2013 was a big year for gaming. We saw the launch of two highly anticipated consoles, a slew of new titles for Wii U and 3DS, and the continued expansion of gaming into new areas such as mobile. 2013 was about more than just milestone releases, though. It was also a year that celebrated a plumber in green who never gets the attention he deserves. Yes, on one fateful day in February 2013 (Valentine’s Day, to be precise), Nintendo Global President Satoru Iwata donned a Luigi hat to announce via Nintendo Direct that 2013 would officially be the Year of Luigi. It may have initially seemed like a marketing ploy for Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, but the celebration quickly evolved into a variety of games, goodies, and general Luigi-ness that spanned the entire year. It really was “Weegee Time” and these were the highlights:
Before 2013, Luigi was briefly in the spotlight as the lone Mario brother with a GameCube launch game: Luigi’s Mansion. Up until that point, Mario games always launched alongside a new system, but Nintendo decided to shake things up and give Luigi’s haunted house romp the leading role back in 2001. It then took a whopping 12 years for Nintendo to give Luigi another chance as a leading man, but that moment finally arrived in March 2013 with the long awaited Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for Nintendo 3DS. The developers at Next Level Games expanded the original’s ghost-hunting gameplay in every possible way with a new mission structure, more items to collect, and multiple mansions. Plus there was the Screamscraper, a tower of haunted, randomly generated rooms that up to four players could explore together, both online and off. Add in clever 3D effects and wonderfully detailed animations, and you can see why Dark Moon, which we discussed in depth back in Episode 40, was chosen as the kick-off game for the Year of Luigi.
Of course, once Luigi got a taste of the spotlight, he didn’t want to leave. A mere three months later, Nintendo released New Super Luigi U, an expansion pack for New Super Mario Bros. U that swapped out Mario for his green counterpart. On the surface, the game may have looked similar to the Wii U launch title it was built upon, yet it offered a significant challenge across 80 new levels thanks to a new 100-second time limit and Luigi’s unique physics (he jumped higher and skidded when stopping). It also gave newcomer Nabbit a playable role as an invincible character for beginners, but Luigi was clearly the star. Look no further than Chicago’s L train becoming the Luigi Train as proof. New Super Luigi U received a standalone physical release in August, but we covered the eShop download version shortly after it launched in Episode 47.
All this leading man action could make anyone tired, so it works out well that Luigi’s next big Year of Luigi role let him sleep. A lot. In August’s Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Luigi went back to sharing the spotlight with his older brother Mario, but still managed to steal the show with his whacky dreams. Large portions of the game took place in the side-scrolling dream worlds of the cowardly Luigi, where he was not only suddenly courageous, but also had an assortment of special abilities. Want to roll a ball of dozens of Luigis? How about fight using a giant dual-screen-spanning Luigi? Or maybe you prefer just to flick Luigi’s mustache to move a platform? Sure, some of it was bizarre, but it all happened and as we described in Episode 51, it was downright fun.
The final game that gave Luigi a significant role was released on the last possible day of the Year of Luigi, December 31. Somehow, in between ghost vacuuming, platforming, and dreaming, Luigi had time to go to medical school – or so claims surprise Wii U title Dr. Luigi. Mario is nowhere to be found in this riff on the Dr. Mario series, which adds an additional L-shaped pill formation in its new Operation L mode. The rest of the game is tried and true Dr. Mario, offering online multiplayer support, Brain Age’s popular Virus Buster mode, and of course, a traditional Dr. Mario mode. Rather fittingly for a Year of Luigi title, everything is re-skinned for the younger brother. There are Year of Luigi logos throughout, a flash of green Luigi hats appear whenever you complete a pill combo, and an arm-swinging Luigi in a lab coat tosses pills from the corner of the screen. In many ways, it’s the quintessential Year of Luigi game.
That’s not to say Luigi didn’t play a role in any other titles in this Year of Luigi. Quite the opposite, in fact. In Super Mario 3D World, Luigi may be on equal footing with Mario (as well as Peach and Toad), but the developers included a number of easter eggs in honor of this year’s festivities. Hidden throughout many levels are small 8-bit Luigis, a bonus similar to the hidden Luigis scattered around New Super Luigi U. 3D World also includes a full copy of the original Mario Bros. arcade game, but with Luigi in the leading role. The extra game, appropriately retitled “Luigi Bros,” is instantly unlocked for anyone with New Super Luigi U data saved on their Wii U. In addition to 3D World, Luigi also makes an obligatory appearance in Mario Party: Island Tour, but Nintendo unfortunately did not include any specific Year of Luigi tie-ins.
The Luigi Loot
Games are naturally a big component of the Year of Luigi, but when celebrating you need party favors too, be it free goodies or cool collectables. Shortly after the Year of Luigi was announced, Nintendo released a special CD in Japan packed with various Luigi music. North America never received it, but we did get our own goodies, including gold Year of Luigi coins, Luigi-covered Mario Kart race flags, and Luigi hats – all of which were given out at various events throughout the year including Nintendo’s E3 Experience at Best Buy and San Diego Comic-Con. For those who wanted fancier mementos, Club Nintendo offered a Luigi hat-shaped 3DS pouch and until just recently, a five-inch tall Luigi’s Mansion figurine. And if that wasn’t enough, Nintendo even released special edition 3DS handhelds. While we here in North America received a silver 3DS XL engraved with Mario & Luigi: Dream Team artwork, Japan and Europe received an arguably much cooler silhouetted Luigi design. Whether you wanted some free swag or a premium product to mark the Year of Luigi, Nintendo had it covered.
The Year of Luigi was one of the more impressive campaigns that Nintendo has done to date. While the company previously celebrated anniversaries such as The Legend of Zelda’s 25th and Super Mario Bros’ 20th, the company never did anything quite on this scale with so many game releases, collectables, and even character appearances at events around the country. Nintendo claims the Year of Luigi will continue into this year, but it’s clearly winding down. That of course begs the question of who’s next. Some have speculated we may see a Year of Yoshi to celebrate the upcoming releases of Yoshi’s New Island for 3DS and Yarn Yoshi for Wii U. Others believe it may be Donkey Kong’s time as 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the first Donkey Kong Country and the release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on Wii U. Whatever Nintendo does, we’re excited to see new promotions that reward fans just like the Year of Luigi.