List of Mario knockoffs acknowledged by Nintendo
Like all longstanding and popular franchises, the Mario franchise has been the subject of many knockoffs and bootlegs. While there are many such infringing products made, only a relative few are known to have come to the attention of Nintendo themselves. Many unlicensed and unofficial games and products accused of infringing on Nintendo's copyrights have also been removed from sale, taken down, or dealt with through legal action without public word from either Nintendo, the infringing party, or any other parties involved.
This page contains a list of notable examples of Mario knockoffs, bootlegs, and fan games and projects that have been acknowledged by and/or were the subject of legal action from Nintendo.
Crazy Kong was an officially-licensed clone of Donkey Kong, developed by Falcon under license from Nintendo. Although the terms of the contract limited manufacturing and distribution of Crazy Kong to Japan, Falcon broke the agreement by exporting the game to the U.S. In response, Nintendo terminated the contract and sued Elcon, an arcade hardware distributor that sold Crazy Kong boards. The case went to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, which ruled in favor of Nintendo.
Dendy/Steepler games (Somari, Mario 16)
The Dendy is a Russian bootleg of Nintendo's Famicom, released by Steepler in 1992. Despite the poor economy in Russia, the system was very successful, selling over 1 million machines. Due to the Dendy's success, Nintendo officially partnered with Steepler to distribute legitimate Nintendo consoles in Russia, and allowed the Dendy and all of its pirated games to continue production. As such, games like Somari and Mario 16 (both of which were distributed by Steepler during the Nintendo partnership, and shown in the TV series "Dendy: The New Reality"), alongside countless counterfeit versions of authentic Mario games, were theoretically known about and endorsed by Nintendo.
Era's Adventures 3D
Era's Adventures 3D was a mobile game released on the Marketplace for Android phones, developed by An-Dev. The game features a green dinosaur named Era, who looks almost exactly like Yoshi, whom the player must use to shoot flaming mucus at objects such as boxes and crates. The gameplay is extremely basic, and its main element is the use of the Yoshi look-alike character. Era's Adventures 3D was released in late February 2013, and Nintendo took legal action only two weeks later. Botond Kopacz, who was largely involved with the development of Era's Adventures 3D, stated that he was not a fan of the Super Mario series and had no knowledge on the Yoshi character.
The game was briefly removed from Google Play, but was re-released later with an altered design for Era. The game was later taken off Google Play permanently a few months later, and in 2014 the game returned under the name Jack 3D, featuring an original character.[dead link]
Mole Kart is an iOS/Android game developed and published by Chinese company Shanghai Shengran Information Technology. It was available on the App Store for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch) and on Google Play Store for Android devices. Players have the choice of several characters from the Mole Man series.
The game was first released on the App Store in early 2012, though it was soon removed by Apple due to a copyright claim from Nintendo, due to gameplay trailers featuring graphic assets that looked conspicuously identical to those of the Mario Kart series, especially Mario Kart Wii, sharing almost identical settings, items and course maps, some of the courses include versions of Mushroom Gorge, Moo Moo Meadows and Peach Beach. However, it was re-released on iOS in May 2012. The newer version contained only four of the courses from the original release, with the only major difference in the courses themselves being the themes of the GBA Bowser Castle 3 and N64 Sherbet Land copies having their overall themes swapped.
Power Player Super Joy III
The Power Player Super Joy III is a plug & play system shaped like a Nintendo 64 controller, first released around 2000. While games vary between units, the majority of them feature bootleg versions of Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., Wrecking Crew, and Donkey Kong Jr., among others. The console gained high popularity in the United States, often being sold in shopping malls, dollar stores, and flea markets. After Nintendo had learned about the Super Joy III, they seized over 60,000 units from various U.S. locations, and had several distributors arrested.
Despite Nintendo's over-the-top takedowns, the Super Joy III (rebranded as the Power Kracker in the early 2010s) is still sold to this day. The systems now have a secret switch that makes the gamelist only feature three Nice Code games, presumably so retailers can trick law enforcement into believing they are generic plug & plays. This is likely due to Nintendo's anti-piracy website putting a label above the console reading "The device infringes Nintendo's intellectual property rights if it contains Nintendo's copyrighted games", none of which are featured in the secret menu.
