When it rose to prominence in the 80's and 90's, Nintendo and its games set the bar high, creating standards that would affect both gamers and developers alike and establishing itself as one of the premiere companies in gaming. Mario and Link, two characters who continue to shine as the protagonists of some of Nintendo's flagship game series, were big driving forces behind Nintendo's rise to superstardom.
The gameplay and setting of Mario and Zelda differ substantially. In the former, platforming is paramount and one's goal is to simply continue onward towards an eventual final level where, presumably, Princess Peach is being held captive. In the latter, platforming is almost nonexistent and one embarks on an open-world medieval quest armed with sword and shield. However, there are striking similarities. Both Mario and Link are almost always tasked with saving Peach and Zelda, the princesses of their respective worlds. Both characters wear recognizable outfits which emphasize bright colors: green for Link and red for Mario. And both characters are mostly silent protagonists who take on their heroic burdens with not so much as a word of protest. Nintendo found a formula that worked, and to this day two of their most iconic characters still follow that same pattern.
With Mario and Zelda remaining popular, beloved franchises, it's no surprise that they continue to build off and inspire each other. Enemy design is one area where this is most prominent. Enemies have come to take on similar appearances, behavior, and names. As such, it takes a seasoned gamer to know if an enemy comes from Mario or Zelda. See how well you know two of Nintendo's most popular franchises right now with this quiz!
These cleverly named enemies live in a sweltering jungle, where they masquerade as shrubbery and make a point of leaping out whenever the protagonist tries to interact with them, thus initiating combat. They have no real weaknesses to speak of and come equipped with a nasty bite and some poisonous teeth. They're horrible to deal with and their very existence strongly discourages exploration, so they're good at ruining a player's parade. It's a good thing they only show up in a single game.
These jellyfish enemies show up in a lot of games, having caused problems for the hero since some of the first installments in their series. Though they've gone through numerous iterations, these enemies are often capable of electrocuting the protagonist on contact and will split into smaller versions of themselves after being defeated, which can produce swarms of tinier jellyfish if the player isn't careful. These creatures are typically found in aquatic areas, making these already challenging places even tougher.
Like their name suggests, bullies are hard-headed, abusive, forceful jerks who really want to ruin the protagonist's day. They're designed for ramming, so their goal is to point their horns in the protagonist's general direction, run forward, and knock them off whatever high ground they're on and into lava, water, a bottomless pit, or some other hazard that waits down below. The only way to get rid of bullies is to bully them right back and force them to fall off instead. Clever tactic, but not the best life lesson.
If you've ever frequented large bodies of water, it's likely that you'll have thought about the nightmare scenario of being attacked by savage fish whilst swimming by your merry self in the water. Horror movies have done a good job of stoking those fears, and Nintendo has had a hand in encouraging them, too. What could be worse than vicious, flesh-eating fish, you ask? How about undead versions of those same fish that don't suffer any kind of exhaustion and will hunt you down until you can escape the water?
Among the most iconic of the enemies designed by Nintendo, these turtle-like creatures walk on two legs but are also capable of retreating into their shells and surging at the protagonist with great speed. They're also shown to be highly intelligent creatures who talk and scheme. Bowser himself is said to be king of the koopas, and he comes up with some pretty convoluted plans to thwart his enemies and secure his princess. The Koopa Bros, who are pictured here, lay some flair-infused schemes of their own, but they too are defeated.
Speaking of fears, spiders are a pretty big one, so it's no surprise these giant arachnids are trademark enemies in the games of one hero. In addition to their sheer size, these creatures have an armored carapace that protects them from attacks and thereby forces the player to use clever tactics to knock them off their webs and defeat them. Plus they're pretty creepy, given that they're adorned with patterns that resemble skulls. You know, just in case you didn't already know that you should be terrified.
One of the strangest and most unique enemies to appear in one hero's series, these enemies are massive earthen golems with limbs and a head that float separately from the rest of their bodies. Being made of rock or sand, these creatures are incredibly durable behemoths that are highly resistant to physical attack. However, their composition also means they're highly susceptible to magic, giving the player a clear avenue to defeating them. They still hit harder than a ton of bricks, though.
These guys may look dorky, but don't be fooled; they'd be happy to squish you flat. These strange creatures are essentially animated slabs of stone who walk around with the intention of crushing any poor souls who are unlucky enough to get in their way. On the plus side, they're incredibly awkward and slow-moving, meaning the hero can get around them easily and continue on their merry way. On the downside, all of your limbs will likely be shattered if they do manage to hit you.
Some enemies in Mario and Zelda are simply living hazards, and that's the case with these electrified entities that float around and exist purely to get in the protagonist's way. You'd think their monotonous existence would be rather dull, but they don't seem to mind; amps always sport big, happy smiles on their mask-like faces. Maybe they're happy because they don't have any pressures or commitments in their lives, or maybe they get a real kick out of zapping people. We'll probably never know.
