That means that I’m going to be taking a look at nearly every game that Wario has been in. There’ll be screenshots, info about the story, graphics, and gameplay, plus a cheeky fact here and there that you might not know about. There’ll be a peppering of my personal opinions, too, essentially making each section a mini-review of sorts.
I’m hoping that all of that combined will make for an interesting read. To warn you, it’s a very long read – 10053 words long to be precise – so you might want to save it until you’re comfortable and have a cup of tea at hand.
I said that we’ll be covering nearly every game that Wario has been in. In total, there’s 24 games here, with each of them having Wario in some kind of starring role. That means we’ll be covering basic stuff like Wario Land to the slightly more obscure, like Mario Picross 2.
The only games that I’m not covering are games that bring a whole bunch of Mario or Nintendo characters together. That’s stuff like Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros – Wario might appear in these titles, sure, but he’s hardly the main focus in any of them, really. Besides, I think the topic of the Mario spinoff is a worthy subject for another complete history in the future.
The release dates listed are for the first release of the game, which is usually in Japan, though you’ll be able to see the region next to the date itself, just in case you’re bothered for some reason.
As with anything that’s as long as this feature, there’s bound to be some mistakes along the way. I’ve scrutinised it as much as I possibly can. If there’s any mistakes or inaccuracies, though, you can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or moan at me over on Twitter.
With all of that said, let’s crack on. Our journey starts on the Game Boy, with a sequel to the popular Super Mario Land.
Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins
Release Date: October 21, 1992 (JP)
Platform: Game Boy
Anyone who’s familiar with the Mario Land series will tell you that Six Golden Coins is brilliant – and it is. It also happens to be Wario’s first appearance, appearing as the main antagonist in this game.
The game began development in November 1991, with director and designer Hiroji Kiyotake at the helm of the whole operation. From the start, he wanted to bust apart some conventional ideas about Mario games, namely that he wanted Mario to fight for something of his own, rather than for the sake of someone else.
Kiyotake decided that a new villain was in order, so he came up with Wario. His name was the first thing decided, derived from the Japanese word ‘warui’, meaning bad. After that, it was quickly decided that flipping the ‘M’ on Mario’s cap would be a good move, leading to Wario’s similar, but chunkier design.
Similar to the relationship imagined between Donkey Kong and Mario by Miyamoto, Kiyotake thought of Mario and Wario like Bluto and Popeye, like an arch-rival or a nemesis. Like Bluto, Wario is strong, burly, and motivated by his own greed.
With all of that in mind, then, the plot of Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins makes perfect sense. During his last adventure in Sarasaland, Wario has snuck into Mario’s castle and taken it over for his own nefarious uses,
Not only does Mario have his own castle for some reason, he also apparently has his own kingdom – the titular Mario Land. Wario’s put a mind control spell on the kingdom, enchanting the population into doing his bidding. Mario has to journey all over his own kingdom to collect all six golden coins so that he can regain access to his pad and stomp all over Wario.
Naturally, Wario is the last boss of the game, and it’s a pretty tricky fight. Wario will use both of Mario’s power-ups in the game against him, leading to a fight where Mario has to stomp on the dastardly doppelgangers head a whole nine times to defeat him.
After that, Wario is kicked out of Mario’s gaff, and that should’ve been the end of Wario. However, like a turd that won’t flush, his stench stuck around, and he became a permanent and prominent fixture in Mario lore.
Mario & Wario
Release Date: August 27, 1993 (JP)
While the title might imply that this one is about Mario and Wario getting over their differences and palling around in a platforming adventure, it isn’t. Released exclusively in Japan, it’s a puzzle platformer that requires the use of the Super Nintendo mouse, and Wario is anything but Mario’s pal.
Instead, Wario is up to his usual prickish antics. For whatever reason, Wario has decided that he’s going to drop a whole bunch of noise on top of Mario’s head, including buckets, vases, and barrels, meaning that the poor plumber doesn’t have a clue where he’s going. Which is inconvenient, because he just so happens to have lost track of his brother Luigi while they were raking through the woods looking for a forest sprite.
Naturally, this is where you come in. Playing as Wanda, the previously mentioned forest sprite, it’s your job to guide Mario through 100 levels of pure peril. Wanda herself is little more than a fancy mouse cursor, dragged around the screen by your fair hand. You can interact with stuff by clicking on it, clearing a path through the level so that poor blind Mario doesn’t fall down a pit. At the end of each level, you find Luigi, but he must just keep on getting lost, over and over, because, as I said – 100 levels.
In a nice touch, you can also play as Yoshi and Princess Peach, with each character navigating the level at slightly different speeds.
Why Mario can’t just remove whatever’s on his head himself is anyone’s guess. Probably because there wouldn’t have been a game about this otherwise. Honestly, I’ve never played this one, so I can’t really commentate.
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
Release Date: January 24, 1994 (JP)
Platform: Game Boy
After getting kicked out Mario’s pad in Six Golden Coins, Wario is still determined to get his hands on a castle. Now, though, he wants an even bigger one than Mario, purely so that he can rub his wealth in his rival’s face. In pursuit of cash, Wario dons a safari hat and heads to Kitchen Island, where the Brown Sugar Pirates have hidden an absolute ton of treasure that’ll make Wario a mint. Naturally, he faces resistance from the Brown Sugar Pirates and their leader, Captain Syrup, as well as the various flora and fauna of Kitchen Island itself.
Unlike a traditional Mario game, this one plays a bit different. Unlike Mario, Wario is quite heavy, his jumps having heft to them. Jumping on an enemy, despite Wario’s additional weight, doesn’t squash them either – instead, it stuns them, allowing you to pick them up and throw them around, or simply finish them off with Wario’s trademark shoulder charge. Unlike the more linear levels of the previous two games in the series, there’s optional treasures and cash to be found here, tucked away in every nook and cranny possible.
