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The Mystery Mushroom: I Designed the Worst Mario Game As A Child

My love of the Mario series should be pretty evident by now to anyone who has been keeping up with my work. Playing the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES is one of my earliest memories and the series was a large part of childhood. Maybe it’s not surprising then that, in my youthful ignorance, I believed I could design my own entry in the series. The travesty that resulted, and which I still have the sketches of, is Mario Bros. 2000.

An artist, I was not

What king is Mario rescuing? Why is the M on the back of his hat? Did Bowser really name his lair “Bowser’s Place”? Why is everything so lumpy? I do not have the answers to these questions.


Mario Bros. 2000 was envisioned as a 3D platformer similar to Super Mario 64, which was the most recent Mario platformer released when I designed it, as you can guess by its awful title. Below is the design document for the game’s first stage, simply called “Castle entrance”.

Although the game is a 3D Mario platformer, it lacks the wide open spaces of Super Mario 64, the ingenuity of Super Mario Galaxy, or the frantic multiplayer of Super Mario 3D World. Instead, the first level appears fairly bland and flat with three branching paths in an otherwise linear experience.

Clearly, I did not understand what makes the Mario series work so well as the level doesn’t contain any secrets to find, powerups to collect, or interesting new features.


The game continues inside the castle with what actually seems to be a marginally more interesting level. Exploring Peach’s castle under enemy occupation is not a unique idea to the series but it is always a fun one. This design document also reveals that I had no idea what the names or traits of typical Mario were.


Although still very linear, the level does have some potentially fun set pieces, such as a room full of boos and a wagon wide through a mine-filled tunnel that culminates in a boss fight with the horribly named Koopa Droopa. The level concludes with a classic “Our Princess is in another castle” moment and also it seems like Luigi and Toad have joined the party?


Now we are getting to something that actually looks like a Mario level, albeit with some lingering strangeness. At this point it’s unclear to me whether this game is supposed to be multiplayer, in which case I need to contact Nintendo for royalty checks from New Super Mario Bros. Wii sales, or if the other characters are NPCs.

Regardless, Yoshi’s Island is always a fun place to visit and many common Mario elements are play here, such as piranha plants, a fire flower, vines to the sky, and even a secret with the teleporter. The set up to knock down a whole bunch of goombas with a shell is great, even if for some reason I thought they were called “head creatures”. This level seems to me, arguably, the most fun of the bunch.


And now we’ve reached Jr. Koopa’s Castle. Once again, I’m pretty sure I need to contact Nintendo’s legal department because nine year old me apparently invented Bowser Jr.


This level seems to based mostly on the fortress and castle levels from Super Mario Bros. 3 and World and is basically just a short intro to a boss fight where.... holy shit, does that boo have legs? What is going on there?

This particular level seems unfinished and lacks the labeling and story of the others. I apparently gave up at this point because there were no additional levels in the notebook. Unfortunately, we will never know just how Mario makes it to Bowser’s Place or how Mario Bros. 2000 concludes.


Anyway, I need to talk to some Japanese businessmen. Back with more Mario-related content soon!

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