In Buddhist myth, Mara is also known as "The Evil One," a tempter, through the deceit of regarding the mundane and negative as alluring, and personifies unwholesome impulses, unskillfulness and the "death" of the spiritual life. In many religions that incorporate the cosmology of the Hindu originated Trailokya, Mara is said to sit atop at the Sixth Heaven of the Desire Realm that includes the mortal world, and is said to be both that which ensnares souls in Samsara by deceiving them with promises of happiness in the Desire Realms, and who is the ultimate obstacle of any who desire to achieve enlightenment into nirvana and sunyata.
Feeling threatened by the enlightenment the Buddha was trying to bestow upon humanity, he attacked Gautama Buddha when he was meditating beneath the bodhi tree. He was defeated when the Buddha simply touched the tips of his fingers to the earth, whereupon all the gods descended in a tremendous roar to pay homage to him. Though Mara was defeated that time, he still lingers in the world, hoping to seize the souls of the dying and unenlightened.
Originated in Sri Lankan Buddhism, a demon who was riding Girimehkala with a penis-headed image tried to stop Siddharta Gautama from reaching enlightenment through meditation. The most common story depicts Mara using his beautiful daughters in an attempt to tempt the Buddha; he later marched his demonic army to scare him, however this ended in failure for Mara.
Its manifestation in the series is likely a nod to the metaphor of Devaputra-mara, the disillusion of regarding Mara as an objective being.
"Origin: India. The embodiment of evil itself. It is said that he controls people via lust and fear of death and ruins their bodies. He tempts and corrupts the pure, and appeared before Buddha when he was meditating."
—Shin Megami Tensei A-Mode DDS Dictionary
Shin Megami Tensei II
Mara governs the Tower of Chokmah in the Expanse and acts as a guard to Lucifer's Castle Kether. If Aleph's Alignment is Chaos, he will let Aleph pass either with a minimum of 15 Wisdom stats or by beating him in battle. In the Neutral or Lawful paths, Mara will try to tempt Aleph. First, he offers 999,999 Macca. Next, he offers a 10 level increase. Finally, he offers power that surpasses even Satan and Lucifer. If Aleph accepts any of his offerings, he will fall under Mara's spell and must fight Mara with a handicap.
Shin Megami Tensei: 20XX
Mara appears as the head of the Ring of Gaea. He is mentioned as "His Excellence" by the demons and Gaeans. If the protagonist follows the Neutral or Law alignments during the battles in the Arena, Mara will invite the protagonist to give him the title to rule Valhalla. When met, he'll offer control of Valhalla to the protagonist, if accepted, he'll freeze them. Either way, he will attack. After being defeated, Mara explains that while Lucifer is still alive, the demons will never disappear from the human world.
The slime-form Mara is a plug-in acquired by turning in 800 Essences of Yetzirah to the researcher in Shinjuku Babel's cathedral. He is a triple fusion of Girimehkala, Surt and Hecate. Prior to the August 2014 update, this was the only form of Mara.
In August, an event was implemented carrying on the storyline of characters introduced during the February event. In this event, Incubus and Oni are encouraged by Baphomet to summon Mara in Shibuya in order to create a harem kingdom. In a callback to Nocturne, the summoning fails and the slime-esque Mara is summoned. After defeating this Mara, players could use a seven-colored pillar to be transported to the Tower of Chokmah and face Mara's true form, with a chance to receive the ability to fuse him in a triple fusion of Mara (Amorphous), Moloch and Girimehkala. Mara's true form learns the unique skills Maralagidyne and Cursed Spit. This true form was later added as a boss fight in Abyss Tower.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
"A Hindu demon that represents fear of death. She tempted the Buddha during his meditations. She gave birth to the Mares and Mora, powerful demons of darkness."
—Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey compendium
In this game, Mara is portrayed as a goddess rather than a god, wielding power over temptation and death, despite retaining the same overall shape (though a local Grendel insisted she was once a beautiful goddess). She appears in Sector Grus after reaching a certain part of Sector Horologium. In the Chaos path, she hires the protagonist to assault a gathering of angels and disrupt the ritual they were carrying out. Despite the attack, the angels finish the fusion ritual and combine themselves to form Seraph, forcing the protagonist into a fight. After Seraph's demise, Mara will arrive, regretting she did not participate in the death of the Seraph, and can join the protagonist's party. Fulfilling her request also yields the right to summon her through fusion and the Peacemaker, the most devastating gun in the game.
During the Law route, Mara appears instead as the enemy, as the protagonist is hired instead by the Seraph to destroy Mara. Upon Mara's death, Seraph will join the protagonist instead.
Shin Megami Tensei IV
Mara is summoned by the Terminal Guardian to prevent Flynn from accessing the eighth Terminal. Despite the Guardian calling Mara male, her profile info is the same as Strange Journey.
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse
Mara appears in a line of Challenge Quests involving an individual named Maruo and the hedonist cult surrounding him. After Maruo has been beaten twice and his beliefs in living as he wishes shaken, Mara appears, revealing himself as the demon behind the events. However, he lacks the strength to take on Nanashi and leaves.
In the final quest in the line, Nanashi receives an SOS from Maruo himself. He arrives at Kiba Storage to find most of the Maruology cult drained of life and battles Mara at his full strength.
