The trio of Legend Of Zelda games for the ill-fated Philips CD-i console—developed not by Nintendo but by a third-party studio—have become infamous cultural relics and the rightful targets of endless Internet mockery. The one Mario game that was released for the system, Hotel Mario, is slightly less remembered (perhaps because it wasn’t as big of a disaster as the Zelda games), and the prototype of a second Mario CD-i project, Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds, was eventually unearthed and dumped onto the Internet in its unfinished state. (That Angry Video Game Nerd guy recorded lots of footage of it.)
Still lost to time and even more mysterious, however, is a third Mario game for the CD-i, Mario Takes America, which was cancelled in 1994. Unlike Wacky Worlds, no prototypes, video, or even still images of Mario Takes America have made their way online. In recent months, though, new information about this lost Mario adventure has emerged, and Unseen 64 has pieced together the few publicly available details—along with some never-before-seen production photos—in one fascinating article.
Renewed interest in the game appears to have sprouted in July when someone claiming to have worked on the project posted in a thread on the Assembler message board that had been inactive for more than seven years. The supposed developer fielded questions from interested board members and spilled all sorts of details about the game. For example, it was previously known from an article in a CD-i magazine—a scan of which can be found in the Unseen 64 post—that this was an edutainment game where the player guides Mario in a trip across America, with levels and backgrounds made up of original on-location video. (Mario and his enemies were added on top of the real-world imagery.) The developer laid out all the levels he could remember and broke down the filming methods. Footage for a level where Mario flew over New York City, for example, was actually filmed from a helicopter.
The Unseen 64 article is full of more detail from the two years of Mario Takes America’s development, including the producer’s unimaginative attempt to remove Mario from the game after Philips’ funding dried up. It’s possible that someday we’ll get even more information about this lost bit of Mario history, but this peek into the creation of an overly ambitious, doomed-from-the-start game will have to do for now.