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Donkey Kong Country's Original Pitch Featured Wario As The Main Villain

"Donkey Kong Country" became one of Nintendo's most fruitful outings into western gaming when the publisher tasked Rare with carving a new identity for the titular ape — a challenge that also resulted in one of the most beloved reptilian villains in gaming: King K. Rool. The crown-throwing king turned pirate turned mad scientist has lingered in that special place of nostalgia among gamers as Donkey Kong's most iconic nemesis, evident by the ardent support for his inclusion in "Super Smash Bros." over the years. But it all could have turned out quite differently had Nintendo approved Rare's first pitch for a main antagonist.

Over the past few years, Rare game designer Gregg Mayles has shared several Twitter posts showing early pitch artwork for "Donkey Kong Country," including art depicting the studio's intended villain: Wario. Before the first of the "DKC" trilogy debuted, Mario's brawny antithesis reached unexpected levels of success beyond what the untold creation of Wario warranted: A character originating from development frustrations. Following his first outing in 1992, Rare approached Nintendo about using him in "Donkey Kong Country." Nintendo evidently turned down the proposal, but Mayles' artwork has offered some insight into the role Wario would have played.

Donkey Kong vs. Super Wario

Similar to how Donkey Kong himself almost looked completely different, this extended to how Wario might have appeared in the first "Donkey Kong Country" game. Gregg Mayles shared several pages of an artbook on Twitter that served as an early pitch to Nintendo. Titled "Donkey Kong vs. Super Wario," Rare depicted the brutish treasure hunter in a mostly yellow-blue color scheme, with his iconic purple reserved only for a cape strapped to his back.

The pitch also featured Mario, albeit in a stepping-stone capacity for Wario, whose time machine the dastardly villain hijacked to build himself a futuristic raygun. Wario then used this raygun on Mario, turning him into stone and ridding himself of an obstacle in his quest to rule Nintendo Land — a fun coincidence since the game company actually coined the term "Nintendo Land" some 20 years later. Fortunately, a parrot (no, not Squawks or Quawks) witnessed Wario's evil deeds and flew off to warn Donkey Kong, setting up the rest of the game.

King K. Rool and his hoard of Kremlings came after the failed Wario pitch thanks to Nintendo challenging the British studio to create villains from scratch for "Donkey Kong Country." K. Rool and Wario have undoubtedly shared similarities, among them a penchant for greed regarding bananas and gold respectively. However, the two villains developed entirely independently.