Mario Characters and why Fan Favourites aren’t Perfect Characters
Editorials / Features
Some characters have all the luck as far as popularity with the fandom goes. Whether it’s the Koopalings and their many, many legions of fans, Rosalina and her ridiculous rise in popularity due to the Super Mario Galaxy games, or Captain Syrup in the Wario series, these characters have unfortunately overshadowed much of the great cast from the Mario series in general, to the point many good characters are left unforgotten due to the rabid fans going on and on about X character who’s apparently oh so perfect and should be in every game ever made. Tv Tropes calls them Ensemble Darkhorses, I call them fan favourites, and in this article, I plan to defend the rest of the Mario series cast by quite literally tearing them to shreds, and explaining why these characters, while still good, are nowhere near deserving of their massive fame and fan obsession.

First up, the most popular characters bar the recurring cast, it’s the Koopalings. Bowser’s kids in most regions, named after various musicians and TV personalities in all of them, these characters have a ridiculous amount of popularity, both in Japan and over in the West. There are fan pages, fan art, people wanting them in every game, and heck, in Japan, they even have individual Wikipedia pages for some not quite ever defined reason.

Now, I don’t hate them. I definitely agree they’re better than Bowser Jr (although is that really an achievement? A rock, a completely inanimate object is more impressive than that Super Mario Sunshine derived runt. An actual character not being would mean they’d have a hatedom comparable to Scrappy from Scooby Doo). But they’re not the perfect characters their fans think they are, and quite frankly, the appearing in every coming Mario game would make people absolutely hate their guts, not appreciate their return.

To figure out why, you only have to unfortunately look to the game modding and fan game community. These guys, through either technical limitations or plain obsession, love the Koopalings. Every single one of their games has the Koopalings. Three hundred games or hacks later, I think most people will probably have the opposite reaction. You know the old adage, don’t you? Everything in moderation. Overuse is pretty much going to have an effect called ‘makes you sick to the back teeth of said thing, regardless of ‘quality’’ Even now, every time I see Iggy Koopa in a game, especially if it’s the Super Mario World battle, I just more want to smash his head to a pulp for showing up so *** much. Your reaction to them, if they truly were in every Mario game as bosses, would be akin to a guy on Youtube (azentiger)’s reaction to hearing Krook’s March as background music ever again.

Not to mention that gameplay and design wise, they’re pretty boring characters, unfortunately. Sure, you can talk about the cartoons, and the personalities, but as far as unique character design and attack style goes, they’ve never been particularly interesting, and I’d say that was what got them removed from the series the first time around. Super Mario Bros 3 was interesting, but each game since was just… recycling attack patterns in place of interesting bosses. Let’s face it, all they added to Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga was seven mini bosses with near identical attack patterns. The room layouts were good, but the bosses were really more fan service than interesting. And while New Super Mario Bros Wii may have varied the second fights, the first battles were pretty much the same boss seven times, with maybe minor tweaks. Or in the case of Larry and Morton… the same as the first time, with very little of interest.

And seven bosses usually means seven worlds taken up with them. They’re cool characters to some extent, but really, putting in one means putting in all seven, and putting in all seven usually means good bye to original bosses (due to most Mario games using seven areas or so before Bowser). Unbelievable the fan dumb here, some fans would rather sacrifice bosses like Gobblegut, Megahammer, Megaleg, Kingfin, etc for the Koopalings in 3D. Presumably because of the same attack pattern each time.

The next character on the list is Rosalina, who quite frankly, I don’t particularly like in the first place, so whom I’ll probably criticise even more harshly than anyone else. In Super Mario Galaxy, she’s kind of a mysterious character who some fans oddly seem to consider God due to a rather badly thought out ending. There’s a whole bunch of story in a virtual storybook about how she lost her mother in some way, found a stray Luma, cares for them like children and has some Comet Observatory place in… pretty much the middle of nowhere. If you want a better description than my ‘not all hate filled and biased one’, here’s a video of the storybook:


Just from the above, you can pretty much tell immediately why the fans gravitated towards Rosalina as a character. She’s about as blatant an attempt to tick off the ‘breakout character/fan favourite checklist (not to be confused with the Evil Overlord List or the list of RPG Cliches)’ as you can get. Let’s begin:

1. Has dark, mysterious and tragic past involving the loss of one or more parents… check.

2. Is female (what? It’s a valid point when you consider how few female characters of importance are in the Mario series, and what kind of audience likes said character)

3. Is not captured/kidnapped (until Mario Galaxy 2), and is a stronger female character than Peach… check.

4. Is mysterious in general (Because come on, no depressed internet fans are ever drawn to people/characters with a fully explained backstory, simple motivations and heroic goals. It’s either mysterious characters with a tragic past, like Rosalina, or mysterious characters with grey shades of morality and wanting vengeance for a tragic past, like most anti heroes)… Check

