Video games are a funny medium; one's released, and about a year afterwards you're not likely to be able to buy a brand new copy of it unless you're very lucky or it gets a second run. As such they age, and in a time of online patches and internet servers being so integral it's likely only going to get harder to play games properly once they're retro.
But of course, that's already happened for some games, and Mario's not safe from the proverbial reaper's scythe. We've dug up five Mario games that you simply can't play properly any more, or perhaps were never able to be played in their intended form. If you're wondering, yes, the Satellaview does come into it; how could it not?
Super Mario's Wacky Worlds
If you know your slightly rubbish Mario and Zelda games, you’ll probably know about this one. Yes, this is a game for the wonderfully infamous Philips CD-i, which we recommend absolutely nobody attempts to emulate. This game was never, ever finished, but we as the public do have access to the unfinished game file for some mad reason. We can run around with terrible controls, jump with terrible controls, and that’s about it. Also half the levels are totally unfinished and are essentially just a series of coloured blocks.
There’s not an awful lot to this game truth be told. It was originally pitched as a sort of successor to Super Mario World, as you can probably tell, but due to the console using CDs as opposed to cartridges, there was room for some really impressive and large sprite work that you just wouldn’t have been able to do on the SNES. If Nintendo had been able to make this, it could’ve been a great little game, but sadly, it wasn’t, and more importantly, it never got any further than this. And so we’ll never be able to play a subpar Mario game with intangibly terrible controls and weird collision detection; a true tragedy of our times.
Mario Bros. Game & Watch YM-901
This may seem like a cheap choice, but bear with us. There’s a range of Game & Watch consoles that featured what was basically a boiled down version of the Mario Bros. arcade game, and they were everywhere, common as muck. In fact if you’ve got a couple of quid to plonk you could jolly well get one right now and play it to your heart’s content. However there was a special version of this game made in 1987 that’s so rare it was outright unknown in collector’s circles for years.
It was presented to winners of an F1 NES competition in Japan, and only 10,000 units were ever produced. In short, it’s the rarest Game and Watch game in the world. Now yes, it is technically the same game as one of the more common versions, but if you played one of those, do you really think you could claim you’ve played the rarest Game and Watch game in existence? We don’t think you could. You’d have to cough up an awful lot of cash if you even managed to find one of these to buy.
VB Mario Kart
More vapourware than a cancelled game, this was a title that was apparently in development according to German magazine Big N. It could even have been a hit if the console it was on hadn’t flopped like a fish. VB Mario Kart as it’s known was, unsurprisingly, a Mario Kart game for the Virtual Boy; it’s unsure whether or not it ever existed given how obscure it seems, but the idea of a Mario Kart game on a stereoscopic 3D system sounds about as tasty as you can get, so it could very well be true.
That’s not what the screenshots are showing though, obviously. This is in fact a recreation of how it could have looked and played by DogP, and it looks right on the money to us. Did the real thing ever get anywhere in development? Chances are we’ll never know. Let alone play the thing.
Now here’s a game that actually existed! We like to spoil you. When originally researching this game we thought we were going to have to say ‘you can play it on MAME, but it’s a gambling machine so it’s meant to be played with money blah blah blah’, but guess what, it doesn’t even do that the cheeky thing. We could not get this to work at all, which is why the footage in the video is so wonderfully wonky. Its artwork is largely based on Super Mario World, and it bears a striking resemblance to the bonus mini game you could enter at the end of a stage.
Like so many others, this was only released in Japan, making it pretty rare already, and there are some reports that machines of this game still exist today, but to our surprise there’s very little data on an obscure Japan-only roulette arcade machine from 1991.
BS Super Mario USA
We’ve talked about this game before, and if you’re wondering why it looks just like Super Mario Bros. 2 from Super Mario All-Stars, that’s because it does. That’s because this is essentially a ‘remixed’ version of the game presented as a direct sequel that was released exclusively in Japan on the Japan-exclusive peripheral, the Satellaview. This was essentially a modem for the SNES that allowed you to play games over the internet before some people reading this were even a twinkle in the milkman’s eye.
You could only play the game at certain times of day, a bit like Salmon Run, and because the servers went offline many, many years ago, all you can do is ‘sort of’ play it with an emulator, and even that’s no walk in the park. Without the official service, the game is monstrously incomplete. The real-time voice acting is missing, certain events don’t trigger properly, and most of the time when you load it up, you’ll just get a screen showing your progress and little else. It’s not anything close to the full experience, and chances are it’ll never be available to play as intended ever again. This one, at the very least, seems to be lost to the ages forever.
Have any Mario games you love (or hate) become unplayable somehow? Let us know in the comments below.