Mario could be said to be THE video game character. He’s an icon the world over, the mascot for one of the most well respected and innovative first party game developers ever. Only beaten out by Mega Man, he’s been in more games than any other character in video games. Mario’s also held the most roles of any other character as well, being a hero, villain, carpenter, plumber, racer, doctor, golfer, Olympic champion, the list goes on.
His games have always been fun to play (or in some cases just good enough for a cheap laugh) and have never been very serious, having some great humorous moments. However, in almost every Mario game, there’s at least one moment that makes the world collectively throw up their arms and go, “What the fuck?!”
While this isn’t exclusive to Mario games, the light and humorous tone of the games (especially his RPG series) provide us with a great big litter to pick from. So, I decided to make a list of a few of the most memorable WTF moments from some of his games. As usual, only one moment per game, though some moments will be larger than others. Now, let’s get this train of what-the-hellery rolling!
This is one that every retro gamer will recognize and it’s the bane of every Nintendo fan’s memory. That classic situation where you’ve fought past the first world, through the castle, and up to the first false Bowser. As a little kid, your ignorant mind believed that this would be the end of the game and that after this all would be well and you’d see the princess for the first time.
But no! Fate slaps you across the face and informs you that you still have a long way to go, and it does this in the form of a little mushroom-headed dink who proudly states, “Thank you, Mario! But our princess is in another castle.” Perhaps seeing this the first, or even the second time, but having to hear the same message seven times in a row is enough to make any kid throw up their arms and let out a burst of expletives that their parents told them never to use.
This was such an annoying moment that it was actually lampooned in future games, such as the ending to Super Mario Bros. 3, where the princess herself uses the line, scaring everyone playing the game to death for a brief moment before she exclaims that she was just kidding. Thank you, princess, for giving gamer kids all across the world a heart attack.
The only thing worse than that? Being told about the ‘second quest’ when you did beat the first game, in which you got to play through a more difficult version of the game, and you got to hear that line again… over… and over… and OVER!
Before I get to the description, let me gush for a second: This is an awesome game. While I will admit it’s rather simple compared to other RPGs, this is the one I go back and play through the most. It has great characters, excellent pacing, an engaging story, and set the bar for Mario’s later stints into RPG territory. It also introduced a few ‘firsts’ for the Mario games as well, and this was one of them.
Up until this point, Bowser hadn’t really been given much of a personality. He was just the big baddie at the end of the game that you needed to defeat. While he had his moments of comedy in the original games (such as practically defeating himself at the end of the third game) this was the first time he’d actually been given a voice, and it’s pretty darn hilarious, even before he joins the party in an attempt to get back his throne.
The fact that he joins the party makes this list because before this happened, no one really could have seen this coming. While the game did a great job of building this up, showing Bowser attempting to raise an army for himself, and losing said army down the line, no one could have guessed that Bowser, who had always been Mario’s mortal enemy (and would return to being such after the game was finished) would actually combine their strengths in an attempt to take down a common enemy. It was brilliant.
Today, Bowser joining forces with Mario actually isn’t that uncommon and has been done in a few other games, with Bowser directly assisting Mario in some cases, and indirectly helping in others. That being said, this moment makes the list just because it was such a big leap for the series, and brought a new dimension to what had otherwise been a very flat character before. Oh, and it still made people go WTF when Bowser, “Made Mario, Mallow, and Geno official members of the Koopa Troop.”
This one comes from a purely objective view of what’s going on in the game. Mario, a well-rounded character in his own right with exceptional jumping capabilities, is able to beat Sonic, a character who’s entire motif is speed and who’s recent incarnations are shown able to reach the speed of sound without much trouble, in a foot race.
I get that this is a part of the game’s design. The characters are meant to be well balanced so that people don’t feel cheated by losing an event simply because they chose a character whose states are not up to par with some of the other characters in said event (Bowser in the High Jump comes to mind). But this makes it onto the WTF moment mostly because this is exactly the same thought that every single person had when this game was first announced: “How could Mario beat Sonic in a footrace?”
This is the kind of thinking that really shows how big a culture of nerds and fanboys/girls we are when we’re questioning something like this because of what we know about them and their abilities instead of just letting logic leave our minds and enjoy what we were given. You could say I’m being pithy with my choice here, but for me, this is a definite WTF moment, and while the Olympic games starring this characters have been great (I’m really looking forward to Mario & Sonic at the London Olympics) but all this thought does is make me want to see a more traditional crossover.
An RPG perhaps?
If you’ve taken a look at a few of my other lists, you’ll know that I’ve already talked about Super Mario Sunshine and the unfair bashing it’s received because of its supposed environmental message. This is mostly due to the advertising, and a few of the early stages of the game. But one of the main draws to the game was the supposed villain of the game, a shadowy clone of Mario armed with a magic, sludge-spewing paintbrush and a tongue that would make Gene Simmons weep out of sheer inadequacy. At first, no one was sure where this thing had come from or what it was.
However, once a player reached the fourth world of the game, a theme-park type stage, and completed the first shine sprite challenge, they were given an answer: It was Bowser Jr. the whole time! Wait, what?
Up to this point in the game, Bowser has not even been mentioned and it was starting to look like this shadow creature was going to be our main antagonist. But then it turns out that it was Bowser’s child (which begs the questions of who the mother is and where his seven other kids were at this point in time) and that Bowser himself had orchestrated the entire plan to get the island of Delfino to turn against the plucky plumber while he made off with Peach to the top of the island’s active volcano.
This was one of the weirdest reveals I’d seen in almost any games, seeing him take off that weird bandanna that apparently is the source of his disguise and then morph from a Mario look-alike into a miniature Bowser was just surreal. This was a big WTF moment not only because of the reveal itself, but also because it saps all the mystery out of the game at about the halfway point. As soon as Bowser and his son show up, it turns back into a game very similar to Super Mario 64, and pretty much follows the same formula and leads to the same resolution, instead of giving us something new to chew on.
It’s an example of a good idea that could have given us something different in the long run, but the reveal that it was just more of the same made anyone who played the game just roll their eyes and go WTF?
This is one of the sillier moments on this list, one that made me laugh out loud when I first saw it. For those of you who foolishly have not played the original Paper Mario on the N64, this is a moment that can kind of catch you unawares if you don’t know what’s coming. It takes place in the Shy Guy’s Toy Chest level. About halfway through it, you run into a fat shy guy armed with bib, knife, and fork who calls himself Gourmet Guy. He refuses to let you go until you give him a well made cake.
So you bake a very nice cake for him and guess what happens? It’s like an orgasm combined with a sugar rush! The dude leaps all over the screen, running around like he’s in a freaking Scooby-Doo chase sequence, while at the same time complimenting the fact that the cake is so well made. How would he know, he swallows the thing in one bite!
In fact, the creators of the game seemed to like this particular moment so much that it’s actually repeated near the end of the chapter when play switches to princess Peach for a while and you have to find some information. Gourmet Guy (somehow) found his way to Bowser’s dining room and promises her the info for, now get ready for this, ANOTHER cake.
The cake this time is a bit hard to bake as it requires an annoying baking minigame (you got Cooking Mama in my Mario game!) but the reaction is still the same. Orgasm and then a rumpus around the dining room. The fact that this is actually repeated twice, each in close succession to one another no less, slides it down a few spots, but in a game that’s already pushing the limits of the goofy meter, this has to be near the top of those moments.
Thus, this is the moment that lets us add ‘baker’ to Mario’s ever-growing lists of talents.