Hello, and welcome to Clash at the Stash, a staff collaboration series from those of us here at The Nerd Stash. This series pits two of our writers against each other over hotly contested nerd culture topics that have been going on for days to decades.
Here, you will see things like the Mario Franchise vs. the Zelda Franchise, PlayStation Exclusives vs. Xbox Exclusives, Silent Hill vs. Resident Evil, Old School Assassin’s Creed Games vs. New School Assassin’s Creed Games, Uncharted vs. Tomb Raider, and the Star Wars Prequels vs. the Star Wars Sequels.
I’m your host, Taylor Cole. Mario is unquestionably one of the most well-known names in not just gaming, but also in the entertainment industry. The short plumber with a great vertical and a mushroom addiction has an overabundance of accolades in his utility belt. He’s widely recognized as the face of Nintendo. But should he be?
To some, Luigi is the unsung hero of the Mushroom Kingdom who has always been held down under Mario’s shadow. Should he be the true face of the Nintendo brand? That’s what we’re here to answer today.
Here are the rules. Both writers will have 500-1,000 words to argue for their side or to bash the opposition. After they are done with that, I’ll direct you to our three judges (other members on TNS staff), who’ll give out their final verdict based on what the writers said and how entertaining they were.
In the corner of Mario Mario (And yes, that’s a Super Mario Bros. movie reference in 2020), we have Brandon Stephenson. Brandon’s walking into this contest of brother vs. brother at 0-0 with a ton of hours in Super Mario Sunshine. In the corner of Luigi Mario and his terrifying death stares, we have Steve Bennett. Steve is 1-0 with “too many hours to count” in “both Mario and Luigi games.” He’s hoping to climb up the Clash at the Stash rankings with a win here. If Steve manages to do that, he may just become the #1 contender for the Clash at the Stash championship. So, no pressure.
Mario has always owned the spotlight so, as a show of good faith, we’re going to start with Luigi:
In the case of Luigi vs. Mario, I’m fully aware that I’m going to lose — and probably lose 3-0 as well. I’m okay with that. I already have a Clash at the Stash trophy at home, and my house is only so big. I can’t fit too many in. I may not win, but if I can just change one person’s opinion of which is the better brother, I’ll be more than content.
It’s easy just to argue this in games. Most of you would pick the Mario games over Luigi’s Mansion, and I wouldn’t blame you for doing so. They are fantastic games. However, this argument isn’t over which games are better. It’s about the brothers.
A game like Super Mario Bros. 3 is amazing because of Nintendo, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Mario. That game, along with the others, would be fantastic no matter who starred in them, be that Mario, Luigi, or a little blue hedgehog.
This debate is about the brothers, and I put it to you that Luigi is better for many reasons.
He’s just a regular guy who is genuine, friendly, and nice. There are no airs and graces about him. What you see is what you get, and what I see is pretty great. We can all relate to that. Mario, on the other hand, is an outright monster, and I don’t even know where to begin.
Maybe I’ll start with his brother, Luigi. Quite how the green brother hasn’t snapped and attacked Mario is a testament to his character. I point you to Mario Power Tennis. When Luigi wins, Mario comes up to offer congratulations. In doing so, he slaps Luigi on the back hard and then purposely steps on his toes, trying to inflict as much pain as possible as he can’t stand someone else to have a moment in his precious limelight. Luigi isn’t the only person close to him that Mario abuses either. Let’s not forget how he gets Yoshi to eat things. He hits the poor creature in the head. Not only does he have to carry the fat plumber around, but he is also forced to do things he doesn’t want to with violence.
Then we have Luigi’s Mansion 3. At the start, the two brothers enter the hotel, and Luigi carries his bags in, something that is beneath Mario apparently. Mario forces the Toads to carry his bags as if they are his slaves. He even makes them rebuild the castle in Super Mario Maker 2. Sure he pays them that time, but I’m confident that it’s below minimum wage.
Next, I bring Donkey Kong into the argument. I know the two have a chequered past, but after DK is forced to do circus tricks by the plumber, you can see where some of the hatred comes from.
All this, and I’m still not done. I’d like to call Wario to the stand. You all know Wario has a hatred of Mario; however, there’s a good reason. If you’ve read the comic that appeared in Nintendo Power, you’ll know Mario bullied Wario as children.
Then in Wario Land, after finding a golden statue, Mario comes in and steals it.
I can see that I’m probably not winning any of you over, and I was trying to keep this as light as possible, but it seems that I have to break out the big guns and reveal the worst thing that Mario has ever done. Mass genocide and not once, but twice — at least.