Cash is important, too, at least if you want the best ending possible. At the end of the game, you pile all of your funds, coins and treasure included, toward purchasing Wario the castle that he deserves. If you’ve collected enough, then you’ll get the grand castle that Wario is after. Collect too little, and you’ll only get a crappy birdhouse, which is what happened to me every time I beat this game as a kid.
Collect all of the treasure and max out your coin counter, and, well – spoilers for a game that’s over two decades old, but Wario gets an entire planet carved out in his visage. Personally, I’d prefer the castle.
Anyway, if you’re a retro fan, and you somehow haven’t played this one, you owe yourself to give it a bash. It’s classic platforming perfection.
Release Date: February 19, 1994 (JP)
Wario is back in the woods again, and, just like in Mario & Wario, he’s getting up to some mischief. His plan is a lot better this time, though. Rather than dropping buckets on Mario’s head, he’s instead decided to enslave the denizens of the Peaceful Woods so that he can assault the Mushroom Kingdom and have it for himself. Clearly, this one takes place in the timeline where Wario got the bird house, and he’s hella salty about it.
Mario must be on holiday, though, because he’s not involved in this one at all. Instead, Toad is the designated hero. There’s no platforming to be had here. Instead, it’s a fairly rudimentary match three puzzler, where you have to line up bombs and monsters of the same colour in order to clear what’s on screen, progressing through a series of levels before a final showdown with Wario himself. Once more, the forest sprite Wanda makes an appearance, assisting Toad by creating bombs, and even Birdo shows up at some points to cheer Toad along.
It was released on both the NES and the SNES. There’s not much difference between them in terms of gameplay, but obviously the music and graphics are better on the more advanced console. On top of that, there’s a whole bunch of levels and bosses that are exclusive to the SNES version, so, naturally, the SNES version is more comprehensive.
It was never particularly popular over here. At the time, GamePro called it a ‘ho-hum puzzler’, and Next Generation described the learning curve as far too steep and the rewards too little. For my money, while it ain’t no Tetris, it’s a perfectly serviceable little puzzler that’s at least better than say, Columns or something. However, while it didn’t find any popularity over here, it was plenty popular in Japan, to the point where two additional versions of it were released in 1995 on the Satellaview, the prehistoric Nintendo equivalent of Xbox Live.
The first was called Wario’s Woods: Burst of Laughter, and it replaced the enemies in the game with caricatures of the hosts from Japanese radio show Bakusho, whom you’ll probably only know of if you were either in Japan at the time, or, you know, you’re obsessed with the place.
The second, appropriately entitled Wario’s Woods: Again, ultimately changed very little of the core experience. Both versions were extremely popular on the Satellaview, and remained available to download until the service closed in the summer of 2000.
Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman!
Release Date: November, 1994 (NA)
Platform: Game Boy
Wario Blast is a reshell of the Japan only Bomberman GB for North American and European audiences. Nintendo decided make it a crossover game in order to increase sales. While Bomberman was a popular enough bloke in the West at the time, Nintendo probably figured that it wouldn’t hurt to slap Wario in it, since the guy obviously loves bombs.
The plot is simple, and one that you’ve pretty much heard, er … four times by now. Wario somehow stumbles upon Bomberman’s dimension, and decides that he wants to rob the fuck out of it. Bomberman has to try and stop him. Yeah, that’s it.
You can either play as Wario or Bomberman across a whole bunch of levels, blowing stuff up. It’s portable Bomberman, you know?
Plug it into a Super Game Boy and you can even play it with a mate, presumably with one of you as Wario and the other as Bomberman. Due to some shonky graphics, though, it’s easily the worst of the three Bomberman games released on Game Boy. Flip side? It’s also the only one with Wario in. Easy come, easy go.
Virtual Boy Wario Land
Release Date: November 27, 1995 (NA)
Platform: Virtual Boy
Wario’s appearance on the ill-fated Virtual Boy is probably the best title on the whole system, really. Returning back to his platforming roots, Wario has to stomp, smash, and charge his way through another collection of treasure filled levels.
This time, Wario is on holiday in the jungle, when he spots some natives carrying some treasure around. Naturally, the greedy bastard is on the case immediately, but he ends up getting tricked into falling into an underground labyrinth.
Since it’s on the Virtual Boy, it makes good use of the 3D effects that the system can create, with Wario and his enemies able to leap between the foreground and background, adding a literal sense of depth to the game. Other than that, it’s apparently pretty much identical to Wario Land. Which is no bad thing.
I’ve never been fortunate enough to play it on an actual Virtual Boy, or indeed, at all, so I can’t personally speak for it, but critics praised it at the time.
Mario’s Picross 2
Release Date: October 19, 1996 (JP)
Platform: Game Boy
Practically every puzzle fan knows what Picross is. If you don’t, it’s a little bit like Sudoku, but not really. Guided by numbers on the side, you have to fill in a certain amount of squares on a grid to create a pixel art picture. It’s great fun.
Released only in Japan, not only could you participate in Mario’s Picross, but Wario’s Picross, too. In Wario’s Picross, the game doesn’t notify you of mistakes that you’ve made while playing, essentially making it a hard mode. For once though, at least, Wario isn’t up to anything bastardly like stealing all of the numbers or punching kittens in the face. Weirdly enough, though, he is still wearing that safari hat. Not sure what the deal is with that.
Like Virtual Boy Wario Land, I’ve never actually played it, so I can’t speak for it’s quality. Going forward, though, I’ve played and finished the rest of the games on the list, so expect some opinions.
Wario Land II
Release Date: October 21, 1998 (JP)
Platform: Game Boy/Game Boy Color
After a hectic few years of appearing in platformer and puzzler alike, Wario took a two year break, coming back stronger than ever. Ditching both the safari hat and the ability to die, the second game in the Wario Land series is more of a puzzle platformer game than anything else. And it’s an excellent one at that.