Indeed, the whole storybook thing seems very much like an overly emo teenagers fan fiction put to a cute video. There’s a word for that… something Sue… Mary Sue… oh forget it. To be honest, the character to me just seems like she was written for people on Fan and DeviantArt. There’s also the matter that people are treating this character as somehow more tragic than the entirety of Sammer’s Kingdom or most of the population in Mario and Luigi Partners in Time. Yeah, one person losing their mum, who may or may not have actually died is somehow seen as more depressing to geeks than a whole universe being deleted from existence/erased from reality and innocent Toads having their souls used as UFO fuel on Christmas eve. A Million is a statistic indeed…

Above: Arguably more depressing than Rosalina’s story? Possibly.

Also, not to be mean, but going with the Luma and leaving your family means you kind of brought the missing the mother/family bit on yourself.

Did the inhabitants of the universe blown to pieces by Bleck’s use of the Dark Prognosticus bring that on themselves?

Moving on, the next character is one from the Wario series. Captain Syrup, the villain of the first two games is the character in question here, and isn’t being criticised for being a bad character, but for being practically a fan magnet that causes all other villains and bosses to get overshadowed, despite their sheer level of awesomeness (presuming you somewhat like the series).

Not to say all Wario villains are exactly great characters (the Golden Diva was… quite average, the Black Jewel was apparently pretty lame and Terrormisu looks like an overweight Princess Peach cosplayer), but the whole ‘everyone only cares about Captain Syrup in terms of Wario Land villains’ is pretty much likely to mean none of the good ones are ever going to get a chance in another game. Worse yet, even the makers of Wario Land Shake It only cared about Captain Syrup for classic characers, hence leaving behind all the others in the series.

Count Cannoli from Master of Disguise is a fairly good example. He’s tragic character with one of the best sets of music for his leitmotif, and heck, you’d think with music like this the character would have become a fan favourite in no time:


Or back in the classic games, you had the first game’s bosses. Some, like the Spiked Koopa/Hammer Bro thing, the boxing penguin and Bobo are pretty memorable, the latter is technically joint with Rudy for most appearing other Wario enemy. You’ve got Rudy the Clown, who was a pretty interesting villain who could have had a more important role, and nearly got one when he appeared in Doctor Mario 64. Or the Wario Land 2 and 3 bosses. Like that basketball and football playing rabbit. The bosses in Wario Land 4 bar the Golden Diva, which are disturbing but awesome in a kind of macabre way (Cractus is awesome, but Catbat and Cuckoo Condor are awesome too, especially in the concept for the boss designs). Giant killer cuckoo clock and vampire cat spitting exploding furballs? Can you say AWESOME? Wario Master of Disguise had also Carpaccio, and Wario Land Shake It had some interesting enough bosses, with unique designs and ideas.

But Captain Syrup seems to always overshadow them, meaning that these other antagonists never quite their place in the spotlight, and thanks to Nintendo developers being much the same, unfortunately likely never will.

Plus, like the Koopalings, do we really want the same antagonist time and time again with few variations? Bowser is classic, K Rool changes up his gimmick enough to be both awesome and surprising at the same time… but Captain Syrup had honestly gotten a bit repetitive by Wario Land II.

And now, some more characters, in less detail that should make the list, before getting to the one most possible overrated (out of universe, he’s ironically both overrated and underrated at once) character in existence… Luigi.

Geno is the first one. What can be said about Geno, other than he is probably the one Super Mario RPG character that really does need to stop being so over the top popular with the fans. And while it’s probably a bit too harsh to go with the point a lot of Mario fans have towards Mario RPG fans (they’re Square fans/Final Fantasy fans rather than Mario fans), it could be right to say he’s a character who really doesn’t fit in the Mario universe at all. And to outrate Culex on that, who’s actually meant to not be from the Mushroom World/universe altogether, is an impressive feat, in some sense.

To much of a degree though, that’s not really just a problem with him, it’s a problem with the entire Super Mario RPG cast… they’re not really Mario styled, and while some of the staff of the later RPG games worked on this game first, the game all feels a bit ‘Final Fantasy with Mario characters’

There’s also a problem here that is a problem with many fan popular characters, Geno doesn’t really have as much depth as a character in the source material as the fans assume (bit like the Koopalings, except he’s not been in any TV series that could give him some form of character depth). As a result, it’s all a bit baffling why he’s really so popular compared to anyone else in the game, when the only real things we know are that he’s a star spirit with an unpronounceable name who took over the body of doll. Is that really a deeper characterisation than any other decent character from the game like Culex, or Mallow, or the Smithy Gang or Boshi or Booster or whoever? The fans probably think so, but I don’t see it.

