Super Mario Oddities

25 years of wackiness inspired by the legendary Nintendo game, from lost levels to breakfast food to pop art.

Super Mario Oddities

Super Mario Bros. -- that classic of classics -- recently turned 25 years old. On Sept. 13, 1985, Nintendo released the seminal video game for the Famicom (the Japanese equivalent to the NES), and it made its way over to the United States early the next year. With the possible exception of Pac-Man, no video game franchise symbolizes the art form more completely.

Since Super Mario Bros. has touched the lives of so many people (it was the top-selling video game of all time until Wii Sports eclipsed it recently), many works of art, culture, and merchandise have been inspired by it. In the spirit of this anniversary, let's take a look at some of the oddest ones.

Super Mario Oddities

The Real Lost Levels
Few western gamers know that Hudson developed and released an authorized, alternate version of Super Mario Bros. for Japanese home computers in 1986. "Super Mario Bros. Special" contained all-new levels, additional enemies adapted from Donkey Kong, and even the ability to use a hammer.

There was a big catch: Due to the limitations of the NEC PC-8801 and the Sharp X1, the game doesn't scroll smoothly like the NES version. Instead, you steer Mario to the edge of one screen and onto another one, which makes for tricky gameplay. If you're interested in trying it out, you can find all the necessary files to emulate it on your PC at Hardcore Gaming 101 (scroll down the page).

Super Mario Oddities

Mario in the Flesh
What if you took Mario, in all his cartoonish proportions, and rendered him in flesh and blood? That's exactly what Internet artist Pixeloo did in 2008, and the result is amazing, if not slightly disturbing.

Still, it's the closest thing you'll get to seeing the "real" Mario short of checking out the only known photo of Mario's namesake, Mario Segale, which we published earlier this year.

Image: Pixeloo

Super Mario Oddities

Nintendo Cereal System
In 1988, Ralston Purina introduced a breakfast cereal based on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the hottest video game console at the time. They called it the "Nintendo Cereal System" and divided the box into to halves, each containing a separate bag of cereal. On one side sat the Super Mario Bros. cereal, and on the other side, The Legend of Zelda.

The Nintendo cereal fell off the market not too long after its introduction-probably because it tasted horrible, as I can attest from first-hand experience. Still, Ralston left us with a catchy commercial that still echoes through my brain to this day.

Super Mario Oddities

A Childhood Fantasy Come True
Super Mario Bros. Crossover recreates Super Mario Bros. in Flash with a surprising bonus: five additional playable characters pulled straight from iconic NES games. There's Link from The Legend of Zelda, Samus from Metroid, Mega Man from his self-titled game, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, and Bill R. from Contra.

Each character retains abilities from his respective game, and the SMB power-ups provide each with character-appropriate upgrades. If you've ever wanted to gun down Bowser, here's your chance. Best of all, you can play the game in your browser for free.

Super Mario Oddities

Mario's Biggest Fan
Sure, there are Mario dolls, Mario notebooks, and even Mario shampoo. But a Super Mario Bros. ceiling fan?

This bizarre piece of merchandising hails from 1988 during the height of Mario and NES mania in the US. At that time you could buy just about every decorative component of a typical bedroom bedecked in Mario artwork, including this fan-truly an item for the Mario fanatic who has everything.

Photo: The Mushroom Kingdom

Super Mario Oddities

DIY Mario Headware
Have you ever wanted to wear an accurate replica of Mario's signature cap crafted out of paper? Me neither, but once you see it actually done, it's surprisingly appealing. In 2008, papercraft artist Pixel-Kahashi created plans on how you can make your own paper Mario hat.

If you'd like to build other Nintendo crafts from paper, check out this entire blog devoted to Nintendo papercraft.

Photos: Pixel-Kahashi

Super Mario Oddities

Radio Free Mario
In 1986, Nintendo released a modified version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (known as the "Lost Levels" in the US) on the Famicom Disk System called "All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros."

All Night Nippon, a popular radio show in Japan, raffled a few thousand copies of this game off to lucky listeners. As such, it's quite rare and quite odd: it contained modified graphics that replaced certain enemies with depictions of the show hosts (seen here, inset) and a mixture of levels from Super Mario Bros. 1 and 2. The game remains a rare collectible to this day.

Super Mario Oddities

The Passion of the Plumber
Earlier this year, Polish artist Kordian Lewandowski created this dramatic (and possibly sacrilegious) Mario-themed sculpture, titled "Game Over," out of polystyrene foam. In this towering work, which stands over six feet tall, a mournful Princess Peach cradles a dying Mario. It was inspired by Michelangelo's Pietà, a masterpiece of sculpture from 1499 that depicts the body of Jesus in Mary's arms.

It may not find a place in St. Peter's Basilica like Michelangelo's work, but it's still a thought-provoking work of ironic pop art.

Photo: Kordian Lewandowski

Super Mario Oddities

Mario's Mean Streak
When we think of Mario, we think of a perpetually happy plumber. That's because he's smiling in just about every authorized depiction ever-except this one, which finds him with a horribly mean look on his face.

This illustration is odd not just because it's out of the ordinary, but because it appears on a licensed set of party plates. It's true that Mario played villain once -in Donkey Kong Jr. - but even then he didn't look this mean. In the end, we have to write it off as a one time slip-up by a disgruntled artist.

Photo: Eric Kaltman

Super Mario Oddities

Modern Mario Art
These days, one can find many artistic reinterpretations of Mario on the web. Sites like deviantART thrive with fan-based art that re-imagines popular video games. A common angle artists take is to depict video game characters and settings (like Mario) in a more realistic fashion.

Two such works can be found here. On the left, we see "The M.K." painted by Jose Emroca Flores for the 2006 i am 8bit art exhibition. On the right, we see a realistic Mario squishing a bloodied Goomba created by Living Oxymoron. Both are notable for their vivid, harsh depictions of Mario's normally carefree cartoon world.

Images: Jose Emroca Flores (left) and Living Oxymoron (right)

Super Mario Oddities

Nintendo Shoes
With these vintage Nintendo shoes, you could wear a beautiful illustration of Mario exactly where no one would ever see him - on the soles of your feet. Twelve numbered circles that look like buttons accompanied Mario on that pink rubber sole, which also contained a "Power Pad." Meanwhile, on the top side, the words "The Legend of Zelda" spanned the very 1980s Velcro straps, and an illustration of Princess Peach throwing an egg at a green creature embellished the sides.

It's very possible that these shoes represent the most complete physical manifestation of 1980s kids' fashion ever created. May they never haunt your dreams like they have mine.

Photos: The Mushroom Kingdom

Super Mario Oddities

The Land of 10,000 Marios
Brett Martin may own the world's largest collection of video game memorabilia-it contains over ten thousand individual pieces. Many of them are Super Mario-related , including every three-dimensional commercial depiction of Mario you can imagine.

Despite appearances, not every item in Martin's collection is Mario-related, but it seems that way from the pictures. "People may seem to think that I favor Mario," he said when I interviewed him, "but I have more Mario stuff just because there's more Mario stuff out there to collect!"

Photos: Brett Martin

Super Mario Oddities

Mario by Hand
Of all the weird Super Mario Bros. YouTube videos, this one is my favorite. Supposedly, someone in Japan programmed a version of Super Mario Bros. that he could control via hand gestures with a webcam. This video is the result. Watch as a large disembodied hand herds scores of tiny Marios, although many of the little guys don't make it.

Outside of these 13 examples lies a whole world full of Super Mario oddities. If you have others, please share them in comments.

More gaming nostalgia by Benj Edwards:

Game Boy Oddities

The Great Operating System Games

15 Classic Game Console Mistakes