In the Nintendo universe, Waluigi is supposed to be as villainous as his cartoonish mustache and perpetual frown would suggest. But what made him that way? Perhaps it is Nintendo’s insistence on humiliating the character in front of his friends and the general public.
On Tuesday for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nintendo announced new details on the much-anticipated Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for its Switch console. The 25-minute presentation was long on details. For one thing, the latest game includes every single playable character in the fighting-game franchise’s 19-year history. It seemed to exceed fan expectations, except for fans of the meme-ready Waluigi.
Waluigi, again, was snubbed by Nintendo. He will not be a playable character in the new game.
Waluigi has traveled a long road. Once he was hated by Nintendo fans, who listed him highly among gaming’s most annoying characters.
His origin story is unimpressive. Waluigi is simply a bizarro version of Mario’s less famous but more charming brother Luigi. In his 18-year existence as a minor character, he’s had virtually no backstory. But that blank canvas ended up becoming Waluigi’s greatest gift. Since he stood for nothing, supporters could project their wildest hopes unto him, like Barack Obama in 2008 but actually good at golf. He can be described in a single website as anyone from a “true nowhere man” to “the logical end point of capitalism” and the “triumph of capital over creativity.” In other words, Waluigi became the perfect meme fodder.
The Daily Dot has a great historical rundown of Waluigi’s ascent as a meme legend. In the meme universe, Waluigi is a wronged, strangely sexual antihero who suffers one injustice after another. Just this year, Twitter — the company — made an example of him, explaining its new policy on hateful conduct by misusing his glorious visage, and users jumped to his defense.
Even children know that there’s something about Waluigi, something more than Nintendo seems fit to acknowledge.
Take “Ode to Waluigi,” a poem written by a Canadian fourth-grader in 2012. Sam Daly of Leo Nickerson Elementary, outside Edmonton, beat hundreds of other children to win first place in the national writing contest. A relevant and key passage from his poem:
Why dost thou not have thy own video game?
Art thou enraged that thou dost not have one?
So before Nintendo’s presentation this week, fans anticipated that Waluigi would finally join the fight. “Waluigi as a Smash Switch fighter wins E3,” said one tweet. “Standalone Waluigi wins the entire gaming industry.” Maybe, just maybe, Waluigi’s fandom had memed so hard that Nintendo would have no choice but to recognize his true power.
Nothing prepared them for the Nintendo equivalent of a “Game of Thrones”-style Walk of Atonement for Waluigi.
First, they announced Princess Daisy as an “echo fighter.” Who as a what now? Exactly, but give me a few seconds to explain.
Princess Daisy is an obscure character who first appeared as the stand-in distressed damsel in Super Mario Land for the original Game Boy in 1989. She didn’t resurface until Mario Tennis in 2000, which was also Waluigi’s first appearance.
Since the turn of the century, both characters have been relegated to spinoff Mario games, usually involving sports or group activities. They attend Mario parties. They drive Mario karts. They play soccer, golf and more tennis.
Suddenly, in 2018, Daisy is now an “echo character,” which means that in the game, she has the same fighting moves as another character, but you can play as her. It’s sort of like being a “featured player” on SNL. You’re there, but you’re not really quite in the club yet. The fact that Daisy (long rumored to be Luigi’s love interest) is playable before Waluigi is already savage.
It gets worse. Suddenly, 17 minutes into the presentation, Waluigi makes an appearance. And it is yet another affront to decency. Waluigi is a mere “assist” character. Assist trophies are basically soulless effigies of other characters that players can pick up, bringing the depicted creature to life for mere seconds. They’re golems.
New to this game, Nintendo excitedly announces, you can KO them! You score a point for it! And who better to showcase this macabre new feature?
Twitter’s reaction was swift, and sad.
“Make Waluigi an echo character at least, you cowards,” demanded a tweet.
“Waluigi still an assist trophy, push me to the edge,” lamented YouTube personality Joshua Wittenkeller.
As meme watchers here at The Washington Post, we believe Nintendo is leaving a lot of social (media) good on the table by not being more inclusive to Waluigi. Think of all the GIFs! The screen captures! The Tumblr bait!
With little to no material to work with, his fans are happily resigned to fill in the blanks for the villain who hasn’t even had much of a chance to be villainous. Will Waluigi ever star in his own game? Is he doomed to be a typecast sports star? The mental gymnastics to justify his absence would make the athlete proud.
“waluigi was asked to be in smash yet again,” writes Twitter user @brooksasanoun, “but he respectfully declined because he’s a pacifist who just wants to play tennis with his friends.”