Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 Was Great Because It Let You Be the Bad Guy

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

Make no mistake about it: There are a lot of reasons to love Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 these days — the first being that the game is just a super-fun action-platformer. It’s more about taking out cleverly-placed enemies than it is about performing tricky jumps. The level designs are great, too. And it’s a pretty bulky game with a bunch of branching paths and secret levels to discover. But the reason Wario Land has always been so alluring for me is because it essentially lets you play as an evil version of Mario.

Now, we all know that Mario and Wario are two different people, but the parallels between the two run deep. They dress the same, they have dumb mustaches, they’re Italian, and they love collecting coins. The thing about Wario, though, is that he makes it okay to revel in greed and enemy-bashing.

Wario was the original end boss in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins for Game Boy. He was an alternative to Bowser and a quasi-mirror image of Mario. Once he was defeated in that game, though, Nintendo decided to make him the star of his own game. Outside of a minor cameo, Mario isn’t present here. No, this one’s all about Wario and his quest for riches by any means necessary.

While you could argue that Wario has gotten soft in recent years, there’s no doubt he was one bad dude in Wario Land. He was a villain who wanted to get rich off pirate booty, and he was willing to do anything to achieve that goal. And that’s why that game was and still is so awesome. You get to be the bad guy, so it’s okay to indulge in all of the looting and mayhem. Wario’s evildoing even predates the original Grand Theft Auto and its brand of criminal gratification by three years.

For kids in the ‘90s, seeing the commercials for Wario’s escapades was somewhat conflicting. In Super Mario Land 2, Wario was painted as this evil doppelganger who basically wanted to kill Mario. Then in Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, you got to play as this guy — this evil, maniacal guy who not too long prior wanted to kill everyone’s favorite video-game hero.

Wario Land communicates the idea that it’s fun to be evil. Wario doesn’t give a damn about anything. He’ll kill enemies with no remorse. In fact, the way the game focuses more on combat than actual platforming is indicative of the fact that you’re meant to destroy enemies with pure bloodlust and hatred. Wario has never been here to impress anyone with crazy acrobatics and graceful flips. He’s just here to get rich and beat up anyone who stands in his way.

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

Though he grew a conscience over the years, the Wario we saw in that original Wario Land was a remorseless monster. He was the kind of guy who would’ve chosen a bag of money over saving someone who was, I don’t know, tied to some train tracks or something. These days, he’d probably lean toward the latter, but in Wario Land, there was no way he was going to leave behind that bag of money.

In some way, we’ve always been enticed by the dark side — even those of us who love the exploits of that regular ol’ Boy Scout, Mario. That’s what made Wario so intriguing back in the days of the Game Boy. These days, you get to play as a villain in a lot of games, but back in 1994, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 was the pinnacle of being the bad guy, and that was just straight-up awesome.

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