Time Machine: Wario

And this little piggy went 'WaWaWaWa' all the way to the bank...

Wario is the joker in Nintendo's pack. Mario, Link and Samus - the weight of expectation always falls heavily on their shoulders. With each new release, they have to jump, roll and scan like Nintendo's very future depends on it.

Not so with Wario. There's a lightness, a levity to his body of work's expectations that Nintendo's developers clearly find liberating. It's as if his next game could break his career, be bad enough to wipe Wario from the face of the world, and Nintendo couldn't care less.

Perhaps in some small way they'd love the garlic-scoffing anti-Mario to one day fall flat on his big mauve hooter; he began life as a semi-spiteful parody of Nintendo's beloved mascot, and Wario's enduring popularity in the face of adversary says something quite damning about the Disneyfied land of morals inhabited by Mario and Wario.

Perhaps secretly we empathise more with the hopelessly materialistic Wario than goody brown-shoes Mario. Deep down, we'd all rather chase pounds over princesses.

Wario first appeared on the scene as the antagonist in Super Mario Land: 6 Golden Coins, a portable title developed by Gunpei Yokoi's Nintendo Research & Development 1 team.

Although the idea of an evil counter-Mario might seem obvious, his creation supposedly stemmed from R&D1's dissatisfaction with having to work with Mario, a character they hadn't invented.

Wario was their counter-culture; an overblown doppelganger who was everything Mario was not. The name was a portmanteau of 'Mario' and 'warui', the Japanese adjective for 'wrong', and the symmetry between Mario's M and Wario's W meant that this in-joke carried into English effortlessly.

Hiroji Kiyotake, perhaps most famous for designing Samus Aran, ensured that their perversion of the Mario character was reflected in Wario's design, with Mario's rounded, friendly features distorted into a mass of uneven teeth and serrated moustache hair.

Far from a mere palette swap, the Wario character was one with its own mystique. But despite his unexpected popularity, it was still a big surprise when R&D1 chose to give the distended chubster top billing for Mario Land 3 (aka Wario Land).

Wario Land was a supremely inventive title, both in terms of mechanics and in terms of the premise. For the first time, Nintendo gamers had the chance to take a walk on the evil side.

Wario had no nobler goal than to earn enough money to blag himself a replacement castle, and his overpowered frame allowed him to take out most enemies simply by butting into them.

After years of siding with frail buffoons such as Mario and Luigi, to have this amount of power was nothing short of cathartic.

The Wario Land series continued to operate with a healthy degree of distance between the player and Wario, however, allowing R&D1 to play around with Wario's flair for the slapstick.

To progress, the player had to set Ol' Greedychops on fire, or flatten him, or fatten him up foie gras style. But it was okay. He's an evil idiot, and he's 'ard enough to take it, anyway.

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