Many of us have probably noted Nintendo for their famous battles, such as Mario vs. Bowser, Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Link vs. Ganon, Donkey Kong vs. King K. Rool, and so on. How did such battles light aflame? They have been famous for years, but how have we gotten to know them so well?
Likely, most of us can easily familiarize with Mario and his rivals, especially him and Bowser. While that may be, however, Mario’s very first rival was Donkey Kong. They both starred in the 1982 Nintendo release “Donkey Kong.” In this game, you played as the anonymous “Jump Man”, trying to save Princess Toadstool from the great Donkey Kong. How did Donkey Kong get his name, though? When thinking of this game, Nintendo knew they needed a large, intimidating villain. That was practically taken care of, so they used “Kong”, but using “King Kong” would really get them into copyright troubles, so they looked for adjectives. After they found results on an aggravated or rash nature, they found the words Donkey.
After that, Jump Man’s villain was now officially known as Donkey Kong. At the time of the game’s release, no one thought of how the rivalry would grow, but they didn’t know what would happen. With the release of Donkey Kong Jr. not too long after, the sides had switched, where you would play as DK’s son Jr., and try to foil Mario. Most people probably lost sight of the rivalry with this game, but it was still somewhat fueled.
Afterwards, the third DK title is released, and Mario and DK were back at it: the same rivalry as in the first game. Mario and DK had rekindled their rivalry, but it would not continue for years, until 2004, when the clever “Mario vs. Donkey Kong” for the GBA is released.
While Mario did already have an enemy in Donkey Kong, his most infamous enemy was called Bowser from the start. In Super Mario Bros. for the NES, released in 1989, came out, the main villain was a tortoise-dinosaur looking monster that talked, and spit fireballs at you to make you lose the game. He was simply known as Bowser. No one knows how Nintendo found this name exactly to be, but it fit well, and this new villain was intriguing. For every other one of Mario’s games to come, Bowser would be either the main villain, or one of them, and try to thrash you in your efforts. In doing this, Bowser became Mario’s trademark villain. Also known as Koopa, Bowser was even the main villain in the Super Mario Bros. movie.
In the midst of the entire Mario craze, a tiny kid hero dressed in green emerged. He starred in a new adventure game, and used his sword, as well as an array of interesting gadgets and tools. His name was Link, and he starred in the new Legend of Zelda. No one really knew this little boy or his enemy all that well, but what this game introduced would spark yet another famous battle.
When some people began beating this game, after the introduction of walkthroughs and guides, many saw the last boss to be a gruesome, mean, talking pig-like creature named Ganon. He was the perfect villain for a tiny hero to strike down, eh? Later on in the 80s, Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link spawns a new Zelda adventure for young Link. The gameplay could have used the old mechanics, but it wasn’t all that great. However, the significance was that it began a consistency in the rivalry between Link and Ganon, when we found that Ganon still opposed you as the hero.
The Zelda series will later spawn a string of games that starred these same opposites, but with a twist. It seemed as if that large and ugly villains weren’t cool anymore. Villains that still had some humanity to them was better for twisting and turning a story, so Ganon was given a more human-like form. This was the first change for a villain in Nintendo’s cast, but it still seemed to fit, somehow. Ganon was now a tall, brownish, human-like thing, but darker in character. As in games such as Ocarina of Time and the Wind Waker, Ganon sports his new character and look, but he returns to his monster-like being for a final battle in Ocarina of Time. In the Wind waker, he keeps his monster form first, as a “puppet”, but actually goes back to his new human look for a final battle with swords.
Donkey Kong was not only a villain for Mario; he has had quite a good share of his own heroic antics. Donkey Kong’s first game as a hero, Donkey Kong Country, is released in 1990, and he fights a totally new villain by Rare so named King K. Rool. This fat and obnoxious reptile was the leader of a pirate crew that enraged DK by stealing all his bananas, and all the golden bananas. So, DK sets out on his own adventure to stomp K. Rool and retrieve the golden bananas. By this time, Nintendo already had an excellent roster of not only heroes, but villains as well.
As time will pass, more rivalries within Nintendo’s games will ensue, such as Luigi and King Boo, Banjo and Gruntilda, and even some more. However, it’s likely that these other classic rivalries won’t be forgotten for a long time to come, because without them, what foundation would there be?