In honor of Super Mario Bros.’ 35th anniversary, the Archive is playing every single release, re-release, port, and remake of the original Super Mario Bros.
PUBLISHED: Fuji Television
RELEASE DATE: 1986 (via “All Night Nippon”)
Imagine an America where Howard Stern and Joe Rogan both worked for Sirius XM on a late-night talk show. Now imagine Nintendo signing a deal with Sirius to make a Super Mario Bros. hack based on said talk show. Bald Rogan heads shuffling scarily towards you instead of Goombas! Howard Stern’s curly moptop and eternal sunglasses emerging from pipes instead of Piranha Plants! The Sirius XM logo on the flagpole! A disgusting corporate partnership for some sort of bizarre mutual gain. Nintendo fans would be aghast.
Another example of Nintendo’s questionable decision-making…
And yet, a precedent has been set for such egregious behavior. In 1986, Nintendo of Japan teamed with Fujisankei Communications Group to make a Super Mario Bros. hack for the twentieth anniversary of “All Night Nippon,” the company’s popular radio show. The latter first aired on the Nippon Broadcasting System on October 1st, 1967, and is still going today, airing six days a week from 1am-5am. As many as 3000 copies of All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. were created specifically to be a raffle prize on “All Night Nippon.”
Something is amiss.
Nintendo went all out for this surreal interpretation of their (at the time) most beloved game. Popular DJs Sunplaza Nakano-kun and Tamori replace the Goombas and Piranha Plants respectively. Microphones replace the mushrooms in the stage background. The Fujisankei logo replaces the flag on the top of the flagpole and the axe behind Bowser in his castles. The invincibility star is also replaced by a “hiranya,” a symbol made popular in another Japanese radio show; to our Western Judeo-Christian eyes, the hiranya looks like a Star of David.
And yet, Mario refuses to keep kosher.
All Night Nippon… also gathers slightly modified levels and elements from Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels and combines them with the original Super Mario Bros. So much so that the game feels less like a straight SMB ROM hack and more like a mashup between Lost Levels and Super Mario Bros. While most of the levels hail from the original SMB, certain levels in the latter half of the game are swapped out entirely for Lost Levels’ layouts. Worlds A-D from Lost Levels unlock after you beat the game eight times, although they are edited to be easier here, and some of them have been replaced with different levels from Lost Levels. Mario & Luigi can jump higher off of enemies, like they do in Lost Levels. Most importantly, many of the background elements like clouds and plants have eyes or a face.
Only slightly terrifying.
Instead of rescuing Toads at the end of Worlds 1-D, you save a different Japanese celebrity (many of whom were affiliated with “All Night Nippon” at some point) in each respective world*:
WORLD 1: Miyuki Nakajima is one of the best-selling Japanese singer songwriters of all time, with nearly 22 million singles and albums sold. Bowser loves his ballads!
WORLD 2: Takaaki Ishibashi is a comedian, television personality, and according to his Wikipedia, a frequent tormentor of young J-pop idols. He also starred in Major League II and its illegitimate non-sequel, Major League: Back to the Minors.
WORLD 3: Noritake Kinashi is Takaaki Ishibashi’s comedic partner in the group, Tunnels. He’s also an actor, a visual artist, and a singer. These Japanese celebrities are so diversified in their skill sets! No wonder Bowser’s hoarding them.
WORLD 4: Kyoko Koizumi is a Japanese singer and actress. She’s released over 20 albums and starred in nearly 60 movies and television shows in her forty year career.
WORLD 5: Takeshi Kitano – otherwise known as Beat Takeshi – might be the most famous of Bowser’s captives. In addition to his long-running comedic work, he’s known as an accomplished writer, director, and actor, both in and outside of his native Japan. His 1997 film Hana-bi even won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Japanese retro gamers also know him as the man behind the infamously unorthodox Famicom game, Takeshi’s Challenge.
WORLD 6: Daisuke Matsuno is – you guessed it – another comedian, part of the AB Brothers duo. Bowser loves to laugh!
WORLD 7: Hideyuki Nakayama is a multi-talented comedian (the second part of the AB Brothers), actor, and television host. His Wikipedia emphasizes that he dropped out of the majority of schools he ever attended. Take that, people who say you need school to succeed!
WORLD 8, D: Princess Peach is the leader of the Mushroom Kingdom. While she has participated in a handful of Mario’s adventures (and one of her own), she generally enjoys hanging around her castle, surrounded by worthless mushroom servants. Her favorite pastimes include baking a cake for Mario and getting kidnapped by Bowser. In All Night Nippon, she’s wearing a geisha outfit and looks considerably more Japanese than in any of her other Super Mario Bros. appearances.
WORLDS A-C: Goro Itoi was an iconic Japanese radio announcer and DJ. He was frequently featured on the “All Night Nippon” broadcast before his death in 1984.
If Vs. Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. Special and All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. have taught us anything, it’s that Nintendo, at one point, took great pleasure in manipulating and distorting their flagship game. Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Super Mario Bros. is Nintendo’s property, and they can do with it whatever they like (see also: Super Mario Maker, Super Mario 35). Besides, these aberrations are wonderful glimpses into alternate Mario dreamscapes. What if that mushroom in world 1-1 wasn’t in its original block? What if level 5-4 is actually level 2-4 from The Lost Levels? What if you rescue a bunch of distinct Japanese comedians instead of a slew of similar looking Toads? In the mid-80s, only Super Mario Bros. with all its power and success could handle such absurd, seemingly insignificant “what-if?” scenarios.
What if you fight Bowser before you fight Bowser?
All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. was certainly birthed from a corporate partnership of the highest order, but its disturbing imagery and haphazard level placement also provided a foundation for unholy (and unlicensed) Super Mario Bros. ROM hacks. Whether hackers know of All Night Nippon…‘s existence or not, their resolve to make the darkest, strangest, and weirdest takes on the original Super Mario Bros. certainly feels birthed out of All Night Nippon…‘s questionable reality.
At the end of the day, All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is likely just a blip on Nintendo’s radar, a thing that they once did that they would (probably) never do again. At the Archive, we relish every strange Super Mario Bros. variation, if only because it repeatedly confirms that Nintendo is uncompromisingly Japanese and weird and beautiful. All Night Nippon… is no different. The game will never replace the original in our hearts, but seeing Sunplaza Nakano’s face on a Goomba body, time and time again, is just magical.
*the Japanese celebrity sprites come courtesy of Video Game Fanon Wiki