Flashback: Here’s The Real-World Super Mario Game You Never Played
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There's no doubt that the big 'new' game release of the last week has been Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a Switch collection of two essential Nintendo platformers - Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy - alongside Super Mario Sunshine, because some people hate themselves. You can find our review of the fairly no-frills compilation here. It's recommended.
3D All-Stars is perfect for reconnecting players with two of the best entries the Super Mario series has seen since its first game, 1985's Super Mario Bros., emerged on the NES and played a huge part in making that console such an in-demand product. But have you heard about the Super Mario game that never was?
Plenty of video games are developed to a certain point and then abandoned - but I'd not come across Super Mario's Wacky Worlds until I was diving back into the series for my 3D All-Stars review. Intended to serve as a sequel to the Super Nintendo's Super Mario World, this traditional side-scrolling platform adventure would have seen the moustachioed mascot leaping over gaps and butt-pounding baddies across real-world (historical) locations including Ancient Greece and Egypt, as well through Arctic levels and jungle-set courses.
More interesting than the game's settings, however, was Wacky Worlds' target platform. This wasn't a Super Mario game being made by Nintendo, for Nintendo - rather, it was developed by the California-based NovaLogic and would have come out for the Philips CD-i. This, despite the feeling that the CD-i couldn't reproduce the visual effects of the SNES, and that the end product would be horribly compromised in comparison.
Philips was working with Nintendo to produce the SNES's CD-ROM drive (that never came out); and as part of the deal, the company had the right to use Nintendo IP on its CD-i console. NovaLogic staffers worked intensely over a two-week period to get a Wacky Worlds prototype ready to show to Nintendo - but the Japanese giants, while impressed, cancelled the project due to low sales of the CD-i.
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Nevertheless, NovaLogic pressed on, and continued work on the game until 1993, when around 30% of its code was complete, along with 95% of its design and 80% of its art. This semi-playable portion of Super Mario's Wacky Worlds found its way into public circulation - and today it's believed that as many as three prototype disc copies of the game are out there, somewhere. One sold on ebay for $1,000, and the game (such as it is) can be found on ISO sites, where it can be burned onto a disc and played on an actual CD-i... If you happen to have one.
Super Mario's Wacky Worlds might have been a failed project - another Mario game on the CD-i, Mario Takes America, was similarly canned - but some Nintendo favourites did appear on Philips' console. The puzzle-platformer Hotel Mario came out in 1994, and three Zelda series titles were released: 1993's Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and 1994's Zelda's Adventure. There is absolutely no need to seek any of them out, as they are awful things - unless you really want to laugh at the cutscenes.
So when you're digging back into Super Mario 64 and Galaxy this weekend, spare a thought for the not-so-super Mario game that never made it. One that was clearly a passion project for its makers, and would have connected the Mushroom Kingdom with our own world like few games before or after it. Wacky Worlds would almost certainly have been the best Nintendo game on the CD-i, given what did get released; but in a way, it's perhaps better that it was cancelled, so as to never tarnish the mostly incredible reputation of the Super Mario series.
All Super Mario's Wacky Worlds screenshots from mariowiki.com.
If you enjoyed this bite-sized slice of retro-gaming goodness, you may enjoy our Flashback mini-features on the Nintendo console made exclusively for Pokémon, and the time Alan Sugar tried to take on SEGA (and lost).
Featured Image Credit: Nintendo, Pyramids photo by KennyOMG via Wikipedia