Nintendo games are family-friendly, and a strong sense of humor is often part of that. There are obvious examples of comedy like the whole WarioWare series, but there are also more subtle moments like in the clever dialogue in a Legend of Zelda game. In all cases, humor can fulfill a valuable function, like to endear us to characters or lighten the mood on the rare occasion that a Nintendo game gets heavy with its plot. In a year where we could all use a little more laughter and stress relief in our lives, the Nintendo catalog has plenty of games to keep us occupied. Here are just some of my favorite examples of Nintendo’s humor.
Super Smash Bros.
If the Super Smash Bros. series is known for anything, it’s for defying fan expectations time and again. Most of the time it does this through its outlandish new character reveals and the trailers that accompany them. However, mashing all these characters’ disparate universes together frequently creates opportunities for comedy as well, which Nintendo exploits whenever possible. For example, in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Solid Snake can use his famous Codec calls to ask for intel on his opponent. These serious conversations, mixed with Snake’s personal thoughts on his opponent, hilariously juxtapose the dual tones of Metal Gear Solid and Nintendo franchises.
On top of this, the trailers for each Super Smash Bros. game also play with our expectations. Having the easily spooked Luigi be the introduction to the world of Castlevania in the Simon and Ritcher Belmont reveal trailer was an inspired way of combining these properties. It’s a (kind of) natural crossover, and seeing various Castlevania enemies such as Medusa terrify Luigi is something that never ceases to be funny.
As a spin-off of Super Mario, the Paper Mario series has always had a little bit more freedom to experiment. We can see this with just how different each new Paper Mario game is in terms of core mechanics, but this added freedom also applies to storytelling. Likewise, Paper Mario has some of the best and most consistent comedy writing Nintendo has to offer.
While not unique to Paper Mario, the series excels at humorous writing that can poke fun at itself or create twists on established Nintendo games and characters. This could include meta-jokes like making fun of its own age rating or taking famous Mario enemies like the Bob-omb and turning them into an NPC with anxiety issues. It’s the kind of self-aware comedy that comes from having an intimate understanding of how the fans perceive both the series and Nintendo, and it’s something that defines what Paper Mario is.
The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda series is filled with solemn tales of good versus evil and grand adventures. However, the franchise has also been one of Nintendo’s most experimental with its variety of humor. In Ocarina of Time, no one expected Darunia to dance like a madman to Saria’s Song, but it was a great moment of levity in this darker segment of the story. Side characters like the bumbling Groose from Skyward Sword can get Link involved with unusual antics, while other reoccurring characters like Beedle offer up some comedic relief to break up your long playthrough of Breath of the Wild.
Side characters and the NPCs of Zelda games are often bursting with personality and comedy. It makes speaking to each one feel like it could be worthwhile, but the Zelda series attempts at humor don’t stop there. Link himself has been a bit of a diva in various titles, including Breath of the Wild. While he never speaks himself, the dialogue options the player gets can often include sassy responses that give you the idea that Link might just have a thing for witty sarcasm.
Slapstick comedy is perhaps the simplest form of comedy, but it’s something that Wario and his games have excelled at. Going all the way back to his Super Smash Bros. Brawl reveal (via a fart no less), the obnoxious and loud rival of Mario has been a mainstay for fans that enjoy his simple potty humor, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The wacky mini-games of the WarioWare series, such as speedily tapping on a screen to make a roll of toilet paper run out, will always provide a good laugh for Nintendo’s younger (or older) audience.
By letting Mario have a character that parodies him to this extent, there’s no limit to the creativity that Nintendo can tap into for Wario’s brand of comedy — from simple examples like a nose-picking mini-game, to Wario poorly drawing any amiibo figures you own that aren’t himself and even hijacking the Nintendo Twitter account for a day. Wario appeals to the inner child inside of us and reminds us why we’ve enjoyed Nintendo and its games for so long.
Animal Crossing is a series that’s known for its friendly and relaxing vibes. Yet, that doesn’t mean the writers and translators can’t have fun when they inject personalities into the villagers you’ll meet during your playtime. The profit-hungry Tom Nook is, of course, an internet sensation when it comes to the Animal Crossing games, but there are also laughs to be had with regular villagers and even the narration itself. Villagers like Eloise the elephant enjoy gossiping about other characters, while Ribbot (a robotic frog) ironically shares his enthusiasm about exercise with you. The variety of quirky personalities these villagers have means that you’ll never know when to expect a funny line of dialogue.
This humor also applies to the narration, which can be surprisingly self-aware, like a pun about catching bass fish that you’ll see often or telling you that there’s a chance a frog you caught in a pond could turn out to be a new villager. Animal Crossing revels in humor from unexpected places, and this comedy from seemingly mundane situations could be one of the many reasons the series and its villagers are as popular as they are.
What are some of your favorite comedic moments in Nintendo games?