Discover the WarioWare series history and explore Nintendo’s madcap frantic series in our WarioWare retrospective!
Every hero needs a villain, and that was no exception for Nintendo’s eponymous mustachioed plumber, Super Mario. After years defending against princess-thieving giant apes and overgrown turtles with spikey shells, Mario was faced with a new antagonist, an evil version of himself known as Wario. First appearing in the 1992 game Super Mario Land: Six Golden Coins, Wario (from the Japanese word “Warui” 悪い meaning “bad”) was the game’s primary antagonist and final boss, whose motivation was to steal an entire castle from Mario.
And for many years Wario was well and truly the bad guy, with selfish motives and much lust for riches. This infamy didn’t stop him from having numerous games of his own! There was Wario’s Woods, where he attempted to take over a forest, Wario Blast! where the flatulent fiend invades the world of Bomberman and decides to loot it, and of course Wario Land, an entire platform game of his own where he finally takes the spotlight. Though it wasn’t until the era of the Nintendo Gamecube and Gameboy Advance that Wario’s rise to fame really began, where a unique 3D platformer titled Wario World was followed by a sleeper hit that took gamers by surprise…
WarioWare Series #1 – WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! (2003)
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! was the first of its kind, bringing mad-cap insanity, fast-paced gameplay, and ridiculous over-the-top humour to Nintendo’s first party franchise. Where Mario Party had popularised the concept of minigames, the WarioWare series took this one step further with its inclusion of over 200 “microgames” – short individual experiences that had to be completed within seconds. These often featured absurd designs, silly gameplay, and even the gameplay of iconic Nintendo titles adapted for the frantic gameplay. This was also the first title to introduce Wario’s companions, a colourful cast of characters with exaggerated designs and silly backstories, like my personal favourite Jimmy T. who has difficulty with the ladies but an unstoppable passion for disco.
WarioWare #2 – WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game$ (2003)
The original game was expanded even further in WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game$ which shared similar elements to the source material while adding in a multitude of competitive game modes. Though it featured the same microgames, there was far more of a focus on party gaming, where up to four players could compete in local split-screen or by passing the controller. Impressively, the game was ported and developed in a mere 6 months – clearly they wanted Wario on a home console as soon as possible! It really is one of the best multiplayer games on the Cube and cemented Wario’s place in multiplayer gameplay.
To capitalise on the popularity of the series and rake in some additional cash, Nintendo didn’t hesitate for a moment and the following year released two brand new WarioWare titles within less than two months of each other! Next up was the black sheep of the series and one that was often overlooked:
WarioWare Series #3 – WarioWare: Twisted! (2004)
One of the lesser-known WarioWare titles came bundled with a unique GBA cartridge that featured an in-built gyroscopic “tilt sensor” with added rumble, leading to some seriously unconventional gameplay! To set itself apart from the previous games, instead of using the D-pad to control most of the microgames, the player had to move and shift the GBA console with corresponding movements in combination with button presses. This was only one of three GBA games to make use of a gyro functionality, the others being Yoshi Topsy-Turvy and a very Japanese puzzle game called Koro Koro Puzzle.
The cartridge for Twisted, which is bulky due to its added technology.
Many of the minigames featured rotating or spinning items to win, which was obviously a gimmick but tightly integrated into gameplay and surprisingly responsive. It felt very ahead of its time! Interestingly, during proposal for the game, Satoru Iwata jokingly called the game “idiotic” while playfully spinning around in an office chair.
WarioWare #4 – WarioWare: Touched! (2004)
There’s an old slogan from the DS that some of you may remember: touching is good. And let me tell you, this WarioWare game touched you in all the right places. This is hands down my favourite in the entire series, and arguably one of the best games on Nintendo’s dual screen handheld. While there was definitely a focus on using the touchscreen, this was far more than just a gimmick, as the game was designed entirely with this in mind. This launch title expertly showed off the capability of touch-screen gaming as never seen before, and felt like the perfect fit for the microgame format.
Touched was one of the earliest DS titles to use the touch screen functionality to its full potential.
Although the stylus was truly the star of the show, there were many more aspects of Touched that make it one of the best Wario games ever made! Many of the minigames also incorporated clever use of the DS’ microphone, especially in microgames belonging to Mike, the Karaoke Robot. Players were also particularly fond of the new character, Ashley, a young apathetic witch who lives alone in a haunted mansion. Her levels were accompanied by a seriously catchy theme song:
Ashley’s song, arguably the most recognised song in the whole series.
In addition to almost 200 microgames, there was also a huge collection of unlockable extra features, touch screen toys, and minigames, that made up enough content to be considered a separate game in itself. It’s a game that has aged incredibly well and is an essential part of the DS library.
WarioWare Series #5 – WarioWare: Smooth Moves (2006)
Where Touched was an essential title for the DS, WarioWare: Smooth Moves was the same for the Wii. But there were no touch screens here! This time the entire game was played using the Wiimote in several strange and creative ways, taking full advantage of its motion sensor. At the beginning of a microgame, the player is given a prompt on how to use the Form Baton (Wiimote) in particular “forms“. Holding the Wiimote in a specific manner like a remote control, a waiter, an elephant’s trunk, or even just putting it on the floor, led to some ridiculous and hilarious microgame scenarios. The emphasis on comedy in Smooth Moves was turned up to 11, as it is easily one of the funniest games ever made.