The game begins with Wario chilling in his castle, having a nice little nap. While he’s slumbering away, the Brown Sugar Pirates flood Wario’s pad and nick all of his treasure, including his precious pet hen. Wario, naturally, kicks up a massive stink and takes chase, determined to reclaim his treasure from the fiends.
Gone are the floating blocks and the power-ups, though. They’ve been replaced by transformations. When Wario bumps into an enemy, one of two things will happen – the first, and most mundane, is that the enemy will simply stun Wario, knocking him back slightly. As I said previously, though, there’s no death, so therefore no health – you can get stunned at much as you want with little repercussion.
The second, and more exciting thing that can happen, is that the enemy will make Wario transform in some way. For example, one enemy might set Wario on fire, meaning that he can run through blocks of ice and the like, clearing a path through them. Another enemy might flatten Wario, turning him into a pancake that can wriggle under narrow gaps. Another enemy might sting Wario, making him swell up and float upwards like a blimp.
This makes for a great game where you aren’t threatened by enemies or the environment around you. The game instead allows you to explore and experiment and make your way through the cleverly designed levels without having to worry about starting all over again, or whatever. The realisation that you aren’t going to die by touching an enemy too many times is liberating to say the least, and, aside from it’s sequel, I can’t really think of a platformer like it.
Even better, the game has multiple paths through the levels, and, as a result, multiple endings that sometimes involve Wario failing at his objective entirely. There’s also a super secret bonus ending and final world if you fulfil the right conditions, meaning that there’s plenty of replay value here. If you’ve never played it, then play it. Simple.
Wario Land 3
Release Date: March 21, 2000 (JP)
Platform: Game Boy Color
Wario Land 3 takes the concepts introduced in Wario Land II and improves on them in every way, making for the best title in the series, at least in my opinion. We’re back with another deathless platform puzzler lark, but there are additional layers of depth that make for a longer and more satisfying experience that’s more about exploration than ever. One fan site calls it civilisation’s greatest achievement. Now there’s some hyperbole that I can behind.
Once more, Wario’s quest is motivated by greed, but it’s at least a little more noble this time. After crashing his plane in a forest, he stumbles upon a cave containing a mysterious music box. Picking it up, he gets sucked inside, finding a mysterious figure who tells him that he used to rule over the world within the music box, until his powers were sealed away within five other music boxes. Promising Wario all the treasure that he can fill his boots with if he retrieves the five boxes for him, Wario naturally accepts and sets off on a new adventure.
And what an adventure it is. It’s set across multiple stages, though you don’t progress through them in a linear order. Each stage, 24 of them in total, has four treasure chests, and collecting one of them will reward you with an item. These items will either unlock another stage, alter something in a previous stage, or give Wario an ability. From the start, you’ll notice that Wario has been stripped of the majority of his built in abilities – his shoulder bash is weaker, he’s no longer able to smash blocks with his head, and he’s even had the ability to swim taken from him. As you progress through the game, ala Metroid, Wario will regain all of this powers and then some. On top of all of that, all of the abilities that you can get from certain enemies hitting you are back, and there are even a few new ones.
This multi-tiered progression through stages means that, yes, this is a Metroidvania puzzle platformer, and yes, it’s bloody amazing. The game handily tells you when it’s time to return to a stage to find another treasure chest, meaning that you’ll rarely get lost wondering what to do next. The music is wonderfully catchy, particularly the world map theme, and the graphics are some of the best that the Game Boy Color has to offer. I said it about Wario Land II, and the same applies here – pick it up. It’s worth both your time and your money.
Oh – and spoilers for a game that’s nearly two decades old – the mysterious figure who sends you on your quest is actually a properly evil bastard called Rudy the Clown. This is important for the next game.
Dr. Mario 64
Release Date: April 9 2001 (NA)
Platform: Nintendo 64 (NA) / GameCube (JP)
Wario, after two cracking platformer outings, decides to dip his toes back into the puzzle genre. He’s not taking any chances, either – forget Wario’s Woods and Mario’s Picross, he’s going all in by taking a starring role in a Dr. Mario game, baby.
It’s flu season in the Mushroom Kingdom, and Wario decides to help Dr. Mario out by handing out leaflets about the benefits of vaccination, therefore easing what would’ve been a huge workload for the good Doctor.
Just kidding. Wario tries to nick all of Dr. Mario’s valuable Megavitamins. However, super bastard Rudy the Clown, the villain from Wario Land 3, beats him to it with the help of Mad Scienstein, also from Wario Land 3. Dr. Mario and Wario naturally give chase, both of them desperate to get to the pills before the other one does.
It’s a sweet little game, and of course it is – it’s a Dr. Mario game. I’ve sung praises for the series on this website before, so I won’t bore you with the same ol’ dreary tune. The game’s campaign is fairly short, but you can choose to play as either Dr. Mario or Wario, with both of them having slightly different paths through the game, adding a bit of replay value. Plus, the cutscenes are really cute, having a Paper Mario sort-of pop-up book feel to them.
Besides – everyone who’s played Dr. Mario can tell you that the multiplayer is where it’s at, and this one definitely delivers. It’s competitive virus busting at it’s finest, with the game supporting up to four players.
Throughout, you’ll run into enemies that are exclusively from Wario Land 3, meaning there’s not a Goomba or a Koopa or a Bowser in sight. It’s odd that it draws so much from Wario and so little from Mario, but I’m not going to complain – there’s more than enough Koopas to go around, after all. As of the time of writing, and likely forever, this was the last appearance of Rudy the Clown and the rest of the Wario Land 3 crew.
May they rest in peace.
Wario Land 4
Release Date: August 21 2001 (JP)
Platform: Game Boy Advance
After a brief spurt of throwing pills around, Wario decides that he’s pretty much done with the puzzle game lark, and returns to his platforming roots in Wario Land 4.
