Where’s Wario?

Mario’s greedy and chubby counterpart hasn’t had a huge hit in years. We take a look at what happened to Wario.

“WAAAHAHAHA! It’s Wario time!”

Throw on any Mario Kart or Mario Party game today, and you can be sure to see our old friend in the yellow and purple outfit faithfully waiting to be selected in the background. Yup, we’re talking about good old Wario!

His presence has become a staple in the Mario universe over the years, but it’s been quite a while since Wario starred in a major Nintendo release. The overweight, money-grabbing anti-hero of the Mushroom Kingdom has had a pretty spotty history over the last decade or so, with a few hits, a few misses, and a few long spells of unknown whereabouts that sit squarely in between. So why has Wario himself become something of an afterthought lately for Nintendo’s current game roster?

After a string of successful Wario Land games on the Game Boy, beginning with Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 in 1994, Nintendo finally decided to bring Wario to the big screen in 2003 with his first starring role on GameCube, in the quirky Wario World. Although the 3D platforming game was criminally short, there was no denying that Wario World was something special, with Wario allowed to shine (and steal) in a title that was both vibrant and unique. Wario’s next and last starring console game was 2008’s Wario Land: Shake It!, a cartoony sidescroller which made use of the Wii Remote’s motion features to grab coins in fun new ways.

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In the years since, Wario’s most recent outing to date is the oft-forgotten and overlooked Game & Wario (2013), an exclusive Wii U extension of the WarioWare series of “microgames,” which were hugely popular in the days of the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, but have since begun to slip into obscurity.

Wario is still making a handful of appearances in games like Mario Kart 8 and the upcoming Mario Party 10, among dozens of others. At the time of this writing, however, Wario has yet to be confirmed as a playable character in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. games on Wii U and 3DS, which already boasts a roster upwards of 35 fighters. Even so, these inclusions are still a far cry from games like Wario World and Wario Land: Shake It!

Despite his many inconsistencies over the years, Wario has been one character from the vast Nintendo roster that hasn’t been afraid to stray from his platforming roots, as evidenced by the offbeat WarioWare microgames and even the fantastic 1994 puzzle game Wario’s Woods on the NES. And for their part, Nintendo has never been afraid to revitalize an old franchise or fan-favorite character with a fresh coat of paint, which has resulted in games like Donkey Kong Country Returns, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, and the recently announced Star Fox game on Wii U. Where genre is concerned, Nintendo also isn’t afraid of thinking outside the box: they did turn the sidescrolling Metroid into a first-person adventure trilogy after all, and look how well that turned out.

But on the other side of the spectrum, perhaps it is exactly this lack of gameplay identity that has caused Wario to stay hidden in the shadows for so long.

It’s difficult for players to instantly connect Wario to a specific gameplay type in the same way that Mario, Donkey Kong, or Kirby have become synonymous with sidescrolling platformers, or how Link can be attributed to an open-world adventure without a second glance. It has become a catch-22 of sorts: the longer that Wario goes without this kind of brand recognition, the easier it is for him to slip into obscurity behind the veil of so many other well-known Nintendo characters.

So now I’ll once again ask the question that sits at the top of this page: where’s Wario? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of game would he best be suited for in the generation of the Wii U?

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Well for starters, I think that there will always be a place for Wario where Nintendo is concerned. Given Nintendo’s slowly rising success with the Wii U and its original eShop games, such as the NES Remix series and Pushmo World, I could easily see Wario taking over this digital space with a few good short and quirky adventures (an HD sequel to Wario’s Woods would be too good to be true). I’d even settle for a Wooly Wario game. I could totally see the yarn torch being passed from Yoshi to Wario in the future.

I’d love nothing more than to see a full-fledged 3D Wario adventure on the Wii U, one that tackles a brand new kind of gameplay genre for Nintendo and piles on the humor, full force.

Hey, if Captain Toad is getting his own game this year (which looks way too fun for words), then I think Wario is long overdue for the spotlight.

What do you think? Is the time right for Wario to make a triumphant return to Nintendo’s shining roster? Or will his extended time away from the spotlight make it difficult to justify a brand new Wario game? Head on down to the comments and join in on the Wario discussion below!

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