Who Do We Call if Bowser is Busy?
Every character has their arch nemesis, the Moriarty to their Sherlock the master to their Doctor and in the world of gaming no rivalry comes quite as historic as Super Mario and Bowser. We are not sure why the electricity of this dynamic is so dynamite, after all there is no historical connection between Italian plumbers and turtle based dragons, but then again neither is there one between bats and clowns. Sometimes these things just work.
To the casual gamer it may seem this is just the way of things for our favourite Brooklyn born adventurer (sorry Luigi), to the slightly less casual gamer they may of course refer you to Mario’s secondary nemesis Wario and a hardcore player may elect to remind you his first ever enemy was the now fan favourite Donkey Kong.
Yet hidden in the dark, tucked away like shameful little gems of the franchise rest a string of enemies, and I mean big bad end of the game enemies, who’ve lorded all over a game in their own right. By no means am I belittling Bowser’s relevance and prominence to the vast pantheon of gaming history villains, but if he wouldn’t mind stepping down for a bit; let’s remember just a small handful of those lost in time.
Wart: Super Mario Bros. 2
The second ever Mario game to be home console bound gave us a brand new boss, heck it gave us a whole brand new kind of game; but the story of how Super Mario Bros. 2 came to be is another article for another time. Wart was a nasty looking frog King who’d took it upon himself to invade the world of the dreams with his rather self referencing titled army “The 8-Bits”. (Don’t you love it when a game goes all meta on us?) Whilst Wart may not have stood the test of time creatures from within his army have, soon joining the Brothers franchise at large as just common place enemies. Are you aware of such classic Mario bad guys as Birdo’s Bob-Ombs, Shy Guys and Pokeys? The all worked for Wart first.
Tatanga: Super Mario Land
Super Mario Land, much like Bros. 2, had a complex creation. Mario’s first foray into the world of the hand held (excluding Game & Watch mini games of course) Land was the first title to be developed by someone other than all knowing game maestro Shigeru Miyamoto. As such there were certain issues in what elements he could use but wanting to keep the game similar enough to its predecessors it is littered with antidotes in the form of ever so slight variations. Mario has a superball power not a fire ball power, he is in the Sarasaland not the Mushroom Kingdom, he must rescue Daisy not peach and from Tatanga not Bowser. Tatanga being a slimy purple alien and one of few Mario enemy’s actually shorter than our protagonist. The sequel to this game takes a more original turn, introducing us to Wario who is revealed to be behind the events of Super Mario Land and as such Tatanga gets a fleeting role in that game too. His legacy lives on as being responsible for giving us Wario and Daisy (and without Daisy, Peach would feel awfully in need of female friendship on all those countless tennis matches).
Mario: Donkey Kong Jr.
Perhaps I am pushing my luck with this final one, but let’s give it a go. There was a moment there where Mario himself was the bad guy. I mean sure, perhaps you could call this a Donkey Kong game not a Mario game, but the fact of the matter is this was the second ever game to feature Mario and given his role in being a spin off from the world of the ape, this (to my mind) very much counts. The world of Mario began in an earth shattering arcade game by the name of Donkey Kong that for my money single handedly crafted the gaming world we know today. In the title players were Mario attempting to rescue girlfriend Pauline (he later dumped her for a princess, but I guess who wouldn’t?) from Donkey Kong but in it’s sequel Mario took vengeance and players now controlled Jr. attempting to rescue their father from the hate filled plumber, back then a carpenter. As I said, perhaps tenuous, but for a moment there our beloved Mario was the bad guy and interestingly enough this was the first game for which he took the name Mario and not his previous monikor Jumpman. How’s that trivia fans… The first time Mario was called Mario he was the bad guy.
The number of leading lights in the world of Super Mario Bros. lead bosses who are not Bowser go on. Of the now wide reaching RPG series only one has feature Bowser as the lead boss instead giving us such greats as Sir Grodus and Fawful.
Call me lazy, but I think perhaps my work here is done. If I’ve peaked your interest perhaps it is now time for you to find them for yourself. All I offer you now is a list of other games where the arch nemesis is not Bowser but shan’t tell you anymore than that to keep the plot (Peach doesn’t get kidnapped, honest) a surprise.
1) Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
2) Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
3) Super Paper Mario
4) Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
5) Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
6) Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
Please tell me when you’re done. I’ll take that as my cue to get Bowser out of retirement.