Super Mario Bros. 2 is full of characters who have become iconic in the Mario franchise. Some, like Shy Guy, have gone on to become franchise staples. Others, however, are well known for their appearance in the game, but little else. Mouser is one such character.
Mouser is one of the mini-bosses Mario and friends face on their journey through Subcon, ranking higher than Birdo, but still found semi-frequently, depending on the version of the game you’re playing. In all versions, he first appears at the very end of World 1-3, sporting his common grey body with pink accents on his ears, gloves, and shoes, throwing bombs at the player that must be returned to him in kind three times.
In the Nintendo Entertainment System version, he (or a second one? More on that in a bit) appears again on an even higher platform at the end of World 3-3, this sporting a teal/green color instead of pink, and requiring five hits to defeat. This encounter would be moved to World 6-3 in the Super Mario Advance remake, and uses Mouser’s normal pink-and-grey color scheme in the process.
Unique to Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic is a third encounter with the rascally rodent, set in World 5-3 with an albino version with red accents who takes seven hits to defeat. His platform sits a little lower than his 3-3 counterpart, but now has spikes in two spots on the floor to contend with. It’s believed that the difficulty of this battle saw to it being removed for the release of Super Mario Bros. 2, to instead be replaced with the crabby Clawgrip.
In terms of characterization, not a lot was given in the game itself, instead relegating such material to the manual (as was the style at the time). There, he’s described as “a bomber of bad dreams that destroys good dreams. It is proud and it doesn’t believe that it is just a mouse.”
The Super Mario Advance remake didn’t do much to change this, but did give him a voice provided by none other than Charles Martinet (the voice behind Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Donkey Kong, and others). There, he speaks in a style one might consider to be “rat-like” in a cartoonish sort of way, challenging the player by saying “Here, have some bombs!” and exclaiming “No way!” when finally toppled.
One of the neater aspects of Super Mario Advance is how it shows the creation of several of the bosses, as Wart’s magic transforms more mundane creatures into the foes we know and love. Mouser, however, gets no such introduction. What makes this interesting is that several years after Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island would introduce a new type of common enemy known as Little Mousers, seen at right on top, that would have fit into the role perfectly — to say nothing of justifying their too-similar nomenclatures.
But it turns out that there was to be a transformation for Mouser — just not from those that took his namesake. Instead, as The Cutting Room Floor reveals, Mouser would have had even humbler beginnings as a plain, ordinary, run-of-the-mill mouse, as seen on bottom at right. Aw.
While Mouser’s star has since faded as the Mario series has become an enormous brand known all around the world, he was actually a much bigger deal in the franchise’s infancy. Of course, Mario merchandise wasn’t what it is today back then, and while his face would join numerous others on all sorts of branded items, he didn’t really get much opportunity to shine on his own, save for a snazzy wind-up toy that I just remembered and really need to own now.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t get to shine in other mediums, though.
In The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, Mouser was a member of King Koopa’s (or Bowser’s, if you prefer) gang of minions known as the Koopa Pack. He was often positioned as Koopa’s right-hand man — er, mouse — and acted as second-in-command. Voiced by John Stocker (who also played Toad) and given a Swiss accent with a deeper tone than his future game counterpart, he wasn’t especially bright, and had something of a fixation on cheese.
He was, however, good at following Koopa’s predilection for dressing up and adopting a new name that fits the theme of whatever world they found themselves in over the course of his 23 appearances. Case in point: Sheriff Mouser from “Butch Mario & the Luigi Kid”, above at right, compared to his normal look at left.
While The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! presented viewers with only one Mouser, recall what I said above about the possibility of there being more. Whether the different color schemes in the original games were meant to denote Mouser as just a powered-up state or as a species is unknown, but there is another medium that did run with the latter idea.
The Super Mario Bros. series of Valiant’s “Nintendo Comics System” label not only made Mouser’s kind an entire species (simply referred to as “Mice”), but also gave them a rather profound significance to the greater Mario lore — such as it was at the time.
The Mice only appeared in two stories, but the first of these, “A Mouser in the Houser,” appeared as the second story in the very first issue to launch the entire “Nintendo Comics System” line, Super Mario Bros. Special Edition #1 (incidentally, I don’t think there was ever a #2). There, it is revealed that the Mice were once a prosperous civilization who dug the system of transport tubes (i.e. the iconic Warp Pipes) that criss-crossed the many worlds of the Mushroom Kingdom, hiding their many treasures in “exotic places” throughout.
In other words, you know that pipe you enter in 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. to find a stash of coins? You can thank one of Mouser’s kind for that, at least according to this story.
Unfortunately, their leader, the Mouser, was corrupted by King Koopa (the comics borrowed from the cartoons in some places) and wooed to his side, leaving his kind to be leaderless, powerless, and surviving only by stealing vegetables for food.
Interestingly enough, while the Mice appear in both stories, Mouser himself appears in only the one named above, and is only referenced in the other story, “The Buddy System.”
And for now, that’s pretty much all there is to say on Mouser, though don’t be surprised if his name comes back up again once or twice in the future.
Little Mouser and The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! images courtesy of Super Mario Wiki.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.