Granted, others have made earlier appearances beyond their game of origin, such as the Bob-omb in Super Mario Bros. 3, or grander, such as Birdo becoming a recurring boss as well as a playable character in various spin-offs. The Shy Guys, on the other hand, seem to be altogether more prolific.
I’ve previously gone into why just the mere sight of Mario throwing a Shy Guy solidified him as a badass in my young mind, but the truth of the matter is that Shy Guys are really anything but. Originally described as being a member of the 8 bits, “a club from evil dreams” (which I’ll delve more into later), Shy Guys are basically the stock foot soldiers of Wart’s evil invasion of Subcon. They arguably rank a little higher on the baddie scale than a Goomba, insomuch as their behavior tends to more closely resemble Koopa Troopas by way of some colors (pink or blue, depending on the version you play) turning back upon facing a drop, rather than walking right over the edge as the red ones are wont to do. Interestingly, the red ones get to display a touch more tenacity by way of walking in the direction of the player after landing from such a drop.
The red Shy Guys are also pretty much the go-to guys for other types of mischief as well. Whether emerging endlessly from a jar, riding atop an Ostro, or piloting an Autobomb, Shy Guys provide an obstacle for our heroes at every step of their journey. Fortunately, they’re also quite easily dispatched, as throwing any item or pluckable enemy at them will take them out for the count. Likewise, they’re by and large helpless if Mario or one of his friends lands on top of them, where they’ll be prone to being picked up, or even just giving the plumber pals a ride across treacherous territory.
Super Mario Advance, a remake that was a launch title for the 2001 release of the Game Boy Advance, also introduced a new type of Guy into the mix: The mammoth Mega Guys, who were four times the size of a regular Shy Guy, and took four times as long to pick up as well (if I had to guess, anyway).
Of course, the Shy Guys also made an appearance in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, where they of course acted as minions of the evil King Koopa. Though generally unremarkable as far as enemies go, there were some interesting aspects to note.
In particular, they chiefly (if not exclusively) appeared wearing pink garments, and had a more feminine voice to match — or potentially like a young boy, a la Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, which fits with their more mischievous nature early on in the show’s run. What’s more, their masks lacked mouths while the eyes were given a meaner look. Later episodes, such as “The Trojan Koopa,” would remedy this, or at least reach a compromise by using their normal faces, but allowing them to change expressions and move their mouths — an ability that would carry over into later Mario games, though whether this is meant to imply that this is simple cartoonishness at work or that the masks are their faces is unknown.
After the era of Super Mario Bros. 2 passed, Shy Guys fell off the radar for a little while before reappearing in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1995, where many, many new and different types of Shy Guys would try to halt the Yoshis’ attempt to reunite the baby Mario Bros. Amusing to note is that this would mark their first chronological appearance in the greater Mario timeline, and that both “debuts” were in games with a “2” in the title — but only in the west.
As Yoshi’s game expanded into a full series of its own, so too did the Shy Guys go with it, but they didn’t remain relegated to those titles — far from it. Their resume has exploded to encompass pretty much every corner of the Mario universe, from sports games to role playing games to Mario Party to the Olympic crossovers with Sonic the Hedgehog, and more. Sometimes playable, sometimes not, but altogether in way too many places for me to mention here. And that’s not even including the merchandise!
Heck, they’ve even antagonized other Nintendo heroes, both by showing up in Super Smash Bros. titles and putting in an earlier appearance in the dream land of Koholint to antagonize Link a bit in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (albeit under the name “Mask-Mimics“).
For my part, I dig the little guys. As something of an avid fan of fast food, I absolutely couldn’t resist getting this shirt when I saw it:
I wore it to a Five Guys location at Otakon one year, and the folks behind the counter got a big kick out of it, some even taking pictures with their phones. If you’d like one of your own, Level Up Studios is selling them here.
More recently, calling back to that story I mentioned earlier, I fashioned a new cosplay in 2017 that I wore to that year’s Otakon and FanExpo:
Behold this year's cosplay. pic.twitter.com/kIRmssk6pN
— David Oxford (@LBD_Nytetrayn) August 11, 2017
— David Oxford (@LBD_Nytetrayn) September 3, 2017
I’m happy to say it went over well, with a good few people stopping me for pictures, though I’ve sadly not seen any of said pictures online (if you have one, please feel free to reach out!). Expect to see it again sometime.
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.