It’s an instinct as old as humanity itself:the drive to compete, to test your limits against those of your competitors, to rally from the depths of crushing defeat and persevere, in the hopes of victory. That instinct’s name is WarioWare: Get It Together! ranked mode, and it’s a test of skill, patience, sorting the donuts from the cake, combining small slimes into one larger slime, and feeding cheeseballs to baby birds, all against a racing clock. While the average goomba may presume his to be a lighthearted party game that throws dozens of goofy so-called microgames at players and asks them to swiftly react by tweezing, squeezing, steeping, kneading, etc., within my heart beats the soul of a Wario-Wathlete. That’s why I set out on a multi-day quest to join the elite of the elite and earn gold by scoring 6,200 points or higher in the Wario Cup.
WarioWare: Get It Together! is the ninth installment of Nintendo’s WarioWare series, which kicked off in 2003. There are several modes in this Nintendo Switch iteration, including the much touted local co-op play—which I largely ignored, because I have the heart of a champion. Why would I want to share my achievements with someone else when that gold could be mine alone? Unlike previous games, the kooky characters of the WarioWare universe are all playable in Get it Together!, with each character moving and attacking slightly differently; all of the microgames are the same no matter what, but how you can win them changes slightly, depending on which one of the 19 available characters you’re using. Wario himself is naturally one of these playable characters, sporting a hoverpack and his signature shoving attack.
The Wario Cup I’d set my sights on is the basis of the game’s online, rotating weekly challenge mode, which requires hitting certain milestones in order to receive bronze, silver, and gold rewards handed out by hitting certain milestones. In this past week’s score challenge, for example, the player must select five out of the 18 available characters to switch between and confront a gauntlet of microgames. These start out slow and easy and get speedier and more difficult, and the game gives you more points based on how quickly you complete each game. When you lose a game with a particular character, that character is no longer available to use, and when you run out of all five of your characters, it ends your run. Using the game’s more erratically controlled, complicated characters increases your score each round won, while easier characters are, obviously, easier to use but score fewer points.
But how was I supposed to go from WarioWare zero to WarioWare hero, as someone who’s still a series novice? Not only that, but I’ve never been the most competitive gamer around—was I really going to be able to transform myself in the name of this flatulent knock-off Mario brother? Well, I was about to find out. I was familiar enough with competitive online gaming to know that my first order of business should be to consult what’s known as the meta, or meta-game, meaning the dominant tactics used by the top players. I searched online and learned that high-scoring players were using the easiest characters, ones with long-range attacks and straightforward hovering movement. Therefore I copied them and selected Mike (a robot who shoots upward), Ashley (a witch who shoots in the direction she faces), Dribble (a cab driving dog who can only shoot right), Orbulon (an alien with a powerful upward-pulling tractor beam), and Red (a baby demon that drops bombs from above) as my super team. On my first few tries, I barely achieved a score of 2,000, which meant I didn’t score any medal at all.
Soon, I identified a serious stumbling block: I didn’t actually know how to play all of the microgames yet. Some of them I’d encountered in Story Mode (which must be completed in order to unlock the Wario Cup), but I hadn’t unlocked every possible microgame during that jaunt and was encountering some of them for the first time in ranked play. (Also, I was really bad at some of the games I had previously encountered, which definitely didn’t help.)
Realizing that victory is won or lost in the training area, I noted which games were giving me particular trouble, and left the Cup to practice these games in the Play-o-pedia mode. I practiced squeezing the toothpaste tube and discovered that, unlike real life, the trick was not to work up from the bottom. I practiced giving a puppy a drink of water and improved at the movement needed to keep its tongue balanced in place under the spigot. I practiced a game where you light candles and discovered that the goal was to blow up the fireworks, not avoid lighting them as I’d previously hypothesized. Hours later, trained and ready, I returned to the Cup to realize my visions of golden glory.
At first my score improved steadily, first sending me to the bronze cup and then to the silver. I was elated, unstoppable! Surely I’d soon be in contention with the top scorers (who I’d added to my Nintendo Switch Online friends list from Reddit; hi guys)! I tried again and again and … again. The following soon became clear: The higher levels were really hard! They went really fast! Wario, who “designed” all of these games according to the story mode, was a maniacal genius! I was stuck around 4,000-5,000 points, my friends list mocking me with top scores above 20,000. Why, I wondered, am I so bad at games? Is it because I’m a video game journalist? (I’m just joking, people!) How many times would I have to cover a robot’s groin with a leaf or rock a baby to sleep before this stupid game gave me the luck I needed? No, surely it wasn’t me, I thought; it was the game itself that was bad.
In WarioWare: Get It Together! ranked mode, as in all serious sports, the mental game is every bit as important as the ability to quickly tweeze armpit hair from a marble statue. Every competitor experiences those low moments when they want to give up, but the difference between a gold cup champion and medwariocrity is as much perseverance as it is talent. I needed to get my head in the game. I needed to keep my eye on the ball. I also needed to keep my eye on the turtle I was trying to flip over, the robot parts falling from the top of the screen, the giant nostrils I was trying to plug, and so on. I tried resetting more often if I had a fluke loss in the early game. I tried resetting less often and just taking what the game gave me. I tried complaining about how much I regretted making this gold cup a goal of mine on Twitter. I tried yelling at the screen. I tried everything possible and then some, and still, success eluded me.
They say the darkest moment comes just before dawn, and as long as you have a reasonably wide interpretation of what the time frame of that is, it holds true, in my experience. I gritted my teeth and grinded like my life depended on this damn WarioWare game. My breakthrough came on Sunday, September 19, at 3:09 p.m.: I achieved a score of 6,834 and entered the elite top 13 percent of ranked players. Success! Glory! Results! Achievement!
Was it all worth it? Possibly! While I may never equal the achievement of the 20,000+ scorers from Reddit (and I definitely won’t, because I’m done with this madness forever … at least until next week), I can take pride in knowing that when the going got tough, I dug deep and Got it Together.