Nintendo got a little loose with the Mario license in the ’90s, allowing other companies the chance to develop titles for non-Nintendo systems like the CD-i and PC. Most/all of these titles, like “Hotel Mario” and “Mario is Missing”, are completely off brand and best relegated to the ‘oops’ dustbin of Mario’s history. “Mario’s FUNdamentals” (that’s the 1998 title, previously known in 1995 as “Mario’s Game Gallery”) would probably be an easy candidate for that dustbin if not for one feature: the debut of Charles Martinet as the voice of Mario, a role he continues to fill today.
“Mario’s Game Gallery” was developed by Brainstorm Entertainment and published by Mindscape in 1995. The product itself spoke to a need for PC consumers to have CD-Rom collections of old-school card and puzzle games, a trend that many companies hopped on around the same time. There was a lot of money to be had if you could get someone to buy your version of Go Fish, and it all basically came down to how you as a developer skinned said Go Fish. Viewed in that light, Mario was a pretty great license to get. Why it was available, I’ll never know.
In addition to Go Fish, “Mario’s Game Gallery” features Checkers, Backgammon, Yacht (Yahtzee), and Dominos. As mentioned, Martinet voices Mario, and he’s a pretty chatty dude throughout the game. In this time period, the advent of talking characters coming out of your computer, this is a big deal.
It’s not a total throwaway effort outside of the voice acting; there’s an attempt at Mario-fying the games past the point of what was probably necessary to get the product out and that seems to point to somebody on the development team taking this seriously as a labor of love. The checkers, dominoes, and playing cards all feature characters from the Mushroom Kingdom…and Wart.
Yacht’s completely bereft of any Mario integration. Garbage inclusion. Oh, wait a second…
All in all, it’s a safe use of the license and one that does more than it probably needed to do to try and make it a “real” Mario game. Still, though, not terribly unique…unlike a certain licensed Mario game that we’ll take a look at next week.
Here’s gameplay of “Mario’s Game Gallery.” Chatty dude!