From the Super Mario Wiki
“I am Pokey, guardian of this desert.”
A Pokey is a cactus enemy that is composed of three to five spherical body segments. To defeat a Pokey, typically each body section must be destroyed. Pokeys, along with Shy Guys, Bob-ombs, and Birdo, originate from the non-Mario game Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, which later became Super Mario Bros. 2.
Super Mario series
Super Mario Bros. 2
Pokeys first appear in Super Mario Bros. 2 and will slowly chase after the player. In this game, Pokeys are green and can be defeated by throwing objects at their body segments, or picking up one segment at a time.
Super Mario World
Although absent in Super Mario Bros. 3, Pokeys reappear in Super Mario World. This time, Pokeys are yellow and cannot be defeated in the same way as in Super Mario Bros. 2. Throwing a shell or a Grab Block at them defeats them all at once. Mario and Luigi can also defeat a Pokey by sliding up or down a hill at the cactus. Another option is to defeat them with Yoshi, who can eat their body segments one at a time. The number of body segments present depends on if Mario has Yoshi or not. If he does, Pokeys have five body segments. Without Yoshi, Pokeys only have three segments so that Mario can jump over them.
Pokeys only appear in the Special World level "Groovy", and Yoshi's Island 4 in a secret area. Also, in Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2, after the player beats the Special World and unlocked all of the exits, Pokeys turn into a bizarre grey spiked creature with a face on each body segment.
Super Mario 64
A few Pokeys appear in Shifting Sand Land in the game Super Mario 64 and its remake. Pokeys in this game have red eyes. Here, Mario can destroy each body segment with a punch, kick or by throwing a Bob-omb at it; attacking the head defeats it and causes the whole body to fall apart. They give Blue Coins when defeated. If Mario gets hit by a Pokey, he will lose two wedges of health. In the remake, they have their Super Mario Sunshine appearance.
Super Mario Sunshine
A smaller variety of Pokeys called Pokey Sprouts appear in Super Mario Sunshine as well as Pokeys themselves. They both now have flowers on their heads. To defeat a regular Pokey, Mario must come close to the tall cactus, causing the Pokey to attempt to crush him, as the Pokeys are planted to the ground, and cannot move. However, the Pokey's spikes will get stuck in the ground and Mario can jump on its head to defeat it. One can see goopy bubbles rising from the flower on their heads as they bop up and down, so this may mean they may have some connection to Shadow Mario and his Magic Paintbrush.
New Super Mario Bros.
Pokeys only appear in World 2-1 in New Super Mario Bros. with their Super Mario Sunshine look. In this game, a Pokey can only be defeated by shooting fireballs at its body segments, rolling over it with Shell Mario, or by crushing the cactus monster as Mega Mario. If they are hit in the head, they get defeated instantly. Without these power-ups, Mario must attempt to jump over the Pokeys. Some Pokeys have over ten body segments, requiring Mario to use special platforms to jump over these tall creatures.
The Mummipokey, an undead Pokey, appears as the World 2 boss.
Super Mario Galaxy
Pokeys also appear in Super Mario Galaxy. They are now red, and appear in the Dusty Dune Galaxy. They attack by trying to crush Mario, similar to in Super Mario Sunshine, except that now they don't get stuck in the ground. They can be defeated by destroying all their body segments by Spinning, or jumping on their head when they are low enough. Pokey Sprouts also appear, but now they are green. A giant variant of Pokey with a more traditional appearance is seen in the Good Egg Galaxy and the Dusty Dune Galaxy. These giant Pokeys can only be defeated by throwing a Coconut at their body, and then jumping on or spinning the head.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
In New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Yoshi can eat them one section at a time, as in Super Mario World, but eating the head defeats them instantly. Fire Flowers again are effective, and the Ice Flower can freeze them. Whenever a "bah" is heard in the music, Pokeys will turn into an alternate non-spiked form, making each body segment resemble an orange. Yoshi can eat an entire Pokey instantly in this form, and if he does so, he will lay an egg with a power-up inside, depending on how many segments the pokey had: 1-3 segments will give the player 3 coins, 4 segments will give the player a Super Mushroom, 5-6 segments give a Fire Flower, and 7 or more gives an 1-Up Mushroom. However, even in their non-spiked form, Mario still cannot safely jump on them, while Yoshi still bounces off them.