Nintendo has put forth a lot of epic bosses in its flagship games, but these creatures might just be the most epic common enemies you can find. Essentially a cross between lions and centaurs, these towering creatures stand well above the hero. Their four horse-like legs enable them to run like the wind and their two arms carry all sorts of weapons and shields with which to do battle. Oh, and they have massive, lion-like heads with horns. And their entire body is comprised of rippling muscle. Good luck with that.
Do you like finding new power-ups? Do you like using those power-ups to assert dominance over enemies that once used you as a punching bag? If so, then you'll hate these enemies! Appearing in a multitude of games, these slug-like creatures are keen to eat the protagonist. However, they won't simply make you take damage or lose a life. Instead, they'll spit you back out having consumed some of your favorite power-ups, and the only way to recover them is to destroy the creature that ate them. Hopefully you still have the tools to do so...
Being mugged isn't exactly a pleasant experience, so you'd be forgiven for having a sore spot for these enemies. Appearing in several games, these guys will attack the protagonist the second they appear on-screen, stealing some money with each successful attack. It's usually only a few pieces of currency, but if you're facing a whole horde of these fellows their wallet-grabbing antics can really add up. They're huge jerks, but at least that makes it satisfying to kick their butts.
Some enemies in Nintendo games seem to be there more for comedic effect than to pose an actual challenge, and that's the case with these scrawny little creatures. Armed with tiny tridents, these enemies randomly appear out of nowhere from the fringes of the screen and swarm the protagonist, jabbing at them as best they can. They try really hard, but the poor little guys are easily dispatched with an attack or two. At least they're kind of cute I guess?
If you've ever felt the strangely specific desire to get crushed and impaled by a living rock with two stubby legs, then this is the enemy you've always dreamed of. Appearing in only a few games, Clefts first show up with bald heads and are already tough to crack due to their highly resilient bodies. Fast forward a bit and they start showing up with spikes on their heads, making them tougher to attack and far more offensively potent. They might be intimidating if not for their cross-eyed expressions.
If you were into dinosaurs as a kid, you might appreciate these big scaly enemies, who are, well, dinosaurs. A staple enemy of one protagonist's games series, these guys have a tough hide that protects them from most attacks, meaning you've gotta use some serious power-ups to blast them away. Oh, and in addition to being generally tough they can also breathe fire and smack the protagonist with their tails. Okay, so they're a bit of a pain, but at least they can't fly. Right?
If you, for some strange reason, ever wondered what you'd get if you crossed the aforementioned Bandits and Like Likes, the answer would be this awkward bird. Don't be deceived by his appearance, though; this enemy will happily swoop down out of the sky, crash into you and steal your most precious possessions, and then fly away to bring them to its master. Oh, and you'll have to pay to get your stuff back, too. Thankfully you're rewarded with a large chunk of change if you defeat this thing.
Some of the strangest enemies to ever grace Nintendo's games, these duck-like creatures wander around areas in close proximity to water. They're not the most aggressive creatures, but if the hero gets too close they'll be keen to launch them high into the air with powerful beak jabs. This aerial toss is meant to be something of an attack, but it's also useful to the player in that it can be used to reach high places that might be otherwise inaccessible.
These wobbling piles of goop are essentially living slime, and they come in all sorts of types and colors! They can be green or blue, red or yellow, electrified, or even invulnerable to physical attacks. And for additional fun, you can use some jelly you get from defeating them to make potions that help you in all sorts of spectacular, magical ways! They're really quite the fun little slime creatures, and cute to boot. Just don't let them squash you or multiply beyond controllable numbers. Both of those outcomes would be bad.
If an enormous, disembodied eyeball that watches and shoots projectiles at you strikes you as somewhat unsettling, then you're probably in the majority of people. This enemy, which has appeared in several games, is exactly that. Frustratingly, the odd thing is invulnerable to just about every sort of conventional attack. However, it can be defeated by exploiting 3D space and running around it in circles. The eye will try to keep up with you and will spin faster and faster, ultimately failing and somehow expiring because of all that effort.
These giant fish appear in multiple games and are always a massive pain for several reasons. For one, they can open their mouths and unleash swarms of their tiny offspring to attack the protagonist. For another, they can swallow the protagonist whole if they're foolish enough to get too close, forcing them to instantly lose a life. Fear not, though: if you wear a frog suit, these enemies will be happy to leave you in peace. It doesn't make much sense, but don't question it.
Some of the quietest, cutest, and most low key enemies, these little guys appear in numerous games. They never pose much of a threat, and are hardly even aggressive in most of their forms, the most basic of which is pictured here. In fact, they're usually quite content to just walk or fly around without disturbing the protagonist unless they're provoked into combat. Like Koopas, they can hide in their shells and can move themselves along in that pose if they so desire.
One of Nintendo's most famous enemies, these little guys have been around for a long, long time and have appeared in countless games. They don't pose much of a threat, as they can be dispatched with a single attack, but they represent a big part of the bad guys' front line of defense. Though they initially only came in the plain type seen here, there are now subspecies that can fly, are massive in size, or are even golden. Evolution is a powerful thing.
