10 October 2017

Obscure & Forgotten Mario Games Remastered- Part 6: Edutainment Games

If games like Mario’s Time Machine and Mario is Missing have taught me anything, educational games with Mario are not fun or good in general. Heck educational games in the grand scheme of things aren’t fondly remembered with some of the only exceptions being Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. During the 90’s Nintendo seemed very open to licensing out their most popular character to various game companies with the result being a stack of mostly educational games with the occasional outlier like Hotel Mario. Games in this part attempt to teach players skills like math and how to type. I use the word attempt because these games will likely not keep your attention for long.




  1. Donkey Kong Jr.+Jr. Math Lesson- 1983: Famicom (Japan only)

Although this may sound like a compilation game like Donkey Kong Classics or Mario All-Stars, DK Jr. +Math Lesson is more of a sample; taking half of Donkey Kong Jr. and half of its much less popular incarnation, Donkey Kong Jr. Math. Players will be able to play a one or two player game of DK Jr. or practice your addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills in DK Jr. Math’s JR Lesson. This game was only released with Sharp’s C1 TV; a television with a Famicom built into it that was only released in Japan. Hence getting a copy of this game isn’t going to be all that cheap (around $70).

Would this game be worth playing? Maybe? It’d be cheaper to get a copy of Donkey Kong Jr. but if you’re looking for a version of DK Jr. Math to play and you don’t want to use a Virtual Console service, this game is still cheaper than an actual copy of Donkey Kong Jr. Math. Speaking of DK Jr. Math...



  1. Donkey Kong Jr. Math- 1985: NES (Japan and North America only)
As the game’s title suggests, the objective of the game is to solve math problems as Donkey Kong’s son, Junior in this, the only game released under the Education Series of Black Box NES games and unsurprisingly, the worst selling title of the initial launch games. Donkey Kong will hold a sign with a number on it and as Junior; the player needs to use the numbers and mathematical symbols on the vines and ground to get whatever number DK is holding up. Doing so will reward the player with points. This game has a two player mode which’ll see players competing against each other to see who can create a math formula that equals Donkey Kong’s the fastest.

Would it be worth playing? No. There are better educational games out there that’d do a better job at keeping a child both entertained and engrossed. Also due to the game’s low sales, a physical copy can go for around $80+. You’d be better off using flashcards or pencil and paper to learn how to solve math problems.


  1. Super Mario Bros. & Friends: When I Grow Up- 1992: MS-DOS (North America only)

 
Licensed to Merit Software and developed by Brain A. Rice, Inc., SMB & Friends is an electronic coloring book game with Mario characters working normal jobs along with basic descriptions of each job. These normal jobs include: Luigi as a Pharmacist and Princess Peach as a Judge with Mario as an Attorney. And yes, Dr. Mario is in this game as... well, a Doctor. The illustrations in this game were done by Rick Incrocci who has been creating illustrations in many children’s books for over thirty years. I have a Super Mario Bros. coloring/activity book from 1989 and now I’m curious if he made the illustrations for it as well since I see no credits in the book for the illustrator, just the publisher. Anyway, the colors the player can use to fill in parts of these illustrations are limited to about sixteen colors; finished pages can be saved and printed. If you’ve seen or played games like Mario Paint or Color a Dinosaur, you’ll have a good idea of what this game entails. Link along with some Zelda enemies have cameos in a few of the game’s illustrations.

Would this game be worth playing? Maybe. This seems more appropriate for an actual coloring book, rather than a PC game. I’d imagine a child would still enjoy the game though, perhaps more so if you were to print the uncolored images out so they could use crayons.


  1. Mario's Early Years! CD-ROM Collection- 1995: MS-DOS (North America only)
The Software Toolworks made five educational games starring Mario characters: the two well know games, Mario’s Time Machine and Mario is Missing, along with three games that appealed to young kids (ages 6 and younger), the Mario’s Early Years trilogy: Fun with Numbers, Fun with Letters, and Preschool Fun. These latter three under the Mario’s Early Years name, were packaged together in 1995 in this compilation disc for MS-DOS. Being based off the PC/DOS versions, the speech in the game sound a little more natural compared to the SNES version. Also visually and audibly, these are better than the SNES version, although like the speech, it’s not a huge improvement with some of the pixel artwork for the Mario characters looking a little off. Each game works to teach young children things like letters, sound, how to read, count, etc. to prepare them for school.

Would this game be worth playing? Maybe. If you have a kid who’s six or so years old, who is or is about to go to school/preschool than this could be a nice game for them to play; certainly more than Donkey Kong Jr. Math. If you’re an adult, then no, you can skip this game collection.


