Ars Technica / Andrew Borman / Strong Museum of Play

Three years before the release of id Software Loss, the company started working on a Super Mario Bros 3 Harbor for PC MS-DOS. It did not work. But now the Strong Museum of Play says it got a demo of the Mario Bros. 3 port, and it’s probably the same demo id Software showed Nintendo executives in 1990.

Produced in a single week, the software from id Software Mario Bros. 3 port is an unfinished debut demo designed to impress Nintendo. The goal was to obtain a lucrative license agreement: id Software (then IFD) could publish a Mario Bros. 3 port for MS-DOS, and Nintendo could reap the benefits without too much work.

Nintendo of course refused to license its IP, but its executives were impressed with the demo. And yes, the demo is really impressive – PCs really couldn’t keep up with arcade machines or home consoles in 1990, and many graphical effects seen in Mario Bros. 3 (screen scrolling, thumbnail transitions, etc.) had not yet found their way to MS-DOS titles.

Another awesome part of the Mario The DOS port is its controls. While most PC platforms today have awkward controls, the port of id Software supposedly matches the slightly loose and slightly tight feel of a good Mario Game. Of course, we can’t confirm this exactly, as only a handful of people have played it.

Everything id Software has learned from Mario Bros. 3 the port finally found its way to Commander Keen, arguably one of the most iconic PC game franchises. But until David Kushner published a biography in 2003, very few people knew about id Software’s interaction with Nintendo. Players didn’t even know what the demo looked like until John Romero released a teaser video in 2015.

So how is that Mario the demo is found in a museum? According to Andrew Borman, curator of digital games at the Strong Museum of Play, it came in a trash can full of other software from a former developer. In a statement to Ars Technica, Borman clarifies that this developer was not at id Software, so there is no way to know how he got his hands on the demo.

Unfortunately the Mario Bros. 3 The MS-DOS port is not available online – the Strong Museum will probably never distribute it. But at least we know the game is safe somewhere, and that it can at some point be exposed for people to try it in person.

Source: Ars Technica


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