The set up is familiar by now. Reading the paper one day, Wario finds out about a mysterious pyramid loaded with treasure. Jumping into his car, the greedy prick immediately sets off, moneybags on the mind as per usual. Naturally, when he’s there, he finds a whole bunch of levels to progress through and a host of optional treasures to collect, just like the past games in the series.
What follows, however, is a more traditional platforming affair than Wario Land 3. The life bar is back and the Metroidvania-like upgrades have vanished entirely. However, the various abilities that you get from letting certain enemies hit you remain, and the game retains some of the non-linearity found in the previous game in the series, since you can progress through the games worlds in whatever order you’d like. In other words, it’s like a mix of Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land and Wario Land 3, and as a result, the game is a bit mixed when it comes to my thoughts on it, too.
Let’s start with the positives. As you can see, the game looks great, and it sounds even better, toting one of the best soundtracks that the Game Boy Advance has on offer. The levels are all designed well, and they’re not exactly linear – you can tackle the four worlds on offer in any order that you like, with all of them full of optional collectibles that influence the games ending, depending on how many you collect. The controls are tight and responsive too.
So what could be bad about it? The crux of the games problems lie entirely within the reintroduction of the life bar, and what effect that has on the rich exploration that the series offers. Because you can only take a finite amount of hits, surviving the level takes precedent over examining every nook and cranny in search for goodies. While there are plenty of goodies to be found, obtaining them is a whole lot less satisfying when you could flub up and die at any given moment. Death in this game is punishing – not only do you lose all progress you’ve made in the level, but you lose all treasure found within it, too.
This issue is further compounded by a time limit that’s thrown up at the mid-point of every level. I’ll try to explain. Wario jumps into every level via a portal, which closes behind him at the beginning of the level. To reopen the portal and escape with the treasure you need to progress, you have to hit something called a Frog Switch. The Frog Switch handily reopens the portal, but it also gives you a fairly strict time limit in which to escape.
This is simple enough when the level remains unaltered, because all you need to do is retrace your steps back to the beginning of the level. However, as the game progresses, your escape route becomes more and more complicated. This can range from simple stuff like one door closing for another to open, forcing you to alter your route entirely, to the more complex, like a fiery level’s boiling magma suddenly becoming frozen over. The more complicated changes can easily lead to you getting stuck on a new bit of the level, or worse, getting lost entirely.
This would be fine, if failing the timer simply meant journeying back to the Frog Switch and pressing it again – but no. Instead, it’s the same as dying – all treasure and progress through the level is lost, meaning that if you had spent thirty minutes or more collecting everything a level has to offer, well – prepare to spend that time again.
It might seem like an unfair complaint because a lot of games suffer with the issue of wasting the player’s time via unfair punishment. It’s just somewhat irking to see it in a series that had, for the most part, transcended this issue. As a result, Wario Land 4 is absolutely worth a play thanks to it’s fantastic music and level design, but I can’t recommend it as strongly as the past two games in the Wario Land series.
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames
Release Date: March 21, 2003 (JP)
Platform: Game Boy Advance
This is the beginning of something strange and magical. We’ve always known that Wario is a weirdo – but this game pushes that even further, as Wario creates a whole new genre this time around – the microgame collection.
This one has it’s origins in a strange place. Mario Artist: Polygon Studio, a game exclusive to the Nintendo 64DD in Japan, had a mode called ‘Sound Bomber’, which was basically WarioWare Lite. Eight microgames were all thrown at you in quick succession, one after the other, exactly like this series – to the point where six of them are actually adapted for Mega Microgames.
The game was developed in secret at Nintendo R&D1, which is honestly amazing. Literal secret – the developers were hiding the game’s existence from their manager, even. They used Wario because he seemed like the only character that’d work – as they so eloquently put it, he’s “always doing stupid things”, and is “really idiotic.” Don’t let him hear you say that, lads.
Anyway. In the end, they showed it to their manager, and their manager was convinced by it, ultimately approving the development of it. Thus, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames was made and unleashed upon the unwitting world.
Wario, equipped with a snazzy new biker outfit, is laid on his couch watching television. Suddenly, there’s a breaking news announcement – and for once, it’s not about treasure, or at least, not the literal kind. Instead, it’s about Pyoro, the hottest new video game, and how it’s such a smash hit that people are lining up around the store to buy it.
You can guess what happens next – Wario decides that he’s going to make a video game and, by proxy, a fuck ton of cash. However, since Wario is a lazy bastard, he quickly loses the will to do it by himself, and resorts to conning his friends into doing it. Friends that, before 2003, we’d never even heard of. Yeah – he doesn’t bother calling Waluigi, for some reason. Maybe Waluigi is just crap with computers.
Anyway – what follows is a collection of over 200 microgames, spread over eleven stages, all penned by Wario and his new mates. These microgames come in bite-sized chunks of no more than 15 seconds, with the exception of boss levels. In each level, you’ll have to complete between ten and twenty microgames, and then beat a slightly longer boss stage to progress to the next level. Don’t think that there’s any break between them, though – they come at you, rapid fire, giving you only a second or two to get your bearings.
Each level is made by a specific character – and it shows. The microgames on offer within each level all adhere to a specific style. For example, gaming nut 9-Volt’s stage is based entirely around classic NES games, meaning that you’ll have to say, guide Link into a cave, or stomp on a Goomba as Mario. Another character is mad scientist Dr. Crygor, who’s microgames all fall into a genre simply entitled ‘weird’. These all take images from real life, often looking like strange bits of claymation animation.
I’ve banged on about the WarioWare series about five times already on this website – so I won’t inundate you with it any more than I already have. The first game is particularly amazing, though, and I thoroughly recommend it to literally anyone.
WarioWare marked a new age for Nintendo’s greedy plumber, as you’ll see when we take a look at the next few games. It’s both a blessing – because WarioWare as a series is really good – but it’s also a curse, because I miss seeing Wario jump around on platforms and make a nuisance out of himself. Fortunately, though, there’s still some platforming left.
