List of unreleased media
Due to various reasons (ranging from being of poor quality, developing a game for a failed or soon-to-be-discontinued system, or the company facing financial or legal woes), a project can end up being canceled and cease production. Despite their status, concepts present in canceled games and other media can be reused in commercial releases, and some canceled games are repurposed into different projects.
A game in development can also end up becoming vaporware, a term for projects that are announced and for which development is started, but for similar reasons, were never published.
The following is a list of Mario media that has been canceled, or was never produced or released.
Canceled games and vaporware
Low-information media and rejected pitches
This section lists rejected pitches (meaning ideas proposed internally or to Nintendo without seriously going into production) and canceled projects, most of which have too little information to warrant their own pages.
Archie Comics Mario comic pitch
Comic book publisher Archie Comics (which has published other comics based on famous video game properties including Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man) pitched a Super Mario comic book series to Nintendo, but it was rejected, as confirmed by writer Ian Flynn. The concept art for the pitch was drawn by Archie artists Tracy Yardley and Ben Bates.
Boss Game Studios' Mario game pitch
Sometime during the late '90s, Boss Game Studios pitched a Mario game to Nintendo of America. The only known proof of its existence is a storyboard, drawn by Patrick Michael Clark, bought in an online auction showing Mario stepping on a wooden plank, following by the wooden plank sprouting legs and walking in Mario's direction. According to a Boss Game Studios employee, "The Mario thing I think was for a proposal. I’m not sure if we were trying to get the license from Nintendo to produce a Mario game, or if they approached us to do one. Either way, I think it died on the vine after they saw the concept art"
CD-i Donkey Kong game
A Donkey Kong game was in development for the Philips CD-i. The only known report of it is the LinkedIn resume of programmer Adrian Jackson-Jones, which states the game was in development during the 1992-1993 period at RSP. Jackson-Jones "designed and implemented the game engine" for the project. Jackson claims he worked on the game alongside programmer Owen Flatley and that he has no surviving assets left of the game.
Donkey Kong IV
Donkey Kong IV is a rumored final title in the original Donkey Kong series. The game is stated to have only been test-marketed in arcades, never getting a full release. It was only ever reported in issue #13 of Mean Machines magazine (October 1991), and was possibly the result of a misconception or confusion for another game (a likely candidate being Ocean's Kong Strikes Back!).
Donkey Kong Country 4
According to Rare employee Paul Rahme, it was internally suggested at Rare to make a new Donkey Kong Country game for the Nintendo DS, as remaking the trilogy for the Game Boy Advance gave the developers experience and a good basis for making a sequel. The pitch ended up not getting much traction internally and was dropped.
Donkey Kong parking attendant arcade game
In 1983, before creating the game show Catchphrase and producing Hotel Mario, entertainment producer Steve Radosh was involved in developing an arcade game starring Donkey Kong as a parking attendant for Sega, as the company had rights to the property at the time. The game was canceled when Gulf and Western Industries, the American conglomerate which at the time was Paramount Pictures' corporate parent, sold its ownership of Sega's U.S. assets to pinball machine maker Bally Manufacturing.
Film adaptation of Super Paper Mario
GameCube Mario American football game
During the early years of Retro Studios, plans were underway for an American football game featuring Mario for the GameCube. At the request of Nintendo, the project was reworked early on to turn it into a generic, realistic football game (known as both NFL Retro Football and Retro Studios Football). Its Mario-less incarnation was ultimately canceled as well, reportedly due to Retro Studios focusing all development on 2002's Metroid Prime.
In 1994, a Nintendo patent was created for a device that could create basic games for the SNES, likely intended for use in schools. The program for creating said games was titled Mario Factory, and featured loose adaptions of the Mario characters. It is known that the patented machine itself had been released in Japan at some point, being used with the "Game Processor RAM Cassette". It is possible that Mario Factory was actually completed and used for this machine, but nothing has ever proved this, and it may have been a non-Mario-branded software in the final product. This is unrelated to the Mario Factory arcade center in Japan.
Mario Motors was a pitch made by game designer Yoot Saito for a Nintendo DS game. The game had players "shaving and sculpting out of a chunk of metal to make a cylinder [which then] decides the ability of your engines.". Saito also considered having the player blow in the DS's microphone to "learn how acceleration works" but scrapped it because the mechanic could have been too demanding for children. Despite initial interest from both Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto, the project never got off the ground with Saito stating "I can’t tell you why, but please guess.".
