When you’ve been around the block as many times as our boy here, you’re bound to take a strange turn every now and then. We’re all familiar with Mario’s eclectic selection of jobs throughout the years — including plumber, demolition expert, licensed(?) physician, and gardening menace (how else would you describe his antics in Super Mario Bros. 2?)
But the perennial everyman isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in other ways and has built up quite a portfolio of unusual titles that didn’t receive as much fanfare as his better-known exploits. Today, we’re taking a look at 12 of his more obscure games that you may have missed. In some cases, you’re probably better off for it, if we’re being perfectly honest.
Mario’s Game Gallery
It seems as though Mario is fond of trials of skill and wits, and though he most often challenges opponents in the game of life, he isn’t above simply pulling out the card table and settling his differences in a good old-fashioned game of Parcheesi.
First released on PC in 1995, this Interplay title allowed children the opportunity to play against the snappily dressed plumber in either checkers, dominoes, go fish, backgammon, or “yacht” — which was basically Yahtzee without the fear of Milton Bradley seeking royalty payments. I hear Hasbro goons not only break your thumbs, but they also come with easy assembly instructions and are appropriate for ages 7+.
The most significant thing about this game is that it was actually the first title that featured Charles Martinet as the voice of our beloved Mario. He spent most of his time instructing you how to play, encouraging you in ways that may or may not have been condescending, and telling terrible knock-knock jokes. Why did they think that this was something Mario would be inclined to do? Pizza the heck outta me!
We refuse to let Mario live this one down. Nintendo is notoriously hesitant to license out their treasured IPs to other studios, and they almost never venture away from the safety of their own hardware. It’s with good reason, too — because this game is like mustering up the courage to go on a blind date for the first time, only to find that your buddy has set you up with an actual velociraptor that proceeds to maul you… And then refuses to tip the waiter.
After their failed venture with Sony in creating a disc-based attachment for the Super Nintendo (a venture that would eventually bring forth the creation of the PlayStation, oops), Nintendo gave Philips the go-ahead to use their characters on the CD-i console. The result was three Zelda games that range from offensively bad to quite possibly cursed and this clunker.
The gameplay saw Mario tasked with scaling multiple levels, fending off Koopa Troopas, Goombas, and Elvis as he attempted to close every single door on the stage. Despite the premise being a very poor way of running a hotel, the game was fairly forgettable. What it grew infamous for, however, were the crudely drawn cut scenes, which appeared to have been animated by a cranky toddler on an off day. The writing is exceptionally bad, and it led to Luigi saying “spaghetti” becoming an overplayed meme. Thanks for that, Hotel Mario. You won’t be getting a good rating on TripAdvisor now.
Not nearly as mysterious as the other entries on this list, but still unusual in its own way. The long-awaited sequel to Mario Paint was split up across four separate titles and was exclusive to the 64DD. As that add-on never saw the light of day outside of Japan, audiences around the world were never shared the joys of illustrating Pikachu or battling invisible enemies in a boxing ring. Needless to say, this game was very Japanese.
Released as Paint Studio, Talent Studio, Communication Kit, and Polygon Studio, it actually included some pretty cool functions like the ability to build your own 3D models or import an image of your face to be included in-game. Designer Yoshikazu Yamashita even stated that his work on Talent Studio was one of the first stepping stones towards the creation of Mii characters.
The swift demise of the 64DD meant that several other Mario Studio titles never came about, including a sound studio and even a ‘game making’ application. Starving artists often suffer setbacks, but this one particularly stung. It was also the cause of Mario’s ill-fated era of postmodern art, which was blasé at best.
Mario’s Bombs Away
One of Mario’s many efforts on the Game & Watch system, this particular title featured him running across a battlefield in army fatigues, attempting to safely deliver a bomb to his outpost. It wasn’t that atypical of a Game & Watch title, but let’s ponder on that idea for a moment: loveable gaming mascot Super Mario — carrying explosives in the middle of a war. Something about that just doesn’t feel right.
Should too many of the bombs he is carrying detonate prematurely, Mario will be left with a face full of soot, and it’ll be game over. Fortunately, it does not reduce him to an oozing pile of guts because that would be especially grim and probably really tricky to animate on the tiny LCD screen.
Of course, his progress is hindered by enemies and the haphazard smoking habits of his allies, ramping up the challenge to frustrating levels. This game taught us both the horrors of war, and the dangers of cigarettes, all in one neat little package. If it had only just included elements of peer pressure, it would have been complete.
Mario & Wario
Another game that never left Japan, this charming little title was developed by Game Freak and released on the Super Nintendo in 1993. The premise of this game finds the nefarious Wario committing the most dastardly of atrocities by dropping objects on Mario’s head that obscure his vision. Rather than attempt to remove them, the brave hero marches on, unfazed, striding proudly towards danger.
As the fairy Wanda, your task is to manipulate the stage, removing hazards, and guide Mario to safety. Poor Wanda is a forgotten entity in the echelons of Nintendo fame, and she didn’t even get billing for the title of her own game. Mario & Wario & Wanda doesn’t read nearly as well, but it’s the only way we have left to honor her legacy, dammit!
This game was one of approximately three that utilized the Super Nintendo mouse, a peripheral most frequently used in Mario Paint and then left in the closet for the rest of eternity. As an aside, you could also use the mouse in gambling title Vegas Stakes if you were so inclined. Pro tip: never trust Mr. Nice — his name is not accurate.
Punch Ball Mario Bros.
Have you ever been playing Mario Bros. and having a grand old time but plagued with this unshakable feeling that it needs something just a little… more? Like some kind of completely superfluous gameplay mechanic that adds nothing to the game’s playability?
