Memes aren’t something that can usually be planned out, but Nintendo managed to strike gold with the recent release of Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. The title itself managed to move an impressive 1.2 million copies in its first weekend of release and it’s since been met with an ample amount of critical acclaim from reviewers. While the sales are good and the reviews are even better, Nintendo could be in a position to see even more of a spotlight shone on its latest racer thanks to Mario’s often overlooked sibling — Luigi.
The developers behind Mario Kart 8 spared no expense when it came down to attention to detail, and each of the characters are very aware of the race that’s going on around them. One aspect of this is shifting their head and eyes to look at other racers that they pass or get passed by, and that’s where Luigi’s inclusion immediately became a far bigger marketing asset than Nintendo likely ever imagined.
As many fans and consumers know by now, Luigi will unleash the most utterly disgusted and agitated look at other racers as he bombards them with turtle shells and takes them out of the race. Combine this detail with the ability to upload racing clips to YouTube right from the game, and it was really only a matter of time before the plumber’s hilariously strange glance became a meme.
Since Luigi went viral, news stations and forums have been erupting with various videos and animted .gifs of the green-suited brother tearing apart the competition in Mario Kart 8 with a menacing stare. Some montages of the emerald Italian feature hit songs such as Chamillionaire’s Ridin’ and Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, which only deepen the unparalleled disdain spread across Luigi’s unsettling mug.
This meme a good one and and even Nintendo has begun embracing it lately, but it’s done so for a very good reason: it’s good for business. Mainstream news outlets and TV stations even picked it up, while images and animated dominated the gaming section of Reddit for a week. Nintendo rarely gets that sort of positive, likable attention these days so it was a pleasant change for all.
While it’s ironic that Luigi only garnered all this attention post-Year of Luigi, the fact that all these people are now talking about Mario Kart 8 means there’s an immense magnifying glass placed over the title. Everyone from enthusiasts to major news networks have been talking about the game and the manic looking Luigi that’s featured within it.
In a time where Nintendo’s Wii U has been struggling to garner adequate sales — forcing the house of Mario to post losses — any talk about the hardware is good for business. As the popularity and notoriety of Mario Kart 8 continues to increase, word of mouth will encourage a number of consumers to invest in the console.
While Luigi won’t help the Wii U become as popular as its predecessor, its impact is already being felt in markets where the Big N needed a boost most. The UK has already seen sales of the console jump 666% since MK8’s release, and that momentum likely won’t be going anywhere yet. Now that games like Super Smash Bros. and The Legend of Zelda are making their presence felt in the next few days during E3 2014, there’s still no counting out Ninty.
That’s not to say that the Wii U is likely to tap into that mainstream appeal it so desperately needs, but Luigi’s newfound success as a ruthless neirdowell is a glimmer of light for the company in an otherwise gloomy age.
Mario Kart 8 (and a very disgruntled Luigi) can be found on store shelves and the Nintendo eShop right now, exclusively on Wii U.
Follow Riley on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.