When people look at Luigi, they think of him as being the mere second fiddle to the hero of the story, Mario. He’s the one that people look at and think, “That’s not how a hero should roll” and think of him as mere comic relief. He’s flaky, sensitive, a scaredy-cat, and is arguably not of a “pure heart” according to Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. He is also clumsy and doesn’t always charge right into action when it comes to potential crises. The biggest problem with Luigi seems to be his self-confidence, which is nearly non-existent. However, I’m here to argue that Luigi is not a second fiddle, but rather a countermelody to the main melody that we know of as Mario.
Yes, Luigi is afraid of a bunch of things, most notably the well-documented fear of ghosts. However, let’s not go confusing being scared with being a coward. In my eyes, true bravery is to venture through despite your fears. It’s about facing the fears and putting others’ needs ahead of your own. Luigi seems to always do this when he’s on adventures with Mario. He dodges fireballs, makes the needed jumps, kills the bad guys, and basically gets through everything just as well as Mario has. Mario has no fears (that we know of at least) so it’s not that much of an achievement. Luigi, however, faces the things he is afraid of for the greater good and succeeds. That’s the important thing.
Speaking of facing his fears for the greater good, let’s not forget how devoted he is to his brother. Mario is just as devoted as Luigi is, but I think that Luigi’s devotion is more impressive. He actually will go along with his brother in spite of everything. He’ll willingly throw his fears to the side just so that Mario can share that piece of cake with Peach. That’s actually one heck of a wingman, when you think about it. I wish I had a wing woman that awesome.
Luigi actually has one thing that he is better than Mario at– jumping. He has a very high jump, meaning that he can reach places that Mario cannot. Mario is known as the everyman– the one that is average at everything. However, he can easily fall into the “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” category which some people prefer when it comes to their video game characters. Luigi, however, is superior at jumping and actually can run pretty fast. The only downside is that his shoes are horrible and he slips and falls every so often.
Now about his clumsiness/bumbling ways, this does not mean that someone is not a great hero. There may be instances of slipping and falling, screwing everything up, or even some instances of making things worse, but that shouldn’t matter as long as they are able to get their job done. In Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, we saw Luigi bumble his way through a bunch of adventures to help out Princess Eclair. His partners were not exactly fond of him; granted, he did deep fry his Blooper partner though an accident, but he was able to get the job done. My personal mantra is that as long as it gets done, it doesn’t matter how… just so long as nobody gets killed and it doesn’t end up costing a lot of money. Plus, how can you not love a guy who would willingly dress in drag in order to help create a decoy or set a plan in motion? Not only is that being devoted to the cause, it’s also pretty creative as well. Would Mario ever do something like that? It’s hard to imagine.
Luigi has one huge thing that really sets him back from being just as good as Mario, if not better– self-confidence. Mario has an abundance of confidence in himself, since he’s done it time and time again. Plus, he’s always been so lavished and worshipped that one’s ego seems to be damn near impenetrable. Luigi, on the other hand, has very little self confidence. He’s always been in Mario’s shadow and having to listen to people saying how great Mario is and then forgetting your own damn name. He’s thought of as the idiot brother, the screw-up, the scaredy-cat. So it’s pretty easy to not have a very high level of self-worth. Then, when he’s called upon to save the day, that’s why he sometimes runs away or is afraid. He doesn’t know what to do. He’s so used to Mario doing everything. Sure he went with Mario many times, but when he’s at it alone? The pressure is all on him. That’s the problem with a big shadow– when the sun shines on you, you can get easily burned if you’re not careful.
The self-confidence is what makes Luigi a countermelody rather than his own personal main melody, in a way. The countermelody, in music, is a juxtaposition of two different melodies. You have the main one, which is the main one that carries on the most and seems to be the louder of the two. The countermelody is an accompanying melody that seems to be screaming to break out. It’s different in a lot of ways, but it has a few similar notes. The two combine together to make a beautiful piece of music and really helps add a lot to a piece. That’s what Luigi is to Mario. He’s the Player 2 that has his own little parts and adds a bit of uniqueness to the duo. (For a good counter-melody piece check out “Confrontation” from Les Miserables or I believe it’s “The Thunderer” from John Phillip Sousa.)
The Man in Green has come a long way from being a mere palette swap. He’s become his own person, become more interesting of a character, and actually can better Mario in a few things as well. He may have once been a second fiddle, but those days are long gone. Now he’s just about as important to the story as Peach is. He’s also a lot more dimensional and easy to root for (at least in my eyes). So here’s to Luigi, and all the other countermelodies and second fiddles out there in video game-dom. It’s not a pretty job, but someone has to do it.