Luigi's first appearance came in the 1983 arcade pipe adventure "Mario Bros." as player 2. His simple start as a palette change from Mario may have been small, but he quickly became one of the most prolific characters in all of gaming. He represented a shift in the genre, and the rise of a new focus with developers: To immerse the player and connect them with the character.
Luigi was not simply a [Player 2] on the screen with a different running score, he was a new persona. Player 2 was given identity, much more than just another joystick and quarter.
The concept of teamwork was a rare element in gaming during those early days, and while Luigi wasn't the sidekick he is in the recent DS "Mario & Luigi" titles, there was a hint of coop potential amongst those pipes in "Mario Bros.". Of course, team play and coop gaming is commonplace in nearly all games today - do we owe it all to Luigi?
Since Luigi's first appearance, his skill set didn't receive a complete makeover until "Super Mario Bros. 2". He kept the same green overalls, but gained a tall and lanky appearance. Rumor had it that his mustache was slightly longer than Mario's was as well, but that claim has gone without solid proof for years. It is a certainty, that in this super sequel Luigi could jump higher and further than Mario, but this increase came with a notable decrease in player control. Luigi had "slippery feet".
Another notable contribution from Luigi could be the brotherly aspect all together. It is a commonly used and widely associated with concept seen in many forms of popular entertainment. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, also born in the same decade, were considered brothers. The popular "Double Dragon" title was a true brotherly coop experience, found in the arcades and homes in the 80's as well. Battletoads, Contra, and several more followed suit by creating entertaining adventures for player 1 and player 2 to immerse themselves as digital brothers.
Luigi's travels since those early days in 1983, of course, were filled with many different outfits, roles, and adventures. Mario cast quite a large shadow, perhaps the largest shadow a brother could possibly cast, but Luigi stepped up to define himself as an equal. The duo became icons, and two of the most well known video game characters in the last 25 years. Luigi's first appearance truly set the bar for all supporting characters to come.
Not to be overlooked, is Mario and Luigi's contribution to creativity. It wasn't until many years after playing the various Mario Bros. titles that I questioned the universe in the slightest. Why were the mushrooms walking and angry in the first place? Somehow, it made sense that Luigi would grow a raccoon tail and gain the ability to fly after picking up a leaf. Turtles paced back and forth waiting for me to jump on them, and if I picked the right flower it would grant me the ability to throw fire.
As a child developing my own creative mind, I can't help but say thank you to a brilliant series of games and the brothers who taught me to imagine things outside the box - or pipe.