In the original Super Mario Bros., it’s revealed that the bricks scattered throughout each level are actually Toads that have been transformed by Bowser’s magic. This means that every time Mario smashes one to grab a precious coin, he is effectively killing a toad.
That’s pretty messed up. In Super Mario Land 2, something similar happens. Mario, for some reason, has become so self-indulgent that he has his own island complete with a Mario zone. Said Mario zone has a giant statue of the all-glorious leader.
That’s not the bad part. All the enemies of the game are the citizens who have been turned that way by Wario. Does Mario try to turn them back? No, he just murders every last one of them.
There are many more terrible things that Mario has done in his time, I’ve just run out of the room. I think I’ve proved how much of a horrible person he is and I’m confident in saying that he’s the second-worst person from history who sports a mustache.
I realize I haven’t mentioned Luigi much, which might seem weird, and it is. Luigi is fairly unremarkable, and that’s the point. He is a relatable everyman who is just a nice guy that’s full of respect for everyone.
He does his best to keep his brother’s behavior in check, often at his own detriment. Many of us would have snapped a long time ago. Once again, I’m happy to concede that the Mario games are brilliant, despite the monster who stars in them. But as I’ve said, they would be fantastic no matter who was the playable character. Let’s also not forget that green is a much calmer color than an angry red.
I implore the judges to remember that this is about the characters and not the games. By all means, feel free to vote for Mario, but make sure you can live with yourselves after you have done so.
It’d be easy to end this argument with nothing more than a few sentences, but of course, that’s neither interesting or fair. My initial idea was just to list some of the best Mario titles to prove why Mario should win this Clash (and trust me, I’ll get to them), but again, not very interesting. Mario is, for lack of a better phrase, gaming’s mascot. Without Mario, who knows where the medium we all know and love would be? That’s a lot to shoulder for one plumber over forty years.
The video game crash nearly caused our great hobby never actually to happen. Yet, here we are enjoying games ranging from The Last of Us to Halo and yes, even Mario. And that’s all thanks to the Italian plumber. At least, a large part, since he shouldered the issues and carried video games back from hell and back.
Mario did it with grace and a smile underneath his iconic mustache. He’s instantly recognizable to the masses and has been featured in over 200 games, many of them bearing his name on the front cover. Luigi hasn’t even come close. Also when Luigi is the star, most of the time he’s trying to help his much more famous brother, like in Luigi’s Mansion and the oft-forgotten Mario Is Missing!
Speaking of Mario games, it’s nearly a forgone conclusion a Mario title will be a Game of the Year contender. In fact, it’s almost as if Nintendo makes a Game of the Decade (and Generation) whenever Mario is the star. Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine (a personal favorite of mine), Super Mario Galaxy (1 and 2), and Super Mario Odyssey are just a handful of not only excellent Mario titles, but some of the best games to have ever been released. Nearly every Mario game pushes the boundaries of platforming.
Sure, Luigi might have been featured in a few of those, but he’s relegated to nothing more than a guest character at best. Nintendo understands who the star of the show is, and he’s decked in red, not green.
Mario is also a jack-of-all-trades (and a master of most). He’s a plumber (though have we ever seen him unclog a toilet?) who has golfed, played tennis, drives karts, got a doctorate, throws insane parties, and dabbled in other sports such as basketball, soccer, and baseball. He’s even found a way into the Olympic games. Again, Luigi (and friends) might have joined in, but it was Mario that got them involved in more Mushroom Kingdom activities.
Moving away from his games, Mario is the most dependable guy in all of the Mushroom Kingdom. In fact, not only has he stopped Bowser from destroying the famed land, but he’s also rescued Princess Peach, an uncountable amount of times. It’s not like they’re married or anything. Sure, he gets a kiss on the cheek from time to time, but Mario goes from castle to castle (or painting, galaxy, or world) to save someone who strings him along. Even when Mario is supposed to be on vacation, he does what he does best, saves the girl and the world. He’s a shining example of a protagonist, even with his short and stubby stature.
There are many reasons why Mario should win this battle. Mario is a gaming icon and would be instantly etched in a Gaming Mount Rushmore. He’s the star of some of the greatest games of all-time and is continually pushing the envelope forward, all while trying new and different jobs and hobbies. He’s also one the nicest guys imaginable and works harder than any protagonist out there. There’s only one choice here, judges, “It’ s-a me, Mario!”.
