Remember the old Wario platformers? It’s understandable if you don’t; the last one goes all the way back to the Wii, in 2008. It’s not like Wario’s been completely forgotten. He always shows up when the Mario crew plays a round of sports, and he has a spot in Smash. The WarioWare games are very good, and a new one recently debuted on the Switch. But Nintendo, the absolute cowards, refuse to develop another platformer.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s cool to see Wario duking it out with Bayonetta, or playing a leisurely round of golf. Sure, there’s Get It Together, and I instalock Wario in Mario Party games. But his platformers are just full of possibilities, and I don’t think we’ve delved into all the incredible places they could take us.
For instance, let’s take the plot of the first Wario platformer, 1994’s Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3. The game starts with Mario kicking Wario out of his castle, so Wario’s like, “You know what? Time to get my own, bigger castle.” So he heads to an island, fights pirates, and steals their treasure. If you 100% the game and collect everything, the game ends with Wario getting his own planet with his face carved into it. That’s the first game, and Wario was already swinging for the fences with a planet of his own. Mario didn’t even get to go to space until at least a dozen games into his franchise, and I still don’t see any heavenly bodies with his face carved into their surface. All he has is a spaceship that’s shaped like his head, which isn’t nearly as cool.
That’s the key to why Wario is interesting: He’s a better protagonist than Mario. It’s like how Luigi is interesting when you explore his cowardice in the Luigi’s Mansion games. The contrast to the brave Mario is far more intriguing than Luigi just tagging along for the ride. Wario is interesting when you explore his greed and avarice — they’ll take him anywhere. He’ll pull some Mike Teavee nonsense and go inside a television to find some gold. He’ll fight pirates just because he heard they have a giant golden statue of Peach, and he figures he can use that to extort money out of Mario.
The platformers are better through this lens, because it’s inherently unpredictable. The endless dance of Bowser kidnapping Peach, or Mario taking down some kind of evil monarch, is fine, but it’s been done before. I’m at the point where I start to snooze when I see Bowser show up in the first five minutes of a game, because I know exactly what’s going to happen. When Wario sets out on a wild quest, anything can happen.
So do it, Nintendo, you absolute cowards. You could make another game where Mario jumps from platform to platform to save Peach and perhaps find Yoshi, but that’s been done a million times before. Instead, let’s join Wario on his quest to get rich and cause trouble. WarioWare’s great and fine, but platformers are all about exploring environments and occasionally stopping to smell the roses. Let’s take some time to really go on a journey with Wario and understand what makes him tick. I see no way that could go wrong.