Mario is rather sporty. Over the years, he has proven himself to be more than capable of playing tennis, golf, baseball, football, basketball and almost all Olympic and Winter Olympic sports at a professional level. It’s really quite impressive that a plumber, a carpenter, a doctor, a boxing referee and a Koopa murderer even have free time to learn the rules of all these sports.
However, there is one sport that I have always thought would suit the Italian perfectly: the gentleman’s game, rugby union. The people of the Mushroom Kingdom took to the rugby field to play sevens at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but they were never able to play traditional rugby.
They say rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes and what series has more characters of different body types than Mario? Depending on which fan wiki you ask, there are around 700 unique named characters in the Mario universe and between them you can fill several well-rounded teams of guards and forwards. It’s pretty obvious; Luigi and Daisy on each wing, Donkey Kong would make a solid number eight, halfback duo of Toad at nine and Mario at ten would be lethal, Bowser and King Boo are props if I’ve ever seen two of them, Wario is obviously a hooker, any of Koopa’s kids have the strength to operate in the second row, with Rosalina and Pauline have the size to be great wing forwards, Yoshi and Birdo would make great crosses and Waluigi is clearly a rear that doesn’t do much but will take all the glory come try the time.
It even works once you get to the officials and coaching staff. FLUDD is a literal waterboy, Goombas and Shy Guys will fill any stadium, Doctor Mario would make a handy physio, Lakitu is happy to be the referee, Kamek is basically Eddie Jones, and Doctor E. Gad is Rassie Erasmus ( no, I will not detail one or the other). But I think everyone loves the idea of their favorite sport being introduced to the Mushroom Kingdom, so what makes rugby a more deserving game than the others?
Much of it is cultural, Japan being the home of Mario and more importantly of Camelot, the developer of most Mario sports games. But rugby has grown in Japan faster than any other country over the past decade. They are the only country that any rugby fan claims has managed to go from a tier two semi-professional team to a tier one team that could beat any other top team on any given day since. Argentina in the late 2000s.
There is a huge overlap between players and rugby, especially in Japan. During this year’s summer test in Uruguay, whenever there was a TMO reference stadium organizers would play music from the Super Smash Bros. menu. The following month, during the team’s thrilling series against France, they played music from The World Ends With You during water breaks.
Nor can you tell me that there is no market for it. We have annual ice hockey and triple A baseball games, although these sports are only really cultural mainstays in the United States and Canada and Japan and the United States respectively. Rugby is constantly growing, and it helps that a bunch of fans and players are big nerds. Harlequins wing Louis Lynagh recently opened up about his love for Call of Duty, Ellis Genge played League of Leagues against an esports team and ex-Ireland international Mike Ross was briefly a competitive player from Titanfall 2.
I also can’t help but wish for more diversity in arcade sports games. For the past 20 years, it feels like we’ve had goofy spins on football and golf popping out of our ears, with the occasional overdone basketball game. I love the craziness of What The Golf, Cursed to Golf, and Golf Story, but for God’s sake, it would be nice to see other sports turned into video games.
Ever since the NFL started distancing itself from games like NFL Blitz, we’ve had fewer and fewer weird sports games. Perhaps it has something to do with these organizations wanting to distance themselves from over-the-top violence at a time when the very real physical element and repercussions of these sports are being scrutinized more closely. But there’s so much fun you could have with an arcade rugby game; kicks that break the laws of physics, scrum face-offs and lineouts involving power-ups, flagpoles instead of goal posts, banana peels thrown during place kicks, stadiums in the different worlds for Mario or a mini-game where Waluigi can see how much he can argue with the referee before he gets kicked out.
Ok, yeah, the only reason I’m writing this is because rugby is the sport I follow and so of course I think it deserves to be Mario-ified. But more importantly, Mario is a franchise with almost no rules, he worked every job, visited every type of terrain, and Ubisoft even gave him a gun. Let him exercise more and let him break the rules while he does it.
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