Being Nintendo's principle mascot, you'd think that Mario would only ever appear on Nintendo consoles. And for the most part, you'd be correct! But, as with most things in life, there are exceptions .
I thought with the sad news today of the cuts at Radical Entertainment that we'd look back another one such exception: the studio's early-90s collaboration with Nintendo that resulted in a pair of Mario games that were released on the PC.
In case you're too young (or too scarred by them) to remember, the early 1990s were a boom time for educational games on the PC. Powerhouse developers like Sierra rushed to dominate what was seen as a promising future market, and so strong was the lure that even Nintendo jumped onboard.
And so it was in 1992 that the world received Mario is Missing!, a game that blended your usual side-scrolling, head-stomping gameplay with rudimentary "education" in the form of trivia questions. Kids controlled Luigi as he travelled the globe, visiting famous cities in an attempt to stop Bowser, who was...capturing landmarks, so he could...pay for enough hairdryers so he could melt the ice caps.
While the game was released on the NES and SNES, it's the PC version that was the star, featuring not only more content but better visuals as well.
It was followed in 1993 by a sequel, Mario's Time Machine. This time, players had to travel throughout world history, and instead of answering basic trivia about cities, had to answer basic trivia about the people and places of the past instead.
They were, of course, awful. The games weren't very fun and weren't very educational, a problem most games of this ilk then (and even now) suffer from. But if you ever wanted to see Luigi teach you about Sydney, or listen to Mario bang on about the 17th century (he probably talks more in Mario's Time Machine than in any other game), these were your games.
They weren't the only Mario titles to appear on a PC; those two were just the ones handled by Radical. There were a few others, like a Mario Touch Typing title for Windows and some pre-school games that are so absurdly wonderful they'll star in their own Total Recall one day soon.
Most interesting, though, is 1995's Mario's Game Gallery, a collection of standard board and card games skinned to feature Nintendo characters. Despite being a weird little PC game, it's actually the first time Charles Martinet - who voices Mario to this day - sat down and recorded lines for the role.
It'd be fascinating to see the line at Nintendo HQ where it was OK to release a certain title on PC and where it wasn't. Famously, Doom creators id software got their start by perfectly porting Super Mario Bros. to the PC, an effort which Nintendo summarily declined to publish. Yet when it came to these, some of which had side-scrolling elements (and which were fit enough to be appear on the SNES) and others which were straight-up games, it was fine.
The lord may work in mysterious ways, but in the 1990s, so too did Nintendo.