Mario/Rabbids crossover adventure game
In 2010, Ubisoft Paris had explored proposing a crossover between the Mario franchise and its own Rabbids franchise. The game was conceptualized as a "subversive, self-aware take" on the Mario franchise and concept art was produced depicting Rabbids kidnapping Bowser as Mario chased them. According to an anonymous Ubisoft employee, the pitch was possibly rejected by Nintendo before it was formally shown. According to Ubisoft employee Davide Soliani, this attempt is unrelated to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.
Mario's Mission Earth
Mario's Mission Earth was a canceled SNES edutainment game from The Software Toolworks, which would have likely been similar to Mario is Missing! and Mario's Time Machine. The only evidence of the game's existence is a brief mention on composer Mark Knight (who also worked on the SNES port of Mario's Time Machine) list of works on his personal webpage, which was later reiterated on a post for a 2017 Kickstarter campaign. It is unclear how far the game got into development.
Retro Studios' Boo project
Former Retro Studios artist Sammy Hall revealed that a “cancelled Boo project” was in pre-production from 2006 to 2007. One sketch titled “tiny stuff for tiny handheld resolutions” suggests that it was a Nintendo DS title. The Boo art also includes sketches titled “possession powers” depicting a capture-like gameplay mechanic and new witch creatures called “Broomies”, alongside a potential world map. One sketch titled “Deep in debt at Haunt University” seems to depict a storyline involving a professor version of King Boo. The “Haunt” post containing the Boo project artwork, along with Sammy Hall's posts for a “cancelled Zelda project” starring Sheik, was taken down from ArtStation on May 7, 2020. Sammy Hill later clarified that the cancellation of both projects was due to ex-leads Mark Pacini, Todd Keller and Kynan Pearson leaving Retro Studios.
Sony Pictures Mario film
Internal emails leaked to the public by proxy of the 2014 Sony Pictures hack detailed negotiations between Avi Arad and Nintendo to have Sony Pictures produce a Mario movie. The email exchange between Avi Arad and Sony Pictures executive Amy Pascal showed photos of Arad meeting with Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata; Pascal would later forward one of the emails to another executive with the comment "Avi closed Mario brothers" (Arad would later state to the press the deal had in fact not been closed after the emails were made public by the hack). Although no information beyond what is found in the leaked emails was made public, it seems the talks broke down as Nintendo would officially announce in 2018 that a Mario film would be produced by Illumination Entertainment, an animation company owned by Sony Pictures' rival Universal Studios best known for the Despicable Me franchise.
In July 2020, a large amount of Nintendo-related source code and prototypes were leaked and released to the public. Among this leak was the source code to Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, which included many prototypes that greatly differ to the final product. However, two files are so early that they have virtually no connection to the game at all - "super_donkey_1" and "super_donkey_2". These games presumably served as the basis of what became Yoshi's Island, though most elements of Super Donkey were eventually scrapped. Among the recognizable elements are Melon Bugs, apes that may be an early version of Grinders, and a dog enemy that may have been the inspiration for Poochy.
At first glance, the game itself features a generic protagonist, and no connection to Mario. However, various graphic scratchpads (scattered across other files) confirm that at some point, the game starred Mario, with Donkey Kong appearing as well. This strongly implies that the game was originally a Donkey Kong title, which was never formally announced or shown to the public.
Super Mario Bros. Christmas Show
Among the trademarks present in the document "Action man & 67 other titles; musical compositions." filed by DIC Entertainment and EMI Music Publishing is one for the Super Mario Bros. Christmas Show. Additionally, the document "SMC 60 second theme; musical compositions." filed by Andy Heyward and his wife contains a trademark for the Super Maria[sic] Bros. Christmas Show.
VB Mario Kart
The German magazine Big N claimed that a Virtual Boy installment of the Mario Kart series, tentatively named VB Mario Kart, was in development. The only known media report of it is Big N's August 2000 issue, which listed it among various other canceled Virtual Boy projects.
In 2001, a Game Boy Color billiards game titled Wario Pool was pitched to Nintendo by veteran game developers Nick Pelling and Jeff Ferguson. The pitch was ultimately rejected, and the game was modified and released as 3D Pocket Pool instead. Nick Pelling later posted the mock-up intro to the game on his website.
These games were planned ports of already existing Mario titles to different consoles, which went unreleased for various reasons.
3DS version of Virtual Boy Wario Land
On December 15, 2013, independent developers Jools Watsham of Renegade Kid posted a mockup of a colorized version of Virtual Boy Wario Land for the Nintendo 3DS. In a 2016 episode of IGN's NYC podcast, Watsham revealed that he had made a formal pitch to Nintendo to make colorized versions of Virtual Boy Wario Land and Nintendo's other Virtual Boy games for the 3DS, but the pitch was rejected for unknown reasons. He speculated this was because Nintendo did not want to remind people of the Virtual Boy.
