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Ensemble Darkhorse: Super Mario Bros.
Given its status as a Long Runner, the Mario series was bound to get more than a handful of popular characters.

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    Mario characters 
  • Bowser's original seven children, the Koopalings, were a well loved Quirky Miniboss Squad before being replaced by Bowser Jr. Their surprise return in New Super Mario Bros. Wii made many nostalgic fans happy.
  • Waluigi started out as a character solely to mirror Mario & Wario's rivalry by giving Luigi an enemy and completely lacking a personality beyond being overconfident and narcissistic. Since then, Waluigi has steadily increased in popularity over the years, even earning himself an appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as an Assist Trophy. The biggest reason he's so popular is thanks to Brawl in the Family, where the fans of the series were able to see Waluigi in a different (crazier and funnier) look. He also became more of a mischievous trickster with some bits of Tragic Villain and Butt Monkey as more games came out, giving him an overall better characterization other than just being a "rival to Luigi", got awesome music and stages to his name (particularly Waluigi Pinball in Mario Kart DS), and got more hilarious animations and roles in the games he appeared in. All of this with the Mario series constantly pulling in new fans who didn't have to deal with his early Scrappy moments, have been responsible for his more positive reception, even if he still is a Base Breaker.
  • Rosalina is very popular among the fans of the series, mainly thanks to her being one of the only, if not the only female in the main series that is not a Damsel in Distress and has more character and personality to her. Since her debut, she has appeared in several spin-off titles, was an unlockable character in Super Mario 3D World, and even became playable in Super Smash Bros., possibly the highest honor for any Nintendo character.
  • In addition to being one in-universe, Luigi used to be one, and the best example at that. However, Nintendo caught on, and he's now presented as an equal partner to Mario, to the point that The Year of Luigi was celebrated in his honor. He's also been a perfect attendee in Super Smash Bros as an unlockable character in the first three to prominently featuring in the fourth's advertising as a reflection of his huge popularity (The first game even states he's secretly popular in his biography).
  • Wart, the Big Bad from Super Mario Bros. 2 has many fans eagerly awaiting for him to make a return. The only other appearance he makes is a cameo in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.

    RPG characters 

    Yoshi characters 

    Donkey Kong characters 
  • In the first Donkey Kong Country Rare gave the world Diddy. Diddy would become the star of the sequel and have to rescue his former co-star Donkey.
  • Diddy would then have the same thing happen to him because his co-star Dixie, along with being a girl, could use her hair to make jumps easier. Dixie was so popular that many were upset that she didn't appear in DK64 and welcomed her return in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze ..
  • DK64 gave us Chunky, who is liked more than his younger brother Kiddy from DKC 3 for having a more developed personality. There is also Lanky. No doubt because the two provide most of the comedy in game and the DK Rap.
  • Tiny Kong also counts for those that didn't hate her being an Expy of Dixie and for those that like her teenage appearance in later games.
  • Since then though, the latest DK Darkhorse seems to be Funky, who has been the 4th character in King of Swing and Jungle Climber and was unlockable alongside Diddy in Mario Kart Wii.
  • Cranky Kong was always popular thanks to his 4th-wall breaking snarky quips. And then it was announced that he'd be playable in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze , which many regarded as the best news to come out of VGX in 2013.

    Wario characters 
  • Wario was one until he became a Breakout Character and got his own series. He's particularly well-liked due to his Awesome Ego and anti-heroic qualities, making him a rare gray character in the Marioverse.
  • Ashley the Cute Witch from the WarioWare series has only appeared in a few games to date, but she's easily one of the most popular characters in the franchise. As are 9-Volt and 18-Volt. Why? Because their mini games are all based on classic Nintendo franchises. How can anyone not like mini games/microgames based on Super Mario Bros., Zelda and Metroid?

    Other 
Sonic the HedgehogEnsemble DarkhorseVisual Novels
Sonic the HedgehogEnsembleDarkhorse/Video Games    

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