The other point about these characters (and especially Geno) is quite simple… what or how would they add to any new Mario game they were in? He can’t exactly be a hero, outside another RPG game (and even then, it’s questionable, because recurring partners don’t exist in the series), and in a Mario spinoff, that’s the only real time he might theoretically have a shot at playable. And he wouldn’t fit in a main platformer at all.

Is it really worth bringing him back when his last role is basically a toy in an amusement arcade? Remember, if he comes back, short of a miracle, minor roles are all he’s going to end up with.

Another character, with a completely random level of popularity (as in, what practical reason is this character popular for), is Ashley from the WarioWare series. Oh God, what to say about this character other than A – Fans don’t read descriptions and actually know the meaning of words and B- How is this character popular despite having no real interesting characteristics?

I’m going on a limb here, and will say she’s popular for much the same reasons as Rosalina and other such characters, for being mysterious, not being a princess in any way shape or form, and for being pretty much not on the hero side of the good vs evil scale.

The funny thing about her, is how many people seem to think said character is emotionless. Apparently, none of these people have a dictionary handy, because you know, anger is an emotion. According to Wikipedia, so is frustration, hatred, and hostility. When you think about it that way, I don’t think any emotionless characters really exist in fiction, because so many take emotionless to mean ‘does not smile’. Heck, even characters like Bogmire from Luigi’s Mansion and the Dark Star show emotion if all the negative emotions arecounted. But hey, too many people think being emotionless just means being cynical and negative, rather than a robot that would make the Borg or Cybermen look chirpy.

The other thing about the character is the same kind of thing as Geno, there’s no depth to her as a WarioWare character. Wario changes goals and ideas, Mona changes jobs once a game, Crygor comes up with new inventions every game… heck, even Jimmy T and 9 Volt have different storylines based on the game, but Ashley? No, the character is pretty much the same in every appearance.

There’s also the matter that the character seems like a very much toned down ‘evil’ person who seems to be designed solely to appeal to the people who like characters with some sort of ‘edge’ to them but don’t want to have to deal with knowing they’re supporting a complete psycho. Not that it stopped some people (Dimentio, Fawful, Smithy, the Shadow Queen… all have a strong fandom), but for all the wicked things mentioned in the song, the character is played so much for comedy she’s only one step above the American version of Dennis the Menace.

Finally, we’ve got the most interesting case of this, with Luigi… he’s pretty much a fan favourite, and the inseries unfavourite at the same time, which is kind of an achievement in a twisted way. There’s no reason to go into too much detail about him, because if you’ve ever played a Mario game in your entire life, you will have heard of him and know his every single major personality trait.

But hey, Luigi Is a great character, and so it really isn’t too fair to criticise too heavily the one individual here who’s important enough to the series to often deserve the hype (especially contrasted to all of the others).

However, it’s too easy to *** him up, and write the character badly… as follows, are how that can happen…

1. Making him too much of a coward. Not that Luigi is as brave as Mario, but while Luigi’s Mansion was fair enough, the Mario and Luigi and Paper Mario series took it just a bit too far. And that with the waddle dees in Brawl, is just pain pathetic on Sakurai’s part.

2. Making him evil. Crazy, evil and jealous of Mario’s success. It’s just not in Luigi’s character, and despite all the rumoured darkness found in certain aspects like Brawl’s final smash for his character, some negative world thing (although it’s debatable whether Smash Bros is Mario canon, many Mario fans here would say it isn’t), Luigi’s never really been ‘evil’, or even ‘jealous’. Sure, he doesn’t like being ignored and characters like Bowser treating him like some second tier hanger on to Mario, but he’s not trying to kill Mario to escape his shadow. Common in Japanese hacks and fan fiction, usually indicative of the frail mental state of the standard internet ***. I think they see a bit of themselves in this interpretation of him myself.

3. Luigi as a Mario clone. He’s not in any more, but I don’t think I’ve seen any Mario fan games with him as the star treat him as an individual, and you could make Luigi’s Adventure ‘Mario’s Adventure’ and the game wouldn’t be any different.

Luigi is awesome, just remember what kind of character he is, that he’s a bit of a coward, but still entirely heroic, regardless of what the misguided Super Smash Bros Brawl developers and petty Partners in Time Star Gate may think.

So there you have it, why certain fan loved characters are overrated, and don’t live up to their hype. I don’t expect entirely positive comments on this, because by design, I’ve criticised characters the fandom seems to have too much admiration for, but all thoughts are welcome (try to leave non constructive criticism at the door!).

The Fan Favourite is a bad thing, which unfairly overshadows other perfectly good Mario characters.

Join our free mailing list

Signup for our newsletter to receive updates, game news and information.