Do video games not come with manuals anymore? I know some of them have links to online manuals, but that isn’t exactly the same, even if they’re more convenient. I miss looking at the brief descriptions of various enemies. Still, it’s not so bad when you live in an era where a quick search can find a plethora of information on these creatures. I was looking at some entries on the enemies in two of the earliest games to feature Mario, Donkey Kong Jr. and Mario Bros., and found some interesting information beyond the obvious. In the former, your main nemesis is Mario himself, who sends out three kinds of monsters to attack the title character. So Mario is not only a villain, but one who has control over the local wildlife?
Picture by CVGZ Kris
Snapjaws are metallic beings that look like crocodile heads on chains, which climb up and down chains and vines.
Nitpickers (apparently called Stookybirds in some adaptations of the game) are the birds that fly down and sometimes lay eggs, which is not a good way to ensure healthy babies.
And Sparks are flashy electrical things that move all around platforms while making beeping noises.
These enemies all hassle Mario in later games, proving that they don’t have any particular loyalty to him. Maybe he should have brought his whip with him. Snapjaws in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series no longer have the chains, but still look rather mechanical.
Super Mario Wiki suggests that they could have been inspirations for both Chain Chomps (because of the chains and fanged heads) and Klaptraps in the Donkey Kong Country games.
In addition to showing up in other DK games, Nitpickers appeared in an episode of Captain N set on the world of Kongoland. Simon Belmont accidentally summons them with a flute from Dr. Light, and Kevin specifies that their beaks are poisonous, so Princess Lana plugs them with a cork-shooting bazooka. As with most game characters in the cartoon, they don’t look like that much like their pixelated counterparts, but are still basically recognizable when you know what they’re supposed to be.
Donkey Kong ’94 has three kinds of similar bird enemies, based on jays, hawks, and crows, respectively.
Sparks are probably the most interesting in terms of their influence on later games, because there are a lot of platform-based enemies that are basically the same. Super Mario Bros. 2 features round Sparks, presumably the same kind of enemy despite the different appearance and lack of noise.
Then Super Mario World has Li’l Sparkies, which have the same behavior but look to be made of fire instead of being electrified, perhaps because Dinosaur Land hasn’t discovered how to harness electricity yet. Hotheads are larger versions of these beings.
Watt in Paper Mario is a Li’l Sparky.
In Super Mario 64, the electrical platform-huggers are back, but here they’re called Amps and look to be laughing at you.
Fuzzies, despite their goofy appearance, are also much the same, but they usually travel along wires or poles instead of around platforms.
They’re hard to kill, and in role-playing games and other titles with health meters, they often latch onto you and drain your health. They’re also sometimes capable of splitting into multiple entities when attacked.
Oddly, these Fuzzies are not the hallucinogenic ones of “Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy” fame.
Those seem more deserving of the name as they’re actually fuzzy instead of…spiky or prickly or something.
Mario Bros. has three main types of enemies, although there’s a fourth that doesn’t have to be defeated, and some people count the fireballs as well.
Shellcreepers are turtles that are sort of prototype Koopa Troopas, and can be defeated by being hit from below once and then knocked off the platforms.
The crabs known as Sidesteppers take two hits before they flip over. In the Super Mario Advance version of SMB2, it’s revealed that Clawgrip was a Sidestepper before being enlarged by Wart.
Fighter Flies can be knocked out with one hit, but they flutter (well, really just hop) around and are invulnerable when in the air, even against the POW Block.
Later versions of the game make them sillier in appearance, with goggles like Lakitu‘s.
Super Mario Land has flies that attack in the same manner.
The fourth kind of enemy is the Freezie or Slipice, which can cover a platform in ice.
They can be killed simply by hitting them from below, and don’t need to be defeated in order to complete a level. Starting with the take on the game in SMB3, the Sidesteppers are replaced with Spinies, because players would have become used to Mario and Luigi jumping on top of turtles.
I understand there’s one version where Boos replace the fireballs, and even one where Bowser shows up in bonus stages, but I haven’t seen footage of these.