Gaming is filled with iconic rivalries, and with the longevity of Mario, the iconic Italian plumber seems to be at the heart of many of them. In the mainline titles, Mario’s arch-nemesis is Wario, who has his very own series of games. We’re taking a look at the pair, comparing some of the games to decide who is the winner of this classic gaming rivalry of Mario vs. Wario.
Early Years of Mario vs. Wario
Mario has quite the headstart over Wario in this regard. While Mario appeared in multiple arcade games in the early 80s, it wasn’t until 1985 that he got a game that players could play from the comfort of their own homes. This was Super Mario Bros. for the SNES – an instant classic.
Compare this to Wario, who first appeared in 1992’s Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. He was an instantly popular addition to Mario’s gallery of villains, and it wasn’t long before he had a series of his own. 1994 saw the release of Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, kicking off Wario’s set of games. By the time it was released, gamers had been familiar with Mario for more than a decade at that point, giving him an undeniable advantage in the court of public opinion.
At the same time as the Wario game series began, Mario continued to feature in new games of his own, with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island the highlight. Ultimately Mario just had too much of an advantage in those early years. We’re going to have to give this one to the man in red.
Mario 1:0 Wario
The Move to 3D Games
The mid-90s were a strange time for gaming. While plenty of titles clung to the older 2D style of graphics, others embraced the opportunity offered by the power of the new generation of consoles. 3D graphics in real-time were finally possible. Between Mario vs. Wario, there was only one who took the leap.
Mario entered the 3D era with Super Mario 64, which to this day is considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made. It redefined what a Super Mario game could be, and set the blueprint for most 3D platformers in the years to come. If Mario wasn’t a household name prior to its release, he certainly was after Super Mario 64 came out for the N64. Not a bad start at all.
Then, there’s Wario. Nintendo’s response to Mario’s arch-nemesis in the 3D era was to simply not give him a role at all. All of his games around this time including Wario Land 2 and 3 were demoted to a smaller scale, releasing exclusively on the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. This meant that Wario was restricted to 2D games. Nintendo didn’t even include him in Mario’s games anymore, with Bowser favored instead. It’s an easy point for Mario.
Mario 2:0 Wario
The Mid-2000s: Mario vs. Wario
After years of languishing in the realm of handheld 2D titles, the mid-2000s marked an important moment for Wario. He finally arrived in the 3D space, but how did it go? Let’s find out.
First, we have to talk about Mario’s mid-2000s. After Super Mario 64, expectations were high. Simply put, Nintendo delivered. 2002’s Super Mario Sunshine was a mega-hit for the GameCube, iterating on everything that made Super Mario 64 great while keeping things familiar for players. Then, there was 2006’s New Super Mario. Bros, which took the classic formula and brought it to Nintendo DS, making unique use of the device’s two screens in a brilliant innovation of gameplay. It really was a period of quality over quantity for the series.
Comparatively, Wario simply had 2003’s Wario World to his name during this period. The general consensus was that the game was fine, and the low sales for the game reflected that. It was no Super Mario 64, that’s for sure. With the release of Super Mario Sunshine just a year prior, the standards for a 3D platformer had changed and ultimately Wario World wasn’t reaching them. Not only would Wario World be the first 3D Wario game – it would also be the last. It was a noble effort from Mario’s nemesis, but there aren’t many games that can compete head-to-head with Super Mario Sunshine. A real trend is emerging here.
Mario 3:0 Wario
Wario’s Last Main Outings
The late 2000s and early 2010s saw the standalone platforming Wario games grind to a halt, in what was a generally strong period for the Super Mario series. Let’s take a deeper dive into what went down.
On the Super Mario side of things, the late 2000s / early 2010s was a period that saw the release of the likes of Super Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros Wii, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and Super Mario 3D Land among others. Each of these titles put a new spin on the Super Mario formula, meaning that gamers got something fresh and exciting each time they played. Nintendo kept on pushing the Super Mario button, and with good reason.
So where was Wario during this time? He was busy in 2008’s Wario Land: The Shake Dimension, which would be the final platforming Wario game ever released. It came out with strong reviews and sold well, but it wasn’t enough for the series to be continued. All things considered, it was something of an anti-climax for the series. At the same time, the WarioWare games continued for a couple of years, but became increasingly less frequent until recent years.
Even the swansong of the Wario series simply can’t compete with what was a truly era-defining few years for the Super Mario series. Point, Mario.
Mario 4:0 Wario
The Future of Mario vs. Wario
If you’re looking at who has a brighter future between both Mario and Wario, there’s an undeniable winner.
Let’s take a look at Mario’s claim to the throne. His games continue to sell like hotcakes on the Nintendo Switch, giving gamers a reason to come back to Nintendo consoles time and time again. Meanwhile, his standalone movie just made over $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office, proving just how strong the name recognition is for Mario. Then there’s the upcoming Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which is the first side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. game in over a decade. The classic Mario formula just never got old for gamers, and there’s no doubt that he still has a bright future ahead of him.
And then you come to Wario. While his platforming series of games finished years ago, the WarioWare titles are still going strong. The most recent release was WarioWare: Get It Together!, which was a strong seller for Nintendo and received decent reviews from critics. It’s impressive that the character continues to cling to relevancy despite his lack of appearances in Super Mario games, but he’s still not the system-seller that Mario is.
Wario will likely pop up in a few Super Mario games here and there in years to come, but it’s difficult to deny that right now, Mario’s future looks considerably brighter than Wario’s. Game, set, and match go to Mario.
Mario 5:0 Wario
So there you have it: in the battle of Mario vs. Wario, Mario emerges victorious with ease. There’s no shame in this defeat though. Mario is one of the most iconic video game characters ever, and his popularity transcends the medium. It’s rare enough that a side character usurps the popularity of a protagonist, and it wasn’t to be here.