A brief history of Waluigi
“Waluigi for Smash!” the meme-lords cry. As fan-requested characters like Simon Belmont, Ridley, and King K. Rool start to flesh out the roster of Smash Bros. Ultimate, everyone is wondering why there is no love for Waluigi. Isn’t he an important Mario character? Shouldn’t he have his time in the spotlight?
If only you knew how appropriate it was that Waluigi is being excluded. In fact, being excluded might be the most Waluigi thing Nintendo could do to Waluigi.
To understand why, let’s take a look at the history of Waluigi; the man, the myth, and the meme.
Waluigi was created at the turn of the millennium specifically for one game: Mario Tennis. This is why he carries a tennis racket as an assist trophy in Smash, and why he has become something of an unofficial mascot for the Mario Tennis franchise.
His origins were simple. Mario Tennis had a system of partners and rivals. Each character needed a doubles partner. Mario had Luigi, Peach had Daisy, Yoshi had Birdo, and so on. Wario, on the other hand, had no one that really fit his quirky personality. Wario would also be positioned as Mario’s rival, and since Mario’s partner was Luigi, he too needed an appropriate rival.
So Camelot designer Fumihide Aoki, with Shigeru Miyamoto’s help, went about designing a new human-type character to act as a foil to Luigi. Just as Wario took all of Mario’s traits and exaggerated them dramatically, Waluigi did the same for Luigi, turning the taller older brother into a lanky, skinny, villainous stereotype. Since Mario and Luigi wear complimentary colors (Red and Green) Waluigi was designed to wear the contrasting color to Wario’s yellow: purple.
Waluigi’s name is a pun, a portmanteaux of the Japanese word “warui” which means bad and the name “Luigi.” There is no hard “L” sound in Japanese, so his name is actually spelled with the character for “ru” being Romanized “Ruiji.” Adding “Wa” in front makes it a perfect pun that makes a little less sense in English.
Believe it or not, Waluigi has never actually been in a core Mario title, though he has been a star of many spinoffs. He has shown up in every Mario Tennis game since the series’ inception. He has also made appearances in the Mario Party series from Mario Party 3 onward, and the Mario Kart series from Double Dash onward.
He showed up in Mario Gold: Toadstool Tour, and as a secret character in Mario Gold: Advance Tour. He has been a character in the Mario Superstar Baseball series, the Mario Strikers series, the Mario Hoops series, and even Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games.
This is why Waluigi has become something of a symbol of the Mario franchise’s willingness to try anything.
If you are new to the Waluigi fandom, then you might think that Waluigi is just another goofy Mario villain. Well you’d be wrong.
Waluigi has never done anything terribly villainous. His biggest villain role was in Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix where he steals some magical artifacts to make himself the best dancer. That’s less evil and more… desperate.
In fact, that desperation is a part of Waluigi’s personality that his fans seem to adore. Waluigi wasn’t really designed with a personality in mind. He was just a cookie cutter character meant to fill an empty slot. However, the great Mario voice actor Charles Martinet fleshed out Waluigi into the character that the meme-lords love today.
Who is that character? According to Martinet, Waluigi suffers from a sense of self-loathing. He feels as if good things always happen to other people and bad things always happen to him. This caused him to become bitter and jaded with the rest of the world, and made him wish that bad things would start happening to good people.
The key word there is "wish". The reason why Waluigi has never participated in an evil plan is because he’s actually something of a passive character. He’s willing to play a few games of tennis or participate in a board game, but world defining battles of good and evil are not his thing.
Rise to Popularity
Why do people like Waluigi? Simply put, he’s absurd.
First of all, he shouts “Waaah!” in between his voice lines for seemingly no reason, as if the word “Wah!” has to be repeated so you’re aware of who he is.
Second, he’s not actually Wario’s brother. He’s just one of Wario’s many friends. Looking like a foil to Luigi is a simple coincidence according to Nintendo.
Third, we have the aforementioned lack of evil intent. Waluigi, for being as awkward as he is, is the closest thing to “normal” the Mario world has. This is a guy who just wants to hang out and have fun (in appropriately Mario branded spin-off titles), not take over the galaxy Bowser style.
Finally, there’s his self-loathing.
While Waluigi might seem like a perfect fit for today’s internet generation, he wasn’t always popular, or even ironically popular. When he first made his debut, Mario fans hated him. He made his way to the top of plenty of “most annoying characters” lists. He was criticized for being a one-note stereotype, created simply to be an evil Luigi with no other personality traits.
But any time fans lash out, there comes a backlash. Waluigi was such a shallow characters that many began assigning him character traits. Soon, there were just as many articles in defense of Waluigi as there were bashing him, many ending up on popular gaming sites. Tumblr users started ask Waluigi blogs, Twitter users set up Waluigi accounts, a poem named “Ode to Waluigi” was one of the winners in the 2012 Book Week Writing Contest.
Waluigi’s biggest push into stardom may have come from a webcomic called Brawl in the Family, one of the many early millennium webcomics that satirized gaming. Waluigi was a frequent character, but most notably he showed up in April Fool’s comics. He would frequently hijack the comic, and replace its characters with.. well… Waluigi, and the absurdity of it played well with the comic’s audience. The comic’s author, Matthew Taranto, would go on to make a few Waluigi themed YouTube videos, mostly of the character singing renditions of songs, all of which went viral. “Too Bad. Waluigi Time,” is still commonly used whenever topics get derailed in online conversation.
The most Waluigi thing to do to Waluigi
And that’s why Waluigi isn’t in Smash.
Waluigi’s personality is all centered around misfortune. He’s a man that everybody loves because nobody likes him. He’s someone that nothing good ever happens to, and that has turned him into a nasty, grating, sneaky, abrasive person who seeks to have his five minutes of fame. Yet it’s never granted to him.
But it’s never been granted to us either. None of us are in Smash.
Or rather, all of us have experienced that moment when we felt like everything good happened to everyone else but us. That job we didn’t get? That was our Waluigi moment. That relationship that didn’t work out? Another Waluigi moment. All those feelings of loss, rejection, of just not being good enough, all of that is the pure essence of Waluigi.
Waluigi can’t be in Smash Bros. Ultimate, because it’s not who Waluigi is. Waluigi is the eternal reject, and Nintendo is clearly aware of that. Just look at how much his exclusion has fanned the flames of memedom.
We want to see Waluigi rejected because we empathize with him.
We get you buddy.