Toad: The Third Fiddle Titan

We look at Toad’s past, present, and potential future!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 12/02/2014 09:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

I’m not calling anyone out, because Weegee deserves every bit of the love that he’s been enjoying over the past couple of years, but it’s certainly been in vogue for people to sing the praises of Luigi lately. Ever in his brother Mario’s shadow, despite the other plumber having been around very nearly as long as Red ‘Stache, it has always been as the perennial runner up. Regardless, with his cowardly exterior and heart of gold, it’s easy to root for Luigi. People love an underdog, and there are few better than him. At least, that’s what most people think– until they give Toad a closer look.

Toad has been part of the Nintendo stable of characters ever since 1985’s Super Mario Bros. hit NES. He became infamous overnight for constantly telling Mario that his princess was “in another castle,” but also for just being so… weird. Toad didn’t start off with his now-familiar moniker, instead debuting as a “Mushroom retainer,” as described in the game’s instruction manual. Yes, Mushroom was the name, not Toad, and the idea of the character being one of many was also established, as there were seven Mushroom retainers in total. Squat, wide, and wearing his spotted mushroom cap, Toad was unusual to say the least, and left a lasting impression.

With Super Mario Bros. 2, though, Nintendo changed his name to Toad and turned him into a force to be reckoned with. Though he couldn’t jump very high, Toad’s strength was the best; according to the manual, he was the only character who could run with an object in hand and not have his jump or run speed affected! In a single game, Toad had become much more fleshed out than before, and went from a fun oddity to being outright loved by many. Even in these early days, Nintendo was quickly establishing itself as the home of nontraditional heroes and characters, and Toad was at the forefront of that push.

Toad eventually got to star in his own adventure on NES and SNES, though he apparently wasn’t worthy of being featured in the title. Wario’s Woods saw the plucky shroom facing off against Mario nemesis Wario in an attempt to save the denizens of Peaceful Woods from the villain’s nefarious rule. Toad might have been snubbed from the name of the title, but the game manual described him as “the Mushroom Kingdom Hero,” so at least he got some respect (though Mario might have had a thing or three to say about that assertion). It was a fun puzzle adventure game, but it would be the only starring vehicle for Toad for many years to come.

Fans overwhelmingly think of Toad as a side character, and in a variety of different roles. Whether running shops and minigames as in Super Mario Bros. 3, or engaging in different sports and party games, Toad is a constant fixture in the Mario universe. His personality, along with his compatriots, has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, especially in Mario’s RPG titles. Sometimes he’s cripplingly scared, like in Luigi’s Mansion (who doesn’t love the music that plays when he appears in that game?), others he’s determined to help, but, well, is still scared! Toads are meek but steadfast, and as such have a special place in fans’ hearts.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii put players back in control of the affable Toad, this time with blue and yellow variants of the character. It was a refreshing return to prominence for Toad fans, but the real treat came when Super Mario Galaxy arrived. It was in this game that Toad earned the title of captain, leading a squad of buddies on an intergalactic mission to help Mario save Princess Peach. Though he wasn’t playable, the new role of Toad as reluctant leader was a wonderful evolution of the character, and seemed to perfectly fit his personality. With his status at an all-time high, Nintendo felt comfortable to once again bring the character into a playable role, featuring Toad heavily in Super Mario 3D World. The past few years have been some of the best in the character’s history, finally leading to his upcoming solo title Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker!

The build seen at E3 2014 and the more recent demo circulating in Wii U kiosks across the country have given us every reason to believe that Captain Toad might finally be the title to turn Toad into the next Yoshi. What fans have known for years (that Toad is awesome!) will hopefully translate to others when the game arrives on December 5. It’s long past time for Toad to be a real headliner in his own game, not just because it means more fun games for fans, but also because it further solidifies Nintendo’s place in the market as being the go-to company for titles and characters that don’t pander to the generic. Even though Toad’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto has stated he’s less than fond of the character, it hasn’t diminished fans’ enthusiasm at all. Toad has had a long, rich journey leading him to where he is now, and it’s going to be great to see where he goes next.

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