The Prototype That Inspired Super Mario Bros. 2

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Wired's Chris Kohler dug up a fantastic piece of videogame history, detailing how a failed prototype became the basis for the megahit Super Mario Bros. 2. If you played this game obsessively for some period of your life, you owe it to yourself to know its provenance.

Super Mario Bros. 2's long, strange trip to the top of the charts in 1988 began with a prototype videogame that failed miserably.

The 8-bit classic, which became a massive hit for the Nintendo Entertainment System, grew out of a mock-up of a vertically scrolling, two-player, cooperative-action game, Super Mario Bros. 2 director Kensuke Tanabe told Wired.com in an interview at this year's Game Developers Conference.

The prototype, worked up by SRD, a company that programmed many of Nintendo's early games, was intended to show how a Mario-style game might work if the players climbed up platforms vertically instead of walking horizontally, said Tanabe.

"The idea was that you would have people vertically ascending, and you would have items and blocks that you could pile up to go higher, or you could grab your friend that you were playing with and throw them to try and continue to ascend," Tanabe said. Unfortunately, "the vertical-scrolling gimmick wasn't enough to get us interesting gameplay."

Read the full story at Wired.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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