With a gaming franchise as globally popular as the one featuring everybody's favorite Italian plumber, there are bound to be some dangling "could have beens." Despite sporting some mighty fine dungarees since the 1980s, not every game with the mustachioed hero himself saw the light of day.
Now, with reasons such as budget, development hell and bankruptcy, these games never got into the hands of consumers. With some huge sequels on the line here, one can only imagine how truly great some of these could have been if finished.
1. Return Of Donkey Kong
The 1981 arcade classic that featured "Jumpman" trying to tackle his crazed pet ape, was the first to feature our protagonist. Although, really he was an antagonist at this point and has had a career change since then — but we will skip over that for now.
A follow up to this titled, Return Of Donkey Kong, was set to be a release for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Nothing was ever shown of it after it was announced in the Official Nintendo Player's Guide in 1987. This project was cancelled due to unknown reasons and now we can never see what a sequel would have in store.
2. Super Mario 64 2
A direct sequel to the acclaimed Super Mario 64 was set for a release in 1999! This game was to take advantage of the Nintendo 64DD (Nintendo 64 Disk Drive), which is a pretty ugly piece of kit.
This expansion hardware was to utilize disks for the N64 system, but due to a lack of interest and inevitable commercial failure of the 64DD, this sequel's production was ceased. But, many elements from this game would find themselves onto Super Mario 64 DS, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy!
Such features as multiplayer and the implementation of other characters would reveal themselves in later games, even the very first demo of this game featured multiplayer. I never had the pleasure myself of playing the original, as I never owned a N64, but I did play the DS version. So, if that was a similar goal to what Shigeru Minamoto had in mind for the sequel, I'm sure that it would have blown minds in the late '90s.
3. Super Mario RPG 2
This was another followup to a classic that was due out on the N64DD, but was ultimately released on the cartridge instead. This game went through several iterations: Mario RPG 2, RPG 64, Mario Adventure (US), and finally was released as Paper Mario! So yeah, this game did actually see a release as a full game down the line, but alas not as a sequel to Super Mario RPG.
A lot of the material from RPG 2 was used for Paper Mario, but there are lists of cut items and characters. Not much more to say for this one, but again I would have loved to have seen where a proper sequel to Mario RPG would go. The only hope now is to relentlessly replay Paper Mario and dream!
4. Super Mario's Wacky Worlds
Super Mario World. My favorite in all the Mario series! But I'm not so sure I would have liked this planned sequel.
This direct continuation of Super Mario World was slated for a release on Phillips' CD-I system. Some heavy work was done on this game before development was shut down due to the CD-I not being able to bring in the moolah. Three prototype discs are said to be in circulation and the game itself managed to at least reach Alpha stage.
As it is a pre-alpha, the prototype is rather limited; Super Mario can only walk both ways and jump, and no powerups exist. He cannot slide or swim, but it would appear that these abilities would have been implemented had development continued - Source: Sidewalk CD-i Playground
But with such travesties as the other Nintendo properties on the CD-i platform, Link: The Faces Of Evil and Zelda: The Wand Of Gamelon, maybe it's for the best that Wacky Worlds never had the chance to crawl out of its terribly animated hole. The cover art alone is borderline seizure inducing.
5. Mario Takes America
In a good way, I hope? Now, this little gem was also destined for Phillips' tragedy box and was being developed by a company called Cigam. You can read all about it in this announcement article, if you feel like it.
According to this, the central plot of the game sees Mario arriving in New York and traveling across the US in order to reach Hollywood to star in his own movie. And throughout this road trip, he would be using multiple vehicles (mentioning truck, train, car, airplane, helicopter, and a motorbike as being usable). It is set to take place in a non-fictional Earth, where real cities of America serve as level backdrops, which may have proved to be an interesting experience.
An ex developer of the game has a few details on the features and scenarios that this game would include:
Vintage Steam Train fight (on top of traveling boxcar),in Texas, Monument Valley Motorcycle Race on Highway, Las Vegas Neon Race (never completed) Los Angeles Car Race on Highway at Night ... all these would end with a final battle at Graumann's Theatre where Mario had to defeat a combination of all the enemies he had met going across the USA. Source - ASSEMbler Games forum thread
This would have made for a strange but perhaps intriguing clusterfuck of injected American culture — perhaps the biggest that I have ever seen. But Phillips was not impressed with the progress of the developers, so funding was cut and Cigam went bankrupt in 1994. Ciao!
6. Super Mario Spikers
Now this. This, is quite a strange one. This game was to be a wrestling-volleyball mash up for the Wii and was being developed by Next Level Games, the ones notable for the Super Mario Strikers series.
But production of the game stopped in 2007 when Nintendo claimed that this project clashed with their code of honor! Probably something to do with characters grappling together in spandex. Although, honestly I would love to see Bowser suplexing Yoshi around the ring. But hey, can't complain as Next Level Games proceeded to develop Punch Out for the Wii, which was pretty darn fun.
Here is a short clip of animation from a beta of the game and some concept art to have a look at:
Would you play any of these?
There are a variety of cancelled Mario games out there, these are just a few that seemed interesting to me and I thought I'd share. I'm not sure about half of these, but let me know in the comments and poll if you would have wanted to play any of these.