You know him. I know him. He’s the infamous, self-motivated villain from the Mario series, Wario. Larger than life and obsessively greedy, it’s no wonder Wario’s character has become synonymous with Mushroom Kingdom media. His first appearance in 1992 as the antagonist of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins led to the iconic character getting multiple spin-off games of his own. Yet none were as unique or as significant to his development as the WarioWare series. Delightfully frantic and unusually memorable, WarioWare is a series that was truly ahead of its time and needs a comeback, stat!
The first entry, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!, for the Gameboy Advance laid the groundwork for the series in 2003. Its success warranted a series of games released on multiple consoles, the most recent being WarioWare Gold for the Nintendo 3DS. Along with a colorful cast of characters, the WarioWare series introduced micro-game mechanics requiring both mental and muscle memory. WarioWare’s high-octane speed seems reminiscent of the Battle Royale genre, which offers drop-in/drop-out gameplay appealing to casual and skilled gamers. In addition, the diverse roster of characters fits right in with today’s onslaught of hero-based multiplayer games. Due to these reasons, there could be much fanfare in today’s industry if WarioWare made a comeback.
High Speed Thrills
Simplistic game mechanics expertly combined with high-stakes arcade style speed is the cornerstone of WarioWare’s appeal. For those not entirely familiar with WarioWare, or the concept of “micro-games,” you may be surprised at how challenging the bite-sized gameplay can be. Sometimes micro-games are as simple as picking Wario’s nose or pushing someone on the ground. Silly and straightforward? Yes. Easy peasy lemon squeezy? Anything but. Recognizing a micro-game, understanding the main command and pulling it off in time needs to be done in only a few seconds. With these gameplay expectations, the thrill becomes clear. WarioWare not only requires memorization of all the micro-games, but also the muscle memory to react in time. And with only a handful of chances to make a mistake, sloppy or slow players will soon find themselves looking at a game over screen.
By offering quick in-and-out gratification and an emphasis on mechanical know-how, the gameplay in WarioWare reminds me of what makes the “Battle Royale” genre so popular. In those games, players are generally given the option to join a match instantly. And eliminated players can hop into a new match in seconds. Gamers who love the speedy ferocity of battle royal matches will surely understand the appeal of WarioWare rounds. With the battle royal genre ranging from shooters to Tetris, it is key that players understand the gameplay intricacies, or else they’ll be consistently stomped. Much like WarioWare, the premise of battle royal may seem simple, but the execution requires deep game sense. The WarioWare series needs to make a comeback because it can appeal to players seeking that kind of challenge without a massive investment of time.
Due to Wario being a minor side character in the Mario series, one may not expect him to have a fully fleshed out lore. Fortunately, the eccentric cast of characters in WarioWare help to develop it. Along with their unique personalities and backstories, each member has their own style of micro-games. For instance, Jimmy T., a disco-themed dancer, typically has micro-games that focus on sports, dancing or even “remixing” other character’s games. My personal favorite, 9-Volt, sees challenges that center on retro Nintendo franchises and merchandise. Characters become more memorable due to have their identity tied to specific mechanics and themes. At this point, it would be difficult to imagine WarioWare’s comeback without them, much like how we would not expect a new Mario game without Toads or Princess Peach.
In the gaming industry today, many of the most successful games feature wide rosters of playable characters. Like the character design in WarioWare, the most notable of these hero-based games connect identity with mechanics. A prime example of this is the 2016 release, Overwatch, by Blizzard Entertainment. Heroes of Overwatch, like Genji and Reinhardt, are recognizable today because of their unique looks and fantastic mechanics. Players can get invested in these characters cosmetically, but also in a gameplay sense. The genre is so popular that even the new Marvel’s Avengers game is built on this style. With the hero-based games raking in millions, I believe the WarioWare series’ strong roster has potential to make a comeback in this genre.
WarioWare is a franchise that emphasizes frantic speed and original characters. Micro-games offer a challenge that will make even the most hardened gamer’s palms sweat. Still seen today in Battle Royal and hero-based games, WarioWare’s main characteristics are timeless. Currently, the only way to get your fix is to play the Nintendo 3DS entry from 2018, WarioWare Gold. That said, the relatively successful reviews imply that there may still be some market for this kind of game. If Nintendo promotes the qualities that makes the series so appealing, I think WarioWare can definitely make a comeback.