Even though Super Mario 64 2 was cancelled, Nintendo was still trying to make a true sequel to Super Mario 64. After cancelling Super Mario 64 2 for the Nintendo 64DD, Nintendo thought to themselves, “What better way to make a true sequel than on a completely new console?” It was then that Super Mario 128 began development on the Nintendo GameCube and was believed to be the true sequel to Super Mario 64. Unfortunately, the game never really came into fruition and, today on The Beta Room Floor, we’re going to talk about Super Mario 128 and solve the mystery behind this innovative unreleased title.
The name Super Mario 128 was first coined in the January 1997 issue of Nintendo Power Magazine. When discussing the cancelled Star Fox 2 game with Nintendo Power, Shigeru Miyamoto was quoted as saying, “For example, should we keep trying to put all the new technologies into each new Mario game. What comes next? Super Mario 128? Actually, that’s what I want to do.” Miyamoto was discussing how he prefers to make a game with a new design as opposed to a new story and the name Super Mario 128 was used as a possible name for a sequel to Super Mario 64.
At the same year’s E3 1997 convention, we learned that Miyamoto was making Super Mario 64 2 for the Nintendo 64DD. I’ve already devoted an entire edition of The Beta Room Floor to Super Mario 64 2, so I’m not going to go into tremendous detail about it. Long story short, this ambitious sequel was going to have Luigi as a costar and was going to be multiplayer, but was abandoned after one unreleased demo due to a lack of progress and the 64DD’s commercial failure, although it is rumored to have “become other games.” Still, Nintendo was toying with the idea of a Super Mario 64 sequel, and they were ready to show us something big regarding the game.
At Nintendo’s SpaceWorld convention in 2000, Nintendo unveiled their newest console, which was the GameCube. They also showed off multiple tech demos to show off the system’s technical prowess. One of those tech demos was…say it with me…Super Mario 128. The demo depicted 128 small Marios running around a circular board that bears a striking resemblance to the board from the game Monopoly. These Marios were throwing boxes off of the stage and rolling each other off the stages. At the bottom of the screen, there was a green bar that showed the GameCube’s CPU usage, which never seem to go above 30%. That’s pretty awesome, but they didn’t stop there. They showed us that the terrain could be spun, rotated and manipulated in various ways to show us the new physics of the GameCube. Oh, and the board turned into pizza at one point, which is pretty cool if you ask me.
Eventually, many of us believed that this title was the next installment in the Mario franchise and, given its title, the long-awaited sequel to Super Mario 64. Then, at SpaceWorld 2001, Super Mario Sunshine was shown off as the next installment in the Mario franchise. Miyamoto also confirmed that Mario 128 and Mario Sunshine were two separate titles. Miyamoto explained that, “In the case of Mario, obviously we were doing work on the Mario 128 demo that we were showing at SpaceWorld, and separately we were doing work on experiments that we made into Mario Sunshine.” And now, despite having a long and winding development road ahead of us, we have absolutely seen the last of Mario 128…or have we?
In December of 2002, Miyamoto told a Japanese magazine that Super Mario 128 was still in development. However, the game didn’t make an appearance at E3 of 2003. It was believed that it didn’t appear because the game was so innovative that Nintendo didn’t want other developers to steal their ideas. Miyamoto confirmed that Mario 128 was still in development and would take the Mario franchise in a different direction. In the same year, Nintendo of America’s George Harrison (not the famous lead guitar player for The Beatles) stated that there probably would not be another Mario game for the GameCube. He did say that Mario 128 was still in development, but did not say whether it was being made for the GameCube or not.
In February of 2004, Miyamoto continued to tell us that Mario 128 was in development. Despite this, the game failed to make an appearance at E3 of 2004. Miyamoto was frequently asked about the game’s development and he stated that the game was “moving along secretly,” comparing its development to a “submarine under the water.” He discussed the game’s experimental nature and hinted that it could be released on a new console. Eventually, at GDC 2005, Reggie Fils-Aime, who is well known for his quote “My Body Is Ready” from E3 2007, was asked whether Mario 128 would be released for the GameCube or for a new system. His reply: “We’re going to answer that question at E3.” He went on to say that Mario 128 would be shown off at E3 of 2005, most likely in video form. However, for the third straight year, the game didn’t appear at E3 at all. During an interview with GameSpot, Reggie said, “I can only show what Mr. Miyamoto gives me to show.” A valid point, indeed, but when asked if the game existed, all Reggie said was, “I’ve seen bits and pieces.”
However, in late 2005, we finally got some actual information about the game that wasn’t ambiguous or cryptic. Miyamoto told us that Mario would have a new sidekick with him that we had never seen before. Miyamoto also told us that the game would be renamed and released on the Wii (then known as the Revolution). He also told us that the Wii was built around a game like Mario 128 and that the game played a large role in the system’s conception. However, the next Mario game shown off was Super Mario Galaxy. While the two games were strikingly similar, we found out that they were different games because of the mere fact that Mario 128 had been in development since at least 2000 while Mario Galaxy had only entered development in 2005. So, what happened? Where is this super-incredible Mario game that was so innovative that it was such a big reason why the Wii was created? In 2006, we finally learned what we knew we were going to hear ever since 2004…the game had been cancelled. Wow, doesn’t it seem ironic that this game got all this build up and hype only to get cancelled, even though it played a huge role in the making of a system? But was that the last we heard of the game? Nope! As a matter of fact, we learned more and more by just playing other games.
At GDC 2007, Miyamoto confirmed what really became of Mario 128. He told us that, after all this time, Mario 128 was just a tech demo to show off what the GameCube was capable of from a graphical standpoint. He also said that, “…most of you have already played it in the form of Pikmin.” This was because the two games both featured the “rapid generation” technique and the ability to control a large number of characters on the same screen. We also learned that physics from the game would be used in Metroid Prime and the “sphere-walking” technique would be implemented into The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It didn’t stop there. We learned that both physics and “sphere-walking” would be implemented into Super Mario Galaxy. Some gamers (myself included) believe that Mario Galaxy may be the culmination of Mario 128 because, given the features implemented into the game combined with information from the game’s development, the two have many similarities. More recently, the same elements that were used in Pikmin would finally be used in Super Mario 3D World, which I consider to be the culmination of both Mario 128 and Super Mario 64 2. So, while Mario 128 wasn’t released as its own game, we can instead say that Mario 128 was released as multiple games.
So, have we solved the mystery behind Super Mario 128? Yes! We know what happened to the game, we’ve seen footage of the game (even if it was only for a few short minutes), and we know what games it has become. Also, given that we’ve seen footage and heard things about its development, we can see how different elements were implemented into other games. I would absolutely love to get my hands on a playable version of Super Mario 128, but unfortunately, the game is doomed to obscurity and is locked behind Nintendo’s invisible vault of beta/cancelled games, never to reappear. But who knows? Hopefully, Nintendo will give us a playable form of the demo on the inevitable Super Mario 30th Anniversary Edition collection. That would be pretty awesome. For now, however, I’m off to go watch videos of the tech demo and continue to pray that we will eventually get our hands on a playable form of the demo. Until then, thank you guys for reading this edition of The Beta Room Floor. If you guys want to see me talk about a cancelled game or an unreleased game, feel free to let me know in the comments section below! Thank you very much for reading and have a great day!