  1. Mario's Time Machine Deluxe- 1996: MS-DOS (North America only)
  
This is a re-release of the more well-known educational Mario game: Mario’s Time Machine, but with voice acting and a library to reference information that is run by Bowser’s mother. Other than those two additions, you’re still playing as Mario going back to various periods of time to put artifacts back to their proper home after Bowser stole them and answering questions relating to said artifact. Hearing Mario be voiced by someone other than Charles Martinet is weird since he’s been voicing the character since Mario’s FUNdamentals (MS-DOS, 1995/1998).

Would this game be worth playing? No, unless you want to hear the voice acting and see what Bowser’s mom looks like, but you can just watch a Youtube video of that. If you are going to play this game, I’d recommend the NES version as it’s the most straight forward and can be beaten fairly quickly by process of elimination.


  1. Mario Teaches Typing 2- 1997: MS-DOS, PC, and Mac OS (North America only)
  
Mario’s journey through the world of educational PC games ends here with a sequel to 1991’s Mario Teaches Typing; both developed by Interpaly. If you’ve seen any Youtube Poops, then I’m sure you’ll recognize Mario in this game since he’s a disembodied CG head who loves to talk. Compared to the first typing game, Typing 2 has more content like a color coated keyboard, customizable lesson plans, and more levels. Also the game’s soundtrack has been given a much needed improvement. This along with Mario’s FUNdamentals were the only two PC Mario games to have Charles Martinet voice Mario.

The game’s plot is strange. Mario and Luigi are walking passed Bowser’s Castle and a magical typewriter appears typing up a letter all by itself. The letter tells of how this typewriter is the key to beating Bowser and destroying his castle but if the brother’s typing skills aren’t up to snuff, this typewriter will self-destruct. While the whole typewriter appearing out of thin air thing is weird, I feel bad for Bowser since he hasn’t done anything in this game yet other than chill in his castle, but the Mario brothers are going to beat him over the head with an old typewriter. Sure he and his minions start to do evil things once Mario gets the typewriter, but this is after the typewriter informs Mario and Luigi of its power to beat Bowser.

Is this game worth playing? The box may say “ages 6-101” but I’m sure most people over the age of 12 will not need to play this game. I wish I was playing this game in elementary school when learning how to type though rather than Type to Learn 3 since this game seems way funner…for a typing game.


  1. Mario Quiz Cards- 1995-1997: Informational Quiz Flashcards (USA only)

A bonus entry! These Nintendo licensed flashcards were created by Atlas Editions sometime between the years of 1995 and 1997. Atlas Editions is still around today controlled by the parent company De Agostini, an Italian holding company; however, Atlas now seems to make collectible miniatures of retro United Kingdom toys/vehicles rather than educational materials. Between the three or so years these cards were in production, over 700 different cards were made covering a variety of subjects like The Human Body, Science & Technology, and Social Life. Each flashcard has a question with multiple choice answers and an illustration, usually featuring a Mario character on the front. On the back is the answer, a definition of the answer, and a few paragraphs related to the answer. While this sounds fine and not out of the ordinary, the illustrations on these cards can get weird. For example, a question asking when Adolf Hitler took power in Germany has an image of Luigi reading a book titled "Hitler & WWII." Other strange images include Mario praying, Mario chasing a Goomba who’s holding a jug of booze, and a depressed bear working at a sweatshop. I’m pretty sure this product wouldn’t exist today with how strict Nintendo is with Mario and their other franchises. Even with Nintendo’s (or at least the North American branch’s) history of censoring religious and gory content back then, I’m surprised Atlas Editions were even able to make these.

It seems like the Mario Quiz Cards were given away in some form or another (maybe in boxes of cereal?) in packs of three with inserts to purchase more flashcards by mail. For $24.95 you’d get forty additional quiz cards, four Mario tattoos, a manual, eighteen index cards, and a neat looking collector’s box. Also included in these free packs was a scratch off brochure that could reward parents with 20+ cards for free or a free gift package containing the things listed in the previous sentence.  Customers who sent their orders in early could also get a free neon calculator. Sets of cards were mailed to customers once a month for $5/month. I know all of this because I found one of these Mario Quiz Card packs unopened at a thrift store recently and it contained all of this information.

Would these be worth playing? Maybe. They seem like a handy educational tool for kids, but with the types of questions asked, I’m not sure what age group or grade range they’re for; like I’m not sure if a child would know what happened in San Francisco at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966. These may be worth getting just for the illustrations alone though.



The least exciting part is out of the way now. From here on out the next two parts will be covering games that only appeared in the arcade, starting with arcade games from the 80s and 90s.

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