Are you one of the people who thinks Kirby games aren’t worth your time because they’re just too easy? Your perspective is all off: those games aren’t actually designed to be easy. They just happen to star Kirby, the most powerful character in all media. There is a reason developer HAL Laboratory has cut Kirby’s health bar by half or more in the hard mode of the pink puffball’s games over the years, and it’s because shying away from the full extent of his considerable power is the only way to make Kirby vs. anyone a fairer fight.
I will avoid the temptation to just say, “Kirby would simply swallow your favorite character whole were they to meet in battle” and call this discussion a day, and not just because Paste would rightfully refuse to follow through on paying me for this story. Instead, let’s look at the ever-growing body of evidence of the many ways in which the little rosy-cheeked cutie is powerful beyond our understanding (and would easily defeat your fave).
We should talk about the whole inhaling his foes and stealing their powers thing, though. It’s the most central, enduring mechanic of Kirby, and it makes him effectively unstoppable. Oh, so you’re more powerful than Kirby? Not after he swallows you and takes that power for himself. The thing is, that wasn’t originally how Kirby worked: the 30 years of evidence we have to work with suggests this as an evolution that is only becoming more powerful with time.
Kirby debuted in the 1992 Game Boy title Kirby’s Dream Land. At that time, he was only able to inhale opponents and shoot them back out of his mouth as powerful projectiles—no copying powers to be found. By the time of 1993’s NES classic Kirby’s Adventure, however, our now-pink pal was able to inhale his foes and then take their powers for himself. Kirby was terrifying enough when he could inexplicably convert whatever he inhaled into projectiles capable of destroying walls and toppling kings: now he could wield a sword, or magic, or pulse electric energy, or throw bombs, and not only do those things, but do with them the same level of skill found in the original wielder of those powers, if not more.
If only that had been the end, the rest of the universe might have nothing to fear. Instead, how much Kirby could swallow at once increased exponentially by the time of his Return to Dream Land in 2011, as did the power of what he shot back out. Rather than single, bite-sized projectiles of singular objects, Kirby was now capable of industrial-strength inhalation that took entire walls and rows of enemies in at once, and the resulting projectile similarly grew in size and strength. King Dedede and Meta Knight, once his foes, were now his allies: they knew better, at this point, than to challenge the might of Kirby, whose enemies now came from outside of his homeland, unaware of the unstoppable force they would have to contend with in their quest for dominion over Popstar.
Kirby’s powers have continued to grow, and he can now manipulate machinery as well as take its form for himself. In Planet Robobot, Kirby sometimes rode around in a robot, granting it his copy powers in the process. And now, in the time of Kirby’s Forgotten Land, he can open wide enough to inhale a car and become that car. The era of Carby has begun.
And that’s just in the games specifically under the Kirby banner. He’s had plenty of practice to grow his terrible power in the Super Smash Bros. universe as well. Given HAL first developed Smash, and Kirby’s creator Masahiro Sakurai is the force behind Smash to this day, Kirby’s land might even be the nexus point that allows the Smash Bros. fighting tournaments to exist: everyone in Smash Bros. is subject to the laws of Kirby.
Consider this: In Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Subspace Emissary single-player mode that effectively collects most of the game’s characters in a single connective story, it is Kirby, by himself, that destroys the Subspace Gunship protecting the entrance, allowing the endgame to commence. That Gunship, captained by classic Nintendo villains Bowser and Ganondorf, destroys Meta Knight’s famed Halberd battleship with a single blast: Kirby, though, is already on his personal warp star, and he took out the Gunship with a single maneuver that Rian Johnson and Laura Dern loved so much they recreated it in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Unlike Dern’s Holdo, though, Kirby survived ramming himself through a ship at a speed so high it destroyed its target, and simply dusted himself off for the final battle afterward. Take that, physics.
Consider, too, that Kirby is the only character we saw survive the volcanic wrath of Tekken’s Kazuya Mishima upon his introduction into Smash. Mario? Thrown into a volcano, too defeated to stop it from happening. Ganondorf? Link wishes it were just that easy to take care of him. Kirby, though? Kirby survived the assault, to the eventual great horror and likely regret of Kazuya.
It’s not just videogame foes, though. Those are just the ones we know Kirby has conquered, again and again. The principles extend to any character, should the pink wonder ever find himself in some kind of horrifying Ready Player One situation, or Space Jam: An Even Newer Legacy. Inhaling enough Waddle Dees eventually got him to the point where Kirby can become a car. We should all shudder to think of what would happen if Kirby ever swallowed Superman whole, and if you think Galactus stands a chance as a fellow Devourer of Worlds, you best check their respective Win-Loss records, as well as Kirby’s decades-long history of taking down gods. It’s just a coincidence that Kirby and Galactus’ creator share a name, sure, but in order to make this argument sound even more convincing, let’s pretend this is somehow meaningful by emphasizing it at the end of a paragraph.
Here’s the thing: we don’t really know how Kirby’s stomach works, but we don’t need to, because we know what it is capable of, and that alone is terrifying. Kirby might very well be the cutest Eldritch horror going. He can consume many times more than his own size—to this point, the amount he can inhale appears to be limitless, and the amount he can inhale at one time continues to grow—suggesting his innards are actually an expansive dimension separate from the one his own body resides in. He instantaneously converts living creatures and inanimate objects into star-shaped projectiles capable of delivering tremendous damage to whatever they touch, but he is also capable of allowing objects to retain their original shape and utility, such as when he consumes and stores items for later use in the touch-enabled DS title, Squeak Squad. He is able to piece together and wield powerful tools and ancient weapons with the ability to defeat gods and nightmare creatures and interdimensional beings. The casual nature in which the cute and bubbly Kirby rids the universe of god-like beings of seemingly unlimited power is even a major plot point of Squeak Squad. Kirby begins the game searching for his stolen shortcake: while looking for this slice of cake, he accidentally unleashes Dark Nebula, the lord of the underworld who is so powerful that he was merely contained, rather than destroyed, in a past conflict millenia before.
There is no long prelude leading to this moment. Kirby and the player believed, until the moment that particular chest was opened, that the stolen cake was inside. Instead, there was a creature of unimaginable power. Dark Nebula did not run away to build up his forces, or to prolong the length of the game you were playing. Kirby opened up a chest containing an ultimate evil, was disappointed that there wasn’t cake inside, then took down Dark Nebula with ease before resuming the search for his sugary, iced treat. What was meant to be a momentous day for the long-imprisoned Dark Nebula was for Kirby simply the day his strawberry shortcake went missing.
With all of this laid out before you, are you still yet to be convinced that Kirby, devourer of everything in front of him, destroyer of gods, is the most powerful being in all media? Well, that doesn’t matter. After all, Kirby would simply swallow your favorite character whole were they to meet in battle, shutting down your argument for good.
Marc Normandin covers retro videogames at Retro XP, which you can read for free but support through his Patreon, and can be found on Twitter at @Marc_Normandin.