It’s time for another edition of Moral of the Story! If you missed the first segment on the last Final Friday, you can check it out here.
For those in need of a quick reminder, Moral of the Story is a top 5 list of my favorite characters. After explaining the character’s story and why I like them, you get a little life lesson that the character can teach you. So you get 5 lessons in one post; it’s the most efficient segment on Adventure Rules. Because the whole reason you read this blog is for the lesson part, right?
This time we’re exploring my top five Mario universe characters. You’ll see that while a couple of these characters appear in other games, all five of them will be discussed in the context of the Paper Mario universe. Why? Because that series IS the Mario world for me. The main series Mario games are designed for a younger audience. Stories are told through facial expressions, and characters are one-dimensional. Mario is brave, Luigi is scared, Peach is a damsel, Bowser is mean, and Toadsworth is old. That’s it. There’s nothing more to it. In the Paper Mario games, things are a lot more nuanced. Characters have complicated histories, multi-faceted personalities, and actually use words. So that’s why, even when the character is present in other Mario games, you’ll hear me speaking of their role in the Paper Mario series. Alright, enough chit-chat! Let’s get this list started.
#5: TEC – Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
The TEC-XX is an evil computer designed to help an organization called the X-Nauts take over the world. He (everyone refers to TEC’s artificial intelligence as male) does this job perfectly well – until the arrival of a certain prisoner in the X-Naut base. This prisoner is Princess Peach, and seeing her lovely visage causes TEC’s wires to get crossed. At first sight, the computer has fallen in love.
“Are you kidding me?” Nope, seriously, TEC loves Peach, but because he was designed by an evil mastermind, he doesn’t really understand how love is supposed to work. In secret, he summons Princess Peach to him on multiple occasions to learn about love from her. The more he learns, the more he realizes that if he truly loves Peach, he cannot continue to keep her prisoner and threaten the world she cares about. TEC puts himself in danger and readily sacrifices his digital life in order to protect her. Although he was designed to be evil, he chooses love over servitude and helps Mario to save the princess and the world.
Moral of the Story: You have the power to choose your own path.
#4: Luigi – Paper Mario series
Ah, Luigi. The second brother, the frightened one, constantly living in Mario’s shadow. Well there’s a lot more to Luigi than that.
Luigi may be scared of a lot of things, but he never lets that stop him from being heroic. In The Thousand-Year Door, while Mario is busy with the Crystal Stars, Luigi is going on his own journey for the Marvelous Compass. Now while the quality of his heroic deeds is definitely subject to interpretation (all of his allies have their own version of his stories which show that Luigi bungled half of them), he bravely takes on a number of dangers to save the Princess Eclair, with whom he has fallen in love. All this only to find out that the “evil king” who kidnapped her is actually her true love. Luigi has to deal with the fact that after all that effort, he didn’t get the girl, and she didn’t really need rescued in the first place.
In Super Paper Mario, Luigi is right there in the action along with Mario, helping him to find the Pure Hearts in order to save the world from the Void. He almost never complains of being scared, and he never whines about playing second fiddle to Mario. He just wants to help, and he’s perfectly happy letting his brother take the reins.
I like Luigi in these games because his character is so much more than just the shivering goofball in the background, or the palette swap for whoever is being player two. He has his own adventures, his own struggles, his own feelings, and even though Mario gets more attention, Luigi never complains about it. He’s an all-around good guy…even if he frequently gets manipulated by the bad guys.
Moral of the Story: It’s okay not to have all the attention. Just keep on doing your best.
#3: Peach – Paper Mario series
Princess Toadstool, the blonde damsel-in-distress who always gets kidnapped by Bowser and rescued by Mario. She bakes cakes, she plays tennis in short skirts, and she races karts. Just a spoiled princess always ready to give her hero a kiss on the nose for his troubles. Right?
Wrong. Peach is not just a lame princess who gets kidnapped all the time. I mean, that does happen, but here’s the thing: just because she gets kidnapped doesn’t mean she’s helpless. She’s demonstrated repeatedly throughout the series that she is very capable of holding her own, and she can outwit all the big, scary men who take her away from her pretty princess castle.
In the first Paper Mario, Bowser “kidnaps” Peach and keeps her prisoner in her own palace. She takes advantage of her knowledge of the area to move around secretly, spying on Bowser and his men and sending the info to Mario to help him rescue her and foil Bowser’s plan. In The Thousand-Year Door, she cooperates with TEC to do the same. In both cases, she proves herself to be resourceful, intelligent, and manipulative, playing down her wits and using her feminine wiles to get easily-fooled minions to do what she wants.
