Hotel Mario is a puzzle/platformer game released on the Philips CD-i. It was published by Royal Philips Electronics, which had acquired the rights to produce Mario and The Legend of Zelda games after initial plans to make a CD-ROM add-on for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System fell through. Released in June 1994 in North America to little fanfare, the game had low sales partially due to a lack of interest in the CD-i system, and received mainly poor reviews.
In the game's plot, Bowser and his seven Koopaling children (Morton, Roy, Larry, Lemmy, Ludwig, Wendy, and Iggy) have taken over the Mushroom Kingdom, where they've claimed seven Koopa hotels and have kidnapped the princess, hiding her in one of them. After Mario and Luigi are informed of this, they set out to rescue her.
The general goal in each stage is to close all the doors on every floor. However, various enemies will interfere and reopen them at times. Elevators are needed to travel between floors. The first six hotels have ten stages, whilst the seventh has fifteen.
Mario and Luigi head to the Mushroom Kingdom after being invited to a picnic by the princess. However, soon after arriving, Mario finds a letter on the front door to a gate, which has a board with the words "Klub Koopa Resort" on it. The letter is from Bowser, who claims that he and the Koopalings have turned the Mushroom Kingdom into their personal resort and have each taken over a hotel. It also states that the princess is being held hostage in one of them, and challenges them to find her.
The brothers come across the first hotel, the Wood Door Hysteria Hotel. With Luigi's help, Mario is able to leap inside the hotel through a window. After conquering the hotel, Morton and the brothers leap out of the tree-hotel, which then sprouts fruit. Mario notices the princess on one of the branches, but it snaps underneath her. She lands in Roy's open arms, and he takes her to his hotel, the HardBrick Hotel. However, the lights continuously flicker on and off inside. Luigi is concerned as to how they will find her, but Mario assumes that there may be a switch somewhere. Inside the hotel itself, Mario finds the cause of the hotel's light problem: a room with several toasters plugged in. He unplugs all the toasters, which returns the hotel's electricity to normal.
After defeating Roy, the Mario Brothers condemn the hotel. The princess is standing on a Warp Pipe, but she is sucked down into it. Mario wonders where she is, but Luigi points out the cave in the distance. This cave turns out to be the Chillton Hotel. It is dark inside, and they do not have a light. Nevertheless, they journey inside.
After Larry is conquered, the cave explodes, with the princess flying out of it. Mario and Luigi prepare to catch her, but find that she is not falling. Mario realizes that she is in the clouds, and the High-ate Regency Hotel is revealed. Luigi kicks a nearby Exclamation Mark Block, which causes a vine to sprout out of it and into the sky above. In the hotel, there is a cloud which diverts Mario. He finds a room where he turns on a fan which blows the cloud away. Once Lemmy is defeated, Mario, Luigi, and the princess escape. Lemmy also tries to flee, but a massive fan blows both him and the hotel away before he can reach them. However, the princess suddenly magically vanishes. Back on the ground, Mario and Luigi take sight of another one of the Koopalings' hotels, this time the Thump Castle Hotel. Just as they are about to enter, the entrance disappears, but reappears near instantly after. In the hotel, there are vanishing doors. Mario finds a room with a liquid that stops the doors vanishing.
After Ludwig is beaten, the Mario Brothers escape as the entire hotel crumbles, leaving only a frame. However, the princess is nowhere in sight. Luigi then points out the location of Wendy's hotel, the Blitz Snarlton Hotel. When they conquer the hotel, the brothers escape and the hotel vanishes. The princess runs over and greets them, but vanishes once again as well, with Bowser's laughter heard in the background. Mario then takes notice of a plume of smoke heading their direction, and find the Seizures Palace Hotel. When Iggy (who works at Bowser's hotel as opposed to running his own) and Bowser are defeated, Mario, Luigi, and the princess flee as the hotel falls to rubble, the landscape transforming back to its previous form. The princess thanks the Mario Brothers for defeating Bowser and freeing the kingdom from the Koopaling clan, giving them both a kiss, and they all thank the player for their contributions.
The player controls Mario through a number of stages in order to rescue Princess Toadstool from the clutches of Bowser and the Koopalings. The goal of each stage is for Mario to close each door using elevators to reach each floor (though the purpose of closing the doors is left unexplained), within a fixed time limit of 200 seconds. Enemies may interfere with the progress, opening doors that may have been closed already and even opening doors from inside the room of which they have been closed. Touching an enemy or other hazard will cause Mario to lose a life, though he can also lose a life by running out of time, falling off the edge of a floor, or by allowing all of the doors to open.
By opening a few doors, Mario can find coins in the rooms; he obtains an extra life once he obtains thirty coins. He may also obtain a Super Mushroom to become Super Mario and take an extra hit, a Fire Flower to become Fire Mario and use fireballs to take out practically all enemies within range, and a Toad that grants him an extra life. On rare occasions, Star Men may also exit open doors, which turn Mario invincible. Yet other doors can warp Mario to later stages, or reveal rooms which mitigate the gimmick of a certain hotel.
The game also has a two player mode, allowing a second player to control Luigi. As with previous titles, Mario and Luigi take turns playing during a two-player game.
Hotel startup screen text
The "HERE WE GO!" screen when loading a game or starting a new one will vary if played in a specific region and on a specific day.
Displays on February 14, the date for Valentine's Day.
Displays on a certain Sunday of May depending on the region, alluding to Mother's Day.
