Cataloging a large collection of video games and related materials involves a ton of research and leads to game development stories that often are as fascinating as the games themselves. ICHEG’s recent acquisition of a group of games and game systems from Japan brought Super Mario Brothers’ history to the forefront. Mario, the Italian-American plumber designed by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, is one of the most iconic video game characters of all time. Mario began his career in 1981 as the protagonist “Jumpman” in Donkey Kong, and in 1983, he and his brother Luigi appeared in their very own arcade game, Mario Bros. Mario has since appeared in games designed for every Nintendo console invented. And he has made guest appearances in titles such as Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! and Super Smash Bros. Given Mario’s iconic status, it is likely that if you have ever fired up a Nintendo system, you have played this character at least once. But did you know there’s also a good chance that one of the times you thought you were playing Mario, you really weren’t?
In 1985, Nintendo published the game Super Mario Brothers as a sequel to the Mario Bros. arcade game, and the new title became the best-selling video game of all time until Wii Sports surpassed it in 2009. Due to Super Mario Brothers’ phenomenal success, Nintendo quickly produced the sequel Super Mario Brothers 2. However, the firm’s U.S. division, Nintendo of America, chose not to publish it because they considered it too difficult for their player base and too similar to the original Super Mario Brothers game, especially since it had only been two years since the original game's release. Nintendo wanted to offer U.S. gamers a more diverse experience, so they came up with a new way to present the famous plumber.
As an alternative, Nintendo of America turned to a lesser-known game for the Famicom Disk System, Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (夢工場 ドキドキパニック), which translates to Dream Factory: Heart-Pounding Panic. Doki Doki Panic already incorporated many famous Mario elements, such as coins, POW blocks, and level-warping. The company replaced the original Arabian-themed characters with Mario-related sprites and made minor alterations to the game’s soundtrack while hardly altering the game play. Nintendo of America released this rendition of Doki Doki Panic in the West as Super Mario Brothers 2 and the tagline “Mario Madness,” and the vast majority of American consumers had no idea they were not playing the same version as their Japanese counterparts.
Eventually, gamers in both countries had the opportunity to play each version of the game. In 1992, Japanese audiences were treated to Super Mario Bros. USA, which contained the re-skinned Doki Doki Panic version of the game sold in the U.S. In tern, American audiences had the chance to play the original a year later, when Nintendo published the compilation game Super Mario All-Stars for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This included the American versions of the first three Super Mario Brothers, as well as a segment called Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, which is the original Japanese version of Super Mario Brothers 2. Today, however, when most people boot up their old Nintendo console to enjoy a game of Super Mario Brothers 2, they’re still running and jumping their way through a disguised version of Doki Doki Panic. As someone who clearly recalls Mario as her first video game experience, I especially enjoyed cataloging this game. Who would have thought that such a classic icon could be so easily disguised?