In Super Paper Mario, Peach shrugs off the damsel role entirely and adventures with the boys. And when it comes to protection, Peach doesn’t need it. Her cute little pink parasol is indestructible. That’s right. Indestructible. No monster can pierce that frilly umbrella, and Peach uses this advantage to great effect to battle enemies that Mario and Luigi would be torn to shreds by. Peach proves that she’s got more going for her than her wits.
Moral of the Story: Women are not to be underestimated.
#2: Twink – Paper Mario
The cutest little star there ever was! Twink is a star kid, born just before Bowser steals the Star Rod from Star Haven and prevents anyone from having their wishes granted. The stars are confused, unsure of what to do, because they can still hear wishes, but their guardians are gone and the source of their power stolen.
Twink hears Peach’s wish for help and soars down to the earth in person to try and help. Twink isn’t strong. He can’t grant wishes. There’s no magical star power for blowing Bowser out of the castle and making everything right again. But Twink still shows up to help Princess Peach in any way that he can.
And help he does. Because when Peach discovers sensitive information for Mario, she’s got to tell him somehow. Twink bravely flies to wherever Mario may be and tells him Bowser’s next move, helping Mario to rescue the Star Spirits by serving as a messenger. In the end, while Bowser and Mario are entwined in epic battle, Twink protects Peach from the evil Kammy Koopa by using the wish power she gave him to take on the hag in battle.
This little star had no reason to think that he could help the princess. But when he heard her wish, he still bravely flew to her aid and did everything he could to help the Mushroom Kingdom and Star Haven.
Moral of the Story: Anyone can make a difference, simply by being willing to try.
#1: Count Bleck – Super Paper Mario
My favorite Mario villain and one of my favorite characters to ever grace a video game.
Here’s the story. Count Bleck is the member of something called the shadow race. They’re different from humans and forbidden to be involved with them. But he fell in love with a human woman named Timpani, and he refused to allow his tribe’s customs to keep him from seeing her. The two decided to run away together and get married, and just when that happened, tragedy struck. His father learned the truth and banished Timpani from the world using dark magic.
Angered by his father’s actions, Bleck found a tome known as the Dark Prognosticus and called upon its dark power, throwing his entire world into a gaping abyss called the Void. His homeland destroyed, Bleck set out to find Timpani, traveling many worlds. But no matter where he looked, he could not find her. Count Bleck decided that a universe where true love could not win – where Timpani was lost forever – was a universe that did not deserve to exist. So he sets in motion a plan to consume the entire universe into the Void.
Now this story doesn’t end with Mario stomping Bleck on the head and that being the end of things. Timpani is still alive – just transformed into a being that Bleck would not recognize. She is traveling with Mario, helping him to stop the Void, and when Count Bleck learns this, his heart melts. He allows Mario to reach and defeat him, and is ready to die for his harsh verdict upon the world. However, there is another answer. The Void can be closed by holy matrimony, an expression of pure love powerful enough to stop the darkness. Bleck and Timpani declare their love just as the Void threatens to swallow everything, and the Void is finally closed. The two are never seen again, but the game assures players that somewhere in a far-flung world, they are living out their marriage in bliss and peace.
Count Bleck is a brilliant character. His unique manner of third-person narration makes him immediately quirky and interesting. Bleck is highly charismatic and has a band of loyal devotees who are ready to follow him right into the Void. Of course, they think he’s destroying the world to rebuild it. But Bleck has no intention of such a thing. If Timpani can’t live, if they can’t be together, why rebuild the world? It’s just a hopeless wasteland, just like the Void.
The romantic in me loves Count Bleck’s story, and I love that he ultimately gets a happy ending. Do I advocate trying to destroy the world because you can’t get a date? No. But I just love that he can’t stand to live in a world without Timpani in it, that he is disgusted by the thought of living in a world where true love does not win out. And I love the degree of his transformation when he realizes that the world allows for true love after all. He’s an amazing character and if you’ve never played Super Paper Mario, you should experience the story first hand. It’s so satisfying to see Bleck’s story through to the end.
Moral of the Story: True love always wins out.
There you have it, my five favorite Mario characters. Is there a character in the Mario universe that you love but didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments and be sure to include the Moral of the Story (shameless plug)!