(2016 Comment: More video game ‘journalism’. I like games, so what? Wanna fight about it?)
Life is never easy as a sibling of someone famous. Destined never to be quite as popular or as iconic as their brother or sister, they often find themselves stuck as second fiddle despite having a starring role – “Famous Person’s brother or sister stars in…”. Sure, as siblings they can be successful too, but it’s just not the same.
Luigi finds himself twenty-seven years on as but one of many similar stories. Due to technical limitations of the time, Luigi started life as merely a palette swapped version of Mario in the original Mario Bros Arcade game from 1983. He was lucky to even have a name and occupation attached to him at this point. He, along with his already famous brother Mario, were stereotyped? designated Italian-American plumbers – hence the big green pipes in all their games.
Maybe it was just luck. Luck that Mario got a head-start and starring role kicking Donkey Kong’s ass in the aptly titled arcade hit “Donkey Kong” (though he was originally only known as carpenter “Jumpman” then). Luigi basically exists only because Mario needed a sidekick and off-sider for the two player mode in this initial game, and that he was named after the owner of a pizza parlour. A beginning somewhat similar to his more famous brother, named after an irritated landlord.
Immediately, poor Luigi was playing second fiddle. Always second to Mario. And that’s the role he kept until Super Mario Bros. rolled around a few years later in 1985. Just the fact they are referred to as the “Mario Bros” must be insulting. Why couldn’t it be the “Luigi Bros”? Couldn’t they be allowed to share the limelight together?
Despite being referred to as the “Mario Bros”, Luigi suddenly found himself omitted from the millions of Nintendo Entertainment System consoles sold. He was no where to be found on the box for the system, let alone on the game box or cart itself! Within a year Mario had been catapulted into stardom, and barely anyone knew about Luigi. “Oh you mean that green dude I always get when I play second player? I hate that guy.”
After a year of his older brother getting cockblocked repeatedly by Toad’s at the end of each castle, Luigi finally found himself in a supporting cast role in Super Mario Bros. 2. Amazing! He was physically placed next to Mario on the Character Select screen – on the same level horizontal level I suppose – and from then on Luigi was finally a character that had DIFFERENT attributes. Nevermind the fact that Super Mario Bros. 2 is actually a completely different Japanese game altered to feature the Mario characters and hence, the attributes weren’t even his to begin with (Google the game “Doki Doki Panic”). Finally he had a starring role!
To be honest, even I didn’t play Luigi over Mario in that game because I found him irritating to control. So once again, he was still second fiddle despite co-starring. Things would not get better for Luigi for some years yet. Though one trait was introduced in Mario 2 that stuck with Luigi – he is taller. Finally, some character development further than a straight palette swap.
The next ten years would prove to be full of developments for Luigi. Minor character change after minor character change.
In the late 90’s he would get a character voice (deeper than Mario’s), but still remained as a secondary character in the “Mario Bros” series. He would continue to play the supporting role in many other titles including Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World and even Mario Party; passing through through several iterations of Nintendo consoles and other games without a starring role on any of them. At least by this point they’d stopped bothering with the “Mario Bros” designation and allowed poor Luigi to sit in the backseat alone.
Finally… by the turn of the century, Nintendo remembered that Luigi does actually exist. He would finally get his very own game, with no Mario to be seen! This proved to be a real test for him. Could he survive and support a game all by himself without his more famous sibling co-starring? Luigi’s Mansion – a game in which he’s apparently won a mansion in a contest he did not enter – proved to be a run away success. Luigi, it turns out, just really hates ghosts! Finally, Luigi was a star on one of the least popular Nintendo consoles!.. thereby still making him an underdog. The poor bastard just couldn’t win!
Flash forward another ten years and he’s still the underdog, making “hidden” appearances in various Mario games and spin-offs. Looks like they could just never work out how to make him fully successful on his own. Then again, I feel there could be a more sinister force at work in his lack of success…