When you think of video games one of the first things you probably think of is Mario, Nintendo’s flagship series and one of the most recognizable fictional characters. Having been around for thirty-five years, and still going strong to this day, Mario has been in many games (over two-hundred in fact). While I’m sure you can name off twenty or so, I doubt you could name each and every video game Mario, or characters from the Mario franchise have appeared in. For this reason, I wanted to create this series of blogs to present Mario games that almost never get time in the limelight for one reason or another; maybe they were only released in one region of the world or maybe they got overshadowed by bigger games at the time. Originally, when I first wrote this three-part series back in 2012 I had covered almost 40 games, but now after doing more research, I was able to come up with over 75 Mario games that many people have forgotten. Except for two games, I won’t be covering any cancelled video games that feature Mario or Mario characters; the reason being so you’d be able to give these games a try after reading these series of blogs to experience them yourself (although it may be harder to try some of these games out compared to others). This updated blog series will be broken up into nine parts with each part covering a certain genre of games, with this first part covering Mario games with gameplay that we’re familiar with: jumping on platforms and beating up evil mushrooms and turtles.
- Mario Bros. Special– 1984: NEC PCs, Sharp X1, & FM-7 (Japan only)
This incarnation of Mario Bros. was developed by Hudson Soft and ran on various models of the NEC PC, Sharp’s X1, and Fujitsu’s FM-7 computer. Rather than defeating all the enemies on the screen, the goal of Mario Bros. Special varies from screen to screen. To clear the first screen, the player needs to get Mario to the top of the screen and hit five switches and exit from the side of the stage before the switches turn off. Stage two, Mario needs to needs to jump on trampolines to stun enemies and knock them off the screen; once all the enemies are gone, a platform will appear to take Mario to the third screen. Screen three, Mario must take an elevator up to the conveyor belts and collect money without getting hit by an enemy. Once enough money has been collected, a ring will appear taking the player to the next screen. Lastly, the fourth screen tests your Mario Bros. skills, having to collect all the money then hitting a bell at the top of the screen before time runs out.
Would it be worth playing? Yes. I’d imagine fans of the 1983 Mario Bros. arcade game would enjoy the new gameplay this game has to offer.
- Punch Ball Mario Bros.– 1984: NEC PCs, Sharp X1, & FM-7 (Japan only)
Also developed by Hudson Soft and coming out the same year as Mario Bros. Special, Punch Ball has the same gameplay as the 1983 arcade game too, but adds a ball that Mario can throw at enemies to stun them, then knock off the screen; some of the level design varies from the arcade original too. These two Mario Bros.-esque games are some of the earliest licensed Mario games.
Would this game be worth playing? Like with Mario Bros. Special, I’d imagine Mario Bros. fans would enjoy this game as well.
- Donkey Kong 3: Dai Gyakushuu– 1984: NEC PCs & Sharp X1 (Japan only)
Like with Mario Bros. Special and Punch Ball, this game, rather than being a port, is a sequel/enhanced version of a preexisting game, in this game’s case, of the unpopular Donkey Kong 3 which was released in arcades the year prior. Players still control Stanley, a bug exterminator, and shoot bug spray at vicious insects and the titular character, Donkey Kong, however they no longer need to guard plants from the invading insects. Gyakushuu consists of 21 stages which take Stanley and DK to various locations ranging from grassy fields to a city on another planet. This would be the last new Donkey Kong game for a decade until Donkey Kong for the Game Boy released in June 1994.
Would this game be worth playing? If you enjoy arcade games like Galaga, Space Invaders, or Centipede, then yes. Although there may not be too many, I’m sure fans of Donkey Kong 3 would likely enjoy this game as well.
- All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.– 1986: Famicom Disk System (Japan only)
This officially licensed mod/hack of Super Mario Bros. was published by Fiji Television and replaces some of the enemies and stage graphics with characters who are Japanese celebrities. The game mixes elements from Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels; stages like SMB’s 5-4 were replaced with Lost Levels’ 2-4. Objects like the Starman were changed to Hiranyas, which are basically identical in appearance to the Star of David from Judaism. Rather than rescuing various Toads at the end of each castle, Mario rescues various celebrities. Princess Peach is still at 8-4 but her outfit was changed from her normal dress to a Geisha outfit. All Night Nippon was given out as a raffle prize on the radio show of the same name.
