Nintendo declared 2013 the Year of Luigi, and by and large they did a pretty good job of putting Mario's forgotten brother front-and-center (barring their inexplicable failure to mark the 30th anniversary of the character's debut). Not only did Luigi play a major role in several games, sharp-eyed characters can spot him in a number of unlikely places in other titles.
But now 2014 looms large, and the Year of Luigi will soon draw to a close. This leads us to wonder: Who's next? The Mario pantheon is loaded with characters who play second fiddle to the leading man, so why stop at simply celebrating Luigi? We can think of plenty of other Mario regulars (and not-so-regulars) equally deserving of some time in the sun. Here are our picks -- who are yours?
Maybe this is too obvious, Waluigi being the creepy weird evil-ish counterpart to Luigi. On the other hand, maybe not, since (1) Waluigi is a terrible character and (2) Nintendo has never really acknowledged him outside of spin-off games. Where Wario has received the occasional nod in core Mario games (including being made playable in Super Mario 64 DS), Waluigi will forever dwell in the minor leagues of Mario sports and racing titles. But hey, isn't there a Mario Kart due next year? Along with some other Mario spin-offs....?
Now that Shigeru Miyamoto has deigned to let EAD Tokyo make Princess Peach playable in the same space as Mario and Luigi for the first time in 25 years (Super Princess Peach and its questionable mood-based powers not really counting), perhaps it's time to reconsider her highness' place in the Mushroom Kingdom pantheon. Why should she always be the victim? She's perfectly capable of holding her own in Mario spin-offs, and the Paper Mario games inevitably feature her subverting her role as a hostage; seeing that bleed into the core Mario titles would bring Nintendo very much in line with the current video game culture interest in seeing better and more respectful roles for female protagonists. I mean, why can't Peach kidnap Bowser everyone once in a while?
And hey, if Peach really did go on a Koopa-King-abduction spree, we could finally put the spotlight on the most beleaguered character in the whole of Mario: The humble Goomba. From the opening moments of Super Mario Bros., the Goomba has only been there as a minor impediment, a little thing for you to step on, to chain turtle shells together for 1UPs, to slow you down as you advance toward your goal. But no more! Let the Goomba have his day in the sun, venturing forth to rescue Bowser from Peach's vile clutches. Over the years, we've seen all sorts of Goomba variants (including Tanuki Goombas and, in Super Mario 3D World, Cat Goombas) -- so clearly Goombas have the potential to be as adventuresome as Mario himself. We just need an occasion for them to rise to, apparently.
On the other hand, you could make the case that Princess Peace already receives plenty of time in the spotlight. What about the other princess, Daisy? Sure, she could have been a one-and-done replacement for Peach in the original Super Mario Land, but she keeps popping up throughout the series. Daisy at this point is probably best known for her role in Super Mario Kart, where her schtick consists of announcing her name with the whining, skull-splitting intensity of a dental drill. Why not make 2014 the Year of Hi I'm Daisy?
With Super Mario 3D World, Blue Toad seems to have taken the final step in officially being recognized as his own distinct entity -- a separate character from the usual red-spotted Toads you see throughout the Mushroom Kingdom. He's accompanied Mario through Super Mario Bros. 2, the four-player New Super Mario Bros. games, and now this latest odyssey. Perhaps it's time to shift the spotlight to this stalwart (if screechy) little guy and explore his rich inner life.
Or maybe we should consider Yellow Toad, the unloved fourth player character from the recent New Super Mario Bros. games -- and the only one not to make the jump to Super Mario 3D World. Nah, just kidding. Nobody loves Yellow Toad.
No character save Mario appears as frequently in the Mario games as Bowser -- no, not even Luigi. And yet, what do we really know about Bowser? Do we know what drives him? What motivates him? What compels him to kidnap princesses time and again? The actual parentage of the Koopalings and Bowser Jr.? Where he gets the money to build massive castles encrusted with his own image? What it was like to die and be brought back to life through black magic? Whether he's a turtle, a dinosaur, or a dragon? So many questions linger about this mysterious foe, and you've never once thought to stop and simply ask en route to punting him into the lava yet again. Maybe Bowser wouldn't be so ornery if we simply extended a hand of compassion to him.
Then again, perhaps Nintendo would do well to revisit a forgotten foe and really thrust him into the limelight. Wart, the villain of Super Mario Bros. 2, was for many NES-owning Americans the first Mario bad guy they did proper battle with... and yet he's been totally absent outside of remakes of that one game, and a cameo in a Zelda game. Even Super Mario Land's Tatanga got more screen time than that. Rather than reprise the "year of" concept to capitalize on a character who already had a major role in his own game in the works, why not use it for true good and bring forgotten characters back to light? Just about every single element of Super Mario Bros. 2 has put in an appearance in subsequent Mario games. And even dream-based frogs with a profound hatred of vegetables need love.