Mario is basically the most famous video game character ever. For almost 30 years, he has strolled, jumped, ran, swam and fire-balled his way through adversity to save the day. He's become so much of an icon that it's virtually impossible for any product featuring his mustached visage to fail.
Above: The exception that proves the rule.
His entire existence is focused on saving the incredibly helpless and abduction-prone Princess Peach, who has been kidnapped by Bowser so many times she keeps a toothbrush at his place.
Seen here poppin' a squat.
See, what's weird is that game after game begins with her getting helplessly abducted like a toddler, but then every once in a while she shows off supernatural abilities that quite frankly seem much more impressive than Mario's.
Remember Super Mario Bros. 2? It was the sequel that wasn't really a sequel because the real sequel was too hard for Americans, so Nintendo took an unrelated game, photoshopped Mario characters into it and released that as the sequel. But then the real sequel was released years later, with a different title and the fake sequel was still called Super Mario Bros. 2, even though the real sequel was readily available in the States.
In Super Mario Bros. 2, you can switch among four characters at any time, and every single one of them is better than Mario. In fact, there's no reason to ever pick anyone but the Princess, because she, like Tails, can fucking fly.
She's like Boba Fett. In a dress.
For short distances, anyway. Peach can jump in the air and hang there for a ridiculous amount of time, during which she can fly over countless obstacles and bottomless pits that Mario would just stare at. She is without question the star of Super Mario Bros. 2, but somehow Mario still gets the damn thing named after him.
And don't tell us that ability isn't canon; years later she shows up in her own DS game, still with the ability to fly ...
... and oh by the way can freaking surround herself with a ball of psychic hellfire.
Which is not a great quality in a girlfriend.
That game is the only one that gets the logic right: It's Mario who gets kidnapped, and she has to go save his ass. Not only does this make more sense considering her arsenal, but we can't figure out how she ever allows herself to get kidnapped in the first place.
The original Donkey Kong led a simple life, but nowadays you need more than an endless supply of barrels and a house made up of construction beams if you hope to excel in the workplace. So Donkey Kong got a revamp in the Donkey Kong Country series, pitting him against an endless stream of enemies in an action platformer setting. In these games, Donkey Kong shambles around the jungle in a necktie and bonks villainy on the head.
Also, he eats a shitload of bananas.
Enter Donkey Kong's cousin Funky Kong, who is better than him in every conceivable way.
That funky monkey.
Funky Kong lives in the woods and stockpiles weapons, presumably to take down the FBI when they show up one day to steal his freedom. Being Donkey's cousin, he sells these weapons, along with any other groundbreaking and world-changing technology he just happens to have lying around, for a discount price at Funky's Armory.
This was before he put up the "Where's the Birth Certificate?" billboard.
Funky even has planes and gyrocopters, whereas Donkey is still picking his ass riding around on a rhino in the jungle.
Now, we know what you're thinking. Just because he has a massive arsenal at his disposal doesn't mean he's qualified to use any of these weapons. Maybe he has some kind of disability that affects his motor control. Maybe he's a pacifist, and his conscience will only allow him to sell the coconut guns that Donkey uses to terrorize the bad guys.
Ah, no. At the end of Donkey Kong Country 64, the main bad guy (King K. Rool) has the Kong family surrounded when Funky swoops in with a goddamned rocket launcher and blasts Rool into oblivion.
The asshole could've done this at any time. Once more, it raises the question of why send Donkey Kong to do anything when you have this guy around? What can't be accomplished when you have a monkey with rocket-propelled explosives?
Gordon Freeman may have won a gamer popularity poll, but Halo's Master Chief dominates on the sales charts. This despite being yet another faceless, voiceless protagonist designed to let the player pretend he's a genetically enhanced super-soldier out to save the universe from unspeakably evil alien parasites.
As opposed to speakably evil alien parasites.
This isn't a bad thing -- the Chief is certainly not to be fucked with. He's an intergalactic badass with some of the most high-tech armor and weaponry imaginable, and he's managed to blast his way through countless utterly hopeless scenarios and come out on top every time.
Cortana, the Chief's AI sidekick. She exists mainly for providing tactical support and information for the Chief, along with providing 15-year-olds with nerdtastic geek boners. (Hint: Don't Google "Cortana nude.")
But in the games, we see that she can control entire cities by remotely breaking into their battle nets and taking over their weaponry, without anyone ever setting foot in the area. Which is another way of saying that she really doesn't need the Chief at all.
"I dunno. Mainly for the eye candy?"
Also, the whole point of the Chief's operation is to destroy the Halo machine in the hopes that it would kill the Flood. What it would actually do is kill off anything the Flood considers food, which is absolutely every living thing in the universe. Chief, being a faceless meathead who tends to just shoot everything he sees, would not have figured that out until after everybody was dead. Cortana did all the thinking for him and learned the truth about Halo just in time to keep him from dooming us all.
Basically, she could've fought the entire war and probably won it by herself simply by crippling the enemy's weaponry, without any troops ever getting too close to actual gunfire. Her remote hacking and expansive information-gathering abilities make her the clear poster child for evolved futuristic combat.
This is not evolved.
Master Chief, for all his badassitude, is really just a grunt whose life is being put unnecessarily at risk, although a video game featuring him doing nothing but sitting around eating tacos in the cafeteria while Cortana does all the work would probably not have sold as well.
Be sure to learn about some gaming antagonists that were huge let downs, in The 6 Most Disappointing Video Game End Bosses. Or learn about some cinematic good guys that should've stayed home, in 6 Movie Heroes Who Actually Made Things Worse.
And stop by Linkstorm to find out why Luigi was actually the better brother.
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