why Rosalina is liked. A Queen with magical powers traveling across the universe, friend of cosmic entities, with a sad backstory and many, many secrets. I see the appeal of her character, though I still think Rosalina is getting too much focus. But hey, if you like her, good for you. I don't really hate her, either; after all, she has a spot on this list, doesn't she?

8. Toadsworth
Lucky old guy, he even got his
own Smash trophy!
Princess Peach’s steward who accompanies her just about everywhere she goes. So much so that some fans, like me, see him as a kind of father figure for the Princess, considering a King has never been mentioned in the games (there was one in the comics, but we’re better off not remembering that moron). Due to his old age (he’s sixty according to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door), he doesn’t frequently join the roster of Mario spin-offs, playable only in the baseball titles and Yakuman DS, a Mahjong-themed Japan-exclusive game. Since Super Mario Galaxy, Toadsworth has slowed down on his in-game appearances. I guess the Princess getting kidnapped all the time has done a number on his nerves. The post-Sunshine RPGs do show him more neurotic than before…

9. Toadette
Don't let the pink fool you;
she's better than you think.
The Toads of the Mario universe are a strange species. Nobody knows if the mushroom on their heads is a hat or an actual part of their anatomy. Many of them are simply citizens, but a few have what it takes to be heroes, like Captain Toad. Toadette doesn’t appear that much outside of spin-off games, though she does have a few interesting roles. She’s said to be quite the musician, and her appearance in Mario Party DS has her music room invaded by a mean Hammer Brother. She’s a regular of the Mario Kart, baseball and Party games. She has a bit of an entrepreneur streak as well, opening a hotel in Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix. In that game, her hotel gets twisted into looking like a corkscrew, and Toad and Luigi use the power of dancing to restore it… yeah, it’s that kind of game. She’s also playable in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and her role in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is pretty important too, so there’s at least a few attempts at making her more than just a generic female Toad.

7. Professor Elvin Gadd
His voice is also a bit creepy. He fits right in
with everything else in Luigi's Mansion.
AKA E. Gadd, the absent-minded professor who’s perfectly fine with sending hopeless green-clad brothers into perilous ghost houses for some good old-fashioned ghost-hunting with a vacuum. So long as he’s not the one to do it, he’s fine. He’s an inventor, but he’s not really a bumbling inventor; he just hates going on the field. Well, gotta give it to the guy, his creations work, and help Luigi quite a bit when the time comes to save Mario from, say, King Boo. Mostly King Boo. Almost only King Boo, in fact. He does make a few appearances here and there outside of the Luigi’s Mansion games, especially in the Mario & Luigi series where he owns Starbeans Café in the Beanbean Kingdom, and his past self is met in Partners in Time. He also appears in a few Mario Party installments, mostly to provide accessories. His creations are also mentioned in Mario Kart. Come to think of it, I mentioned all of this guy’s contributions to the franchise, but I haven’t said the truth about him… He’s a goddarned coward. I guess that’s meant to make him funny? Well, it works.

6. Kamek and Kammy Koopa
The brains behind...
...Bowser's brawn?
I’m putting them together because, aside from a few differences, they’re pretty much the same character: A Magikoopa serving as Bowser’s right-hand magician, providing helpful spells geared towards improving Your Gruntiness in order to defeat Mario. Kamek is an odd case as he is closer to the Yoshi series (considered the true villain of the Yoshi's Island spin-off series), where he would be Baby Bowser’s caretaker and cast spells to make enemies gigantic, culminating in a final boss fight against a Kaiju-esque Baby Bowser. Even to this day, Kamek likes to provide help against the heroes. Kammy is the Paper Mario version, where her many tricks first allow Bowser to gain the Star Rod, effectively making him invincible, and later provides him with a flying arena that enhances all his stats. She’s such a danger that she needs to be taken down as well! Her role in The Thousand Year Door is smaller, but she’s still Bowser’s magician.

5. King Boo
I can't help but like this picture. Way to make a
Mario character look threatening.
Oh yeah, the villain most commonly associated with Luigi’s Mansion appears shortly after the ally most commonly associated with Luigi’s Mansion! Of course! King Boo is notable as one of the few villains in the Mario series who has managed to capture Mario, of all people. Guess Bowser just needed a bit more stealth. And hey, King Boo is a ghost, stealth isn’t difficult for him. In general, whereas Bowser is presented as a powerful opponent who unleashes grand attacks, King Boo is shown to be more of the underhanded kind, trapping heroes and making sure they stay trapped. Not only did it happen to Mario – twice – but he also trapped Luigi at least once, in Super Mario 64 DS. I could also describe his many spin-off appearances, but I feel it’s much more important to say why I love this character: In Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon, King Boo reveals itself to be, hands-down, one of the most terrifying monsters in the Mario universe, period. Its determination in taking down Luigi once and for all might be even greater than Bowser’s desire to defeat Mario. No trace of comedy in this character anymore. It’s dead serious. Well, it was already pretty damn dead, but you get the point. It’s also implied to have gone batshit insane by that point, which makes it even more threatening. Oh, and let’s not forget that it also exhibited reality warping abilities!!!

