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The Super Mario that never was: Rare demo found at Strong Museum

A. Sue Weisler
Rochester Institute of Technology
Kirsten Feigel, a cataloger at The Strong National Museum of Play, discovered a rare piece of video game history while processing a box of donated items — a PC demo of “Super Mario Bros. 3.”

Super Mario is a household name to most gamers, and the enormously popular game series centered around the character has been a heavily protected property of Nintendo.

But if things had gone differently, you may have been able to hop for coins and battle Bowser on your PC.

A cataloguer at The Strong National Museum of Play recently found a PC demo featuring the Italian plumber and his brother, which never came to fruition. The demo was donated to The Strong, which is known for its extensive preserved collection of electronic games.

Kirsten Feigel stumbled across the donation – a floppy disk with three programs on it – over the summer. One of them was a demo for the Super Mario Bros. 3 game.

A. Sue Weisler
Rochester Institute of Technology
The floppy disk that The Strong cataloger Kirsten Feigel found that contained a demo of “Super Mario Bros. 3” created by id Software in 1990.

Id software, best known for Doom, created it for the PC in 1990. Feigel said she didn’t quite know what she had at the time, but brought it to her supervisor.

The next day, people were congratulating her on the find, even though Feigel didn’t make a big deal about it.

“The next day people were like coming to me and saying, ‘That floppy disc you found yesterday had the rare Super Mario Brothers game on it,’ and I was like, ‘OK, I just found a floppy disc, but...” she said.

Stephen Jacobs, a professor at RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media and a scholar in residence at The Strong, said if id Software had convinced Nintendo to put the game out on PC, the companies would have been very different.

id Software
Provided by The Strong National Museum of Play
The title screen of id Software's PC demo for "Super Mario Bros. 3." Nintendo rejected the idea, so a PC version of the game was never made.

“It could have changed the PC market significantly; they would have had a much bigger piece of the PC market.”

Other PC games were eventually made starring Mario, such as Mario Teaches Typing and Mario’s Game Gallery. While the latter contained simple card and board games, it was the first time Mario was given the voice that he is iconic for.

If you’re curious about what Mario looks like on the PC demo that was donated to The Strong, Jacobs said that may be possible one day.

“The Strong tries to put the majority of their artifacts out into the hands of the public as well when they can,” Jacobs said. “Obviously, the original disk won't be put out there, but it's easy to make copies.”

Billy Mitchell is a WXXI News intern.