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May 25, 2018

Top 12 Annoyances: Mario Series Edition

Once again, back to the Mario well for me! No matter how many Steam games I play now, I just keep returning to Nintendo franchises when it’s time to make a Top 12 list. I know, I know. It’s easy. In my defense, I have been playing Nintendo franchises far longer than any games on Steam, so I know them more and can make more complete lists.

Oh, this could be applicable to any franchise. Most famously, I remember many YouTube videos doing this concept for the Pokémon series (except they could list over 50 annoyances, go figure). I went through my knowledge of the Mario franchise and pinpointed twelve things that personally annoy me greatly in the franchise. Obviously, this means a ground rule must be set: Each item of the list must be in the franchise itself. I can’t rely on fan interpretations or theories (like “Mario is secretly a psycho OMG”). Nope. Also must keep it to the games, no movie or TV series or anything such.

12. Toad…?
Toad, you're not bad...
You could be way better.
Let’s start with an annoyance that many of us agree on: Toad. The mushroom-headed citizen of the Mushroom Kingdom, and all of the people similar to him… but, especially, him. He’s been despised ever since seven of him told us that the Princess was in another castle. Unfortunately, however helpful we can make him in newer games, he still falls prey to a poor decision in voice-acting. His voice is grating, annoying. It’s not helping that, much like Princess Peach, he and his fellows constantly get kidnapped or put themselves in danger, forcing them to scream for Mario to come and help them. Always in the same irritating tone. Sorry. I don’t hate Toad as much as others might. He does have a lot of elements to him that bug me, but ultimately he’s not the worst case. And, granted, tere have been representatives of his kind who have been given larger roles, like Captain Toad, or the blue and yellow ones in NSMBWii...

11. Ukiki and other hat-stealers
Get your own hat!
There’s nothing an adventurer hates more than having their possessions stolen. Try it if you’re dungeon-mastering a tabletop RPG. Super Mario 64 is a fantastic game, admittedly flawed but it’s one of thousands of great games where the flaws aren't enough to make one dislike the game. This litle element is no exception: Annoying, yes, but not a strike major enough to make one hate SM64. Ukiki the monkey shows up in a level or two, and its primary reason to exist is to steal Mario’s hat. That wouldn’t be so bad, except for some reason it causes Mario to start losing HP. And in a game where the maximum HP is 8, this is kind of a big deal. Then there’s also Klepto, the vulture with a rather appropriate name, who will also steal Mario’s hat, for the same result. Super Mario Sunshine also does it. Later games, thankfully, don’t have this feature. Oh well, it made for an interesting gameplay mechanic when Yoshi, Luigi and Wario joined for the Super Mario 64 remake on the Nintendo DS. Here, putting on a different hero's hat turned you into that hero, so having that hat stolen meant losing whatever abilities you could access at the moment.

You! Go annoy somebody else!

10. The topography of the Mushroom Kingdom
From New Super Mario Bros. U.
A series can’t go thirty-plus years without accumulating a bunch of inconsistencies. That’s why the Simpsons canon is so messed up nowadays. Video games taking place over areas of various types indicate an explorer-type hero. Mario sees grasslands, deserts, waters, isles of giants, icebergs, the skies, even pipe mazes and Hell itself, but it’s only in that precise order in one game. No game in the massive franchise has exactly the same layout for the Mushroom Kingdom. The topography always differs. Mind you, I’m probably the only one annoyed by this, and I’m not even good at geography. It also shows up in the multiple games that aren’t platformers. It’s ultimately understandable, but it certainly does make for one mess of a map in the end, when every world keeps changing place, or appearing/disappearing at will…

9. All the flight items
You'd think the hat would just fly off his head, leaving him
stranded on the ground. "Come back here!"
One issue that has been bugging me a lot lately in the Mario series is how, when it comes to power-ups, the games just can’t settle on a single item for flight. Granted, every flight item seems to have a different secondary ability. I do, however, kind of wished they’d settle on one instead of jumping around. The Super Leaf did let Mario strike enemies by spinning his tail… except the cape did the same, one platform game later. But then again, the Tanuki leaf let Mario turn to stone for a moment. And the cape could be used to bounce mid-air, and sometimes do miniature earthquakes. The Winged Cap had endless flight as long as you knew how to hover. The Red Star in Super Mario Galaxy had one ability: You could stop mid-flight to change direction, like that makes sense. As for Odyssey, Mario just had to capture any flying enemy that wasn’t already wearing a hat. Just… Pick one and stick to it, dagnabbit!

The cape is pretty fun.
And if you learn to glide, you can skip huge areas!

8. Bowser’s size
Whoa Bowser1 How did you get so large?
Did you eat all your crusts?
More inconsistencies! A lot of studios, for animated films and video games alike, tend to keep some sort of chart that indicates the sizes of characters. Makes it simpler to compare, contrast, and not change the size of any character accidentally during the animation of a scene. The Mario franchise has been going for a long while, and Nintendo just can’t seem to decide what Bowser’s actual size is. Sometimes he’s just a bit taller than tall Mario. Other times he’s twice the size of the tall Mario, and sometimes he’s even bigger. Make up your mind goddammit! Granted, maybe he suffers from the Ant-Man syndrome. Went around changing size so often he just can’t remember what his usual height is.

7. Too much Bowser
Here, have a happy dancing Bowser.
Speaking of the grand antagonist of the franchise… how about we change that tune once in a while? I’ve got nothing against the guy, Bowser is a delightfully complex character when you dig past the simple motivations he has in platform games, and check for his more developed self in the various RPGs. Unfortunately, it’s like the franchise just can’t make a game without him somewhere. I get it, he’s important. I’d love some variety from time to time, especially when it comes to platform games where he’s been the big bad for an overwhelming majority of games. Sometimes it’s his son. The Mario games in other genres (mostly RPGs) shake it up with new villains but always feel forced to add him in somehow. Even the crossover between Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi had TWO Bowsers. I’ll go back to Luigi’s Mansion, I guess… Oh wait no, he's referenced in there too!