Pokeys appear only in World 2-5. Unlike their most recent appearances, in this game, a Pokey's head has spikes instead of a flower. The spiked head becomes the regular form for almost all Pokeys after New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
Super Mario 3D Land
Pokeys are seen in an area of Super Mario 3D Land, where they move above sinking sand. They look similar to their New Super Mario Bros. Wii appearance. To destroy them, Mario can hit them with a Super Star or use his boomerang, fire, or tanooki forms to knock out one segment at a time. Because it is covered in spikes, Mario can't jump on them without being Statue Mario. They usually appear in groups of two or five, and are found in desert levels.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Pokeys reappear in New Super Mario Bros. 2, behaving the same way as in the previous games, except they do not turn into their non-spiked fruit-like forms like in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, since Yoshi does not appear in the game.
New Super Mario Bros. U
Pokeys reappear in New Super Mario Bros. U. Like always, they are found in desert levels and once again turn into their fruit segments. Also, giant Pokeys appear in Morton Koopa Jr.'s battle, who uses his hammer to knock segments into Mario's path.
Super Mario 3D World
The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
Pokeys are seen infrequently on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, where they typically appear in episodes that have a Western setting or take place in a desert, often appearing as antagonists. On the show, Pokeys are portrayed as being capable of speaking, making themselves resemble ordinary cacti to blend in, and they also possess primitive, arm-like protrusions.
Nintendo Adventure Books
In Dinosaur Dilemma, some Pokeys gang up on Mario and Yoshi as they are traveling through a desert, and succeed in separating the two by knocking Mario into a hole, before wandering off. In the next book, Flown the Koopa, some Pokeys wander onto the path Mario, Luigi, Toad and the Mushroom King are using to get to the International Dino-Flying Derby, but Mario knocks them aside with his plunger.
Paper Mario series
In the Paper Mario series, Pokey has a new look of less spikes and the head segment somewhat resembles a cat. In the game Paper Mario, Pokeys gain a few new abilities. Pokeys can now use their body segments as projectiles, launching them to attack opponents. Pokeys also gain the ability to summon other Pokeys, which rise from the ground when called for. Also, a new variety of Pokey is introduced: the Pokey Mummy. When it is defeated by Mario, the player sometimes obtains a Dried Fruit.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Pokeys also appear in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door as rare enemies. A team of three Pokeys, known as the Pokey Triplets, are a fighting team in the Glitz Pit. Pokeys also appear in the game's Pit of 100 Trials. In this game, they attack by slamming the player, doing 2 damage, but they can also throw their body segments like in the previous Paper Mario game, doing 3 damage. When a Pokey loses all its body segments, it attacks by bonking into the player, doing 4 damage, so it's better to defeat them before they lose all their body segments. The game introduces a new sub-species of Pokey, the Poison Pokey, that appears in Riverside Station. Pokeys are unique in this game, in that performing a Superguard on a thrown body segment will send it back to the Pokey, doing the same amount of damage to it as it would have done to Mario.
Super Paper Mario
Pokeys appear in Super Paper Mario in places such as Gap of Crag. They attack by throwing their body segments, like in the previous Paper Mario games. When they lose all of their body segments, they attack by just hopping towards Mario or his allies. The Poison Pokeys from the predecessor also appear, and they appear in places including Castle Bleck and the Flipside Pit of 100 Trials. A new sub-species is introduced, the Dark Pokeys, that only appears in the Flopside Pit of 100 Trials. Pokeys sometimes drop Horsetails when defeated.
