The Wario (ワリオ) franchise is a spin-off of the Mario franchise that features Wario as the main character. It is the first franchise created by Nintendo to feature a villain/antihero as the main protagonist. The franchise was created by game designers Hiroji Kiyotake and Takehiko Hosokawa for Nintendo R&D 1, which primarily handled its games and later turned these duties over to its successor, Nintendo SPD Group No. 1. Some Wario games have been developed by other companies, including Suzak, Good-Feel, and Intelligent Systems.
The Wario franchise branches into two main series, the Wario Land series and the WarioWare series. Wario Land games are platforming games that involve the greedy and selfish protagonist looking for treasure and other ways of accumulating wealth. Its first game, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, was the first game to feature Wario as a playable character. The WarioWare games are compilations of short minigames (called microgames) which are made by Wario and his friends, motivated by his wish of making money; they work in the fictional WarioWare, Inc., a video game producing company. These microgames often make use of the new technologies of the system they are released for. Beyond these two main series, Wario has various installments in other genres.
Main character overview
The titular Wario was created as an archrival for Nintendo's mascot Mario. He first appeared in the 1992 Game Boy title Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, where he was the main antagonist and final boss. His name is a portmanteau of Mario's name and the Japanese word warui (悪い), meaning "bad." He was designed by Hiroji Kiyotake, who also created Samus Aran for the Metroid series. Since 1997, the character has been voiced by Charles Martinet, who is also the voice actor for Mario.
Wario is portrayed as a corrupt, hot-tempered, and exaggerated version of Mario, inverse to him in both appearance and personality. Whereas Mario is selfless in his acts and always adventures for the good of others, this is not the case with Wario. His primary trait is his greed, and he always adventures for personal, material gain; even when he does acts that would be considered "heroic," he only does them with the promise of treasure. Though he does have some of Mario's moves, such as defeating certain enemies with a single jump, Wario more often defeats enemies with his superhuman strength: barging them out of the way with his trademark body slam, stunning them with powerful ground-shaking butt stomps, and in one of his games, attacking with wrestling moves. Other powers of his include making use of various transformations to navigate certain obstacles, and his proficiency with bombs.
Creation and development
Wario was created as part of a decision to introduce a new character as the main villain of Super Mario Land 2 to meet a vision from the staff where the game was to divert from the conventional objectives of the Super Mario series; Mario in that game was to fight to win back something of his own, instead of fighting for the benefit of others, such as Princess Peach and the citizens of her Mushroom Kingdom. He was not the first character the staff came up with, however; several other characters had earlier been created and rejected. Kiyotake based Wario's relationship with Mario on the American comic strip and cartoon character Bluto, archnemesis of Popeye the Sailor, who compared to him is physically larger, more cunning, and motivated by self-interests. The finalized version of Wario's design was drawn by the Mario franchise's foremost hand-drawn artist, Yoichi Kotabe, taking inspiration from not only Bluto but also another villain character, the circus owner Stromboli from Walt Disney's Pinocchio.
Appearances in other series
Wario is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, his default outfit being his motorcyclist attire from the WarioWare series; after obtaining a Smash Ball, he can also transform into Wario-Man, his superhero alter-ego seen in a few of that series' entries. His motorbike is used by him in one of his special attacks. A stage named WarioWare, Inc., based on the "Variety Tower" location in Mega Microgame$!, has several different microgames running in the background, which set tasks that upon their completion award the player with invincibility, growth, and other power-ups. Wario returns in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, where he is now an unlockable character, instead of one playable from the start. The later Super Smash Bros. games have also featured WarioWare characters as helpers, trophies, and stickers.
The WarioWare series has strong ties to the Rhythm Heaven series (developed by the same team). Initially limited to quick references such as featuring the Alien Bunnies cameo in a few stages, the series 3DS installment Rhythm Heaven Megamix features two unlockable challenge sets starring the cast of the WarioWare series. In turn, Game & Wario and WarioWare Gold feature multiple cameos by Rhythm Heaven characters, with the later game also including an extra calling back to the events of Rhythm Heaven Megamix.
The WarioWare series has also occasionally crossed over with the Daigasso! Band Brothers series: all three installments feature Ashley's Theme either built-in or as an official downloadable track and Nintendo would publish a short strip on its Japanese kids website, dealing with Barbara's attempt to profit from Ashley's singing talents. In October and November 2018, the company ran a cross-promotional contest between WarioWare Gold and Band Brothers P asking contestants to rearrange a selection of songs from the WarioWare series in Band Brothers P's music editor, with the winning entries being judged by the WarioWare team and made officially downloadable in Band Brothers P.
A highly obscure 1995 educational VHS release, the Mario Kirby Meisaku Video (meisaku meaning masterpiece), featured a story loosely based on Mario vs. Wario (with the second half of the tape starring fellow Nintendo icon Kirby) told via still imagery and narration accompanied by text that was intended to teach Japanese children kanji, Chinese characters which are commonly used in Japanese writing.
Wario has been featured in several Mario-related mangas with Kodansha's Super Mario manga and Super Mario-Kun featuring loose adaptations of the first Wario Land and Wario's Woods. In addition, Super Mario-Kun's author would write a short-lived spin-off titled Ore Dayo! Wario Dayo!!, whose three issues successively adapted the plot of Wario World, Wario: Master of Disguise and Wario Land: Shake It!.
Nintendo Power published a ten-page story based on Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins titled Mario vs. Wario (unrelated to the game of the same name), which was featured in the January 1993 issue. The story was later reprinted as bonus content for the graphic novel format release of Super Mario Adventures. Mario vs. Wario: The Birthday Bash, a second Mario vs. Wario comic, was published a year later, in the January 1994 issue.
Several Wario mangas have been published as part of various Japanese video game magazines; the longest running of these, GO! Ketsu Wario, was published in Dengeki Nintendo DS from 2007 to 2011 and was a gag strip initially featuring the cast of Wario: Master of Disguise before being retooled to focus on Wario Land: Shake It!. An one-off manga based on WarioWare: Touched! simply titled Made in Wario was published as an extra in the March 2005 issue of Comic Bom Bom. Another short gag-striped based on Touched!, Waiwai! Wario, was published in the February 2006 issue of Famitsu DS+Wii and dealt with Mona's attempt to get Wario to keep his promise to take her to her concert. Wario also guest stars in Wario to Saikyou Tag da Fii!, a chapter of the manga adaptation of The Legendary Starfy based on his appearance in Densetsu no Starfy 3.