Luigis Mansion 3 will be released on October 31 and will be Nintendo's largest switch release for the remainder of the year (without the word Pokémon in the title). But before the Halloween launch, I look back and appreciate Luigis Mansion for GameCube, a game that helped define a console and a little brother.
Before Luigi's Mansion came out in 2001, Luigi was in Mario's shadow. Luigi started his life as a green pallet swap for Mario in the 1983 Mario Bros. arcade game, and that was his role he played for a long time. If a Mario game had two players, Luigi would go into action.
He would get some development. The US version of Super Mario Bros. 2 gives Luigi a bigger, slimmer look and a higher jump than Mario. This was the first time that Luigi was more than a green clone of Mario. The animated Super Mario Bros. cartoons of the 80s and 90s gave Luigi a personality that made him a weird coward.
But after Super Mario Bros. 2, Luigi was often nothing but green in games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World Version of Mario. He had a starring role in Mario's Missing, but this listless edutainment game did little to increase Luigi's fame. Heck, his name was not even included in the title
Worse, when Super Mario 64 was released in 1996 as the launch title for the Nintendo 64, Luigi was absent. He was removed from the sideline and thrown out of the stadium. When Luigi appeared in Nintendo 64 games such as Mario Kart 64 or Mario Tennis, he was part of the ensemble cast.
That's why the announcement of Luigi's Mansion felt so great. Every major Nintendo home console had started with a Mario game. Now the GameCube 2001 should come along with a solo adventure by Luigi on the market. Finally, his little brother's plumber came into the limelight.
Luigi's villa consolidated his character as a star of his own. These cowardly characters, who had never really been part of the games, made them a defining part of the character. Much of the fun in Luigi's mansion comes from his shaking and frantic fear when a ghost emerges from nowhere. My favorite part is the way Luigi hums the main theme, almost as if he remembers being in a haunted house.
Luigi's Mansion also helps the character stand on their own by presenting a game that is different from a normal Mario experience. Luigi's villa has no platform. You can not even jump. If anything, it's more like a 3D Metroidvania. You explore a nonlinear world and gain new abilities to explore new areas.
Of course, the entire time you inhale ghosts. That was long before the 2009 Ghostbusters title, so it was great that this eerily-sucking fantasy was represented in a "modern" game. And sucking in ghosts feels great in Luigi's mansion, thanks to the controller's heavy rumble, the elastic animations of the spirits and the double control of the character and its vacuum.
Change to Success
The GameCube was not a big hit, only 22 million consoles sold. The switch has already sold more. That's why Luigi's Villa 3 is so interesting. Sure, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon was a hit in 2013 for the 3DS. But it seems the time for Luigi's most successful game of all time – with a Christmas release for a hot console – is right.
Keep in mind that Luigi's current status as a beloved character with a unique identity distinct from that of Marios began in 2001 thanks to the original Luigi's Mansion.
The RetroBeat is a weekly column that explores the game's past and dives into classics titles, or a look at how old favorites – and their design techniques – inspire today's marketplace and experiences. If you have any retro projects or loupe that you would like to send to me, please contact me.