They Can’t all be Goombas: Appreciating Mario’s Lesser Known Enemies

Posted on Aug 23 2016 - 6:45pm by J Abbott
They Can’t all be Goombas: Appreciating Mario’s Lesser Known Enemies

There are few heroes in gaming as well-traveled as Mario and Luigi. The two brothers have fought countless battles and saved untold lives. They’ve battled in dozens of lands, fought hundreds of different enemies, and will probably be doing so as long as there are video games.

But heroes are only as good as their villains, and Mario has faced a ton of iconic ones, from green-shelled koopa troopas, to mushroom-like goombas, to spinies, and wigglers and buzzy beetles. Many of these creatures appear time and time again. Their looks and behaviors our part of the gaming consciousness and a huge part of what makes the Super Mario franchise so well-rounded and beloved.

But what about the villains who never became icons? Some of these fellows are every bit as intriguing as the enemies Nintendo goes back to, but they haven’t gotten the chance to shine. Like the Koopalings before them, it is our hope that they make a return some day. After all, the Mushroom Kingdom is a little more fun when these guys are involved.

blargg

Blargg

Blargg is one of the simplest creatures on this list, and though he’s gone virtually unused since his appearance in Super Mario World, his legacy has spawned a number of similar monsters. Lurking in the depths of the lava, Blargg appears as a shifty set of eyes, waiting for Mario to pass by on his raft. When the time is right, Blargg surfaces, lunging towards Mario, looking a bit like a lava-based Loch Ness Monster. His appearance meshes perfectly with the Dinosaur Land theme of Super Mario World, and he also has an air of mystery to him, since there’s no way to tell what the majority of his body looks like.

Though Blargg himself only played a role in Super Mario World, the legacy of this odd lava dinosaur lives on. The creature was originally slated to appear in Super Mario 64, but was left out of the final release. Since then, other lava monsters from the same family have appeared, but none have shared the original’s appearance. Yoshi’s Story even had a creature of the same name, but it looked completely different, resembling a giant blob with arms and a gaping mouth. Creatures like Magmaw and Magmaargh follow this reworked style, leaving the original version as an ancient memory.

wart

Wart

Nearly the entire cast of Super Mario Bros 2 could make this list, as the vast majority of creatures from the game have either disappeared completely or been dramatically changed. Did you know that Birdo herself is actually biologically male, but identifies as female? It’s true, at least according to the original canon.

But once iconic characters like Mouser, and Phanto and the hydra-inspired Tryclyde have been virtually done away with. Shy Guys are still around, but they’ve been relegated to supporting roles in spin-off games, rarely appearing in the main line of Mario titles.

Wart has made a few cameo appearances since Super Mario Bros 2, notably appearing in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening as a non-antagonist. But this vegetable hating no-goodnik has never broken out and become a recurring villain. He’s potentially as intriguing as Bowser, but he’s never been given a significant backstory, or really any kind of chance to shine.

buster

Buster Beetle

Buster Beetle is a member of the Buzzy Beetle family, and were first introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3. They look a little like Buzzy Beetles, with the same black shell and general size, but that’s where the similarities end. Buster Beetles aren’t nearly as durable as their counterparts, enabling you to take them down with a stomp on the head or a well placed fireball. But what they lack in durability, they make up for in their aggressive and creative offence.

Buster Beetles are quicker than their cousins, and sometimes come in numbers of two or three. Even more interesting, they’re one of the few Super Mario enemies that makes use of their environment. The clever creatures often appear near ice blocks, and can lift and toss them at Mario. It’s fun to race towards one of the blocks and snatch it up before the beetle can get to it. Then, it’s all about the sweet revenge of smashing the little pest right across the face!

brolder

Brolder

This Mario fellow sure must keep up with his vitamins and protein powder! Otherwise, how could he lift these boulder-based enemies right over his head and heave them away like they’re made from Styrofoam? Brolders were new to 2013’s Super Mario 3D World, so it isn’t correct to suggest that they’ve been abandoned, but they deserve a kind word nonetheless. They’re not the most intimidating enemy, only capable of chasing after Mario at a modest speed. But they sometimes appear in packs, and can pop out of the ground and surprise the portly plumber.

They’re a fun enemy to fight, because their bodies can be used to break blocks, hit switches, kill other enemies, and sometimes even collect stars. A giant Boss Brolder appears at the end of World 4, and must be taken out by throwing his underlings at him. These guys are so useful to Mario, it’s a shame he can’t make friends with one of them.

tatanga

Tatanga

Had an alien shown up to face Mario at the end of Super Mario Galaxy, that almost would have made sense, given the space-themed environment and the host of new characters. But by the time the Wii classic came out, Tatanga had already been retired for fifteen years after last appearing in Super Mario Land 2.

Tatanga originally appeared as the villain of Super Mario Land, the Game Boy’s first Mario game, and a launch title for the system. The game has a different feel from most of the classic 2-D titles, featuring unique monsters, unusually themed levels and side-scrolling vehicle sections where Mario uses a submarine and aeroplane.

Bowser and Princess Peach are nowhere to be found, instead replaced by the alien Tatanga and the debuting Princess Daisy. True to the tradition of ’80s video game villains, he kidnaps her and hypnotises all the good citizens of Sarasaland for his own fiendish purposes. Mario must shoot down Tatanga’s spaceship in an air battle in order to restore peace to the land.

Our alien friend eventually returned as an underling to Wario in Super Mario Land 2, but his role was lesser, and he was never to be seen again.