Just a few of the forms featured in Smooth Moves. The Big Cheese feels so empowering.
Where the main campaign can easily be finished in a single sitting, the game keeps giving in its multiplayer modes and extra minigames. Seven unique ways to experience the microgames were included, many of which utilised creative gameplay to add to the challenge. One in particular called “Battle Buddies” required the use of a Nunchuck controller, with one player holding it and one player holding the connected Wiimote while jumping over pits and obstacles. Despite being one of the earliest titles for the Wii, it still holds up as being one of its best examples of clever use of motion controls.
WarioWare #6 – WarioWare: Snapped! (2008)
Following the brilliance of Touched and Smooth Moves is arguably the least popular of Wario’s videogame library: Snapped. This niche title was available exclusively on the Nintendo DSi as a downloadable title and was controlled entirely using the console’s camera. In a manner similar to old-school PlayStation 2 “Eye Toy“, the console captured the outline of the player as they positioned themselves to complete sets of minigames.
Even Iwata wasn’t particularly impressed with Snapped (as seen here).
This was undeniably the weakpoint of the entire series, as it was poorly responsive and featured only 4 playable characters and 20 microgames, becoming incredibly repetitive and lacking any sort of replay value. Despite being an interesting gimmick, especially for a handheld console, it was missing any sort of depth and the entire game could be experienced in approximately an hour.
WarioWare Series #7 – WarioWare: D.I.Y (2009)
What’s better than playing someone else’s videogames? Playing your own! The only limitation of WarioWare: D.I.Y was your imagination, where the player was given the power to design microgames from scratch. Think of it as the Mario Maker of WarioWare games. The game’s inspiration was drawn from the drawing and music-creation tools found in the SNES title, Mario Paint, as series director Goro Abe loved creating the series’ microgames and wanted to share this joy with the players. Development began as early as 2003, but was abandoned temporarily due to technical limitations at the time. But the launch of the DS and the Wii eventually led to the completion of the project, particularly due to an online Wii file sharing service called WiiConnect24.
Players could create anything! Which led to some very NSFW microgames…
Players could design their own microgames on the DS, play and troubleshoot them on the handheld, and then upload them to the WarioWare D.I.Y Showcase channel on the Wii to be played on the big screen. It was a creative, community-driven concept that players could enjoy even without making games of their own. There were even special “Big Name Games!” created and uploaded by game developers or television personalities that could be downloaded. And even though the game’s focus was on creation, it still featured an in-built library of 167 pre-made microgames designed entirely using the in-game engine to showcase its potential.
WarioWare #8 – Game & Wario (2013)
After about 10 years of microgames, Nintendo decided that it was time to take the Wario series in a very different direction. And so Game & Wario was conceptualised, created as a means of showing off the technical capabilities of the Wii U Game Pad. Fans were divided, as there was a complete lack of microgames, rather instead a collection of 16 minigames that focused on using the Game Pad in creative ways.
The “Gamer” mode, where players must complete microgames under a blanket while avoiding the watchful eyes of a demonic mother.
While this experience was enjoyable on its own when not compared to the usual microgame madness, it was not the gameplay the series was known for, and this disappointed many dedicated fans. However, the game did have its redeeming features. It felt like a decent title to crack out at a party, with four highly entertaining multiplayer experiences designed for passing around the Game Pad.
WarioWare Series #9 – WarioWare Gold (2018)
As if the series wasn’t already an absolute gem, the only entry on the 3DS proved that WarioWare was solid Gold. Although being mostly a compilation game, featuring hundreds of games spanning the entire series, Gold returned to the series roots and mashed together all the best gameplay in a huge collection of microgames. With almost 300 returning microgames, 54 brand new ones, boss microgames, and a tonne of added game modes, this is arguably the definitive WarioWare experience. The console managed to incorporate almost every control scheme from previous titles – players had to mash buttons, prod and poke the touch screen, twist the 3DS’ gyro, and blow into the microphone until lightheaded. Understandably, no gameplay from Smooth Moves appeared, as a rogue Wiimote would definitely be fatal to a fragile 3DS.
Nintendo really struck gold with this entry!
Gold also had a comprehensive unlockable library of Nintendo’s history, a showcase of all the items produced by the company, dating back to their original Hanafuda cards. This visual library was a nice touch for fans of the company and gave extra incentive to play the game to 100% completion. However, some fans lamented the lack of unlockable interactive toys, which had become a mainstay of the series but were cut due to limited development times.
WarioWare Series #10 – WarioWare Get It Together! (2021)
Fans have long awaited a Wario game for Nintendo Switch, and at long last the series made its way to handheld hybrid in WarioWare: Get It Together! Experience the frantic microgame madness alongside a friend, as you both take control of a character and their unique traits as they’re thrust into the videogame world.
The game is absolute manic madness and minigames change and become more complex when played alongside a friend. If you enjoyed any of the previous Wario games, be sure to check out WarioWare: Get It Together! and enjoy the madness of the WarioWare series alongside a friend.
Did you enjoy exploring WarioWare series history in our retrospective article? If you did, you might want to read all about the Hidden Gems on the Nintendo DS, or even explore our Nokia N-Gage Retrospective.