Luigi: definitely one of the most recognizable characters in video games and pop culture, but obviously not as well-recognized or praised as Mario is. Luigi is reported to be younger than his brother; stereotypical “shadowed by your older sibling” at its finest. As judgmental as it sounds, I do have to lean towards Mario at being the better character, not only in control, but by characteristics as well. Though Mario seems to have less personality than Luigi, at least he is known to be a hero with a strong sense of justice, and doesn’t seem afraid to set out his goals. Luigi, on the other hand, probably should have stayed out of the limelight.
Origins as a palette swap
Mario actually made his debut in the game Donkey Kong in 1981, but wouldn’t get his own official game until 1983. Mario Bros. was released in arcades and marks the first official Mario game and Luigi’s debut. Luigi was played by the second player, but there was no difference in gameplay compared to Mario. The only difference was color which was due to the limited technology at the time. This color change is known as a “palette swap,” and that’s all Luigi began as — a green Mario.
Luigi was changed in the next, at-the-time Japan-only game, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (known in Japan as the “true” Super Mario Bros. 2). He was a better jumper and was a little bit taller, he was a baller, he had a girl that looked good and he called her. This was the first game to show any difference between the two. After the Lost Levels were released, soon came Super Mario Bros. 2 (the North American/Europe version). Luigi retained the same differences as in the last game, but in a strange twist, these differences had yet to become permanent.
Luigi went back to being a simple palette swap in Super Mario Bros. 3. In1991, Super Mario World was released on the Super Nintendo. Again, Luigi appeared in this game, but he still looked like a green Mario. For unknown reasons, they went back to basics. At this point, most gamers probably figured that there wouldn’t be any changes in the future. For the most part, that was true, since Luigi was absent from the main Mario games for awhile.
The first sign of change was when Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World was released. Many, though slight, revisions were made to SMW including Luigi. He appears taller and thinner than Mario, but besides a few very minor changes, he played the same. This would further change when Super Mario World was ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2001 as Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2. Notable differences between Mario and Luigi became evident: For one, Luigi was taller, but the changes weren’t only cosmetic. Luigi now jumped higher than Mario and stayed in the air longer and ran slower, among other minor changes. However, for some reason, Luigi was made to be a very clumsy character, so it’s hard to control him when he’s falling back down to the ground. That makes getting that tough jump even harder, and who wants that? There were also some changes when he rode Yoshi, such as whenever Yoshi puts an enemy in his mouth, he swallows it after a short time; when playing with Mario, Yoshi immediately swallows the enemy.
In this strange shift, Luigi was a palette swap, became his own character, turned back into a palette swap and, permanently this time, grew into his own character…again. Though he went through a very awkward cycle of finding his own identity, this was the game to finalize his gameplay differences.
Luigi as a main protagonist
Luigi wasn’t always overshadowed by his older brother. In a few games, Luigi is the main character with the spotlight completely focused on him. He starred in Mario is Missing! for the NES and SNES, and more recently, Luigi’s Mansion on GameCube. The usual stipulations for Luigi don’t apply to these games, however. For the former, these were before the physical changes were implemented, and for the latter, this game isn’t a platformer, meaning he doesn’t jump. To further prove inferiority, neither of these games showed positive attributes towards Luigi. In Mario’s Missing, it was more of an educational game, so regular platforming didn’t come into play. You can still jump, but it wasn’t in the same manner, although you could jump 50 feet into the air for some reason. Luigi’s Mansion is more of an adventure game, so platforming once more doesn’t come into play at all, but this game showed off more of his personality than anything. Unfortunately for Luigi, this was a bad move. Luigi is already presented as awkward and this game multiplies it even further. He cowers in fear during the whole game and just proves how wimpy he is. If that wasn’t bad enough, a sequel was released! This time, it’s for the 3DS, meaning Luigi can act like a bitch in your face!
Luigi has proven to be a half-ass character, created because Nintendo needed another character for the multiplayer modes in their games. He began as a palette swap and only transformed into an annoying, cowardly, clumsy Italian plumber who needs work on his jumping skills. His characteristics are awkward, quirky, and nervous and this is why Mario is usually the preferred character. I can see how some people can adapt to his play-style, and that’s fine. Actual personality traits aside, I still think he controls awkwardly, though. Yes, I’ve played with him for awhile and even got used to his control, but it’s just not as smooth as Mario, and in the end, the most important thing in a platformer is control.
Now, the real question is, who’s better: Mario or Donkey Kong?
P.S. It’s Donkey Kong.