It is one of the great mysteries of the gaming world. Close your eyes, imagine WarioWare, and what comes into your head (I mean, besides wondering why Nintendo won’t just give us a remake of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, of course, as that answer would be too obvious).
What the heck is a microgame in the WarioWare franchise? I mean, yes, we know what they are: several-second activities that usually involve minimal button presses and quick reflexes so as to finish the oddball task being asked of the gamer. But what makes up the most effective microgames? With literally thousands created by the team at Nintendo across the last two decades, they’ve had plenty of hits and misses (I think we’ve plugged enough noses by now, even Wario would agree).
What are the components of a perfect microgame? The makeup of a microgame makes us hungry for more no matter how many hours we’ve repetitively dumped into the series. The ideal experience involves quite a few factors, even though all of those factors are condensed into the time period that it takes us to yawn or pass gas.
This is my personal favorite component of a great microgame. Because the franchise is so insanely zany, the graphics are all over the map. From stripped-down beta-version lookalikes to actual superimposed human hands, the WarioWare franchise has no filter when it comes to what technological capabilities will represent the microgames.
The best graphical styles are ones in which I know that a good amount of thought has been put into the choice of the artwork. Brash colors and expressive shapes are always knockouts, like this wonky boss microgame level in WarioWare: Get It Together in which the player controls a figure with rubbery elasticity attempting to rock climb to the top of the stage.
There should always be intent and purpose to what is being represented during the microgame. It would make no sense for the above game to use realistic HD figures and models because it sucks the fervor and flow out of the fun! Everything should match and feel just right. There should be contrasting graphical styles between games, too. It’s jarring and surprising when you go from simple to complicated in one swift transition, and that’s when it’s so awesome to see Nintendo at their most experimental.
The WarioWare franchise has always been used as a test subject for Nintendo’s newest and goofiest tech experiments. Who could ever forget hooking the Wii Remote to your hips for “The Big Cheese” pose in WarioWare: Smooth Moves? Or tapping the touch screen frantically to whip a horse’s ass and win a race on the DS?
It almost seemed like Nintendo knew they were trying to do too much sometimes with these control schemes throughout the years and would make the microgames their own little personal playground to see what works and what doesn’t.
Just like with the graphics examples above, ingenuity in microgames is best used purposefully. This is best seen in many of the retro samplings of Nintendo’s yesteryears reimagined in the series. Playing a spherical version of Super Mario Bros. or literally pulling the Master Sword out of its mantle is invigorating and inviting. It’s the meatiest concept that this franchise has put forward and I never get tired of it.
This one is a little bit of a cheat category. All of the microgames are simple because of their short length, quick tasks that are being asked of the gamer. Still, the best microgames are concise. They are the ones that take the most mundane everyday task and extrapolate it into a Wario-style exercise. Cracking an egg, brushing teeth, throwing a Koopa shell at another of Mario’s nemeses, etc…
This is why the first game in the series, WarioWare, Inc. Mega Microgame$, is still one of the very best entries in the franchise. With just a handful of button presses possible on the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo was forced to distill all of their best ideas into razor-sharp microgame execution. Later installments got a little heavy-handed trying to incorporate new technology and brash ideas.
I love when these games make you think a little bit before pressing a button or tapping the screen. Tiny puzzles that force you to move the correct block, identify a figure or character or quickly compute something give such a breath of fresh air in comparison to other microgames that are numb and thoughtless.
Nintendo has also had a fetish for brain games throughout their history, but the WarioWare franchise is the only series that encourages quick thinking and problem-solving in a fun way that makes you forget you are using your noodle. Not many people want to be told they are being productive when playing video games. If you can trick the audience into mental gymnastics instead of forcing it down their throat, fun and efficiency can ensue! For these reasons, Orbulon usually has one of the best microgame packages throughout the series.
Wario is Nintendo’s funniest character. It’s not just the fart jokes and the other uncouth humor, but his maverick style and fearlessness that make us shake our heads and laugh out loud. He wants money and food, and that type of gluttony is unfortunately something we all kinda pursue in our own ways, sometimes because society forces us to do so.
The microgames feature all of Wario’s trademark gags and satires. Picking noses, wafting farts, pulling shirts down over bellies, stripping shorts off of legs, etc. If it has to do with human anatomy or bodily functions, it has probably appeared in one microgame or another throughout the years.
The best humor used in the games comes when there is more than just a simple action happening. There should be layers to the joke, like in the picture above. Instead of providing pants, Wario is going to give the man a leaf to cover up his unmentionables. The force causing the farce being a swivel fan is a third layer to the laugh. Very well-executed and an example of potty humor done right.
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