Welcome to Bad Guys Anonymous, a weekly column that I came up with when tapped by the folks here at 1 More Castle.
In this space, we’ll examine one bad guy at a time from games in the retro era. However, these aren’t the bad guys that made headlines and cover art as epic bosses. No, these are the bad guys that come and go before you even spend five minutes exploring any given title.
Bad Guys Anonymous is all about the first baddie you encounter in any given game. That’s the rule for this column. I think we’ll find, over time, that there’s a significant amount of deliberation that goes into which enemy players meet first. Despite their exceptional simplicity, opening baddies are more interesting than you might think.
Which brings us to the easiest first choice any writer has ever come upon: the Goomba from Super Mario Bros. on the NES.
Despite being the first enemy Mario encounters in Super Mario Bros., it turns out the Goomba was the last opponent designed by Nintendo. Originally, the first enemy players faced was a Koopa Troopa. Think about that; the first time you ever play a Mario game, and the opening enemy requires two actions to be conquered.
With the Goomba, you hop on it once and it’s dead. With the Koopa Troopa, you have to hop on it to get it into its shell form, then you have to either nudge it or hop on it again. While that’s a simple concept for any gamer with even remote Mario experience, it’s not so simple for someone brand new to the title.
Takashi Tezuka, one of the original designers for Super Mario Bros., specifically talked about this when asked by Nintendo’s President, Satoru Iwata, a few years back. Tezuka revealed that the Goomba was the last enemy added to the game. When Iwata asked why that was, Tezuka explained.
“Even though it’s now such a major part of the game, at the beginning we actually only had Koopa Troopas. Then when we got people to play the game, they would say that it was quite tricky to encounter Koopa Troopas at the very start…
… So we decided that that we should make an enemy that you could easily squash with a single blow. That’s why we made it so that the first enemy the player would encounter would be a Goomba.”
If only tracing the routes of future anonymous bad guys was this easy, this weekly column would absolutely write itself.
Today, the Goomba takes on all sorts of forms. He flies, he wears bone helmets, he floats in bubbles, he’s gigantic and he wears a Raccoon Tail. But, way back in the mid-80s? The Goomba was a character built with remaining memory. He’s one of Mario’s most recognizable foes, and he was a last minute addition meant to decrease a steep learning curve.
Consider that next time you ever so gracefully defeat the pathetic little Goomba.