Princess Rescue was a homebrew cartridge for the Atari 2600 that drew obvious inspiration from the Mario series. The player controls a hero identical to Mario through side-scrolling levels, and each world ends with a boss battle against "BJ", who appears to be based on Bowser Jr. While physical copies of game were originally for sale in 2013, it became unavailable later in the year, and a number of hints suggest that this was due to Nintendo sending a cease and desist. The ROM for the game is still available online as a free download.
The Great Giana Sisters
Released in 1987 on the Commodore 64 and later on several other home computer platforms, The Great Giana Sisters was developed by Time Warp Productions published by German game developer Rainbow Arts. It features a girl named Giana, who finds herself in a world full of monsters after mysteriously falling asleep. The player must travel through the world, searching for a hidden diamond which will awaken Giana.
The game received almost immediate attention from players (and later the video game industry), due to the game's overall design and mechanics being extremely similar to that of Super Mario Bros.. The game's first level is nearly identical to that of Super Mario Bros., as well as the game's elements (Mushrooms with eyes and horns, and yellow blocks, resembling Goombas and ? Blocks, respectively), and the gameplay itself. Some versions of the game also feature on the box art graffiti on a brick wall that says "The Brothers Are History!" Because of the games' similarities, Nintendo pressured the developers to pull the game from retail shelves. Copies of the game were eventually withdrawn from sale, and it still remains a collector's item to this day.
Around the time of the game's release, a sequel was in development, titled Giana 2 – Arthur And Martha In Future World. Due to the legal issues surrounding the first game, some assets were changed and the game was retitled Hard'n'Heavy, though Nintendo still stopped it from seeing a release in the United Kingdom despite it getting a small release in other countries.
Later, in 2009, a sequel called Giana Sisters DS was released in Europe, and later in North America, and even later a second sequel was crowdfunded and developed, titled Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. Neither of these games, however, faced any sort of legal issues from Nintendo.
Various plug & plays
Around the same time as the aforementioned Power Player Super Joy III's release, Nintendo set up an anti-piracy website showing pictures of the device, among various other bootleg plug & plays. A Spanish document was also produced with the same intention, which shows several more systems. All of the plug & plays shown are based on Famicom/NES clone hardware, and featured various 80's Mario titles built-in. The other consoles shown include:
Unlike the Super Joy III, no known legal action was taken against the systems, despite Nintendo acknowledging them.
Super Hornio Brothers
Super Hornio Brothers is a two-part pornographic parody of the Super Mario series, released in 1993, in anticipation of the actual Super Mario Bros. film. The film features a man named Squeegie Hornio and his brother Ornio (parodies of Luigi and Mario, respectively) who fall into a computer's black void and are stuck there. They learn that Princess Perlina has been kidnapped by King Pooper (parodies of Princess Peach and Bowser, respectively) and must be rescued. Along the way, the two brothers are separated, leaving Squeegie to fight King Pooper alone. While he is almost killed, Ornio suddenly arrives and kills King Pooper by pushing him into lava. He and Princess Perlina then teleport back to Earth, accidentally leaving Squeegie behind. A sequel, entitled Super Hornio Brothers II was released later that year.
According to lead actor Ron Jeremy, the distribution rights for the film were quickly bought by Nintendo, making any release impossible. Due to its rarity and unusual history, the film has become a collector's item and has attracted attention from several online entertainment sites.
Dreams, a PS4 game focused on user-created content, including characters and games, had its Mario content pulled off its servers due to a copyright complaint from Nintendo. The creator, Piece of Craft, shared the news on their Twitter account with the following statement: "Good news and bad news. We flew too close to the sun, boys! A big video game company who I will keep nameless obviously didn’t read my ‘be cool’ note in Dreams. No worries, though, have a back up plan. But for now, Mario projects in Dreams are on hold until I put said plan into effect." They have stated that they are not sure what will happen to creations that use Mario content, though the creator can still remix it; they just cannot edit nor share the content to others.
