Genre: Role-Playing
Year: 2009
Developed by: AlphaDream
Published by: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Feeling Like: The Wii U could have used this kind of dual screen design!

What did I tell you? Expect Mario (& Luigi) a lot on this list. I can’t help it; Super Mario Bros. was one of the first, if not THE first, game I ever played. It also helps that the brothers are present in a staggering number of quality titles.

Bowser’s Inside Story is not one of my all time favorites, but it more than earns its spot here on the 500 by way of wild creativity, hilarious situations and a really good use of the two screens on the DS.

It’s quite unfair for me to mention Super Mario RPG in every single Mario review, so forget I did. The plot of the game is wonderfully goofy. Various members of the Mushroom Kingdom are victim of a disease called the “Blorbs” which causes them to balloon up to many times their regular size and roll around like Augustus Gloop after a chocolate binge.

Bowser gets caught up in it and eats something that makes him eat almost everything in sight, including Mario & Luigi. Avoiding any potential gory details, they’re magically shrunk down to microscopic size and you have your game.

It’s a blast. Bowser has always had way more personality than anybody else in the Mario universe. It was a treat playing him in Super Mario R….er, that other game and it’s no different here. You wind up, punch things, burn things and walk around like a swaggering earthquake in a can.

You haven’t lived until you punch out a pink pig

The dual screen comes into play when, as Bowser, you can suck in enemies on the top screen only to have Mario & Luigi fight them in the bottom screen, inside Bowser (get it?) You have a ton of traditional puzzles and platforming stages INSIDE BOWSER (GET IT!?!?!) and AlphaDream took full advantage of this concept. Exploring in the inside of a giant beast isn’t a new trope, but it’s rarely been utilized to this degree.

I’ll never get tired of interactivity in turn based battle. Timed hits have been a staple of the series since…well, you know and it doesn’t stop being fun here. Every attack rewards timing, patience and persistence. Beautiful.

The dialogue, I will admit, was grating on me at this point. Maybe it was because I’d played more than a few of these kinds of games in a row, or maybe it felt forced. Maybe I’m being a jerk and looking for faults that aren’t there. But I did succumb to possibly skipping text when I shouldn’t have. Shame!

But the star of the show is the star of the show. Bowser SHINES in this.

The big guy rarely gets billing past “the dragon you save the princess from” but that isn’t really fair. I read a lot about how Luigi should be in more games. Balls to that, Luigi is the dopier, lankier, more boring version of Mario. Give me the cocky, fire breathing, hero-eating, princess stealing, King of the Koopas any day.  There’s absolutely something to be said for a game that allows you to grow to Godzilla size, watch the Toad citizens scream in terror,  and then punch a castle.

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