He first appeared in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins as the Big Bad of the game, where he stole Mario's castle (don't ask why Mario has a castle) and hid away the Six Golden Coins needed to reach him. He appeared again in Wario's Woods, in his last true appearance as a major villain, having taken over the Peaceful Woods; this time, Mario and Luigi are nowhere to be found, so Toad has to take the fight to him instead.
Wario eventually came into his own as the star of his own platformer series, Wario Land. While the first game and Virtual Boy installment played essentially like Mario games with a few tweaks, the series eventually diverged into a Puzzle Platformer series with a heavy emphasis on exploration. Tying in with Wario's greed, a large focus of the games is getting a better ending by collecting as many coins as possible.
2003 saw the beginning of the other major branch of the franchise: the WarioWare series. In this series, Wario, still greedy as ever, decides to form his own video game company specializing in seconds-long minigames called "microgames." In addition to Wario, the series stars a wacky cast of characters who function as Wario's employees, such as disco dancer Jimmy T., Mad Scientist Dr. Crygor, and in-universe Nintendo enthusiast 9-Volt.
Despite being the first character-based sub-series of Mario (predating Donkey Kong Country, Yoshi's Island, and Luigi's Mansion), the Wario franchise is notable for lacking the coherence of its sisters, as the platformer and WarioWare branches of the franchise rarely ever reference one another and never share any characters. Even the Wario Land games tend to not share characters between installments, with the only recurring character besides Wario himself being his arch-rival Captain Syrup. The Wario franchise also has virtually no presence within the extended Mario universenote unlike its sister franchises. Wario himself is a staple character of the various Mario sports and party spinoffs, but none of the characters from either Wario Land or WarioWare appear alongside him. In the spinoffs, Wario usually gets an Ambiguously Related companion named Waluigi, a taller and leaner counterpart to Luigi, but Waluigi himself didn't appear within the core Wario series in any capacity until WarioWare Gold, where he appeared as a cameo.
In spite of the above, Wario himself is a regular of the Super Smash Bros. series, having been playable since Brawl and representing his own franchise. However, the Smash series tends to favor representing WarioWare over any other branches of the Wario series.
Games in the series:
- Wario Land series
- WarioWare series
- WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ (2003; Game Boy Advance)
- WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game$! (2003; Nintendo GameCube)
- WarioWare: Twisted! (2004; Game Boy Advance)
- WarioWare: Touched! (2004; Nintendo DS)
- WarioWare: Smooth Moves (2006, Wii)
- WarioWare: Snapped! (2008, DSiWare)
- WarioWare: D.I.Y. (2009; Nintendo DS)
- WarioWare: D.I.Y. Showcase (2009; WiiWare)
- Game & Wario (2013; Wii U)
- WarioWare Gold (2018; Nintendo 3DS)
- WarioWare: Get It Together! (2021; Nintendo Switch)
- WarioWare: Move It! (2023; Nintendo Switch)
- Other Wario games
Tropes in the Wario franchise:
- Acrofatic: For a fat guy, Wario is quite good at running, jumping, and beating the crap out of things. It really peaks in Wario World, where he can pull off front flips and perform fancy wrestling moves on monsters much larger than he is.
- Anti-Hero: Probably the closest way to a hero you can describe Wario. He's pretty much only motivated by greed, which sometimes gets him on the side of good by chance.
- Denser and Wackier: As a whole, the Wario series is far wackier than the already surreal Mario series, famously featuring Wario getting into compromising situations ultimately to his own benefit. Wario Land 4 and Wario World in particular turn toward cartoonish horror with their bosses.
- Evil Versus Evil: Wario cares about nothing other than making himself filthy rich while he goes up against adversaries that are just as bad or worse than him.
- Foe-Tossing Charge: Wario's signature move, where he charges shoulder-first to plow through enemies. It's so iconic that it has appeared in the otherwise unconnected platformers Wario World and Master of Disguise and makes sporadic appearances in the WarioWare series.
- Greed: Whether a macho treasure hunter or a lazy video game tycoon, nothing stops Wario on his quest to get filthy rich.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: Second to his shoulder-first tackle, Wario's most common method of combat is to pick up stunned enemies and throw them at other enemies.
- Monster of the Week: In contrast to other sub-series in the Mario franchise, all of which have clear archenemies (Bowser for the mainline Mario games, Kamek for Yoshi's Island, K. Rool for Donkey Kong Country, and King Boo for Luigi's Mansion), Wario's platformers have him go up against a new antagonist in nearly every installment. The closest thing Wario has to an Arch-Enemy would be Captain Syrup, who only appeared as an antagonist in the original Wario Land and Wario Land II and as an uneasy ally in Shake It!.
- Only in It for the Money: A recurring theme in these games is that anything Wario does is in the name of either getting rich or defending his riches. Anything heroic he does on the way, is either unintentional or done specifically because Wario knows he will be rewarded for it.