What Happened to Wario’s Evil Side?

Wario

In the name of nostalgia — and in an attempt to catch up on games I’ve missed over the years — I’ve delved deep into the land of Wario. When I go back into the archives and play through older titles, I tend to immerse myself in their lore and even their original marketing — because, come on, ‘90s video game commercials were awesome. In playing those Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, though, I noticed that Wario sort of lost his edge over the years. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick trip back in time, shall we?

Take a look at this quote:

Obey Wario. Destroy Mario!

—Wario, 1992

That’s pretty easy to grasp. And quite threatening, wouldn’t you say? Let’s see another one:

Repeat after me: I’m the bad guy in Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, where being bad is good, and greed is good!

—Wario, 1994

Denouncing all good, I see. Also, convincing you, the player, to accept evil in all its wicked glory. Okay, makes sense. Here’s one more quote for you:

He’s the epitome of evil, and he’s on the prowl in the third dimension. It’s Wario! The diabolical one has gone 3D, where evil runs deep…

—Gruff-Voiced Narrator Dude, 1995

Alright, I’ve heard enough! “Epitome of evil.” “The diabolical one.” “Evil runs deep.” When you talk about Wario like that, it makes Bowser’s attempts at taking over the Mushroom Kingdom look like child’s play.

I remember being a kid when those old Game Boy and Virtual Boy commercials would pop up on TV. I was quite a fan of Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3. For me, Mario was the ultimate representation of a hero. He was right up there with Batman, Spider-Man, and the Ninja Turtles. So seeing this weird Mario lookalike drooling all over the place and talking about how awesome it was to be a villain shook me to my core. I was equal parts uneasy and intrigued.

Wario used his Faustian sorcery to take over the Super Mario Land series and make it his own Heck, Wario was such a renegade that he appeared in what is considered by many to be the only good Virtual Boy game!

Well, let’s fast-forward from 1995 to 1998. Take a look at this:

Mario Party

“Mario and his good friends.” I remember playing Mario Party, reading that line, and being confused. Six years prior, Wario wanted to destroy Mario. And a couple years after that he wanted to brainwash Mario’s fans into doing his bidding in the name of greed. You don’t just get over that kind of beef with someone. Now all of a sudden we’re supposed to be okay with the notion that Mario’s just inviting Wario to his get-togethers?

Sure, Wario was a part of Mario Kart 64, but it always seemed like he probably forced his way into the Mario Grand Prix to win the gold and humiliate Mario in the process. But in Mario Party, he’s actually referred to as one of Mario’s “good friends.”

And it only got weirder from there…

Since the original Mario Party, Wario has transformed into an idiotic buffoon, a lovable oaf, a crazy antihero, and even an indie game designer. He’s the butt of a lot of jokes in Mario sports titles. He literally farts death in Super Smash Bros. He’s still motivated by greed and envy, but he’s hardly threatening.

Mario vs. Wario

In those old Wario games, the dude was straight-up villainous, whether he was out to take down Mario or just steal from pirates. He returned to his former glory somewhat in the underrated 2003 GameCube platformer, Wario World. That game’s opening cutscene literally shows Wario sitting on a throne, surrounded by treasure, laughing maniacally for what we can only assume has been several hours. Even then, though, Wario was more of an antihero than a full-on villain. By Wario Land: Shake It, yet another awesome game in the series, he was more of an accidental hero than anything else.

So what happened to Wario? Well, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason behind his transformation from Mephistophelian evildoer to silly antihero. One possibility is that Nintendo wanted all of its properties to be as family-friendly as possible. Another reason could be that Mario just doesn’t need another foil. After all, Bowser is to Mario what The Rock was to Stone Cold, whereas Wario was more like Mankind — if Mankind farted all the time and drove a purple Cadillac. But just like how Mankind went from a brooding sociopath to a dress-shirt-and-sweatpants-wearing glutton for punishment, Wario, too, evolved into something different.

Ultimately, I still really love the Wario character and the Wario series of games. Though he’s no longer the fascinating anti-Mario that he was originally introduced as, there’s no denying the charm and appeal of Wario as a source of comic relief.

Wario Animatronic

Maybe just once more, Wario can get his edge back and be the final boss in a Mario game. At the very least, we’re long overdue for a followup to Wario Land: Shake It. Heck, maybe we can even get some sort of Wario Land collection with the original games all bundled together and remastered.

Now, I get that my desire for all the Wario things is greedy of me, but wasn’t Wario created on a foundation of greed?

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