When you look at the first characters developed by Nintendo in the 80s, you get the impression that the company was all about the blue-collared worker who saves the day through manual labor. Take Mario and his brother Luigi, Nintendo's most famous mustachioed stars, who were both plumbers who don't think twice before jumping head on into psychedelic pipes. But the Italian brothers are not the only example in the company's roster. In 1986 we saw the birth of Stanley, Nintendo's most miserable and completely forgettable pest control dude.
Stanley's great debut was as the most important character in Donkey Kong 3—besides, you know, the big ape whose name is on the title. In previous iterations of the arcade game, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. featured Super Mario himself as the hero who saves the day. In fact, as we all know, the original DK cabinet was the first time we got meet Mario and his princess-saving ass, so it's no surprise that fans naturally associate Mario with the DK arcade series. Beating the shit out of Donkey Kong apparently was Mario's thing in the first half of the 80s.
So these same fans were confused, to say the least, when they saw that their robust hammer-wielding plumber was substituted with a featureless (read: with not much hair on his face, unlike our glorious savior Mario) pest control technician. Honestly, I don't think Nintendo really cared enough to make Stanley a likeable character.
In Donkey Kong 3, the "bugman", as the company called him, had to spray bugs as well as Donkey Kong out of some sort of greenhouse that he was taking care of. The game itself was sort of repetitive and didn't achieve the same level of adoration as the first two. Stanley in particular felt so hollow that Nintendo never starred him in a game again. His career as a protagonist was pretty much over from the start.
This could be the first unofficial appearance of Stanley in Nintendo's universe
When you realize how deep Stanley is in Nintendo's freezer, you start to feel for the little guy. Sometimes it seems like Nintendo hates him so much that he will be forever doomed to quirky cameos. If you check out Stanley's resume on all the different wiki pages dedicated to him, you'll notice the only other big feature in his career was participating in a disturbing Donkey Kong episode of Saturday Supercade, a kid's cartoon. The sad part is that Stanley gets screwed pretty much the entire time.
In the cartoon, an unnamed thief steals one of Stanley's plants for no good reason, right from inside his greenhouse. The thief then proceeds to falsely convince Donkey Kong that Stanley wants to kill the plant, so the monkey starts trying to peg the poor guy with enormous and, yes, very dangerous beehives. As if his ego wasn't bruised enough, Stanley then has to ask Mario and Pauline (a proto Princess Peach as forgettable as Stanley) for help in order to stop the thief and get his plant back. Even in a Saturday morning cartoon, our bugman was sentenced to live under Mario's shadow.
If you've been around the internet long enough, you'll know that Stanley is the perfect useless character to get video game fans obsessed with debunking his (nonexistent) secret backstory. Some say he's the Mario brothers' long-lost youngest brother. Others resort to forums in search for a validation of the theory that says Stanley is simply Mario's cousin.
Stanley's irregular appearances in other games are also kind of depressing. He's a trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee, but nothing more than a virtual figurine. However, if you dig into Stanley's past, there are rumors that point to a character only referred to as the "Fumigator" in a Game & Watch game called Greenhouse from 1982. This could be the first unofficial appearance of Stanley in Nintendo's universe, although even the company doesn't really recognize his credit in this game. Too bad the only source that confirms this secret apparition is a 1983 Game & Watch commercial in which the Greenhouse character is casually called Stanley.
So here's a toast to the character who probably gets ignored by all his other famous colleagues from Nintendo games in the company's list-only end of the year ball. Here's to you, Stanley! May the internet worship you as an unsung god until the sands of time consume you whole.