Friendlies: C9'Mango, The GOAT
He may be “The Kid,” but Mango has been around the block a few times – and isn’t going anywhere.
As one of the very best in the game, C9’Mango has been called a lot of things. The GOAT (a.k.a. Greatest Of All Time). The Kid. Two-time EVO Champion. Scorpion Master. Occasionally, he’s even been called a buster. But despite how far he’s come, from a kid that was simply the best on his block to one of the best in the world, Joseph "Mango" Marquez holds a love of the game like no other.
Best On The Block
Mango started his career as a Smasher like many others of his era – on the couch. “I’ve been playing since the game came out.” In 2001, when Melee was released, Mango was just nine years old. But it just so happened that he lived down the street from another top player in the making: Fox main and good friend Lucky. “Lucky just happened to live 3 houses away and was friends with my friends at the time. I was the best of my little friend group, so when they went to play Joey (Lucky’s real name) and lost, they all said ‘Our friend Mango will beat you.’ I destroyed him.”
Even at a young age he had a knack for the game, but Mango and Lucky were just kids; even the legends started small. “Back then, we played 4 stocks on Corneria. We even played with items for a while until things got serious.” But like many others, a familiar destination guided the duo to more elite play: Smashboards.com. They were able to find sparring partners in Norwalk, their hometown, and eventually started going to tournaments at 14 years old. Two years later, Mango won Pound 3.
A Speedy Rise to the Top
Pound 3 may not be Mango’s biggest win – to the contrary, it’s far from it. But there are three facets of this tournament win that illustrate exactly the kind of player Mango is. First off, he lost in the very first round of the tournament because he was playing Link dittos. Second, he then went ‘try-hard’ and beat some of the biggest names in the game as he ran through loser’s bracket, eventually beating Mew2King and taking the whole tournament. Third, he did it with an unusual character – Jigglypuff. Confused? That’s okay. These three things are the core of what Mango is about.
Three Shades of Mango
Let’s start with the first part. Anyone who has followed Melee for long enough knows this, but Link is an average character at best. It’s also a character that Mango doesn’t play, nor did his opponent, Silent Wolf. In the first round of a major tournament, the two of them were pretty much screwing around. Mango has a confidence about his play that can be intimidating – but it can also be his undoing at times. “If I practice and play my best,” he said, “no one can beat me. I compare Melee to The Matrix. Me at my best is Neo.” He’s aware of what his overconfidence can do to his play, however. “When people ask who I’m scared of the most, I always say myself. The Mango cycle of life is, I win a bunch of tourneys, think I’m infinitely better, stop practicing and caring, lose, people sleep on The Kid, and then I have to shut everyone up. It’s been like that for six years.”
On the other hand, he knows how to turn it up when he needs to – just as his Pound 3 Loser’s Bracket run demonstrated. He’s always been a fierce competitor, willing to go to extreme measures to be the best, even at an early age. This story from his childhood says it all: “When Lucky and I were kids, I retired from Smash because I was too good, and started playing sports. Two months later, I came back, played Lucky and got wrecked. After that, I stopped playing sports to play Melee so I could beat Lucky.” For Mango, it’s all fun and games until he loses. After that, things get competitive quickly. When he lost in round one, he turned up the heat, and everyone at Pound 3 felt the burn.
His Jigglypuff play is the last thing that shows off what Mango is about. In 2015, Jigglypuff is a well-respected character that sees a fair amount of play. But in 2008, when Pound 3 was going on, Jigglypuff was a mid-tier at best, and almost nobody played her seriously. And that’s just the way Mango likes it. “In real life I’ve always hated being like anyone else, so I always try to use my own stuff in Melee.” Mango treasures his individuality, and loved that he was winning with a character all his own. But he switched away from Jigglypuff to Falco later in his career for the very same reason: “I only switched off of Puff,” he told me, “because people were saying that Puff was a gimmick and I was only winning because of the character. So I was like, ‘uh, no, I’m better than you guys,’ switched to spacies, and kept winning.” It’s an interesting Catch-22 for Mango. When he plays a character, everyone starts to think that character is great – that’s how it was with Jigglypuff, and Falco afterwards. It takes a certain type of player to have their individual play affect the landscape of their game not once, but twice.
The Past and The Future
Mango has been around since nearly the beginning. He’s been playing since 2001 for fun, winning tournaments since late 2007, and is still sitting pretty as a top player in 2015. Most games aren’t even thought about for fourteen years, much less played as a legitimate eSport. But despite the game’s age, Mango isn’t concerned about the longevity of Melee. “Tourneys back in the day were just in someone’s house or garage, with twenty or thirty people. It’s crazy that a SoCal local gets 180-250 people, now we have sponsors… s--t’s crazy.” But why does he think the game will last? It’s a simple answer really: “It’s just a sick game. Fun to watch, fun to play, fun to talk about.”
He also believes that, interestingly enough, Melee’s old age is part of why it’s survived to this day. “I think Melee Players just love Melee. They have a passion I don’t think people realize. We don’t play for money because we never had money – you can put all the top players in a room and make first place 100 bucks, and everyone will try their nuts off because Melee is all about pride. You only play to say you beat this guy, and you’re better.”
Most of the games in this eSports era were born during the Twitch era. Melee was not. Mango, and the game he plays, are part of an older generation of gaming. But the purity of his devotion to Melee is a sight that fighting game fans both young and old won’t soon forget.
Check back next Tuesday for another installment of Friendlies, a weekly series chronicling the people of Smash Bros.