Tippi is not sure whether Pokeys are plants or animals.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Pokeys reappear once again in Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the Nintendo 3DS. Both regular yellow Pokeys, using their current design from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and a green variety, more closely resembling their original appearance in Super Mario Bros. 2, appear. Pokey can't be jumped on, unless an Iron Jump sticker is used. They have 16 HP. Rather than throwing their body segments like the previous games, these Pokeys attack by toppling on top of Mario; sometimes Mario will get crumpled if he does not block the attack. Each time a Pokey loses a body segment, its attack goes down. Tower Power Pokey, a Pokey corrupted by a Royal Sticker, serves as the boss of the second world. Pokeys are sometimes aided by Paragoombas and Sombrero Guys (if it was not destroyed).
As shown in early builds of this game, the Sticker Star Pokeys were originally going to retain their previous appearance from past Paper Mario games, with no changes.
Yellow Pokeys are aided by green Pokeys and Paragoombas.
Mario Kart series
Pokeys also appear in the Mario Kart series. They first appear in Dry Dry Desert in Mario Kart Double Dash!! and return in Mario Kart DS on the course Desert Hills. As well, they reappear in the retro course versions of these tracks in Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart Wii, respectively. They also appear in Mario Kart Wii on the Dry Dry Ruins course. Pokeys appear as they do in Super Mario Sunshine until Mario Kart 8, where they will appear as they do in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
Additionally, a giant Pokey appears in the Thwomp Desert as part of October 2008's 1st competition in Mario Kart Wii. There, players had to defeat it by throwing Bob-ombs. Pokeys also appeared in Mario Raceway as part of November 2008's 2nd competition. Oddly, the player faces another giant Pokey for September 2009's 2nd competition. Pokeys can be defeated by Green Shells.
Mario Party series
In Mario Party 5, though Pokeys don't actually make an appearance in the game, there is a weapon called the Pokey Tower Gun.
A Pokey appears as the guardian of Pokey Desert, a part of the Desert Area of Shroom City, found in the game Mario Party Advance. When the player decides to stop in the desert, they will have to accept Pokey's quest, Mysterious Riddles, which involves answering his three riddles correctly. If the player succeeds, Pokey will reward them with the Gaddget, Tap-Tap Sumo. The ending of the game states the Pokey created a new riddle, one which many consider his best ever.
In Mario Party 7, Pokeys serve once again as the objective in a similar minigame, Pokey Pummel. The players must dismantle the body parts with a hammer to win. Three Pokeys also make an appearance in the background in Pyramid Park. They use their design from Super Mario Sunshine in this game.
Mario Golf series
Mario Golf: Advance Tour
Mario Golf: World Tour
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
In Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, Pokeys live in the Gritzy Desert. They start out as Pokey Sprouts with pink flowers, but when engaged in battle, a Pokey grows additional body segments. In battle, a Pokey rams into a Mario brother to attack. The body segments can be knocked away with the Hammer. This makes the Pokey shorter (allowing the Mario Bros. to jump over it). The Pokey can also launch its body segments at the Mario Bros. To counter this attack, the Baby Bros. should hit the body segments with their Hammers. The Pokey jumps normally when hitting Mario and spins once when hitting Luigi. A Pokey can also spin its body and shoot spines at the Mario Bros. The Pokey spins the individual body part to the brother it will attack. The brothers have to jump to dodge them. In this game, only attacks to the head can damage a Pokey. The Skellokey, a new variety of Pokeys, also appears in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time.
Super Princess Peach
Pokeys also re-appear in Super Princess Peach. In this game, Pokeys are always of three segments and a flower (including the head), and only appear in Wavy Beach. They are resistant to Perry, so they could only be defeated with Rage or Poundbrella. There are also Vibe infused Pokeys, known as Mad Pokeys, that are simply angry Pokeys that stretched vertically to block Princess Peach from passing them by.
Yoshi's New Island
While only subspecies of Pokeys appeared in previous Yoshi's Island games, Pokeys themselves appear for the first time in the Yoshi series in Yoshi's New Island. In this game, Yoshi can swallow individual segments to reduce the Pokey's height, or eat its head to fully defeat it, similar to in Super Mario World. A gray variant of Pokeys also appear in World 5-8: Punkey the Pokey Prince's Castle, which move along the ceiling rather than on the ground. As the stage name implies, a large, gray Pokey, Punkey the Pokey Prince, is the boss of the stage.
Names in other languages