Release Date: June 20, 2003 (EU)
Platform: Nintendo GameCube
Before we fully board the WarioWare train, though, here’s Wario’s first (and only) fully 3D title, made by none other than game developing legends Treasure. An appropriate company for a Wario title, really.
The game begins with our arsey anti-hero sat around in a brand new and recently constructed castle, packed to the brim with all of the loot that he’s pilfered over the years. Unfortunately, a sentient and very evil black jewel rests within Wario’s treasure. On the night of the red moon, it comes alive, turning all of Wario’s treasures into monsters and creating a new world for them to reside in. Naturally, Wario ain’t gonna take that shit lying down. He’s on the case immediately, and, as he puts it himself in the game’s instruction manual…
“Somehow, someway, I’m gonna take back every last treasure it stole from me! Then I’ll smack that thing 100 times!! AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!”
And, naturally, it’s your job to help him do just that. There are four worlds for you to bust through, and they’re all, as mentioned, three dimensional. Don’t think along the lines of Super Mario Sunshine, though. It’s what’s know as ‘quasi-3D’, that sort of game where the level has depth that you can run around, yet it still feels like you’re playing a 3D game. It definitely feels like a natural successor to Wario Land 4.
It’s a decent game. The controls are nice and responsive, the platforming is spot on, and the combat is delightfully brutal, with Wario swinging his enemies around and smashing their heads into the floor, just like the big lad should. Interesting little tidbit – the majority of Wario’s moves in Super Smash Bros have been lifted from this game, so just imagine that if you’re struggling. Enemies that hit you don’t give you abilities, and there’s no upgrades or anything to be found like in Wario Land 3, but the staple of optional treasure returns, once more effecting the ending of the game depending on how much you collect.
That ending does come fairly quickly, though. You can easily beat this game on a rainy day, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort, either. Even if you’re going for 100% completion, the game is less than ten hours long, and can be beaten in less than that if you know what you’re doing. Not only that, but it’s easy – really easy – and the lack of difficulty makes it tough to engage with it fully.
IGN’s Matt Casamassina put it best – “the game is fine, but not as fine as a Mario game”.
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game
Release Date: October 17, 2003 (JP)
Platform: Nintendo GameCube
Since this is the third Wario game in a year, I guess you could call 2003 ‘the year of Wario’.
Mega Partygames, though, rather than anything new, is a GameCube port of WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames, bedizened with eight new multiplayer modes so that you can enjoy the already popular microgames with your mates.
Why the quick turnaround? Well, WarioWare had proven itself to be popular, both in Japan and internationally. Satoru Iwata, bless his soul, wanted it on the languishing GameCube as fast as possible. Thanks to Taku Sugioka, a talented programmer from Intelligent Systems, the game found it’s way onto store shelves a mere six months later.
The single player elements are thin on the ground, but it’s not like you can have a party by yourself, so to get the most fun out of this one, you need between one and three friends, family, or prisoners.
Aside from one or two weak links, the multiplayer is great fun. The modes range from the basic ‘beat more microgames than your mates’ to the bizarre, like having to beat a microgame while following an order from a shady looking doctor, such as screaming as loud as possible, confessing a dirty secret, or putting a finger up your bum.
Alright, fingering your arse is an embellishment, but it’s not that far off what the game expects from you in that mode.
I played this game a lot as a teenager, and I revisited it with some old mates about a year or so back. It held up pretty well, and we had a good evening playing it. GameCube games are hard to get ahold of these days, but if you’re after multiplayer games, this is probably your best bet after Mario Party and Mario Kart.
Release Date: October 14, 2004 (JP)
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Wario returns with more microgames, except there’s a twist (ha) this time. A literal twist. To play these microgames, you’re gonna have to tilt your Game Boy Advance around in your hands to control what’s happening on screen. How does it do that? Well, inside of it’s game cartridge, there’s a wee little gyroscope that keeps track of where your hands are and what they’re doing. As an added bonus, they tossed in a little vibration doodad too, which makes the console click like a rotary telephone when you turn it.
I can’t help but wonder if this game was one of the factors that inspired Nintendo to straight up just pack a gyroscope into the 3DS line. Regardless, here’s a picture of the cart.
Chunky little bugger, isn’t it?
The plot isn’t dissimilar to the original game, and why would it be? One day at home, Wario is playing his Game Boy Advance when he gets right royally pissed off at the thing, throwing it against a wall and breaking it. Rather than just buying a new one, he takes it over to his mate from the last game, Dr. Crygor. Crygor, being a bit of a mad bastard, decides that he’s instead going to whack Wario’s Game Boy into a mental new invention of his. Said invention spits out about a million buttonless, motion controlled handhelds. Wario obviously decides he’s going to make a mint out of them.
There’s another two hundred microgames that follow, and – I’m not comfortable in discussing how fun they are, really. I can’t offer a fair opinion on this one because I’ve never played it on the actual handheld itself, only via emulator. Why, do you ask? It was never released in Europe. Here’s a little history lesson about that, since I can’t talk about the game proper.
The initial rumour was that it wasn’t released because the gyroscope inside the cart had mercury in it. I believed this for years, until I recently looked it up. Turns out that’s a load of bollocks. The actual reason has never been disclosed. It’s definitely not because of mercury – the game uses a piezoelectric gyroscope, which is completely absent of any nasty element of any kind. The game was continually delayed, time after time, slipping from a 2005 release, to a 2006 release, to a 2008 release, to a never release. Why? We’ll probably never know. The last that we heard about it was the game was going through LGA testing in Europe, and we never heard anything about it afterwards. So – probably something to do with that.
I’m incredibly sad I never got to play it. I’m sure it’s great. People reviewed it very highly at the time. Oh, well. Let’s move on, eh?