6. The Blue Shell
Geting too easy?
I'm coming for you.
While I don’t dislike the Mario Kart sub-franchise, I understand many of the complaints people have towards it. This is a racing series we love, yet we also love to hate it. I’m still not over the overpowered AI in Mario Kart DS. Of course, most items available in a race have their justifications. The Blue Shell is, obviously, the item that makes the game never too easy even for a good player: By seeking out the person in first place and leaving them stranded in place for a second or two, others can take the lead. See, it’s an understandable item, competition-wise. Nobody likes a game that becomes too easy. But at the same time, this thing has been the burden of every completionist, every person playing the game alone, and every person that plays the game with friends and has the poor luck of always having others getting that damn spiky monster. I’m ranting, but ultimately it’s only number 6 because it’s not the biggest complaint I have about the series, by far.

5. “Underground Monkeys”
This is the name of a trope, because I use TVTropes way too often. The phrase commonly refers to any enemy design that is replicated within a series. Turns out, inventing new enemies is difficult! It’s frequently easier to introduce new variations of existing creatures than to build new ones from scratch. And of course, throughout its History, the Mario franchise has made great use of this. It started with green-shelled Koopas, which would fall off ledges, and red-shelled ones, which were smart enough not to send themselves to their deaths. That was all. Combine the accumulation of platform games and RPGs with the constant need to make new enemies and reinvent old ones, and you’ve got more versions of all the classic enemies than you can count. I like to use the Mario Wiki for some wiki-diving at times, and I’m still flabbergasted at the number of Piranha Plant types. To say nothing of the dozens of different Goombas, the dozens of Koopa Troopas… most Hammer Bro variations are just given a different weapon… Then again, when it comes to creating new enemies, we may also just end up with… those things. Which are literally just a rectangle that stretches its neck.

Oh, and this one also has two more
variants in Super Paper Mario.
Yes, really.

4. So many under-developed characters!
Whereas RPGs set a lot of focus on story, platformers put the gameplay forward and tend to keep the story basic. As such, characters confined to the platform games and, sometimes, the spin-offs won’t be seeing quite as much character development. Wario has WarioWare, Mario remain relatively simple… Luigi, Bowser and Peach have become quite complex over time. What about Waluigi? Daisy? We know a lot about Rosalina, but although she’s being featured in more and more games we’re still missing a lot of elements. I kind of dream of a Mario RPG in which all of those, and even more secondary characters, get a chance to show off new personality traits in a story that allows for such.

3. Dumb character rosters in spin-offs
Did we really need a golden Peach to drive a car?
I’ve got nothing against seeing the common Mario characters in spin-off rosters. The brothers, the princesses, the greedy mischievous cousins, the big turtle-dragon and his family. Of course. The various baddies of the franchise? Sure, why not. I will never understand how a Goomba may be wielding a bat, but hey, if they can make it work… I also don’t quite see why a Blooper would play a board game, but hey, whatever floats their boat. There’s three dozen enemies and Koopalings they can stick in there, along with the others, so I suppose it’s not that bad, but even then, it just feels like a lot of armless/legless baddies could just cheat at many sports. Then we get to the Mario Babies. They’re frequently the Pichu of the spin-offs. And there’s more and more of them! Not to mention all the paradoxes of having Baby Rosalina around! And frequently, the babies don’t bring much to the table. Oh, and after those... Metal Mario? Pink Gold Peach? Come on now. Go home roster makers, you’re trying too hard.

2. The princess still. Gets. Kidnapped.
Surely an alarm system can’t be that expensive in the Mushroom Kingdom! Being the first platform game to employ it, Super Mario Bros. detains the grandfather clause of the princess getting taken away by the villain in video games. Thirty-three years later, it still uses the trope regularly. To the point of parody. To the point where most people are kind of sick of it, in fact. Hell, I’m sick of it. Admittedly, in recent years Princess Peach has become a playable character in quite a few titles, and Nintendo has tried to put new spins on the concept – in Super Mario Odyssey, as an example. However, still far too often it boils down to the same princess getting kidnapped by the same villain, or that villain possessed by some entity. Would it hurt to not have a story that ultimately results into a kidnapping for once? The Mario franchise innovates at every chance it gets when it comes to gameplay. It’s time to innovate more when it comes to stories.

1. Still no Waluigi game?
That’s just unforgivable. Waluigi has existed for now 18 years within the Mario canon, and only in spin-off series no less. Sure, he has all the best themed stages as well as the best victory poses…

If Deadpool can have two good movies,
Waluigi can have at least one good game.
But despite all that, this fan favorite has never had a chance to star in a game of his own or, Hell, in any game that isn’t a spin-off. Confined forever to parties, karting, baseball, what have you. But platform games? The best we got is the Waluigi clothing Mario can wear in Odyssey, that’s about it. RPGs? Nope! In fact, even Wario is nowhere to be seen in them! In fact, I would love a Mario & Luigi game that also features the Wario brothers! Sounds like the sort of crazy concept that sub-series normally loves to pull off. A Waluigi solo game? Luigi has had his own. And there are many fan games featuring the dude in purple. It’s possible! They should get to it. ASAP.

And so… well, this concludes another list. Soon will be the time for another movie review, and then… something big.

But you need to be warned, I'll be taking a short hiatus in order to get this done.

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