To recap, Brandon leaned into Mario’s fabled mark on gaming and the character’s good deeds. Whereas Steve took a deep-dive into Mario’s troubled past and made some bold accusations towards the Italian plumber. Let’s see what the judges thought:
Shelby Royal (Is really just here for the Boos) –
I actually came here thinking I might vote for Luigi because I love an underdog, but I hate the feeling of being bullied into such a vicious smear campaign! After much thought and deliberation, my vote goes to Mario and Brandon.
Brandon’s right: Mario is basically Nintendo’s icon, and I just don’t think that Nintendo would idolize a character so much if they were truly so bad. Is he perfect? No! But nobody is. As Brandon points out, he’s selfless in his efforts in constantly saving Peach and the day, and he always does it with a smile. Who knows? Maybe the Toads carried Mario’s luggage in ultimate gratitude for saving their lives?? Plus, all that world-saving has just got to be exhausting…
But, at the end of the day, the Mushroom Kingdom needs the whole family to survive and beat Sonic in those Olympic Games! So, while both brothers are necessary, nothing brings a shining bolt of hope and a smile like hearing “Its-a me, Mario”.
Taylor Cole (Is still traumatized by the Super Mario Bros. movie) –
This is my first time judging a Clash at the Stash, and now I realize just how complicated this process is. I’ve sat here for about 10 minutes, debating on where I’ll ultimately land. Shockingly, I’m going to have to go with Luigi here.
Brandon has excellent points, and I’ll go a little further. Mario’s not just a gaming icon but a pop-culture legend. He’s the household name. The one on the cover of all the games. The guy who gets to save the kingdom and the princess. But, that’s mainly due to the games Mario stars in. Not the character himself.
As a character, Mario is rude and just flat out mean to his brother. I’m not sure I would have gone as far as Steve with his reasoning by saying that Mario is “the second-worst person from history who sports a mustache.”. Regardless, Mario is always looking for others to do the work for him, whether that be Yoshi or Luigi or even a talking power-washer. Meanwhile, all Luigi has to aid him in his journeys is a vacuum and a really weird old dude who looks like one of those wrinkled-up troll toys from the 90s.
Billy Whitehouse (Recommends you stop what you’re doing, go to YouTube and watch “Mario Warfare”, a fan-made, live-action Smash Bros. movie.) –
I need to disclose some biases upfront. First, I’ve always had a soft spot for sidekicks and the #2s of the world. As a child, I dressed up as Robin, not Batman. Panthro was my favorite Thundercat. Danny Glover is my favorite Predator protagonist. Picard, my favorite Enterprise Captain. Jessie Spano, my Saved By The Bell crush. And on and on.
Also, my favorite color is green.
So I tried really hard to overcome these and give Mario my vote. And I just. Could. Not. Where Brandon damned his argument for me is leaning on Mario being the face of Nintendo and, indeed, gaming. This is true! But it doesn’t make a character good or interesting. After all, Mickey Mouse is both the most recognizable character in the world and the least interesting Disney character who’s easily outshined by his nonverbal dog.
Steve also won his argument for me by pointing out that Mario is essentially pixelated Stalin (they even look similar!). In addition to the genocide, Mario is just a jerk, and we don’t need any more of that in the world.
Luigi is kind, wonderful, and usually more fun to play in the games he shares with Mario. There’s also something to be said for the fact that Luigi’s girlfriend gets “kidnapped” far less often than Mario’s.
My vote goes to the lean, not mean green bean, Luigi.
WINNER: Steve Bennett and Luigi.
As always, we wrap up an installment of Clash at the Stash with a short interview. Here’s what Steve had to say regarding his second win in this series:
Taylor Cole: “Hey Steve, congrats on winning another Clash at the Stash. Most likely, you’re going to be the number 1 contender for Shelby’s Clash at the Stash championship. But, I don’t want to talk about that right now. Instead, let’s talk about this match-up. Much like Luigi, you were undoubtedly the underdog here. How are you feeling knowing that and still coming away with a win?”
Steve Bennett: “Wait, what? This wasn’t a championship match? I’m happy with the victory, though, and although I won’t gloat, I’ll share this limelight and ask my competitor onto the stage for a round of applause and a drink in the bar after. We’re all winners here.”
Which is the better character/brother, Mario or Luigi? What topics do you want to see us debate next? Let us know in the comments below!
Avid gamer and placeholder of what is now the worst selfie of all time. Mostly an Xbox/PS4 player but I have been known to destroy friendships in Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.