Displays on May 31, the date in which most schools let out for summer vacation at the time.
Displays on a certain Sunday of June depending on the region, alluding to Father's Day.
Displays on August 31, the date in which most schools went back into session at the time.
Displays at a certain time in December depending on the region, and alludes to the holiday season.
Displays on July 4, and alludes to American Independence Day.
Displays on October 31, and alludes to Halloween.
Displays on the fourth Thursday of November, and alludes to Thanksgiving.
Displays in late January, and alludes to king cake, which is sold in most French bakeries during said month. The text roughly translates to, "LET'S GO FIND THE BEANS".
Displays sometime in April, and alludes to Easter. The text roughly translates to, "WHERE ARE THE EGGS HIDDEN".
There are seven hotels, and a total of 75 stages. Each hotel, save Morton's Wood Door Hysteria Hotel and Bowser's Seizures Palace Hotel, introduces a gimmick as described in the cutscenes that acquaints the player through the duration of said hotel, and can be mitigated if one of the rooms is entered. Each hotel has a total of ten stages except for Bowser's Seizures Palace Hotel, which has fifteen instead. The last stage of each hotel features a boss fight against a Koopaling.
Much of the new enemies in the game are simply modified versions of others, while most enemies that return from previous games receive different names.
All of the items in the game are items that have appeared in previous Mario platformer games. They all exit out of open doors, and their occurrences depend on the player's current form.
In 1991, following Nintendo's reneging on a 1988 deal with Sony to create a Super Nintendo Entertainment System CD-ROM extension for the then-upcoming PlayStation, it instead turned to Sony's competitor Philips to work on the extension. At around the same time, Sega released the Mega-CD in Japan, which was poorly received, and thus caused Nintendo to scrap the extension entirely. Philips still retained licensing rights to five Nintendo characters, including Mario, Luigi, and Princess Toadstool.
Both Hotel Mario and Super Mario's Wacky Worlds were developed at around the same time, but in the end only the former was ever released. The games were given little time to be developed and on a low budget. As with other CD-i games, Nintendo themselves gave ample input throughout the development, largely on the characters' appearances.
Much of the backgrounds were developed by Trici Venola after she become visually unimpressed with the game's initial version, calling it "mechanical and cold", and the scrapped cheese hotel in particular "awful". She, along with sprite artist Jeff Zoern, instead took cues from Walt Disney and J.R.R. Tolkien to create the hotel backgrounds, most of which survived into the final game. For example, Bowser's Seizures Palace Hotel was given a gothic design.
Upon its release, Hotel Mario received mixed to somewhat positive reviews. Eric Nakamura, while writing for the sixty-sixth issue of Video Games: The Ultimate Gaming Magazine, gave the game a 7/10, mainly praising the soundtrack while being more critical of the sluggish controls and the art style, writing, "Hotel Mario plays as a strategy game disguised as a platform adventure. It's not as easy as it looks, so beware, you'll have to use your noodle to figure out how to slam the doors. This is a challenging Mario game–it's tough and can burn the clock quickly." The "Review Crew" of Electronic Gaming Monthly, while writing for the fifty-ninth issue of the aforementioned gaming magazine, gave the game an average of 6.6/10, stating that it was simple yet addictive. "Lawrence of Arcadia", while writing for the sixty-second issue of GamePro, gave the game's graphics a 3.5/5, its sound a 4/5, its controls a 4/5, and its fun factor a 2.5/5. While he was praising of the soundtrack and the full-motion cutscenes, he was critical of the music and the level design, stating that Hotel Mario's concept would eventually bore players.
Retrospectively, Hotel Mario is generally considered one of the worst Mario games ever made, topping most "worst Mario games" lists by several content producers, with most criticism of the game going toward its cutscenes. Contrary to their previous review, Electronic Gaming Monthly, while otherwise praising of Mario, listed Hotel Mario as being Mario's "most embarrassing moment." Levi Buchanan of IGN, while he thought Hotel Mario was better than the Legend of Zelda CD-i games, called the door-closing mechanic "dull" and the cutscenes "unfortunate guests that really stink up the joint", adding, "The brothers look not entirely unlike the Mario Bros. cartoon, but the animation is even worse. It's like looking at a bad flip-book of images printed out of Microsoft Paint. From 1987." Chris Kohler of Wired called the game "a puzzle game with no puzzles" and "one of the biggest mistakes Nintendo ever made", assuming it was the reason Nintendo was not entirely on board with the CD-rom pitch. Mikel Reparaz of GamesRadar called the game "craptastic" in his list of worst opening cutscenes, and Dan Whitehead of Eurogamer claimed that Phillips had "shoveled out this steaming mess", claiming "Buried under reams of clunky FMV animation sequences, the game itself was little more than a really rubbish version of Elevator Action, since the CD-i proved laughably incapable of matching the SNES processing power."
Despite the game's negative reception, Hotel Mario has amassed a cult following over time for the alleged "so bad it's good" nature of its animation and voice acting; many internet memes, specifically YouTube Poops, were created because of the poor quality. Marc Graue, the voice actor for Mario, Luigi and Bowser, has been known to actively encourage and participate in the game's ironic fandom, even reprising these roles for a parody dub.
Pre-release and unused content
Several unused audio files are stored in the game, including dialogue from a placeholder voice actor exaplaining how to play, suggesting that the game was planned to have a tutorial. Additionally, the way the game's files are set up suggests that Iggy was going to have his own hotel, rather than appearing in Bowser's.