I’m assuming most people reading this right now know who Mario is. If you don’t, you might be on the wrong website. After the huge success of Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Mario became Nintendo’s official mascot, and development of new Mario games became a big deal. But before all the success, Mario was just another character at Nintendo.
Nintendo.com has an article about the development of Punch-Out!! on their “Iwata Asks” series. In the article, Shigeru Miyamoto claims “We didn’t have an approval system when using Mario images back then.” Thus, any development team could sneak a cameo of their favorite character into NES games, no matter how poorly drawn they were! So let’s take a look back at some of Mario’s lesser known appearances on the NES.
Good ol’ Pinball. This game was deceiving, as Mario is on the front cover. But upon initial gameplay, he is nowhere to be found. What gives? Mario is actually part of a mini game if you manage to knock your ball into a certain hole. It’s basically a breakout game where Mario has to break the blocks away to get to Pauline (haven’t seen her in awhile, huh?). It’s somewhat difficult to get to this mini-game so you might want to look elsewhere for a Mario cameo.
Mario makes his first appearance in a sports game with Tennis. He’s the referee sitting up there in the chair. It’s amusing to see him watch the ball bounce back and forth. He’ll even make the calls in little speech bubbles. Tennis has been re-released many times, and it’s actually quite fun. Definitely a worthy cameo for our plumber.
Good lord, what happened to you, Mario!? It seems Mario fused with Barney Gumble for his appearance in Golf. He is the character you control while you play the game. This might be the weirdest incarnation of Mario on the NES.
Update: A fine reader plsburydoughboy has pointed out this is actually the character Ossan (according to the game Captain Rainbow). I’ll still include it just ’cause!
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out / Punch-Out!!
This is probably the most well-known Mario cameo. Punch-Out!! is a classic NES game that has you playing as Little Mac, an underdog boxer going up against the best of the world. In this game, Mario is the referee. Just like in Tennis, he will make rulings and counts through speech bubbles. Notice the sweet outfit too! Makoto Wada, an illustrator for Nintendo, was in charge of drawing the character portraits. Punch-Out!! was the first title he worked on. In the article mentioned above, he recalls drawing “a slightly strange looking Mario.”
This actually isn’t much of a cameo, as Wrecking Crew is considered a Mario game (similar to the original Mario Bros.). But what the heck, I will mention it anyway since not many people seem to remember this game. The object of the game is to destroy certain objects around a construction site while avoiding enemies. Wrecking Crew also introduced a new enemy named Spike, who is the foreman of the construction site. It is said that Foreman Spike is the precursor to Wario. Not as fun as Mario Bros., but still a fun arcade-style game.
Developed by Game Freak (the creators of Pokemon), Yoshi wasn’t the best puzzle game on the NES. In fact, it didn’t receive very good reviews when it was first released. Essentially, you had to trap an assortment of different enemies between Yoshi egg shells. Mario is the guy flipping tiles on the bottom for you.
Another Yoshi puzzle game, but this one is a lot more fun. The object of this game is to line up the same kind of cookie in each row. The guy working the cranks on the right? None other than Mario (in full chef gear, of course).
There were a few more NES games featuring our plumber (such as NES Open Tournament Golf), but I think this is a good sample for you!
What is your favorite secret Mario game on the NES? Discuss below!