He’s Nintendo’s mascot. He’s a portly plumber who wears a red shirt and denim overalls. He frequently travels the Mushroom Kingdom to thwart the evil Bowser’s plans and rescue Princess Peach. He’s an all around good guy who get’s a lot of play time in all things Nintendo.
And then there’s Luigi…
It should come as no surprise that Luigi hasn’t been as successful as Mario. He’s always there with his portlier brother, playing tennis and partying, but Mario gets almost all the love and Luigi gets nothing. Off the top of my head I can only think of three games that star Luigi as the main character: Mario Is Missing, Luigi’s Mansion, and the recently released Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Aside from one of those games being absolutely terrible (and having Mario in the title!) Luigi has had a nice record of quality titles to his name.
But why so few games?
Luigi’s Mansion is one of the better games on the Gamecube, not to mention the best launch title the system had to offer. On top of that it also featured unique gameplay that hasn’t been explored by Nintendo before. Where Mario and Bowser frequently run the same adventures over and over again (i.e. capturing Peach and collecting stars), Luigi’s game was very much different while still feeling distinctly “Nintendo.” That creativity and willingness to try something new from the developers extended to the game’s long overdue sequel Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on the 3DS as well. That game took full advantage of what the portable system had to offer, tuning up the visuals, adding online multiplayer, and featuring a spooky-yet-adorable setting that you had to like. Hell, even Mario Is Missing is a unique title unlike anything else the big N has given us.
Sensing a connection between Luigi starring in games and Nintendo’s willingness to try something new with the green brother instead of the red brother made me think that Nintendo doesn’t want to tarnish Mario’s image with possibly risky gameplay changes. For the most part you know what you’re going to get in a Mario game: solid platforming, easy controls, a perfect challenge, and a game that will push the hardware capabilities to their limits. But the Luigi games as I’d like to call them are very much different, at least these two so far. I like change. I like playing something different. I believe Nintendo can make something great, but they don’t often stray away from their tried-and-true formula.
Mario games almost consistently sell into the millions. People are familiar with Mario and know what to expect from his games. More importantly parents of young gamers know who Mario is, and they’re likely to pick up Mario & Sonic at the London Olympic Games simply because it has “Mario” in the title. I’d wager that same parent would look at Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and decide to stick with Mario & Sonic on name alone (Sonic’s pulling power notwithstanding).
Nintendo’s icon is Mario, and Mario sells. Thankfully for us gamers Mario’s games are usually top of the line. Nintendo could easily shovel out Mario games every few months, milking the franchise for ever possible penny, but they don’t. Some may argue that there are too many Mario games out there, but really, which games are bad? Even Super Mario 3D Land, a re-hash of almost every Mario troupe to date, was nearly unanimously positively received. To Nintendo’s credit they’re giving us plenty of quality Mario games that are exactly what we want.
So why not give us more Luigi games? It doesn’t have to be all Luigi’s Mansion sequels in spinoffs, why not something else entirely? Nintendo has already declared 2013 “The Year of Luigi” by releasing Dark Moon, a new Mario & Luigi title, and Luigi-themed DLC for New Super Mario Bros. 2. Why not give us something more? I understand playing it safe with Mario, but why not try a different approach with Luigi? Put him in a different role. How about a game played in first-person? Or maybe a traditional “Mario” platforming game starring Luigi only. Bowser captures Daisy and Luigi has to save her? Maybe even a 3DS title that places a great emphasis on the system’s gyro sensor to alter gameplay? Putting Luigi as the star in these games could be a great success for Nintendo, and it could even make Luigi a household name as popular as Mario, perhaps synonymous!
I may be biased on the topic having played second player in many early Super Mario games but even so the question still stands: Where is the Luigi love? The two Luigi’s Mansion games have proven that he’s capable of taking the helm and being the hero, so why is he always second fiddle to bigger brother Mario? I would definitely like to see more of the higher jumping brother in the future. Come on Nintendo, make me happy would ya?