Don’t Take it So Seriously – Super Mario RPG

No one’s perfect, not even our most admired storytellers. If human beings can’t even get their own lives in order, what makes you think they’ll be able to flawlessly organize alternate realities? So next time you run across a plot hole in your favorite book or movie, cut the creator a little slack and – I dunno – clean that room in your house you’ve been neglecting. REMOVE THE PLANK IN YOUR OWN EYE FIRST, NITPICKER.

*cough* But still – no one likes a story with obvious plot neglect. It’s like driving over a road where sewage maintenance didn’t bother to cover the manholes. Fortunately, there ARE ways you can help your audience overlook *minor* suspensions of disbelief:

  1. Craft your world and story as thoroughly as possible.
  2. Rely on solid characters.
  3. Inject humor. Like, a lot of humor.

If you ask me, nothing covereth over a multitude of plot sins like a healthy dose of levity. Think about it: if you aren’t taking yourself seriously, your audience gets the message that this isn’t something that requires their heavy scrutiny, either. Case in point:

Now, Super Mario RPG has a GREAT story. It’s simple and straightforward, but still sweetly emotional with a sense of wonder. It’s by no means riddled with plot holes, but if I’m being straight with you, it wouldn’t have HALF its greatness if you took away the humor. Honestly, it’d be weird if such a bright, colorful game didn’t poke a little fun at itself.

If you feel obligated to critique Mario RPG‘s finer literary points, you’ll find loads of well-milked tropes. Stars and wishes, dolls coming alive, royalty that needs rescuing, the “obviously adopted kid doesn’t know he’s adopted” storyline…

I mean, you don’t have to look further than a Disney movie to find these clichés and more, yet Super Mario RPG can still hold its own. It finds originality in its heart and in its humor. Sure, you spend part of the game rescuing Princess Peach Toadstool for the zillionth time, but you can excuse the overdone plot point because this man-child with a totem pole face and zero understanding of normal social customs has kidnapped her with plans to marry her.

The hilarious scenarios continue through the whole story: Bowser fussing about losing his castle, a cake coming to life and attacking the party. a team of evil-doers based blatantly off of the Power Rangers. Not to mention the countless classic fourth wall-breaking one-liners peppered throughout the dialogue.

Thank you, Ted Woolsey.

The Mario RPGs have continued the tradition of humor to great success with both the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series. (I just don’t have much to say about them because my partiality remains trapped in the mid-90’s.) Considering the plump plumber’s longevity in this gaming genre, the approach must work pretty well.

Clichés abound in every story ever told. Sometimes the old adage applies: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” At times it’s better not to avoid the clichés, but to make the clichés work for you. Learn to laugh at them, and your audience will laugh with you.


Super Mario RPG is the property of Nintendo/Square-Enix. You can purchase it for your own enjoyment through the Wii  and Wii U Virtual Console.

Meeting Characters – the Dynamic Way! (Part III)

[Currently listening to: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze OST.]

We’ve talked about meeting out of need and meeting to establish motivation. But remember my obsession with three’s?

Let’s talk meeting to foreshadow!

  • Mallow: Super Mario RPG

So fluffeh.

Poor Geno. Even though he’s the poster boy of my childhood I still have no blog idea planned out for him. (His introduction is definitely dynamic, though. SMRPG sure knows how to give its characters an entrance.)

But yeah, we’re still talking about Mallow. The main reason may be that even though Geno is super swag, he’s kind of Mr. Exposition and therefore a bit of a clunky plot point.

Dynamic Introductions21

Super Mario RPG was an incredibly fresh game in so many ways: visuals, gameplay, story… *cue old codger voice* Back in the day it was a surprising detour from what we’d come to expect from Mario in years past. Being an RPG in a heretofore platform-specific series, it had to introduce plot and new characters in a way that convinced players this story was worth investing in.

Enter Mallow, the first party member Mario encounters on his quest to save the princess (or IS that the main goal? Plot twist impending…). Mario fans were already well-exposed to smiley-faced clouds at this point in the franchise, so there’s an established familiarity with this fluffy character.

Upgrading from walkway to main character, like a baws.
This begs the question: at what point do these clouds become sentient beings?

But how (the game writers may have asked) can we make sure he’s immediately intriguing to the players?

Well, how about this: when he cries, it rains buckets. Also, he thinks he’s a tadpole.