Mara focuses on using his one attack, Hell Thrust, and is smart enough to use his extra Press Turns for Critical Eye or Charge. If not Smirking, he can also defend his own weakness with Makarakarn, and against Tetrakarn he will wait it out by setting up for an empowered Hell Thrust or use Tetrabreak to cancel the move altogether. Protection against Charm status may be wise, especially if an affected party member has the Diarahan or Mediarahan skills. Mara will almost immediately counter any debuff spells with Dekunda but cannot remove the party's buffs aside from the Rakunda effect Hell Thrust gains if Mara smirks. A gun with Ice-elemental rounds can strike his weakness without having to worry about Makarakarn. During the battle, Mara will pose questions to Nanashi, with the answer having different effects on the battle.
"You have no obligation to save my host. Why not just let him go?"
"I want to save Maruo."
Party loses press turns.
"I can't let a demon run free."
Mara +Tarukaja/Makakaja x2
"Don't you want to see new things? Let's go together to an even more arousing land!"
"...I want to see new things!"
Party loses press turns
Party gets 2 additional flashing press turns
Despite being the boss of a quest line, Mara is not locked for fusion and can be accessed anytime provided that Nanashi meets the level requirement.
Mara is one of the five bosses the player can fight the Corridor of Time after clearing the game. Defeating him is necessary to obtain the Iron Manji, one of the five items required to unlock New Game Plus.
Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha Vs. King Abaddon
"A Hindu demon that represents fear of death. He tempted the Buddha during his meditations. Originally, Mara was a fearsome goddess who drained her victims of their essence during the night."
—Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon compendium
Mara appears at Waden One during a Case File, having fought with Raido Kuzunoha the XIV and dragged him across a dimensional rift, placing him in Raidou's timeline. She has the tendency to spout a multitude of puns, all related to her penis shape, and shares the skill "Cursed Emission" with Mishaguji, another phallus-shaped demon. Mara is portrayed as once being a goddess rather than a god.
In New Game Plus, she must be fought in the Case File 7th Trumpet, Eternal King as one of the Generals of Lucifer's army.
Persona 3 FES
"An Eastern demon lord who tempted Buddha during his training. He is a master of fear, and his immense power reaches to every part of the globe. His distant offspring include Mare and Mora."
—Persona 3 compendium
Mara appears as an exclusive Persona added to the Tower Arcana in the updated re-release of Persona 3, titled Persona 3 FES. Mara is summoned by means of a special Pentagon Spread fusion using Incubus, Mot, Pazuzu, Kumbhanda and Attis.
He also holds the distinction of having the only multi-target severe damage Fire elemental spell, "Maralagidyne." Fusing Mara with a Nihil weapon grants the strongest fist-type weapon, Evil Gloves, which is another pun on his design.
Mara will give the protagonist the Maralagidyne Skill Card when this Persona has leveled up to 86, which is the only way this spell can be passed on to other Personas.
Also, if the protagonist enters the Velvet Room with Mara as the equipped Persona, Theodore or Elizabeth will comment on the protagonist's choice of Persona:
If the protagonist is male, Elizabeth comments, "Oh, my... Tee-hee... It's very manly, that much is certain."
If the protagonist is female and has Elizabeth, she comments it doesn't fit her.
If the protagonist is female and has Theodore, he comments, "Wh-Why do you have that... thing... equipped? It's very... unladylike."
Mara returns as a Persona of the Tower Arcana in Persona 4. He can be summoned once the protagonist reaches Lv. 62 or above and fuses the appropriate Personas in the Velvet Room. However, Mara no longer learns the skill Maralagidyne.
Both of Mara's forms, the normal one and the slime form from Nocturne, appear in the game. The slime form, known as Torn King of Desire, will first appear as a boss in Kamoshida's Palace. During the fight, the Torn King of Desire may waste a turn staring at Ann Takamaki. Mara's normal form appears as an enemy in the last dungeon, accompanied by two stronger Torn Kings of Desire as minions, who cannot be recruited by negotiation. The enemy version of Mara also lacks the Ice weakness of the Persona version.
The Shadow of Shiro Asakura assumes the form of Mara when he is confronted in Mementos during the request "The Head Honcho of Showbiz." During the battle, Shadow Asakura will continually use Tarukaja to increase his attack power. Following this, he will use Charge and then Lunge, attacking female party members.
Mara as seen in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
Mara's sprite in Shin Megami Tensei: if...
Mara's amorphous form as it appears in Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE
Mara's full form in Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE
Mara as it appears in Last Bible Special
Mara's sprite in Card Summoner
Mara, like the major Mothers in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, has MA in her name.
When requesting the Seraph's death, Mara wearily moans she would head to Horologium with the protagonist or even kill the Seraph herself, but she wants to stabilize so she won't turn into a Slime again, in reference to the botched ritual in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.
Its design is a pun of sorts, as "Mara," is a slang word used by Japanese Buddhist monks for "penis."
Mara's attributes are usually sexual innuendo. For example, in the Persona series, it is part of the "Tower" Arcana, and two of its attacks in Persona 5 are Charge and Firm Stance. Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse also makes heavy use of innuendo in its script, especially once Mara finally reveals himself.