Super Mario 64 DS
Release Date: November 21, 2004 (NA)
Platform: Nintendo DS
I said that Wario World was the only 3D Wario game. I might’ve lied. A bit.
Super Mario 64 DS was a launch title for the massively successful Nintendo DS. A remake of Mario’s first three dimensional platforming adventure, it added a whole bunch of content to an already great game, the most notable of which was the addition of extra characters. You can guess who one of ’em was – Wario.
Unfortunately, he’s probably the worst character in the game. Slow, crap at jumping, and generally just clunky, the game hardly pays a decent tribute to our favourite bastard.
The only thing he’s good at is smashing, which is appropriate, at the very least. That’s about the only appropriate thing, though. Can you do the shoulder charge, though? Can you fuck. Can you pick up enemies and throw ’em? Can you fuck. Is Wario here for some treasure? Is he fuck – as far as I can tell, he’s just here for the sake of it. Maybe he was feeling charitable, or he just wanted some cake, but I can’t see Wario wanting to hang out with the likes of Mario and Luigi for the sake of some cake. Maybe I just don’t know the guy as well as I thought.
As a side note, you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a decent screenshot for this game. Maybe I should invest in a capture card. Then again, that’d cost money.
Maybe I should steal a capture card.
Anyway – if you ask me – the original is a better game. A thoroughly mediocre Wario can’t save the experience, and all of the extra content, for the most part, just feels like bloat. It feels like the fifth director’s cut of A New Hope – flabby, valueless, and worst of all, pointless. Stick with the first cut – you might be able to see a few strings holding up the Death Star, but it’s infinitely more wholesome.
Release Date: December 2, 2004 (JP)
Platform: Nintendo DS
With the Nintendo DS came a new method of control – touch – and you had better believe that WarioWare was going to grab that bull by the horns and make the most of it.
This one was developed in about five months, alongside WarioWare: Twisted. After seeing the Nintendo DS, the WarioWare team realised that it was a perfect fit. However, the veteran staff were working on Twisted, so a new team was assigned to Touched. The new team, naturally, had a problem grasping Wario’s weirdness, so the old team hopped on board pretty sharpish to tune things up.
Do I even need to tell you what the plot is? Oh, go on then. Walking down the street after nicking someone’s Game Boy Advance, the daft prick accidentally drops it down a manhole. Moments later, a mysterious guru pops up from said manhole, holding onto Wario’s stolen Game Boy Advance, as well as a brand new Nintendo DS. After a scuffle, Wario nicks the DS, thinks that it’s wank until he figures out that it has a stylus, and then realises that he can make a shit ton of money. He calls all of his mates from the last few games, plus a few new faces, to make some games for him. Wario profits, and ultimately tries to rip them off in the end so that he gets all of the bank. Sound familiar? That’s because it is.
What also might be familiar at this point is that there are just over 200 microgames on offer, all played by either using the touch screen, hence the title, or using the microphone, not in the title. As usual, they’re all bite-sized little pieces of weirdness. My favourite game in this collection is one where you have to unroll a whole roll of toilet paper, swiping down on the touch screen until there’s nothing left but a flimsy cardboard tube. Simple, but oh so satisfying.
It’s not without it’s problems, though. It’s a short game. Shorter than the first one, even. And the trouble with the weirdness at the beginning of development shows – a fair few of the microgames are quite bland and, well, overly normal. There’s less surprises here, put it that way.
Is it worth a go, though? Of course it is. It’s solid, and it’s still fun to bust up your high scores like it was in the first game. You can easily find this one on the Wii U Virtual Console, if you feel like parting with a few of your quids. While I’d struggle to recommend it at it’s original, full retail pricing, at Virtual Console prices, it’s a nice treat.
WarioWare Smooth Moves
Release Date: December 2, 2006 (JP)
The microgame train is fully in motion now, furiously shooting down a track toward the Nintendo Wii. It makes sense – the Wiimote is a perfect fit for WarioWare, and lead director Goro Abe knew it the moment he laid eyes on the innovative controller.
For once, though, the plot isn’t about Wario wanting to make a bunch of games for mad profit. Instead, each character’s chapter tells their own story. It’s a bit weird that a Wario game doesn’t revolve around Wario either wanting to fill his pockets or steal something, but there you go.
It’s not like the story ever mattered much, anyway – it’s always been about the games, and there’s two hundred crackers here, using the Wiimote in a variety of clever and creative ways. There’s a variety of forms, with each one requiring you to hold the Wiimote in a different way in order to complete a microgame.
For example, the most basic form is called ‘The Remote Control’, where you hold the Wiimote by itself, pointing it at the screen like you’re just about to change the channel. These quickly get weird, though. To name a few, ‘The Discard’ makes you place the Wiimote down on a flat surface, only to pick it up when prompted. Another is ‘The Dumbbell’, where you have to hold the Wiimote like, yup, a dumbbell. Perhaps the strangest of all, though, is ‘The Elephant’, where you have to press the Wiimote against your nose, simulating an elephant’s trunk.
Only in WarioWare: Smooth Moves could these things happen.
Unfortunately, the sheer amount of forms (eighteen in total) means that things can get a bit too hectic, since you’ll often have to switch between forms upon a microgame change. This means that you get about three seconds – at best – to get the Wiimote into the right position. If you haven’t done it time, your frantic fumbling can make it so that you lose the microgame before you’ve even started it properly.
It’s a decent game, but it’s the one in the series that I put the least time into, not counting Twisted, unplayable to me. Perhaps it was simply fatigue for the series on my part, perhaps it was because it was on a home console. Either way, I definitely didn’t get my money’s worth at the time, and I never particularly connected with it.
Lots of people did, though – this game is always talked about fondly, and for a lot of people, I think it’s what brought them into the WarioWare circle.
Maybe if I had a thing called friends around the time of release, I’d have enjoyed it, considering that it’s multiplayer is supposed to be where it’s at.
Fun fact – this game had different box art for every region it was released in.
