When I think of people applying to work at Nintendo of Japan, I think of Eric Andre clutching the gates of the 2016 Democratic National Convention while screaming "Let me in! Let me innnnn!" There's no way a company like Nintendo is hurting for potential employees, which is why I'm impressed it goes the extra mile with its annual recruitment books.
Nintendo's recruitment books highlight the company's history, outlines its properties, and tries to entice young developers into entering the fold. 2020's recently distributed book is particularly fun because it features original watercolor illustrations of Nintendo characters at "work." We get to see Wiggler help Pauline and Luigi compose music while Donkey Kong tries his best at providing customer service at a call center. Meanwhile, Bowser Jr. is off in some corner smashing the hell out of his minions. It's all very cute (minus Bowser Jr.'s violence), but there's an interesting appearance in the book that's generated a bit of buzz: Wart, the main bad guy in 1988's Super Mario Bros. 2. On one of the pages, we see the usurper King of Subcon chatting with Princess Daisy over the telephone.
Despite being the villain of a mainline Super Mario game, Wart very rarely makes appearances in other Mario titles. He doesn't even cameo often. In fact, one of his best-known cameos is as an NPC in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Wart's domain, Subcon, is also practically a no-show in modern Mario mythos. It's no wonder Wart's surprise visit in Nintendo's recruitment book has Mario fans talking. I'm forced to ask myself, and not for the first time: Why is Nintendo scared of paying tribute to Super Mario Bros. 2?
The easy answer might lie with Super Mario Bros. 2's origins as a modified version of another Nintendo game, Doki Doki Panic. What we call Super Mario Bros. 2 didn't hit Japan as Super Mario USA until 1992—long after the launch of the Super Famicom. It's possible Japanese audiences don't share North America's nostalgia for Super Mario Bros. 2, and since Nintendo of Japan is ultimately the gate through which new Mario content passes, that's that.
This take doesn't hold up under scrutiny, though. Super Mario USA was a latecomer to the Famicom, yes, but Japan still got to play the game on the Super Famicom with the Super Mario All-Stars collection. Nintendo also welcomed some elements of Super Mario Bros. 2 into Mario canon while curiously ignoring the rest. Shyguys, the masked baddies who debuted in Doki Doki Panic and Super Mario Bros. 2, are everywhere in modern Mario games. (My li'l nephew is a huge fan.) Same goes for Pokeys and Ninjis. Birdo the egg-spitting dinosaur started life as a Super Mario Bros. 2 mini-boss. Nintendo just seems to hold off on exploring where these characters first came from—or acknowledging the boss amphibian they first served.
Maybe the reason lies with how Super Mario Bros. 2 still plays differently from traditional Mario games. Mario is known for bonking and stomping, but in Super Mario Bros. 2, he plucks and digs. I'll never forget the first time I jumped on a Shyguy. I expected the minion to cave under Mario's boots, but instead it just kept on marching, unperturbed by the 200 pounds of plumber hitching a ride on its head. I was gobsmacked; I had no idea I was supposed to pick up the Shyguy from under me and hurl its struggling form at other enemies.
It was a weird way to play a Mario game. It still is, but that's part of why Super Mario Bros. 2's appeal endures. No, Subcon and Wart don't fit neatly into Nintendo's carefully manicured image for modern Mario, but I think most fans would be stoked to visit Subcon and go up against the Big W again.
Heck, if Nintendo doesn't want to take point, it can let its fans do the heavy lifting by adding Super Mario Bros 2. physics, sprites, and tilesets to Super Mario Maker 2. Some Mario Maker 2 fans are convinced it's only a matter of time before Nintendo drops the news. There's even speculation that's the reason why Wart features in Nintendo's 2020 Recruitment Book to begin with. I'm on board for any kind of Subcon rep. Let's have it, Nintendo. Super Mario Bros. 2 is a little strange, but we love it anyway.
And before you slip on a pair of spectacles and whip out the Super Mario Logic Checklist: I know Super Mario Bros. 2 technically takes place within a dream, and therefore might fade out of existence when Mario wakes up at the end of the game. Well, Princess Daisy is supposed to be the sole monarch of the far away Sarashaland, but she still manages to instantly teleport to Luigi's side when he needs a tennis partner. The Mario series always finds a way to bring its friends—and foes—together.
Major Game Releases: January 13 to January 17
Here are the major releases for the week of January 6 to January 10. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- A Long Way Down [January 16, PC]: Don't expect any mercy from this deck-building roguelike. If you're a fan of Slay the Spire or Darkest Dungeon, you already know what to expect. In fact, you're probably champing at the bit to get started. Down, down to Goblin Town you go, my lad. Have fun, and give our regards to the Devil.
- Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot [January 17, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC]: Gosh, I hope this game plays as good as it looks. I'm a fan of the Dragon Ball universe, and re-experiencing Goku's biggest adventures in an RPG setting sounds like a dream game. Guess we'll find out how it plays soon enough.
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore [January 17, Switch]: This overlooked Wii U RPG is getting top billing on the Switch. Tokyo Mirage Sessions is part Shin Megami Tensei, part Persona, part Fire Emblem, part idol culture, part Glee, part—you know what, I'll just go ahead and say there's nothing quite like it. Look for our review later this week, and read our preview in the meantime.
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week in Gaming
- Awesome Games Done Quick wrapped up over the weekend, and it raised $3.13 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation! We plan to have a summary of the coolest speedruns from the event, so keep an eye out for that later this week. Summer Games Done Quick will run from June 21 through 28.
- The Xbox Series X intends to play things fast and loose with first-party game exclusively. For a couple of years, anyway.
- Sony says it has yet to show us everything that's cool and sweet about the PlayStation 5. Patience, young Jedi.
- If you're curious about the acclaimed multi-part indie game Kentucky Route Zero but have no idea where to start, we have a primer for you.
- Video games might play a big part in moving the Star Wars canon forward, and that's a pretty big deal.
Axe of the Blood God for January 13
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
The Console RPG Quest continues with the Nintendo 64! We discuss Nintendo's break with Square; why it was an important turning point in Nintendo's history, and why its RPG library ended up being so light [23:50]. Plus: We talk about Pokemon Sword and Shield's newly-announced DLC and what it means for the series going forward!