Why, you’re in luck, friend! Because in 1984, they released a variation on the classic title that gave players the option of attacking their foes with red balls strewn about the stage. No longer were you forced to trip enemies from below because these balls of death could fell your enemies with ease. As long as you weren’t moving. Or intending on enjoying the game at all.
One of several versions of the game created by Hudson Soft, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with Punch Ball Mario Bros., except the fact that it’s simply better fun to just play the original and leave your punch balls at home. If only the game had actually been about rochambeau-ing your enemies, it probably would have sold much better.
All Night Nippon: Super Mario Bros.
Alright, so perhaps the arbitrary insertion of punch balls into classic Mario Bros. wasn’t your cup of tea. It’s not for everyone, after all, so we’ll instead shift our attention to a Super Mario Bros. modification that allows you to live out your lifelong dream of stomping on DJ Sunplaza Nakano. Finally, something everyone can enjoy!
Released in 1986 as an extremely limited edition of the Lost Levels, this unnerving title replaced various in-game sprites with hosts from Japanese radio program All Night Nippon. Allegedly, Bowser has caught wind of their charismatic ways and surmises that kidnapping and/or enslaving the on-air personalities is exactly the boost he needs to topple Mario once and for all.
While most of the hosts must be rescued, acting as a proxy for the mushroom retainers of the original game, the abovementioned DJ Sunplaza was not so lucky, forced to live out the rest of his tragic existence as a Goomba or a Piranha Plant. Don’t let that cheeky grin fool you; he wants you to put him out of his misery as swiftly as possible.
Mario’s Early Years!
Mario’s series of edutainment games can best be described as tedious, but Early Years was especially grating. Coming in such wacky variations as Fun With Letters, Fun With Numbers, and Preschool Fun, you’ll no doubt be deriding these titles for flagrant false advertising before long.
As you’d expect, Letters instructed children how to read, while Numbers consisted of a series of mathematical challenges designed to teach kids that video games were, in fact, bad for them. Preschool Fun was aimed at the youngest tots, aged under six, with simple comprehension games. Why exactly is Mario lurking around a preschool, and why is there a game titled ‘Body World’? It’s hard to say; probably best not to dwell on it too much.
The Early Years titles were fairly innocuous, as they at least weren’t marauding as regular games — more than can be said for Mario’s Time Machine and Mario is Missing, a.k.a. Mario is Returned to the Store by Angry Parents.
Mario Teaches Typing 2
Sure, we could just list the series as a whole here, but there’s something particularly queer about the idea that Mario Teaches Typing necessitated not one but two miserable games. The storyline (which is the exact same as the first one, incidentally) has the Mario brothers wandering by Bowser’s castle when a magical typewriter appears before them that promises to destroy the castle if they just type in one simple phrase.
An overzealous Mario slams the phrase in with such fervor that he completely butchers it, causing the typewriter to explode into multiple pieces. Their quest is to travel across the lands, assembling the fragments in order to correctly input the phrase and put an end to Bowser’s reign of terror. Why exactly this typewriter has it in for Bowser is uncertain, but perhaps that’ll be explained in Mario Teaches Typing 3.
This title also famously features a horrifying disembodied Mario head that talks to the players between tasks. His unnerving visage encourages children not to make mistakes in their typing lest he appear before them in their sleep.
Mario no Photopi
Ever the enterprising hobbyist, Mario occasionally dabbles in the subtle art of photography. His pictures are, for the most part, awful, as his camera is battered beyond repair after years of backflipping, ground pounding, and teaching children how to type.
Yet another Japanese exclusive (say less), Mario’s Photopi allows you to create stunning collages of your favorite Mushroom Kingdom residents. Use of a SmartMedia card would allow you to then export these creations to a printer, that you may burden the rest of society with your artwork. It’s the perfect gift for Father’s Day, assuming that you don’t particularly like your father.
As near as I can surmise, “photopi” is the Hindi word for “photocopy,” though I sincerely doubt that this game was titled specifically with a Hindi audience in mind.
I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater
Apparently, now you’re a teacher. And Mario is a sweater of the super variety. Sure, that seems fair enough in this Japan-only Famicom title that was effectively a sewing simulator. Not enough sewing simulators around these days — surely Super Master Chief Sweater would be a bonafide classic?
Made in the late 80s, before Mario had typically been dabbling in such tomfoolery, the idea behind the game was that players could create designs based on popular characters from the Mushroom Kingdom. After they were done, they could send their designs to a company that would create a real-life version of the sweater for 2,900¥.
Ugly Christmas sweaters are in trend these days, but if you were one of the truly lucky ones who jumped on that bandwagon early, you could be the recipient of a malformed Luigi fashion piece that would make you the talk of the town. Just don’t listen to what that talk is actually about, it’s probably not very nice.
Super Mario Bros. & Friends: When I Grow Up
Strange and Obscure Mario Games
What better way to close out this curious list of Mario professions than with a game where Mario opines on the various jobs he’d like to have when he grows up? The dude is actually in his 30s, canonically, so the ship has probably sailed on most of these dreams, but we’ll let it slide for now.
One of the delightful features in Mario Paint was the ability to take a picture of Mario, color it in, and make whatever alterations we saw fit, most often adding some kind of inappropriate imagery that our parents would surely scold us for. In When I Grow Up, however, your only option is to color. There is no editing. There is no frivolity. There is no bathroom!!
The canvases in question see Mario and his buddies taking on all sorts of career paths, ranging from the obvious, like teacher, scientist, or carpenter, to the questionable: if you’ve ever dreamed of someday seeing Mario and Luigi as business executives, being scolded by Bowser for decreased sales, then this is the game for you!
It’s just another of the many peculiar titles Mario has been sleazing about in his many years on this earth. The actual list is fairly exhaustive, but that’s another tale for another day. Have you played any of these games? And more importantly, have you got a Mario sweater of your very own?