In this series of articles we'll write about one Mario game (or more!) every day for 30 days, each representing a different year as part of our Super Mario 30th Anniversary celebrations.
1987 was a rather quiet year for Mario. Nintendo was somewhat occupied with conquering the video game world and popularising a range of franchises, and its number one mascot got relegated to cameo appearances. Of course, the moustachioed one continues to fulfil that role to this day.
As a result we're cheating and looking at two games today, and in brief terms, too. That's mainly because the titles concerned are either well-known, simplistic or a bit of a mystery; quite possibly a combination of multiple factors. We're pretty sure almost all Nintendo fans know about the original Punch-Out!!, but Famicom Grand Prix: F-1 Race may be less familiar.
Let's kick off with Little Mac's début, which was also a notable early example of how licenses and branding can be affected and evolve. Originally known as Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! when released in North America in 1987, in 1990 the license wasn't renewed and the game was re-jigged and released as Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream, or in the view of some it's just good old Punch-Out!!. The license to use Tyson's name was actually dropped - apparently - as a result of his shock loss to Buster Douglas, but it turned out to be a fortunate circumstance as Tyson was subsequently imprisoned in 1992.
Anyway, Mario's appearance in the title is iconic, as he appears on screen as the referee to complete counts and declare winners; it's a particularly charming sprite of the mascot, and established a trend of Mario making his way around multiple Nintendo games in surprising ways. There was a major change in style for Super Punch-Out!! on the Super NES, however, and poor old Mario was left out.
Famicom Grand Prix: F-1 Race is much less known, primarily for the obvious reason that it was only released on the Famicom Disk System in Japan. The image below was taken when we came across it at the recent Nintendo Life Gaming Night, held at the brilliant Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England.
This is an isometric racing game, the type of which were fairly common the 8- and 16-Bit eras. As well as his happy appearance on the box art, Mario sprites pop up as drivers and pit crew. While it's not strictly accurate to say this was Mario's first racing game long before Super Mario Kart, it's still a neat bit of Famicom history.
For the time it actually had some complexity, too - managing tires and fuel consumption is important, as the video below from Bean1227 demonstrates.
It looks more fun and interesting than the real thing is most of the time, anyway.
1987 was a year of cameos for Mario, then, though by the time 1988 rolled around he was appearing in a rather different platforming adventure in the West...