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Wario, but Toad Illustration: James Bareham/Polygon

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After Wario and Waluigi, where does Nintendo’s Wa Universe go next?

There’s one good boy who deserves to go bad

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

It’s been more than 20 years since Nintendo introduced a new “Wa” character to the wider Nintendo canon. Waluigi, a character destined to never appear in Super Smash Bros. as a playable character, was the last. It’s time to finally change that.

Nintendo struck gold with Wario, the greedy, gluttonous, gassy antithesis to Mario. Since his introduction in 1992’s Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, the Wario character has given Nintendo and other developers permission to get weird, using the chaotic neutral version of Mario as a vector for experiments like the WarioWare and Wario Land games.

Waluigi, birthed in 2000 by Mario Tennis, felt like a natural extension of Wario, though the “bad Luigi” hasn’t quite carved out the personality (nor the game catalog) of his evildoing predecessor. In the years between, Nintendo also authorized the creation of Boshi, a bad-boy version of Yoshi who doesn’t wear shoes but does wear a spiked collar. Boshi’s original Japanese name is Wasshi, borrowing the same Wa naming scheme introduced with Wario.

But why did Nintendo stop there? Why not “Wa” the entirety of the Mushroom Kingdom to create a gigantic weird playground? Why not a Wapeach, Wadaisy, and, in keeping with character trait twists, a kind-hearted and generous Wabowser (aka Wowser) who won’t kidnap and kill anyone? Shouldn’t Nintendo create a full Bizarro World funhouse mirror dimension of the Super Mario canon? This proposed alternate universe is sometimes known as the MarioCube theory: If a (good) Mario thing exists, does a (bad) Wario version of that thing exist?

I am, of course, nowhere near the first person to propose the Wafication of the greater Super Mario Bros. franchise. Twitter, Tumblr, and DeviantArt are replete with fan art of Wapeach and Wadaisy — the dark, devious pair of princesses are well-worn artistic territory. Artists’ thoughts on Wapeach and Wadaisy are often delightfully diverse, extending upon the caricaturish designs of Wario and Waluigi in female form in various ways: colder, crueler, sexier, portlier, lankier, more grotesque.

As for Wowser, one of the better fan-created imaginings of Bowser’s Wa counterpart, who is sweet and innocent, comes from artist Greg Melo. His take on Wowser just wants to do nice things for Peach and support Koopa Troopa unionization efforts, but he gets bullied by Wario and Waluigi.

Nintendo and its partners have previously flirted with building the Wa extended universe beyond what we know. Mario Tennis and Mario Golf developer Camelot Software once proposed giving Princess Peach the Wa treatment, but was reportedly shut down by Nintendo, which apparently didn’t want to tarnish the princess’ wholesome brand.

“We asked Nintendo about girlfriends for Wario and Luigi,” Camelot president Hiroyuki Takahashi told Nintendo Power in a 2000 interview, “but Mr. Miyamoto said that he didn’t even want to see their girlfriends.” One of those scrapped ideas was reportedly given the name Warupeachi.

This is an area where Nintendo seems unwilling to budge, and I believe we will not see an official Wapeach or Wadaisy in our lifetimes.

Artwork of Captain Syrup from Wario Land: Shake It!
Captain Syrup
Image: Nintendo

However, one theory purports that Toadette — herself an extension of Toad — is secretly already Wario’s Princess Peach equivalent. Both love treasure, and the Mario Party games hint at a private relationship between Wario and Toadette: In Mario Party 6, the pair’s team name is “Secret Friends,” and in Mario Party 8, their team name is “Double Agents.” Much to think about.

Another theory argues that Captain Syrup, the pirate and ruler of Kitchen Island from the Wario Land games, already performs the role of Wapeach. Syrup rules both an island of criminals and maybe even the surrounding seas, making her royalty of sorts. Syrup and Wario are rivals, which might further cement her standing as Wapeach — if Mario and Peach have a good relationship, ought not Wario and his “Wapeach” have a bad relationship?

While these two are not official “Wa” characters, there’s still some hope — and a good candidate — for Nintendo to expand the Wa canon. My personal want — and, I contend, our best option for a fourth Wa character among the Super Mario series’ playable, most recognizable heroes — is a “bad” version of Toad.

Here’s why:

  1. Toads are mushroom people and they are good. Mushrooms, in Super Mario games, are good. However, Super Mario Bros. 2 — you may know it as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels — introduced the Poison Mushroom, a debuffing (bad) version of the (good) Power Mushroom power-up. Thus a poisonous Watoad (Woad? Warioad?!) must and should exist somewhere in the dank underground of the Mushroom Kingdom.
  2. Toad is a headlining playable character in multiple Super Mario games, including the original Super Mario Kart, New Super Mario Bros. Wii U, and Super Mario 3D World. Toad and Toadette also headline Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
  3. Nintendo is comfortable with using Toad as a template for other characters (e.g., Toadette, Toadsworth, Captain Toad), so why not give him a rival? The Paper Mario games have also introduced the concept of a divorced Toad, which signals rarely seen Toad interpersonal strife.
  4. A bad version of Toad already exists in one form: Mummy-Me. That’s the undead and mummified version of Toad that terrorizes Captain Toad and Toadette in Treasure Tracker. With this precedent in place, we can logically presume that a Toad is capable of wrongdoing … even murder!
  5. The only other longstanding Mario universe character, Donkey Kong, cannot have his name properly modified by a “W” or “Wa” and be featured in an E-rated video game. (Please do not write such a name in the comments of this post.)

Therefore, Toad is Nintendo’s most viable character to expand the Wa Universe, which desperately needs to grow. The only remaining question: Is Nintendo brave enough to do it?