Sorry guys, but I’m taking this week off. Hey, some games just take more than a week to play! Give me some time. Anyway, Anne agreed to take over, and since I don’t share the world’s love of Mario, she came up with a few thoughts on the subject. Enjoy.
Some games don’t need a long synopsis to help the player grasp the concept of the game play or the progression of the story. These games tend to change only minimally since the beginning of their series. When someone says they’ve been playing Mega Man you may feel the need to clarify, “classic, X or Zero series?” But regardless of their response, your mind probably fills with images of 8 boss levels of varying themes and everyone’s favorite tiny robotic hero and his blue spandex codpiece. The same goes, if not more so, for the Mario franchise. No, don’t start pulling up your emails to send me an angry rant pointing out Mario RPG’s originality or Mario’s cameo appearance in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. We both know that the main series has changed only superficially since its 2D NES days.
So no, I won’t bore you with a long and tedious description of how the story of Mario Galaxy progresses or spend time lavishing praise over the colorful and creative level designs. For those few of you who have taken up hermitage since before the release of the Nintendo Wii and have only just come down off your mountains: Bowser once more kidnaps Princess Peach, this time into space, and Mario, still unable to take a hint, flies off to her rescue. This of course requires him to traverse the corners of the universe in order to save the least protected ruler of all time. He does this through using changes in the physics of the levels to his advantage as well as turning into the requisite Mario franchise creatures; in this case a ghost and a bee.
With that out of the way, we can get to the more important topic; why the hell doesn’t Mario just forget about Peach and take up with Rosalina? Kidding of course. The real question is, are we sure that Mario really is the hero of this franchise? I mean, we all assume that since the basis of the games’ quite limited storyline is always Mario saving the princess that he must therefore be a valiant and selfless figure, but many people on the Internet have theorized that Mario is in fact a rather morally ambiguous figure. To mention only a few examples, he murders helpless goombas who pose no threat to him unless he stupidly walks straight into them of his own free will, and in games like Mario Kart he shows his disdain for even his own brother. For more examples I will point you in the direction of the Game Theorist on YouTube and his Vlog article entitled ‘Why Mario is Mental’.
But that then begs the further consideration that, if Mario is not the hero but rather the villain of the tale then how can he have an evil doppleganger. I am of course speaking of Wario, the apparent anti-hero to mirror Mario’s supposedly altruistic persona. I would like to make the argument that perhaps Wario is, in reality, a hero in his own right and that we have been judging him through the colored lens of our belief in Mario’s goodness, and in that he looks like what we expect a villainous version of our protagonist to look like, cue all the jokes about profiling ever. But consider this, when we first meet Wario he is shown stealing Mario’s castle, which leads everyone’s favorite excrement clearer to start a journey to get it back. Yet, what if Wario was taking over for a good reason; what if, in fact, he really was leading a revolution in order to depose the tyrannical despot that has previously been ruling in order to give less understood creatures like the goomba and koopas a chance to thrive right along side their cuter, yet no more threatening counterparts, the Toads? The revolution is upon us, comrades! The proletariat will rise and shed the mushrooms and question mark blocks of our oppressors!
I would like to direct your attention to the original Wario Land series for the Gameboy where Wario does the exact same things that Mario does in all of his games; punching baddies, dropping through tubes, and more importantly collecting coins. He does this in order to purchase his own castle. Note: PURCHASE, not steal. Yes, he loots ancient treasures but if we as a society are willing to call Indiana Jones and Lara Croft heroes when they do the same thing, then we might be setting a bit of a double standard by villainizing Wario for that behavior. At the end of the first game he comes upon a young woman who has a genie that she orders to murder him. When this doesn’t work out she disappears, and Wario uses his wish, not to get back at Mario or anyone else who has slighted him–including the would-be murderess–but instead wishes for a castle. The size of the prize is dependent on the amount of money and treasure the player has collected to this point in the game (I’m not admitting that I have rarely gotten above the absolute base hovel in most play-throughs so I don’t want to hear any snicker in the back row. That means you!). This clearly shows the connection of his hard work paying off rather than him being given status based on what brainless royal he is currently dating.
I believe that Wario is not the monster portrayed by Nintendo’s over dramatized story-telling but rather the victim of a vicious smear campaign, perpetrated in order to hide the much more dastardly actions of his counterpart, namely everyone’s golden boy: Mario.
Also, if you need further proof that Mario isn’t exactly the poster child for positive messages, just think about the underlying themes of Mario Galaxy, if not all of his earlier games. The viewer is expected to believe the Mario just happened to come into town on a star-themed festival day that also just so happened to coincide with the newest abduction attempt of his spiky antagonist and then goes rocketing off into space-sans helmet- in order to save his love interest. In the course of this trip he turns into animals, leaves his physical body to become a spirit, rockets around between a rainbow plethora of psychedelic planets with bizarre and often impossible gravity changes. I would like to present this theory to the reader: Mario is not out saving the damsel in a daring space adventure but rather tripping out on Reindeer Mushrooms that he picked up at the star festival and ingested.
First, a science lesson: Amanita muscaria, most known by gamers as the red and white Mario mushroom is, in real life a highly toxic mushroom found all around the world. In addition to its poisonous nature this mushroom also has another fun trick up its sleeve in the form of its ability to cause extreme and prolonged hallucinations. Reindeer that eat them in northern climates have been known to chase and even ram cars while hopped up on the effects of these diminutive fungi.
Doesn’t it then, seem much more likely that after seeing all of the star paraphernalia from the festival, ingests some of the country’s most common cuisine (do we really see any other edible foliage throughout the Mario series?) and spends the afternoon tripping out about the one thing he knows best: saving the princess. He even goes so far as to throw in an even hotter love interest and gives himself the power to ignore the laws of space and time. Now I don’t know about you but that sounds like a psychedelic trip to me.
I leave it to you to make up your mind about the accusations laid before you today but keep in mind, if we keep standing behind this possibly psychopathic drug addict we may have no one else to blame when he names himself the unquestioned tyrannical ruler of all.