Wario: Master of Disguise
Release Date: January 18, 2007 (JP)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Remember when I said that I missed Wario platformers? Well, this is the first Wario platformer in six years. You could’ve said that I was excited about this one, even if the life meter was unfortunately returning once again.
Developed out of house by Suzak, the game is once more about Wario chasing some cash. Flicking through the channels one day, he comes across a show about this master thief called Silver Zephyr, who’s, aha, a master of disguise. Because that’s what the games called, innit?
Jealous, Wario knocks up an incredible invention in no time at all – the Telmet. With the Telmet, Wario enters the television, nicks the Silver Zephyr’s disguise wand, and then promptly fucks off to nick some treasure.
The disguise wand is a core gameplay element. Over the course of the game, you gradually unlock seven different outfits for Wario that alter his abilities significantly.
These are all performed on the touch screen. For example, drawing a circle around Wario’s head transforms him into Cosmic Wario, who can fire laser beams and jump higher. Drawing a tail on him transforms him into Dragon Wario, who can breathe fire. So on, so forth.
These costumes are also upgradable, gaining extra effects as you progress through the game.
In a way, the game feels more puzzler than platformer. Each level, or ‘episode’, is more like a underground maze than an open platforming level. It’s a series of rooms with a puzzle for you to solve with your various abilities, akin to Metroid, sort of.
Unfortunately, the game is average in every department, and it feels extremely unpolished. The graphics, music, and most importantly, the gameplay, are lacklustre to say the least, and the game can often feel quite clunky.
The worst offense is just how shoddy the touchscreen can be. I mentioned drawing symbols before to change costume, and while that’s a nice idea in theory, believe me, it doesn’t work in practice. Often, nothing will happen, or worse, you change into a form that you don’t want. This is the last thing that you want, especially since you have to change into these forms quickly.
Combine this with repetitive, recycled puzzles and assets, and you’ve got something that just isn’t all that fun to play.
Wario Land: Shake It!
Release Date: July 24, 2008 (JP)
Fortunately, despite Master of Disguise being a bit of a mess, a superior Wario platformer rolled along only a year later, this time for the Wii. Developed by Good-Feel, Wario Land: Shake It is a definite return to form for the Wario Land series.
In a series of wonderfully animated cutscenes, the game begins with Wario receiving a package in the mail from series baddie Captain Syrup. Inside of the package is a globe that contains a portal to the Shake Dimension, which happens to be turmoil because some bastard called the Shake King turned up and deposed benevolent ruler Queen Merelda. A Merfle, one of the friendly inhabitants of the Shake Dimension, begs Wario to come along and help.
Of course, Wario’s absolutely not bothered about having anything to do with the place until he learns that a bottomless sack of coin is up for grabs. After that, he’s on the case, charging through the five different continents of the Shake Dimension and bashing through multiple levels along on the way.
The game looks stunning. Everything in it is hand-drawn, from the characters down to the levels themselves. The bosses are a particularly highlight, enormous monsters drawn in the unique angular style that you see through the game. It’s like playing through one big, enormous Wario cartoon, which is brilliant to say the least.
In terms of gameplay, it’s very much back to basics after Master of Disguise, playing much like an expanded, friendly version of Wario Land 4, tapping back into the old-school and refining it rather than trying to create something entirely new.
Holding the Wiimote on it’s side, you use the d-pad and A button to move and jump around. There’s also motion controls thrown into the bag, hence the title of the game. There’s an awful lot of shaking involved in this game, and you’ll have to do a fair few specific motions to pull off some essential moves. Fortunately, it’s easy to consistently pull a move off, though the motion controls do feel a bit tacked on and excessive at times.
There’s a wide variety of gameplay types on offer, though, and the game is constantly throwing surprises at you. For example, there’s levels where you have to pilot a submarine, where the game turns into a side-scrolling shooter, the nautical equivalent of say, Galaga. On top of that, there’s a whole bunch of things for you to bounce, balance, swing, and charge off of.
Like in Wario Land 4, you have to race back to the beginning of the level when you get to the end, which is still an almighty nuisance. Fortunately, the timers are more lenient, and the game is easier on the whole, meaning that total failure happens a lot less than it does in Wario Land 4.
The game is a bit short due to it’s lack of difficulty, but the length is supplemented by the addition of optional challenges in each level, like beating the level in a certain amount of time, or beating it without entering any water. On top of optional treasures, these can easily double the ten or so hours that you’ll spend beating the base game.
Overall, Shake It is a competent Wario platformer, and much better than the disappointing Master of Disguise. Unfortunately, it sold like absolute garbage, both in Japan and overseas, which is probably why they haven’t made another Wario Land for 10 years now.
Release Date: December 24, 2008 (JP)
Platform: Nintendo DSi
With the launch of the DSi, the WarioWare team decided that the camera included on the console would make for a good fit for a new collection of microgames.
Sadly, the microgames on offer here are lacklustre, both in quality and quantity. There’s only 20 of them rather than the usual 200, a mere tenth of the usual roster of wackiness. The game did come at a budget price, though, launching on the DSi e-shop, rather than having any kind of physical release.
Even at a lower price, though, the twenty minutes of gameplay that’s on offer is a bit of a poor show. As I mentioned, the game uses the camera on the front of the DSi, meaning that the came is constantly capturing your face. Unfortunately, due to the power of the console, it’s not able to render your face properly, instead resorting to making you look like a vague silhouette, as you can see in the screenshot above.
As a vague silhouette, your tasked with a variety of rapid fire tasks, such as collecting coins by hitting them with your hands, catching a hat on your head, or pick an on-screen nose with two of your fingers.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t work very well in high light or in low light situations, meaning that you have to find a Goldilocks Zone of perfect lighting, otherwise the game desyncs and doesn’t work properly, leading to annoying pauses in gameplay, or worse, just the complete and total failure of a microgame.
