Boos, the adorable-yet-sinister ghosts of Super Mario Bros with social anxiety

Luigi Nintendo Switch Sean

After the announcement of Luigi’s Mansion 3 on Nintendo Switch and the launch of Nintendo Online, plenty of players have found themselves playing a slew of NES titles. One of the titles available at the launch of the service is Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the most popular Mario titles released even 30 years later. This entry was responsible for plenty of the familiar faces today including the Koopalings, Dry Bones, and most importantly, Boo.

Boos are common enemies in haunted house levels in the Mario series. When the player has their back turned, they will menacingly sneak up on them, but if the player is facing them, they cover their face and go invisible in a classic, “I can’t see you, so you can’t see me,” fashion. However, Boos aren’t covering their faces to go invisible for protection. They cover their faces because they’re shy. Ever since the original sprite, Boos have an embarrassed blush their face whenever they’re looked at.

This social anxiety is only emphasized more in title such as 2012’s New Super Mario Bros. U where Boos not only hide their faces shyly, but they also shake and sweat profusely. It almost makes you feel bad for taking them out if you are able to get your hands on a Super Star or a Poltergust 3000.

In Japan, Boos are actually called “Teresa,” a play on the word “Tereru,” which means “to be shy,” but the inspiration for them to be smaller when approached is based on a real person’s interactions with one of the creators. According to Shigeru Miyamoto in a Nintendo Power article on Super Mario 64, "Mr. Tezuka got an idea about putting his wife in the game. His wife is very quiet normally, but one day she exploded, maddened by all the time he spent at work. In the game, there is now a character who shrinks when Mario looks at it, but when Mario turns away, it will grow large and menacing." Although, it’s interesting that this inspiration was applied to Boos in Super Mario 64, and not their original inclusion in Super Mario Bros. 3.

Boos aren’t always bad guys in the series. While King Boo is a Mario-kidnapping villain in the Luigi’s Mansion series, in the turn-based RPG spin-off, Paper Mario, their initial appearance is friendly rather than sinister. In the game’s Chapter 4, the Boos play a critical role in the story. At Boo’s Mansion, Tubba Blubba has grown fond of gobbling down Boos as a snack. The princess of the Boos, Lady Bow, captures the Star Spirit Mario is after, Skolar, to persuade him to save her ectoplasma people. Lady Bow isn’t just a friendly NPC, she’s a playable partner during battles. Boos are never actually fought, but they do have puzzles scattered around the mansion for Mario to solve. This appearance is an anomaly, as Boos are back to being enemies in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.

As dangerous as Boos are, its hard to not recognize how adorable these shy ghosts can be. They just want to ruin your life without being looked at, is that so hard to ask? The (after) life of a Boo can be difficult, and it will be even more so when Luigi takes them on Luigi’s Mansion 3, coming to Nintendo Switch late next year.

Want to share your love for Mario’s best undead enemy? Check out our latest Fall themed t-shirt, “It Just Isn’t Fall Without My Boo", over here in our fall collection.

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