4. Bowser Jr.
Look, he even has his own little
cute Koopa clown car! That's, like,
totally necessary on him! He wouldn't
be able to fight in Smash without it!
Introduced in Super Mario Sunshine, very little is known of Bowser Jr.’s actual origins. Clearly Bowser felt lonely one night, remedied to the problem, and now he’s stuck with a kid who was probably left at his Castle’s doorstep with a note. Either way, this character turned out to be quite a surprise in his first appearance (Super Mario Sunshine), where he donned for most of the game the appearance of a shadow Mario thanks to a magic paintbrush. That was back when Bowser’s Koopalings were considered his kids (they aren’t anymore). Ever since, Bowser Jr. has been a part of most of Bowser’s schemes, serving as a boss in games such as the New Super Mario Bros. series, both Galaxy games, and even some RPGs. Despite revealing a more fatherly, caring side to Bowser, that same side we see from the gruff turtle-dragon when he’s with his troops, Bowser Jr. hasn't gained much of a personality over time. Thankfully, this changed a bit in Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam, where the Paper version of Bowser Jr. appears in the Mario and Luigi world (along with several other Paper Mario characters, Paper Bowser included) and instantly forms a friendship with M&L!Bowser Jr., implying that all each of them wanted was a friend. Awwww. Wait, am I “awwww”-ing for a villain? That’s kinda weird…

3. Princess Daisy
If there is one thing I enjoy of the Mario princesses - all
of them - it's that they happily join any mundane
activities thrown their way, whether it's karting,
tennis, or plain ol' partying. And don't mind relaxing
from their duties. ...whichever they are...
The “spunky princess” trope has been used over and over, but in the Mario series, it’s a lot of fun to see Princess Daisy in action. Having been kidnapped only once (in Super Mario Land) and never bothered ever again afterwards, she happily joined the heroes in most, if not all, of the spin-off series. I like her character despite her voice, despite her lack of presence in Mario games outside of spin-offs (seriously, the Mario RPGs are missing a great deal in not including Sarasaland at least once…), but I like her mostly as Luigi’s potential love interest, a relationship implied in a few sport titles but never outright stated, more like a rumor. And the Internet is like a small village: As soon as a rumor starts, everybody takes it and rolls with it, for better or for worse. Though it was for the better this time around. Daisy is a good pick in many sport games, and she’s a good foil to Peach (the self-titled Princess of kidnappings) and Rosalina (the mighty cosmic force). She’s also an important character in the Game Boy comics about Super Mario Land, where she’s under Tatanga’s grip but manages to make him bend to her will every time, and in the movie, where she’s… um… well… you know what, let’s not mention that movie again. (Though it did help cement the idea of a Luigi/Daisy pairing.)

2. Fawful
When it comes to swirl glasses, he was the OG. Sorry Dr.
Insano, you are not the first one.
I have the fury of the mustard of your doom! Did that make sense to you? No? To me neither. A more enigmatic villain of the Mario & Luigi series, Fawful made not two, but three appearance, two as an important villain. He first shows up as Cackletta’s loyal lackey in Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, where he started as nothing more than an annoyance, eventually becoming a valid thread near the end of the game, shortly before the final boss fight. He cameos in Partners In Time, and makes his grand comeback in Bowser’s Inside Story. There, he sets out to retrieve an ancient evil known as the Dark Star, and plans to use its power to take over the world (because duh). He’s also the one to provide Bowser with the Vacuum Mushroom, turning Bowser’s insides into a world of its own, and letting him also inhale the Mario Brothers. Don’t question it, it’s a weird game; I mean, in this game he also causes the outbreak of a weird disease that turns Toads into perfect spheres… Fawful took notes from his mentor Cackletta, who was considered a master manipulator and chessmaster, and proved himself to be quite the bastard. He found himself a lackey (the gruff Midbus), took over and brainwashed Bowser’s forces, and eventually invaded Peach’s castle as well. The final fight against him is memorable as, assimilated by the Dark Star and inhaled into a dark(er) version of Bowser, he’s also fought inside Bowser by Mario and Luigi, as the creepy Fawful Bug. His mannerisms, odd speech patterns, nutritional metaphors, and comedic personality helped make him a fan favorite among the secondary Mario villains – and he’s one of my favorite Mario villains too.

1. Waluigi
The lean, mean, purple machine takes the top of this list. Waluigi is a polarizing character, as he never made an appearance in a main series game (not even a cameo), but has appeared countless times in spin-off games. Waluigi is merely an evil copy of Luigi, a brother to Wario (whom he aids in his evil plans from time to time), a joke first, a relevant character second. He does have an amazing course in Mario Kart DS: his Pinball Machine. He’s like the lost Dalton cousin. (He does look like the Daltons…) Also, don’t be fooled, this silly guy packs some crazy dance moves, some that are perfectly fine for the category of games he appears in, others… not so much.
"My victorious crotch demands that you look at it!"
He’s a beast on many a sport field (ask Mario Sports Mix), you could even say he’s Overpowered in that game. In games like Mario Super Sluggers, his brother and he attempt to crash the party with Bullet Bills. He is also the first main antagonist of Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix, where he plans to rule over the land with the help of legendary artifacts called the Music Keys. He displays the spirit of a trickster here, as well as an affinity for explosives (and sadly his spot as antagonist gets stolen by Bowser). Waluigi has had other moments to shine, of course, but Nintendo never seems to know what to do with him, and that’s despite the massive fandom and support the character has, even being desired as a playable character in a Smash game instead of just being an Assist trophy. Personally, I’m campaigning for a future Mario and Luigi title where the Wario brothers are playable alongside the Mario brothers. This could be an interesting dynamic. Long story short, I’d like to have more Waluigi in my daily dose of Mario gaming.

Well, there you go. This is my list. You’re free to agree or disagree with any of the choices on here… and if you do disagree, I’d like to hear why. Feel free to leave a comment. Next week, the first actual movie review of the year. And I have a bad feeling about that one…