The game was mired in difficulty during development, though, which probably explains the lack of the usual quality. Nintendo really struggled with getting the DSi camera to work in the first place, which is why everything is a silhouette, rather than a proper real-time capture. The DSi, despite being shiny and new, struggled with the task of both rendering a detailed image and processing what it was doing.
The silhouettes, then, are born of compromise, and like most things born of compromise, it leads to a shoddier result on the whole. Currently, there’s nowhere that you can pick this title up, since the DSi e-shop has long been closed now. Don’t worry, though, you’re really not missing out on anything. You’d probably have more fun chucking the money that this game costs down a drain than you would actually playing it.
Release Date: April 29, 2009
Platform: Nintendo DS
Before Mario Maker, there was WarioWare D.I.Y., a fairly robust toolkit that allowed players to create their own microgames for the first time ever. And unlike WarioWare: Snapped, this one isn’t a disappointment.
It was first conceived in 2003, around the time that the first WarioWare game came out. Unfortunately, making stuff on the Game Boy Advance was a bit of an arsehole, so series developer Goro Abe put it on the backburner until he saw the majesty of the Nintendo DS. With the touch screen being a perfect fit for making microgames, he eventually set about making the game that he’d thought of six years prior.
In this game, series regular Dr. Crygor invents the Super Makermatic 21 after having a bit of a dodgy nightmare, a device which allows for the easy creation of microgames. Wario catches wind of it, and figures that he can use it to make a fortune. Since none of his mates are keen to get conned again, Wario has no choice but to scam the player into making games for him instead.
The creation toolkit is robust and has room for a ton of personal customisation. Before you’ve even put your microgame together, you’re able to create not only custom graphics, but custom music and cartridge art as well.
When it comes to putting a microgame together, stuff is kept fairly simple, yet there’s plenty of room for an expert to create something a bit more unusual. Of course, don’t expect to be able to make a deep RPG or anything – it is a toolkit for creating microgames, which have always been anything but complicated.
On top of the creation tools, there’s also a shorter campaign to work through, which features just less than 100 microgames. These are mostly included so that players can get to grips with how a microgame should be put together, and they can all be edited in-game so that a player can see how they tick and attempt to replicate it in their own work.
When you’re done, you can send them over to a mate, or even upload them onto your Wii to play on a big screen, as well as to the internet in general. You can also download custom levels that Nintendo have selected, and there were even contests held from time to time where players were tasked with creating a specific genre of microgame, with the best ones being selected and released in a special pack by Nintendo.
However, all of the multiplayer features are held up by the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, a service which closed several years back, so if you pick it up these days, don’t expect any kind of online connectivity. For that reason alone, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, but if you can somehow time travel back to 2009 and pick up a copy that you can use online, I’d encourage you to go ahead and eat your heart out.
Game & Wario
Release Date: March 28, 2013 (JP)
Platform: Wii U
Described as a successor to the WarioWare series, Game & Wario is a collection of mini games for the Wii U. That’s right, mini games – not microgames.
It’s the same ol’ story – watching the television as usual, Wario comes across an advertisement for a new console that looks suspiciously like the Wii U. As usual, Wario realises that he can make a mint, and also as usual, he ropes a bunch of people into making games for him.
While the same cast of characters return, the experience on offer here is very different. There’s twelve mini-games on offer, all of them utilizing the Wii U Game Pad in various different ways, and they’re far more involved than your average microgame. Unfortunately, the majority of them are garbage.
For the most part, they’ll task you with doing relatively mundane stuff. For example, witch Ashley’s mini game tasks you with flying around a simple maze on a broomstick, collecting sweets and dodging obstacles. Thrilling stuff, right?
The worst offender, though, is Dr. Crygor’s offering, where you have to draw shapes as close to a certain length as possible in order to build a robot. Which you don’t even get to do anything with. Yeah, you’re just drawing shapes.
There are one or two decent ones, but nothing that’s worthy of the asking price. The best in the collection is the game by Nintendo nut 9-Volt, which involves playing actual microgames. After dark, 9-Volt is trying to sneak in some extra gaming time, though his Mum is on the prowl. You both have to keep an eye out for her, pausing the game where necessary, whilst completing as many microgames as possible and ensuring that the plucky gamer doesn’t fall asleep.
I’m definitely not a fan of it. As a matter of fact, I borderline hate it – I’m holding back my bile
because I don’t want to descend into a rant about how fucking dreadfully shite this game is. A successor to WarioWare it is not.
Release Date: July 27, 2018 (EU)
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
It was a long time coming, but finally, here’s the WarioWare game for the Nintendo 3DS. It’s been nearly a decade since WarioWare D.I.Y., and over a decade since the last proper microgame collection, WarioWare: Smooth Moves. In other words, it’s about bloody time.
I’ve already written about my thoughts and feelings for it in a review over here, so I’m going to keep this one relatively brief.
WarioWare Gold is the biggest microgame collection yet, featuring just over 300 games. Not many of them are new, though – as implied by the title, this is a best of collection, rounding up games from every title in the series, save for WarioWare: Snapped, probably because none of them were any good.
Every character plus a couple of new ones returns, each of them bringing a bevy of microgames with them, all in aid of helping Wario put on the biggest gaming tournament ever. Of course, he’s doing this for cash, and of course, he tries to scam everyone out of their cash in the end, but would you really expect anything different at this point?
I like it a lot. If you want to know more, check out my review for it.
And with that, we’re finally done. I don’t think that I need to wrap this up or anything. History sorts of wraps up itself, doesn’t it? We’re done, that was the last game, at least for now.
I’m definitely planning on making more features like this, just not for a little while. While this was fun to write, it was also enormously knackering. I think that anything pushing 10000 words is, honestly. Hopefully, by the end of it, you’re not quite as knackered as me, and you had a relatively decent time reading all of my words.
I’ll see you next time. I’m going to spend the rest of the evening being utterly unproductive.
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