Would this game be worth playing? Yes, but due to its rarity and not seeing a re-release on any Virtual Console service, you’d have to find other ways to play it…
- Super Mario Bros. Special– 1986/1987: NEC PC-8801, Sharp X1, & Samsung SPC-1500 (Japan and Korea only)
This was the first follow up to Super Mario Bros. that was licensed by Nintendo; being released shortly before Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels. Like with the other Mario games released on various PCs at the time, this was developed by Hudson Soft. Super Mario Bros. Special has all new levels, added enemies from past games, along with new items like clocks to add more time to the timer and Lucky Stars which clear all enemies on screen. Two new power ups were added to the game: a Hammer which functions the same way it did in Donkey Kong and wings which let Mario swim in the air. Due to the difference in processing power between the Famicom and PCs this game runs on, the game doesn’t have smooth scrolling. Also the graphics and music have been given a slight downgrade.
Would this game be worth playing? The game looks fun, but the lack of scrolling seems like it’d get annoying, so, maybe.
- Kaettekita Mario Bros.– 1988/1993: Famicom Disk System/NES (Japan & Europe only)
This game is an updated version of Mario Bros. that also contains a slightly modified version of the original game. Strangely, the game was sort of released in Germany in 1993 under the name Mario Bros. Classic Series. What makes this game special is the Nagatanien World which adds a slot machine mini-game that can be played once the player gets a game over to get the chance to win extra lives. Once the player gets 100,000 points, they’re given a promotional code that could be mailed in to be entered into a drawing for Mario themed playing cards. At 200,000 points, another code is given for a free copy of Super Mario Bros. 3, which was released the month prior. Anyone who sent codes in was given a Mario Keyring.
Would this game be worth playing? Yes, but go with the 1993 Europe release since it’s the best version of Mario Bros. outside of the versions that came with the Mario Advance games and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on the GBA. Don’t expect to win anything with the promo codes as the promotion for the cards and SMB3 ended over 27 years ago.
- Mario Clash– 1995: Virtual Boy (Japan & North America only)
Hope you’re not sick of seeing Mario Bros. since Mario Clash is styled off of it. The goal of this game is still the same, to knock enemies off screen, but to do so in Mario Clash, Mario needs to use Koopa shells and throw them from the background to the foreground and vice-versa. This game originally started off as a mini-game in VB Mario Land which ended up not getting released. Development for VB Mario Land halted and would eventually be cancelled by the latter half of 1995.
Would this game be worth playing? Personally, I want to play it since I enjoy both Mario Bros. and the Virtual Boy, but for other people, I’d put this in the maybe pile.
- Super Princess Peach– 2005: Nintendo DS
The roles were reversed in this game; Mario and Luigi, along with Toad, have been captured by Bowser’s minions using the Vibe Scepter while Princess Peach and Toadsworth were out on a walk. Bowser takes control of Vibe Island using the Vibe Scepter and now Peach must save everyone using the power of her emotions and her parasol partner, Perry. Each emotion: Joy, Rage, Gloom, and Calm, gives Peach different abilities for a short period of time; abilities like floating and invincibility. This game has a bit of RPG elements to it since Perry can be leveled up to perform various transformations to get Peach across certain terrain. The game also features some mini-games. To date, this is the only Mario game where Princess Peach is the star character.
Would this game be worth playing? Yes. Other than the questionable idea of Peach using her emotions, the game looks fun. The thing that bothers me about this game isn’t the whole emotions thing, but the Vibe Scepter. Every time I see the word, I think of a vibrator. Although that makes the game’s story funny.
This ends the first part of my remastered series of forgotten or obscure Mario games. While nothing in this part was all that diverse in terms of gameplay, (with most of the games keeping to the Mario Bros. or Super Mario Bros. formula) in later parts we’ll be seeing Mario and friends appear in more strange games.