First appearance: Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, NES, 1985)
M.O.: Flying just out of reach; Tossing spiny eggs
Weaknesses: High-floating blocks

Profile by Nich Maragos? | April 8, 2011

Itís a common misconception that the most fearsome ďregularĒ enemies in Super Mario Bros. are the Hammer Bros. Their streaming arc of hammers seems impenetrable, and their way of effortlessly leaping between tiers of blocks plays hell with the nerves of any player caught without a Super Mushroom. But their bark is worse than their bite, and itís well within the means of even regular Mario? to take them out with careful timing.

No, the real nemesis of Super Mario Bros. is Lakitu, the terror from the skies. (Note that when considering the presence of the two enemy types in the game, the Hammer Brothers appear earlier and more frequently.) Heís persistent. Heís devious. And he can only be permanently dealt with in certain circumstances.

Lakitu first shows up on practically the first screen of 4-1, nearly halfway through the game. He hangs out near the levelís upper border, zipping around in the sky, half-hidden in his trademark cloud chariot. That fact is less likely to make an impression on the player than Lakituís first act, which is to drop a round egg. On hatching, the egg will turn into a Spiny, one of Marioís deadlier foes in that it canít be dispatched by traditional means. If Mario doesnít have a Fire Flower, thereís no getting rid of the things, since jumping on their spiked shells will only damage him.

If the player stays in one place for too long, the accumulation of Spinies hatched from Lakituís eggs can start to pose a real problem. Easy to deal with if you keep moving, though, right? It would be, except the layout of the levels where Lakitu appears is often designed to trick the player into traps, like so:

Thereís a bounty of coins and power-ups to be had in nearly all the bricks here, but taking the time to grab them all is just asking to be boxed in by Spinies. The cruelest thing here is a mushroom, which is likely to get regular Mario killed before he can get back on top of the blocks to claim it.

So whatís a player to do? The obvious solution is to eliminate the root of the problem and kill Lakitu, but thatís another quality where he sets himself apart from the Hammer Brothers. With them, you can get to a safe spot inside the range of their hammers and wait for them to come to you. Not so with Lakitu.

Lakitu will never come to you; you must go to him, and there are precious few places in the level where thatís possible. Since Mario canít jump high enough on his own to reach his foe, heíll need to find somewhere that the blocks have been stacked high enough to allow access. And even then, stomping on him can be a dicey affair, since you never know when heíll pull out a Spiny egg at the moment of your impact, foiling your efforts.

The only really safe way is with a well-aimed fireball... and even then, heís likely to respawn later in the level. And donít think youíll be able to go scrolling him off the screen, either.

Over the years, Lakitu has become increasingly less of a threat; players were allowed to hijack his ride in Super Mario World, after which he usually only showed up as a neutral party to carry a stoplight or a camera on his fishing pole. But back at the day, when Bowser really wanted to stop some Mario Bros., it was Lakitu who served as his assassin of choice.

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