Since the welcome announcement that every single playable character in Smash Bros. history would be returning for the upcoming Nintendo Switch iteration, Smash Bros. Ultimate, I've seen the internet in upheaval over the continued exclusion of Waluigi. Reactions across social media and even an op-ed in The Washington Post all decried Nintendo for leaving Wario's unfortunate partner in crime out of the action yet again, and doing him the disservice of only being represented by an Assist Trophy. And while I agree with those outraged fans that it's beyond time Waluigi got his due, there was a more pressing exclusion that needs to be addressed: there was no Baby Mario.
Yes, it's time to finally welcome Baby Mario into the Smash Bros. fold - and, frankly, I'm a little shocked and disappointed that more people aren't calling for the same. The precedent exists - Baby Mario and Baby Luigi can co-exist with Mario and Luigi in games, due to some kind of temporal anomaly wherein diverging timelines allow for the same two beings to co-exist and race against one another at the same point in time (as shown in several Mario Kart and sports games). Of late, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, and Baby Daisy have been appearing in games at an increased clip - and the release of Mario Kart 8 even saw the addition of Baby Rosalina. That's 5. Five babies, all snubbed.
The fact that Mario Kart 8 featured FIVE "baby" characters tells you that Nintendo is betting big on playable babies in violent competitive games, which makes their exclusion from Smash Bros. Ultimate all the more confusing. Finally, we have an opportunity to completely wail on a group of actual human babies using Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake, and you're going to just forget they exist? There are over 60 characters in this game, and no one could find room for several of the most iconic babies in gaming?! For shame.
For those who think Nintendo might have an anti-baby violence stance or something, please sit down and educate yourself - the Smash games are built on the backs of defeating children and babies with other infants and/or adults. Ness is a precious psychic boy who shoots electric sperm out of his brain, and people have been hurling him to his demise since the original N64 game. Since then, we've also seen the addition of even more babies and children, including:
Nintendo WANTS us to beat up minors - so why won't they let us beat up their most iconic characters as adorable infants?
The game is even set up to make this as simple as possible - particularly with the renewed focus on moveset clone characters, now known as "Echo Fighters." Bowser Jr. provides the perfect template - while he is considered the primary playable character, his "alternate costumes" aren't simple palette swaps, but totally different characters (the Koopalings). Their movesets are all the same, although their names and appearances differ.
It wouldn't be difficult to take the five babies - Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, and Rosalina - and simply make TWO new characters - Mario/Luigi and Peach/Daisy/Rosalina, treating their alternate forms as "Echo Fighters." That would limit the work that would need to be done, and it would satisfy the complaints of the millions fans around the world who will inevitably join me in outrage (I assume that number will be correct very soon). Although, if the team wanted to build out each baby as its own unique character, with specialized playstyles and individual movesets, I think that would be a respectful and wise move.
And beyond just a simple desire to watch Captain Falcon fire-punch a 6 month old into outer space, there's a genuinely GOOD reason to include these characters: Smash Bros. is and always has been about celebrating Nintendo's legacy. From its wide array of characters, to the small homages scattered throughout each game, to even the core PREMISE being a child playing with action figures of their favorite characters - everything has always been centered around what Nintendo means to so many of us.
But as of late, Nintendo seems to have forgotten this. Sure, they'll occasionally throw fans a bone with things like Ridley's inclusion, but they increasingly seem concerned with including outside characters like Mega Man and Pac-Man, or ignoring the continued service of Waluigi, or thinking we all care about Fire Emblem WAY more than we actually do (and I like Fire Emblem!). And one of the most forgotten games in Nintendo's long history just happened to be Baby Mario and Luigi's debut: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island.
SMB2:YI was an incredible feat - one of the true classics of the 16-bit era, and maybe the best SNES platformer, period. Beyond the gorgeous art style, the stellar musical score, and the damn good gameplay, it was important for one big reason - it proved Nintendo could still innovate. It was such a huge departure from the fairly linear path (stylistically) the Super Mario games had been following up to that point. Sure, Super Mario World was excellent, but it very much was in the mold of SMB3. Yoshi's Island was daring to be something unique and different and unexpected - by making you play as Yoshi, and turning Nintendo's iconic mascot into a screaming, horrible baby.
That screaming horrible baby haunted me for some of the best years of my young life - and I respect that baby's legacy in the world of gaming. Waluigi is great, but he's always meant more to the meme-obsessed, irony-loving sensibilities of the internet than ever really having a meaningful impact within a Nintendo game. Waluigi belongs to the people - and, honestly, being snubbed in Smash Bros. Ultimate is very much on-brand for Waluigi, and will make Waluigi fans love him even more. Waluigi doesn't NEED to be in Smash right now - but Baby Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, and Rosalina do.
These babies are part of the long held Nintendo tradition of swerving left, of doing the unexpected, of having babies racing against adult versions of themselves for reasons never adequately explained. They are part of Nintendo's history going back over 20 years, and they were just starting to claw their way back into the conversation. Nintendo needs to look to its - and Mario's - past if they hope to conquer the future.
Please, Nintendo, I'm begging you: let me punch those babies.