For all its good cheer, the Mushroom Kingdom is a pretty exclusive club. Reflecting Nintendo’s measured pace in creating those first-party games we love it for, new characters only occasionally break into the Mario mythos. The result is a curated and polished ensemble of characters, where most have– if not an iconic pedigree– a role to justify their place.
One might wonder where the lanky Waluigi fits into all this. He first appears in Mario Tennis (2000) for the N64, where he serves as Wario’s doubles partner by the same token that an unfortunate might be invited to round off a poker game. This somewhat shoehorned existence might lead to a less than accepted character, but Waluigi does fill the niche of serving as Luigi’s anarchic foil (as Wario does for Mario). In this way he completes a quadrant previously supposed by the dynamic of three indisputable Nintendo characters. Perhaps to detail his opposition to the fire-throwing Mario Bros., Waluigi could summon and travel through water in Mario Tennis‘ sequel.
Oh, and his name offers some fortuitous wordplay. Warui (in romanized Japanese) is often translated as “bad.” Coupled with the fact that, in the language, the “l” and “r” sounds are one and the same, this makes for Waruiji, or “bad Luigi.” The pun is a little more fleshed out than for Wario.
Pun or no, the man of black and purple is almost invariably detested by many games journalists, at least if Wikipedia’s entry on his reception is anything to go by. It might not be; Waluigi often pops up in top 10 lists, which have the tendency to degenerate into the outrageous rather than to keep with sound reflection.
What’s certain is that Waluigi has never really enjoyed his own spotlight. His racket-in-hand appearance on N64 set the mold for future inclusions. Even his cameo as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl features his aggressive use of a tennis racket. Beyond that, he’s shown up in Mario Party 3, Winter Olympic Games, and Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, among other games. Granted, Waluigi did serve as the main villain in Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix, but the game didn’t have nearly the same prominence as would have a platformer.
What does the future hold for Waluigi? Fans of the character (if any of you there are) might fret over his exclusion from Mario Kart 7, the latest iteration of a decidedly household series for Nintendo. Waluigi was created away from home (by game developer Camelot) as an athlete more than anything. Bound within that role he may stay, even past the advent of Wii U.