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The overall Mario franchise, depending on what you might count as its origin, is slightly over 35 years of age at this point. Like most mascot-oriented franchises that have stood the test of time, the series has had an endless list of friends and foes, some that fit the image of the series better than others.
Whether it’s within a main series game such as Super Mario 3D World or Super Mario Odyssey, main series spin-offs like Luigi’s Mansion or Captain Toad, or mainstream party-based game series like Mario Kart and Mario Party, the franchise has an abundant back-catalog of underutilized or completely forgotten allies and enemies that are ripe for a comeback, or at least deserve a little more time in the spotlight.
Here are five characters that I want to see return.
Yes, Stanley isn’t exactly part of the current Mario franchise, but he isn’t part of the Donkey Kong series either, at least not anymore. Essentially, Stanley is homeless, and the poor guy needs help back on his feet again.
The one-time protagonist (not counting Greenhouse) made his first and only real appearance in 1982 in Donkey Kong 3, the third game in the original Donkey Kong arcade series, following Donkey Kong Jr. Here, Stanley has to protect his greenhouse that Kong has broken into, by continuously attacking the dumb ape’s butt. It’s the reasonable solution to an ape infestation, apparently.
His appearance here isn’t all that different from Mario/Jump Man, but I think a few changes could go a long way in making him part of a supporting cast in a Mario game, something pretty reasonable after Pauline’s grand makeover in Odyssey.
The guy grows vegetables and fights bugs, and has his own greenhouse. I think he can be pretty useful to Mario. At the very least, he’d make a great racer in Mario Kart, unless you’re really a fan of more important racers in that series like Rose Gold Peach and Baby Metal Mario Tanooki Reskin Guy.
Mr. I is possibly the creepiest of all of Mario’s horror-themed enemies.
It’s a living eye-ball that shoots pink bubbles(?) at you as projectiles. If that conjunctivitis-laden attack isn’t gross enough on its own, in later appearances, Mr. I gets around by rolling around on itself, and I can’t help but imagine it as a sticky thing, like a real eye, and how it sticks up everything on the ground that it rolls over.
Plus, it can talk, somehow, and I sort of want to know how. But, also, don’t.
Considering how big a role horror-themed levels play in Mario games, I’m a bit surprised that Mr. I hasn’t been featured in a main series game since Super Mario 64, though it has been around in a few Mario Party titles.
Mr. I might seem like a relic of the early 3D era where a simple white sphere was an easy way to build a character, but I (ha) for one think that its simplicity should’ve lead to all kinds of variations on his design by this point in the series.
To put it simply, I like him.
If you’re like me and have spent a large portion of your life living in stupidly hot desert climates, you’ll find the Angry Sun from Super Mario Bros. 3 instantly relatable. And instantly hate-able, just the same.
The idea for this enemy, a physical representation of the Sun beating down on you, is a stroke (or heat stroke) of genius. It seems impossible to fight the Sun, especially one with such an aggressively mean and angry face, who seems to have it out just for you, which makes running away from him all the more nerve-wracking.
While the temperamental Sun has made a brief appearance in Mario Kart DS/Wii, it has been absent from the series since Super Mario 3, though it might have been planned as a stage element Super Mario Maker at some point in its development.
I would love to see the Angry Sun return to the main series as a recurring boss character, something which I think was a missed opportunity in the Galaxy series. Maybe Galaxy 3?
While writing up this list, I actively avoided characters that already have their place in a designated sub-series or spin-off world, and wouldn’t make much sense clashing with the more mainstream Mario titles. This includes series and games such as Paper Mario, Super Mario RPG, Mario & Luigi, WarioWare and so on.
But Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time‘s main antagonist, Princess Shroob, along with the purple alien Toad-like species known as Shroobs, is something that can fit right into a main series Super Mario title of today’s games.
At this point in the series history, Mario needs a larger variety of main bad guys with evil plans of their own to get in the way of, aside from Bowser doing his usual time and time again.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the simplicity of Bowser, and abhor needless stories in main series Mario titles (I’m looking at you, Super Mario Galaxy 1), but something a little more complicated like an invasion by technologically-advanced aliens isn’t going to ruin that. It’ll simply open up a world of new possibilities for Mario, Luigi and company to stomp through.
(Note: I know about the plot twist regarding her status as the main antagonist in Partners in Time. I don’t care).
Wart really needs to come back.
The one-time main boss baddie, Wart, has been missing from all corners of the Mario franchise since his 1988 debut in Super Mario Bros. 2, and reappearance in the Japan-only episodic kinda sequel thing for the Satellaview, BS Super Mario USA, in 1996.
While other characters and enemies of Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic-origin such as Birdo, Bob-ombs, Shy Guys, Ninjis and more have re-appeared in a large variety of mainline and spin-off games, Wart (or Mamu, in Japan) himself has been long written off as a bad dream. Possibly literally.
Perhaps the Mario team at Nintendo is afraid of his similarities to Bowser, but surely that can’t be the case anymore, and if it is, it’s not grounded in reality.
Considering the alterations in character and design Bowser has gotten since his good ol’ green King Koopa days, there is room for different threats to the Mushroom Kingdom and the world beyond than Bowser kidnapping the Princess once again.
Wart, just like Shroob, sets himself apart and has higher ambitions such as world and/or Subcon dreamworld domination, and a hatred for something a lot viler than Mario and friends thwarting his plans: vegetables (maybe we need Stanley involved here, somehow).
Plus, his gang of henchmen known as the “8 bits” have a lot going for them compared to Bowser’s Koopaling-underlings who seem to be getting more boring and uglier with each new rendition.
Of all previous Mario characters, I think Wart, perhaps along with some of his minions like Phantos, is by far the most deserving of a return. Seeing him wreak havoc on race tracks in Mario Kart, ruin friendships in Mario Party and perhaps plan another crazy dream-related scheme in a Super Mario title is something I really, really want to see happen.
And, that’s for my list, but what do you guys think? Which characters would you like to see more of in modern Mario games? Let me know in the comments!
Immensely fascinated by the arts and interactive media, Maxwell N’s views and opinions are backed by a vast knowledge of and passion for film, music, literature and video game history. His other endeavors and hobbies include fiction writing, creating experimental soundscapes, and photography. A Los Angeles, CA local, he currently lives with his wife and two pet potatoes/parrots in Austin, TX. He can mostly be found hanging around Twitter as @maxn_
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