Full Screen Mario
Full Screen Mario was a browser-based remake of Super Mario Bros. coded in HTML5. It included all of the original game's levels, along with a level editor and a random level generator. After attracting a large amount of visitors and attention from online sources, Nintendo sent a DMCA complaint to FullScreenMario.com. The site was taken down on November 1, 2013, and replaced a page explaining why. Despite the website being taken down, Full Screen Mario itself was still hosted on the open-source repository GitHub, until Nintendo sent a takedown notice to GitHub on May 12, 2016, shortly after Full Screen Mario creator Josh Goldberg had mentioned it in an interview with Microsoft's Open Source department.
Mario Royale was a full-screen website battle royale version of Super Mario Bros. Later, it was acknowledged by Nintendo, and it became DMCA Royale (also known as Infringio Royale), replacing the sprites, music, and (slightly) the level design, while also replacing Mario with Infringio. DMCA Royale was also acknowledged by Nintendo, and eventually was taken down completely.
No Mario's Sky
No Mario's Sky was an indie game created by ASMB Studio and hosted at indie website itch.io during August 2016, for the Ludum Dare game jam. The game was intended to be a parody of No Man's Sky using characters from the Mario franchise. In the game, Mario takes a rocket and rides to other planets, which are in fact round-shaped Super Mario Bros. styled levels with enemies which function like Goombas. Like the other similar fan projects, No Mario's Sky received a takedown notice from Nintendo, and was removed from itch.io. Some days later a reworked version was released, jokingly entitled DMCA's Sky, which had independent characters replaced.
Super Mario 64 HD
Super Mario 64 HD was a fan tech demo of a high-definition remake of Super Mario 64, produced in the Unity game engine by programmer Erik Roystan Ross to demonstrate his "Super Character Controller", an input plugin for the Unity engine. The demo, consisting only of a semi-complete recreation of Bob-omb Battlefield, was published on March 12, 2015. Nintendo issued a takedown notice against the game on March 31, 2015, saying the website "allows users to play, an electronic game that makes unauthorized use of copyright-protected features of Nintendo's Super Mario 64 video game". Ross attributed it to the presence of models and sound effects ripped from Super Mario Galaxy.
Super Mario 64 Online
Super Mario 64 Online is a ROM hack for Super Mario 64 released in September 2017. It adds online multiplayer for up to 24 players and other new features, such as new playable characters. On September 20, 2017, Nintendo took down all YouTube videos related to the game on the creator's account as well as his Patreon page, although the hack itself remains available for download.
Super Mario Bros. X
Super Mario Bros. X is a freeware PC fan game developed by Andrew Spinks (also known as Redigit, the developer of Terraria). The game is based on the early 2D Super Mario platformers and features a level editor. Development on the game ceased after Redigit received a DMCA request from Miller Nash over the domain name of Super Mario Bros. X's website (which was "supermariobrothers.org"), although whether or not this extended to Super Mario Bros. X itself has been debated among fans.
Super Mario Bros. Z
Super Mario Bros. Z: The Movie was a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for a feature length episode of Super Mario Bros. Z, a flash-animated fan video series crossing over Sonic the Hedgehog characters into the world of Mario, and with a story and battle sequences patterned after Dragon Ball Z. The episode was meant to serve as a finale to the original series, which at the time had been officially canceled by its creator, and a pilot for another similar web series. The Kickstarter (and by extension, the project) was canceled after receiving a takedown notice from Miller Nash, a law firm employed by Nintendo.
Super Mario Bros. Z reboot
Super Mario Bros. Z was later rebooted by its original creator in late 2015, who set up a Patreon page to support the series. On February 15, 2016, the Patreon received a takedown notice from Nintendo. The series creator has since created a new page to support him creating animations in general, as opposed to just Super Mario Bros. Z.
Super Mario ReMaker
Super Mario ReMaker was a fan-made level creating tool based on Super Mario Maker. The game was made by Lu9, who released the initial version on September 14, 2015. While similar to the game upon which it was based, Super Mario ReMaker only features the Super Mario Bros. theme while focusing primarily on adding features and elements not present in Super Mario Maker, and additional Mystery Mushroom costumes based on other characters and properties. In January of 2016, the creator's YouTube channel was taken down, alongside the primary download links. Despite this, the game can still be downloaded on other sites.