Piranha Plant landed on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's roster earlier this week. He's large, he's in charge, and he's just ridiculous. It's impossible not to laugh at the sight of the carnivorous plant hustling his tiny flowerpot across the stage. Maybe it's not wise to smirk at a creature that's 30 percent shark teeth, but just look at his neutral attack! Have you ever tried to take a chihuahua from its owners' arms? That's what it looks like. Just a slashing hurricane of teeth incapable of being tracked by the naked eye.
Piranha Plant's big, bobbing head and scuttling walk are more than a Smash Bros. clown show, though. They're marks of adaptation; proof that the plant is well-suited for life in the Super Mario universe it hails from. The Piranha Plant received a humble start in 1985's Super Mario Bros., and its phylum quickly diversified. Now the Piranha Plant thrives in nearly every single Super Mario game, seemingly able to survive on naught but an occasional chunk of Mario's butt and a corrupted save file here and there.
We at USG are so intrigued by the resilient and frighteningly adaptive Piranha Plant, we decided to take a quick look at its evolution. Don't worry, we won't go as in-depth as Viridi. She's obsessed to a worrying degree.
The Immobile Precursors
Classic Green: The first Piranha Plants were confined to pipes bristling out of the Mushroom Kingdom's bedrock, and they're still the most plentiful sub-species. Like its close cousin, the Venus flytrap, immobile Piranha Plants wait for their prey to get within grabbing range. Their method of hunting and feeding, which involves popping their heads into the air and snapping up whatever happens to cross their path at that exact moment, seems inefficient to the casual observer. It's clearly effective, however, because these snappy little weeds are everywhere. They are a little shy and won't pop up at all if Mario stands next to their pipe.
It might also be incorrect to classify this subspecies as "immobile," as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate proves they're capable of hunting on the hoof whenever they damn well feel like it. None of us had any idea about their conditional mobility until the Piranha Plant's Smash reveal. That's worrying (and don't expect this study to get any less worrying as it goes on). For simplicity's sake, though, let's stick with the "immobile" classification.
Vicious Red: Red Piranha Plants are abundant in Japan's version of Super Mario Bros. 2—what we call The Lost Levels. Nintendo intended for Super Mario Bros. 2 to challenge hardcore fans of the first Super Mario Bros, and the Red Piranha Plants certainly do their part to make your life miserable. They move more quickly than their green brethren, and they're bold enough to pop out of their pipes even if Mario is standing right next to it. All the better to gobble you up, my dear.
Sleepy Boys: When Mario moved onto the 3D plane, the Piranha Plant was right behind him, snapping at his heels. Well, kind of. Super Mario 64's Piranha Plants aren't quite as hardy or threatening as their 2D counterparts. Not only do they sleep deeply until Mario draws close enough to pee on them (only then do they wake up and snap blindly at the air), but they're one of the few Piranha Plant variations that can be annihilated with a butt-stomp. In other words, old school 2D Piranha Plants bite Mario's bum, but in Super Mario 64, Mario's bum bites them. Oh, how the tables turn.
Always-On Nommers: This subspecies of Piranha Plant is common in the New Super Mario Bros. series. They're plentiful in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, where they rarely retreat into their pipes. Instead, they remain in the open air and constantly gnash their teeth in hopes of grabbing a mouthful of meat (or mushroom). Thankfully, they're easily dispatched by a fireball, though larger varieties of the species only wilt after an onslaught.
The Spitters (Gross)
Fire Piranha Plant [Venus Fire Trap]: Fire Piranha Plants are a strange subspecies of Piranha Plant. They're shy, which is why they prefer to zing fireballs at any potential invader who intrudes on their territory, but they also don't hesitate to get up in your business. A Fire Piranha Plant will spit flames in your direction if you're a mile away. Yes, it could defend itself much more efficiently if it just remained hidden in its pipe burrow. It doesn't care. It just wants to see you burn.
The Fire Piranha Plant is the first enemy you encounter in Super Mario Bros. 3 after you vault over a lone Goomba. That's one way for a sequel to tell you "We're upping the stakes hardcore, kids. Subscribe to Nintendo Power!"
Ptooie: Ptooies have the silliest names of any Super Mario enemy ever conceived, but don't tell them that; they're equipped with a natural defense that resembles a medieval torture device. Some Ptooies can walk around on their roots, which is just great.
Thankfully, they tend to bounce their stolen Game of Thrones prop up and down instead of just hurling it directly towards Mario's soft, spongy bod at 300 mph. If the Ptooie ever gets a mind to start spitting its projectiles horizontally, the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom are advised to stop whatever they're doing and pray to whichever fungal deity they worship (I'm going to assume it's that giant mushroom that punches your shit in Dark Souls). There is no help. It's all over.
This Isn't Even Their Final Form (But They'll Kill Us All Anyway)
Petey Piranha: Sometimes we just need a reminder that humans are evolution's idea of a big joke ("Get this: They can defend themselves with sharp sticks!"). Piranha Plant's Final Smash in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate calls down Petey Piranha, whose presence drives home the fact that we're Slim Jims in the face of anything that has teeth and claws. Petey Piranha and his cousins (listed below) combine the easy mobility of a theropod with the bite force of a huge Piranha Plant (i.e. sixty thousand T-Rexes sandwiched between the jaws of a megalodon).
We believe the Piranha Plants' evolution won't stop with Petey and his cousins, either. Improvements can still be made, like, say, opposable thumbs. And we'll just stop there before we give the Mushroom Kingdom's natural forces any bright ideas.
Dino Piranha: Dino Piranha is smaller than Petey Piranha, but if you've studied even the basics of animal evolution through the ice age, you know size means nothing. In fact, smaller, nimbler animals are often more successful at hunting than larger ones. All that matters is Dino Piranha's teeth are still sharp enough to pierce flesh. Only difference is Mario and his friends don't receive a blessedly quick end when a tooth pierces a vital organ. Instead, they just bleed out or go into septic shock. As Toad likes to say, "All riiiiiiight!"
P.S., Dino Piranha also has a club on the end of its tail that's something like triple the circumference of the cudgel at the end of an ankylosaur's tail. So, cool.
Fire Dino Piranha: Nah.