Since Mario does not appear in the game, players can enjoy multiplayer by playing as Luigi, Blue Toad, Yellow Toad, and Nabbit. Some of you may not know the Nabbit character, so let me refresh your memory.
In New Super Mario Bros. U, Nabbit was a character that stole items from Toad’s house, and players would chase him in different stages. This time around you can actually play as Nabbit.
Nabbit has different abilities from Luigi and the Toads. His speed and jump are the same as the others, but he cannot power up if he collects items. Instead, he won’t take damage when he touches enemies.
-Satoru Iwata describing New Super Luigi U’s multiplayer mode
Let us begin by traveling back in time to the year 1985.
It was then that the original Super Mario Bros. was released. It became a worldwide sensation, solidifying Nintendo’s spot in the video game market and spawning a franchise consisting of some of the most beloved games of all time. Over the next seven years, Nintendo released seven Super Mario sidescrolling games, the last of which was Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins for the Nintendo Gameboy.
In 1996, Nintendo's development resources shifted to a focus on 3D with the launch of the Nintendo 64. Super Mario 64 was released to rave reviews; once again, Nintendo had changed the playing field. 2D sidescrolling platformers became a thing of the past, with most developers opting to make their games in 3D instead.
It wasn’t until 2006 that Nintendo returned to its 2D roots with New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS. Unsurprisingly, it received large amounts of praise from all who played it; 2D Mario was back. Three years later, New Super Mario Bros. Wii came out for the Wii, followed by New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS and, most recently, New Super Mario Bros. U on the Wii U.
In New Super Mario Bros. U, players are introduced to a character named Nabbit, a rabbit who nabs items (get it?).
But who is Nabbit?
In order to answer the question, we must take a second look at a fantastic game which spawned a criminally underrated franchise: Super Mario Land 2, the last in Nintendo's initial run of 2D Mario platformers.
In SML2, Mario has his castle stolen by the evil Wario, a newcomer to the series. Mario must collect the six golden coins to break Wario’s spell and reclaim the castle. Naturally, Mario wins, and Wario is defeated.
However, as we’ve learned time and time again from Mario’s confrontations with Bowser, no one goes down that easily. But whereas Bowser retries his same old scheme over and over, Wario opted for a different approach: he would forget about Mario and go on his own treasure-hunting adventures! With Wario taking on the role of protagonist, the Wario Land series was born.
In the 14 years between Super Mario Land 2 and New Super Mario Bros., Wario had Nintendo’s 2D sidescrolling efforts all to himself. Wario basked in his glory, collecting mountains of treasure while starring in games adored by millions; he was even able to start his own video game company in the WarioWare spin-off series. He would never be as popular as Mario, but that was alright with him.
That is, until New Super Mario Bros. launched. With Mario back in the 2D sidescrolling genre, no one needed Wario anymore. Wario faltered, with his next game being the mediocre Master of Disguise in 2007. Giving it one last try, Wario starred in Wario Land: Shake It!, a beautiful hand-drawn sidescroller for the Wii, and arguably the best Wario game to date.
But it wasn’t enough. New Super Mario Bros. Wii launched the next year, and Wario was forgotten.
I think you knew where I’m going with this.
After Super Mario Land 2, Wario dreamt of getting revenge on Mario, the man who had taken everything away from him. But as Wario went on his own adventures, his bitter feelings towards Mario began to fade. To say that Wario liked Mario would be a stretch; the grudge was still there, deep down. It had just been forgotten.
With the release of the New Super Mario Bros. series and Wario’s subsequent fall from fame, the grudge resurfaced. Wario spent the next few years in a deep depression, wishing for revenge on Mario, but feeling too lethargic to act. Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back: New Super Mario Bros. 2.
"You can turn Mario gold and grab more coins than ever in New Super Mario Bros. 2—only on Nintendo 3DS!"
It wasn’t enough for Mario to take his fame. It wasn’t enough for Mario to reclaim the 2D sidescrolling throne. It wasn’t enough for Mario to defeat him all those years ago. Mario just couldn’t stop rubbing it in.
All those coins. So many coins. More coins than he had ever seen. How could there be so many coins? Was it physically possible for that many coins to exist?
Those coins could have been his. Those coins should have been his. He needed those coins. Those were his coins. How many did Mario need? One million? One million coins? Those weren’t Mario’s coins. Those were his coins. Those were for him. He deserved them.
Those were his coins.
And then he snapped. Once again taking the appearance of the animal that he had been defeated as so long ago, Wario decided to directly interfere with Mario’s next quest.
Rabbit Mario vs. Rabbit Wario
Wario was invincible. He wouldn’t be able to use any power-ups, meaning that Mario would be taller than him after using a super mushroom, but it didn’t matter. That was something that Wario had learned during his years of adventuring: he couldn’t die. He had been set on fire, blown up like a balloon, and even turned into a zombie. And he had survived everything.
Sure, it hurt... but not as much as a broken heart. Remembering was the hardest part. Wario had tried distracting himself with his game development company but it was no use. He couldn't stop himself from dreaming of his former glory.
Sometimes, he wished he could die.
He would make Mario feel that same pain. Years of torment had built up inside of Wario. He knew what he had to do.
Peach’s next kidnapping was inevitable, as was Mario’s success. Wario knew that there was nothing Bowser could do to stop Mario. But if Wario could sabotage Mario’s quest, perhaps Bowser would succeed. The Mushroom Kingdom would fall, its hero’s reputation tarnished.
And Mario would never see the princess ever again.
Strapping on a Bowser Jr. bandana and thereby pledging his allegiance to the Koopa King, Wario prepared himself to do the one thing that he was good at.
Once again, it was time to steal.
It should come as no surprise that Luigi would choose Nabbit over Mario in New Super Luigi U. Some say that Luigi knew Nabbit's true identity from the very beginning. It all made sense to him. The invincibility. The thievery. The blubbery. The purple.
Luigi felt empathy towards Wario. They were both just as talented as Mario in their own unique ways. So why did Mario get all the fame?
Maybe it was because the princess loved him. Maybe his abilities were better suited to navigating Bower's traps. Or maybe people just liked the color red.
Whatever the reason was, there was only one thing that Luigi and Wario-- no, Luigi and Nabbit-- could do about it.
They turned their sights toward Acorn Plains and faced the future.
Together, they would work their way up, one flagpole at a time.
Picture Mario in NSMB with a Super Mushroom compared to the regular little Mario that you play as when not powered-up. Nabbit is Wario at that little un-powered-up size. He's taller than un-powered-up Mario, but shorter than Super Mario.