Rise of the Unlikely Sidekicks

A look at some awesome, strange, and classic games starring side characters!

By Kyle England. Posted 12/04/2014 13:00 4 Comments     ShareThis

The nature of toads in the Mushroom Kingdom has always been somewhat difficult to decipher, but we can confirm several facts. The species “toad” refers to all of the short, mushroom-headed people who live in many regions around the Mario universe, chiefly in the Mushroom Kingdom. However, the proper name “Toad” refers to a specific individual, Princess Peach’s royal attendant. He has red spots on his head and wears a blue vest– he appears in the NES Super Mario Bros. trilogy, Super Mario 64, and the Mario spin-off games. In recent times, this Toad has been somewhat phased out in the main series of Mario games, as Toadsworth largely fills his role in the story. A blue-spotted Toad took over as a playable character in Super Mario 3D World, but it’s unclear if this is Toad from the past games sporting blue, or a generic blue toad.

I got a little sidetracked there… Why am I talking about toads? What does this have to do with sidekicks? Right, Captain Toad has his own game now, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker! Captain Toad is his own character altogether, having made his first appearance in Super Mario Galaxy. He’s not just regular ol’ Toad wearing adventure gear.

The idea of a side character like Captain Toad getting his own game might seem strange, but it’s not the first time Nintendo has given a side character the leading role. Sometimes, games that focus on the sidekicks can even surpass their predecessors and start their own franchises! Let’s take a quick look back at some other games like this.

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 – Game Boy – 1994
Wario Land is now a well-established Nintendo franchise, but it wasn’t always that way. After Wario appeared in Super Mario Land 2 for Game Boy as the villain, he could have disappeared like several one-off Mario villains of past games like Wart, Tatanga, and Foreman Spike. Instead, Nintendo rolled with the idea of an anti-hero for this first Wario Land game, and a new series was born!

Wario’s Woods – NES/SNES – 1994
Wario has invaded some magical woods, and who shows up to stop him? Toad! In a show of singular courage, the faithful mushroom man emerges to fight Wario by stacking blocks in this puzzle game. And yes, it’s the character Toad mentioned before. Toad must line up monsters and blow them up with bombs to end Wario’s evil reign over this patch of forestry and prevent his invasion of the Mushroom Kingdom.

Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon & Zelda’a Adventure – Philips CDi – 1993 & 1994
Nintendo would prefer that you did not remember the licensed games produced for the Philips CDi system in the early 90s. People like me who discuss old video games make sure that the games are always in the back of your mind. Yes, Zelda had her own adventures on the ill-fated console. It was a change from the days of being captured by Ganon, but it didn’t make the games worth playing. Then again, I haven’t played them myself, so am I in any place to judge them?

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island – SNES – 1995
This is yet another game that spawned a standalone series. Yoshi, a simple sidekick in Super Mario World, graduated to A-List character with new abilities and a play style that set him apart from Mario. Yoshi’s Island is a great game, everyone.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest – SNES – 1995
Here we have another case of sidekick turned hero. Diddy Kong takes over to rescue the big ape Donkey Kong on his own adventure. Something about this formula makes for fantastic games, as DKC 2 is a stellar sequel and must-play platformer. Diddy went back to being a second fiddle in future games, but this taste in the spotlight was oh so sweet. Well, there was Diddy Kong Racing, too!

Nester’s Funky Bowling – Virtual Boy – 1996
This one was quite the anomaly. Somehow, a character straight from the pages of Nintendo Power managed to get his own video game. It’s a shame it had to be a game on the Virtual Boy, the half-baked red contraption that was doomed to obscurity from the start. I do have this system, but I haven’t played Nester’s bowling game. I wonder if it’s fun?

Luigi’s Mansion – GameCube – 2001
Luigi did have his own game for SNES called Mario is Missing! But that edutainment snooze-fest didn’t do much for the character of Luigi. Luigi’s Mansion laid the foundation for the Luigi we know and love today, proving that he was a more entertaining and emotional fellow than his older brother. The game earned itself a sequel for Nintendo 3DS, and Luigi has since taken the reins in a handful of games. The Year of Luigi might be technically over, but it can last forever in your heart.

Super Princess Peach – Nintendo DS – 2006
Peach took charge and took care of business in Mario RPG and the Paper Mario games, but it wasn’t until this game for DS that she got her very own adventure. This time, it’s the Mario brothers that need saving from Bowser. Tons of interesting enemies from past Mario worlds must be defeated to save the plumbers. The game had an interesting and questionable design decision in the fact that Peach attacks enemies by harnessing the power of her emotions. It’s a good game!

Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland – Nintendo DS – 2006
Finally, there is this piece of work. It wasn’t released in North America, but I hope to get my hands on a copy from Europe someday. Of all the characters in the entire catalog of Nintendo, Tingle was chosen to be the protagonist of a game. He’s the strange fairy obsessed, rupee-grabbing, delusional man-child from Majora’s Mask. How such decisions are made elude me, but Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is a very interesting game indeed. If that’s not enough, Tingle even got a sequel!

Not surprisingly, most of these games featuring side characters are from either the Mario or Zelda series, two of the biggest properties in Nintendo’s arsenal. Other franchises rarely get entries focusing on side characters, so I doubt we’ll be seeing “Ridley’s Adventure” or “Hey You, Dunsparce!” any time soon. Are there any minor or sidekick characters you would like to see get their own game?

4 Responses to “Rise of the Unlikely Sidekicks”

  • 1291 points
    Robert Marrujo says...

    It’s so much fun when a sidekick gets to shine in the spotlight. Sometimes side characters only work because of the limited exposure they exist in, but others, like all the examples on this list-well, sometimes it works like crazy.

  • 1244 points
    lukas85 says...

    the cdis game don’t count at all, that’s garbage should not be in any list, luigi’s mansion is the best sidekick adventure i think, and know captain toad treasure tracker.

    • 285 points
      Kyle England says...

      The CD-i games are really some hidden gems that we should all try to play! Joking aside, I was merely thinking back to any games at all with side characters as heroes– not necessarily the cream of the crop.

    • 156 points
      excaliburguy says...

      What are you saying? How could you not appreciate a game that boasts lines of literary mastery such as:

      “I’m so hungry, I could eat an OCTOROK!”
      “Old Ganon’s no match for the king!”
      “I wonder what’s for dinner…”

      …and of course…

      “MAI BOI!”

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