ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Strong Museum did their best Indiana Jones impression.
Upon discovering a hidden artifact, Strong officials made sure it stayed in a museum, and like many other great archaeological finds, it was discovered in a place that anyone wouldn’t have expected.
“It just happened that our cataloger Kirsten was able to spot this disc in a completely unrelated box, by comparison of what this is instead of the sign, and say, ‘I think this is special,'” said digital games curator of The Strong.
The disc in question is a demo copy of “Super Mario 3,” an iconic installment in the Nintendo franchise, Mario. The game itself was originally released for the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), a home console made by Nintendo. It was originally released in 1988, and made its way to North America in 1990.
However, this demo copy had a different creator; a group of programmers — including industry legend John Carmack — who would go on to found iD Software (then called Ideas from the Deep), the company that would go on to spawned incalculably influential Wolftenstein, Quake, and DOOM franchises. Back then, they were working on a company called Softdisk.
“But they didn’t have computers at home,” Borman said. “So one Friday night they drove their car up to the Softdisk building borrowed some computers for a weekend. And over the course of the weekend, they created this Super Mario brothers 3 demo for DOS. And not only that, they went and they shipped it to the Nintendo of America who then had to ship it to Nintendo in Japan.”
Unlike the original Super Mario games that were made specifically for Nintendo systems, this demo was designed for Microsoft DOS, a PC operating system.
So not having access to the original system or code, they had to get creative. Thankfully at that time, they had a working version of a fast sidescrolling technology that would be implemented in the future DOOM games.
“They actually had to record Super Mario Bros through using a VHS and then go through frame by frame and redraw the graphics, to try to get the feeling of the gameplay,” Borman said.
Unfortunately, all of that work in that fateful weekend didn’t impress Nintendo enough. They rejected the demo. Though Borman says its unclear why Nintendo rejected the version, he says it may have had something to do with the relative lack of computer gaming at the time, and Nintendo’s preference for its own hardware.
As for its significance, Borman puts this find into perspective:
“It also paints an interesting picture of what if iD Doftware had created Super Mario Bros 2, would things have played out exactly the same way going to Commnader Keen or (other) first-person shooters?,” Borman said.
Who knows? In the meantime, the disc is safe at The Strong, is archived, and still is indeed playable on The Strong’s DOS emulators.