From this introduction we understand there’s more to Mallow than meets the eye. Not only does he have some uncanny emotional control over the weather, but he’s also naïve enough to believe that tadpoles can look like cauliflower heads.

So while we help him solve the current dilemma of a stolen Frog Coin, we’re also interested in what more this character has to offer – and where his personal journey will take us. It’s simply done – it’s a simple game, after all – and Mallow’s origin is pretty obvious from the start, but it’s still a clever set-up. From the Exor reveal at the game’s get-go, to this cute sub-story beginning with Mallow, we’re already aware that this game intends to broaden the Marioverse beyond what we’ve previously known.

Honestly, when I first played SMRPG, I was far more interested in discovering Mallow’s home than I was in reaching Smithy to repair the Star Road. The foreshadow was just that appealing to me.

All right, all right, I’ve said all I want to say. But I’m sure I’ve missed talking about quite a few dynamic introductions. Want to share a few in the comments? You know the drill.


Super Mario RPG is the property of Nintendo/Square-Enix. You can purchase it for your own enjoyment through the Wii or Wii U Virtual Console.

Release Date: March 9th, 1996


Happy 20th anniversary, game of my childhood!

When I was a kid I had these stickers of all the main characters, and I thought they were meant for glass so I slapped ’em up on my bedroom window.

As it turns out…they were regular stickers, not window clings. And man, they were tenacious little suckers. I couldn’t even peel them off to take with me when I moved out for college.

They might still be on that window down in Wyoming, perplexing some new 10 year-old girl who wants to know why she’s got the Mario crew plus a cloud kid and blue-caped wooden doll obscuring her view outside.

(No doubt my mom scraped them off during the move. But it’s a romantic thought, okay?)

My main team forever.

Super Mario RPG: Lessons from a Fluffy Tadpole

[Currently listening to: Undertale OST]

Since Super Mario RPG is pretty much the epitome of my childhood, I can’t think of a better way to launch this blog than by opening up a big ol’ can of nostalgia. Plus, we’re coming up on the game’s 20th anniversary! (Wow, now I feel old.)

So let’s start by talking about this game’s adorable, cottony protagonist: Mallow.

So fluffeh.
So fluffeh.

This kid cringes at fights, forgets even the most important things, is totally naïve, and thinks he is what he’s not. And yet – you won’t find a gutsier person on the SMRPG team. Why?

Consider this: lost as a baby, Mallow floats into a community of tadpoles where, though he’s fluffy and short and not at all a good jumper, he’s raised to believe he’s a frog. Say he lives eight to ten years thinking he’s a tadpole, and he tries all the while to do the things a tadpole is expected to do – but badly.

But it’s not that rotten a life for him, really. Even if he can’t play the part of a tadpole that well, his grandpa Frogfucius loves him, and he seems to get along swimmingly (haha…puns are great) with the other polliwogs.

Then, after blissfully living this lie for most of his childhood his grandpa sees fit to inform him: no, you’re not a frog. No one knows what you are or where you came from.

Say WHAT??!
Say WHAT??!

Now, the game plays this revelation for laughs (it’s clear Mallow’s more fit for a s’more than as an amphibian), but think about it: has your world ever been shaken in a similar way? How did you handle it?

Well, Mallow does this: after a bit of a cry, he bids his grandpa farewell and heads out to find his real home. Just like that! Hardly a complaint, no existential crisis, not any sort of “why me” attitude. Sure, he’s sad that he’s not a frog, but he’s also brave enough to find out what he really is.


I love the way the trope gets flipped with Mallow’s story. Instead of playing out in a Little Princess fashion – where the adopted tyke is mistreated until s/he finds her/his “real home” – Mallow has to have the courage to leave a life he doesn’t mind and a family he honestly loves. That’s a whole different sort of conflict with its own challenges to overcome.

On a note of personal application: There’s a great deal of pain in this world, and there’s a time and a place for the “why” to be asked when we grieve and are confused. But let’s not become stuck in that attitude! Sometimes we have to lose what we cling to in order to make way for a better perspective. We cry that we’re not frogs so long that we miss what Mallow found: the value of our true heritage.

Oh. Uh…spoilers.


Super Mario RPG is the property of Nintendo/Square-Enix. You can purchase it for your own enjoyment through the Wii Virtual Console.