For anybody who's ever dealt with flying enemies, you know the most frustrating thing is being unable to do anything about them when they stay out of reach. These bat-like creatures know that and exploit it to the best of their abilities, being content to hang from ceilings or the top parts of the screen until the unsuspecting hero is unfortunate enough to walk by. They then drop down, attack, and swoop right back to their initial positions. Not cool.
Some of the toughest enemies around, these metal-covered entities can resemble knights or animated heads or are sometimes simply presented as living statues. Regardless of the specific form they take, though, they're tough nuts to crack. Their extensive armor plating means that they can only be taken out with some precise strikes, sometimes with a simple hit to a crystal on their backside but other times requiring a well-placed shot to an exact weak point somewhere on their body, usually in an eye or mouth-like opening.
Appearing in a multitude of games, these macabre enemies are essentially animated skulls with wings. Despite their silly name, they can be imbued with different hazardous effects and therefore shouldn't be underestimated. Bubbles can be wreathed in a red flame that deals extra damage, a blue one that prevents the use of the hero's special abilities, or a green flame that makes them invulnerable to most attacks. Some unlucky Bubbles come with no flame wreath to speak of, though. They don't last very long.
If you were trying your hardest to make an enemy scary, or at least unsettling, you would probably make it invulnerable and capable of chasing the player endlessly. This strange entity, which is essentially a floating mask, has both of those qualities. These enemies guard keys, and it's only when those keys are taken that they wake from their immobile state and charge repeatedly at the hero until they either escape the room or the key is used. Being haunted is no fun at all.
Worms are pretty cool creatures given that they can tunnel through the earth and all, but the idea of coming face to face with a giant one seems a little scary. These enemies, however, which are essentially massive worms, are far from scary with their googly eyes and rounded bodies. Typically found in subterranean areas or deserts, these creatures retain their burrowing abilities whilst being large enough to inflict damage on the hero by simply ramming into them. They can usually be taken out with a few hits to their tails, though.
Ghosts are pretty complicated to deal with. Not only are they invisible, they're also ethereal, meaning that one needs to find a way to make them tangible before being able to do anything about them. For these reasons Poes have been frustrating in a multitude of games, although they appear in varying degrees of creepiness. Sometimes they're imagined as diminutive hooded figures with obscured faces, large eyes, and lanterns, as in this picture. Sometimes they show up as macabre, stitched puppet-like figures who wield scythes bigger than their entire bodies. Hopefully one finds the cute ones.
If you've ever looked at a water strider and thought it was pretty cool, you're not alone. Someone at Nintendo did the same thing, except they then had the idea to make it monstrous and put it in a game. For the most part, Tektites function just like water striders do, except that they're huge and can jump, meaning they can traverse land as well as water. It's unfortunate they can follow the hero whether they're on land or sea, but on the plus side they could make a fantastic mount...
If you were a living cactus, it would probably be extremely difficult for you to get any hugs. No matter how beautiful and kind your inner self is, your prickly exterior would make just about anyone shy away from giving you a loving squeeze. Pokeys realized this and decided to take matters into their own hands by forcing people to give them hugs. Or rather, by forcing themselves onto hapless passersby by whacking into them, thereby leaving them full of spines. They're spines filled with love, of course.
It seems like Nintendo enjoys putting lots of different types of flying enemies in their games. These creatures, which are essentially just aggressive bats in their most plain form, are keen on attacking the protagonist from above in droves. If that sounds boring to you, fear not! Keese also come in several special varieties, including ones that will burn you on contact and others that can freeze you to the touch. How they can fly around in those states without expiring is beyond my understanding.
Remember how Swoops enjoy swooping down, smacking you in the face, and then swooping away again? Yeah, these things enjoy that, too. Though they come in different varieties, Peahats generally take a similar approach to Swoops. However, if you manage to hit a Swoop while it's in flight you'll be able to damage it. With these, you're forced to wait until they land unless you have some key power-ups. Oh, and some Peahats are enormous and armed with spinning spikes larger than your body, so watch out for that.
One of the most iconic enemies in the games of one hero, Octoroks have been around for a long time. Originally found primarily on and near water, the species has since adapted to survive in a multitude of climates, including forests, frigid tundras, and even volcanoes. They're notoriously rude creatures, popping out whenever the hero gets even remotely close to them and unleashing volley after volley of projectiles that they spit out of their mouths. They also taunt the player with treasure, apparently.
Earlier I mentioned how some enemies are little more than living hazards, and that's the case again with these enemies. These gross slug-like creatures typically reside in deserts, burrowing through the sand. They come up from under the surface when they sense potential food nearby, and often swarm after it in mindless clusters. They can generally be defeated in only a few hits, but having seemingly endless hordes of spinning, flesh-eating slug creatures after you is exceptionally bad for morale.
Koopas seem like relatively normal creatures by video game standards, but the fact that they have undead cousins makes things considerably weirder. This subspecies of Koopas contains all the usual variations, with the exception that they don't have any skin or flesh left. Still, they're somehow alive, and they're often quirkier and more comical than their fleshier counterparts. They seem to have a lot of time to kill, too; Dry Bones appears as a playable character in multiple spin-off games. Being undead has its perks.