Doom and Goombas


Picture by The Lonely Goomba
After covering the Slimes from Dragon Quest last week, I thought it would be appropriate now to look at the comparable really easy and really numerous type of enemy in the Mario games, the Goomba. Your basic Goomba is essentially a mushroom with a face on the cap, and two feet on the bottom. They don’t, however, have any arms. It’s been confirmed that they’re based on shiitake mushrooms in particular, although the Japanese name kuribo (hence the item called Kuribo’s Shoe in Super Mario Bros. 3) actually comes from the word for “chestnut.”

Apparently the English translators chose to continue the Italian-American theme they started with Mario and Luigi themselves by calling these pests “Goombas.” Apparently the word is based on the Italian “compare,” meaning “godfather.” This became “goombah” when mangled by Americans, and came to simply mean “friend.” More recently, it’s been used as a derogatory term for Italian-Americans. Also, when my brother was a baby, my dad used to call him “Little Goombah,” even though we weren’t at all Italian. The Goombas from the video games first showed up in the original SMB, and have appeared in probably the majority of Mario games since then, as well as a few others, like the Zelda game Link’s Awakening.

SMB3 was the first to give players more than one type of Goomba, including the winged Paragoombas [1], the obnoxious Micro-Goombas that would stick to Mario and Luigi to slow them down, and the Grand Goombas of Giant Land.

Even more varieties have come into play since then. The Round Goombas from Super Mario World aren’t as easy to squash, but they can be picked up and thrown.

Other kinds wear anything from spiked helmets to pumpkins.

So what, more specifically, are Goombas? The SMB instruction booklet describes them as rogues who rebelled against the Mushroom Kingdom. While this may be true, I have to wonder whether there’s another side to the story Nintendo isn’t telling us. While Goombas and Toads are both shaped like mushrooms, the Toads have faces on their stalks instead of their caps, and of course have arms.

Could the Goombas have been ostracized from polite society for their unusual appearance, driving them to support enemies of the state? Regardless, the rebels are currently led by the Goomba King, also known as the Goomboss, a figurehead totally under Koopa power.

In Paper Mario, it’s explained that King Bowser makes one particular Goomba into a king because he desires the position. Not all Goombas serve the Koopa Kingdom, however. Paper Mario gives the plumber hero an ally named Goombario, part of a family of friendly Goombas who live in a small village just down the road from Toad Town.

In the sequel, The Thousand-Year Door [2], his counterpart is Goombella, an archaeology student at the University of Goom in Rogueport, studying under Professor Frankly.

Both Goombario and Goombella specialize in providing information, suggesting that there are some quite intelligent members of the Goomba species. In contrast to this, if I remember correctly, the Goombas in the cartoons never talked. There were voices provided for Koopa Troopas, Shyguys, Flurries, Thwomps, and once even a Nipper Plant, but I can’t recall a Goomba doing more than just making unintelligible noises. The shows did manage to get some amusing gags out of the fact that Goombas have no arms, however, including a scene where they applauded by clapping their feet, and another where a Goomba played a piano by jumping on the keys. The Super Show writers seemed to have an exaggerated idea of how powerful Goombas are, as there were a few episodes in which the heroes ran away from a single one. Leaping Lasagna, just jump on the stupid things!

[1] Adding “para” to an enemy’s name to denote a flying version has been a Mario tradition since SMB3, even though it doesn’t really make sense. I assume Koopa Paratroopas received that name because they’re airborne like paratroopers, but the “para” in “paratrooper” refers to the parachutes they use. Guides for Super Mario World used the name “Paragoomba” for the parachuting Goombas, which is actually more appropriate, but goes against the general naming convention, especially since there were winged Goombas in the same game.
[2] I’ve only ever played the first Paper Mario, and since I don’t think my wife’s Nintendo 64 is accessible at this point, I don’t know when I might be able to play it again.

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9 Responses to Doom and Goombas

  1. vilajunkie says:

    Perhaps Goombas are the Orcs of the Mario worlds–genetically-manipulated Toads in the service of Bowser. Now, this leaves the question of who could have possibly altered the Toads into Goombas. Why, I believe it was either Kammy Koopa or a Magikoopa, making one of the Koopas Gandkoopa the Gray! :)

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