Donkey Kong Arcade1UP
In 2018, a picture from the factory that produces Arcade1UP machines was leaked. This picture showed many previously unannounced models, one of which was Donkey Kong. This was likely a mock-up machine pitched to Nintendo, which ended up being rejected.
Donkey Kong 3 for Mini Classics
Donkey Kong 3: Dai Gyakushū for FM-7
Donkey Kong Jr. Coleco Tabletop (early version)
The tabletop arcade version of Donkey Kong Jr. by Coleco, released in 1983, was a rebranded version of the Game & Watch Tabletop version. However, early promotional images show a machine more in line with Coleco's other tabletops, with a completely different port than the released model (which looks closer to the original arcade game). A mock-up machine has been found, but it contained the original Donkey Kong inside. [dead link]
Donkey Kong Jr. for BBC Micro
Enhanced Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. ColecoVision ports
In the early 2000s, incomplete prototype versions of Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. for ColecoVision were discovered. Both cartridges actually postdated the ColecoVision releases, and were seemingly ports of the versions from the Coleco Adam computer, which featured more levels and cutscenes. The games were re-compiled into hacked ROMs titled "Super DK!" and "Super DK Junior" respectively; the unaltered ROMs were never released.
Famicom Mini Collection
A multicart of Famicom/NES games ported to the Game Boy Advance, planned to be released in China by iQue. It featured Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., Wrecking Crew, Dr. Mario, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan), in addition to Clu Clu Land, Ballon Fight [sic], Metroid, Excite Bike, and Ice Climber.
Mario Bros. Apple II port
Mario Bros. was ported to the Apple II in 1984 by Atari, but was never officially released. Despite this, its code was leaked (possibly by an actual Atari employee) and was widely distributed in the 1980s via piracy. There was even a bootleg Russian arcade version of Mario Bros. based on the Apple II prototype known as Kuzmich-Egorych (Кузьмич-Егорыч).
Mario Bros. Atari 8-bit port (1984 version)
In 1984, Atari planned to release Mario Bros. for their Atari 8-bit computer line (400/800/XL/XE). This port was identical to the previously released Atari 5200 version of the game. For unknown reasons, the game was canceled despite being fully finished. Mario Bros. would eventually receive an Atari 8-bit release in 1988, but this port was completely different than the 1984 prototype.
Mario Bros. Commodore 64 port (1984 version)
Yet another Mario Bros. port that went unreleased was the Commodore 64 version, once again planned for a 1984 release. This version was to have been published by Atari, but was developed by two programmers from Designer Software. A completely different (and rather bizarre) port for the Commodore 64 would later be released by Ocean in 1987.
Mario Party and Mario Party 2 for 64DD
The first two Mario Party games were among many announced titles for the Nintendo 64DD, but the peripheral was a commercial failure. This resulted in all Mario games for the system being canceled, except for four Mario Artist games.
Other Atarisoft computer ports
In several magazine publications, an advertisement from Atari was run stating that Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Jr. would release for the Commodore 64, IBM PC (DOS), and Apple II. None of these ports were ever released, but as aforementioned, the Apple II and Commodore 64 versions of Mario Bros. have been found. The flyer also lists several never-released ports of Crystal Castles, Typo Attack, and Track & Field.
According to The Atarisoft FAQ, the following ports were also planned:
Super Game Module Donkey Kong games
The Super Game Module was a canceled peripheral for the ColecoVision, which took unique cartridges. Among its planned games were Super Donkey Kong and Super Donkey Kong Junior; these may be related to the "enhanced" Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. ColecoVision ports seen above.
Super Mario 64 for 64DD
Super Mario Bros. Firebird pitch
In the 80s, a company called Firebird pitched an idea to Nintendo to port Super Mario Bros. to the Commodore 64 and got the rights, but production never got finished.
Super Mario Bros. Orpheus Software pitch
In 1986, small subsidiary developer Orpheus Software planned a short, one-level demo of Super Mario Bros. for the Commodore 64 and attempted to pitch it to Nintendo for an official release, with Nintendo later rejecting the project. A Lemon64 thread from 2005 claims that user NYCeguy24 may have owned a copy, but this is likely speculation.
Super Mario Bros. 3 id Software pitch
In 1990, in its infancy, video game company id Software developed a demo for the IBM PC titled Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement, which was a recreation of the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3. It was then decided to rework the demo into an actual port of Super Mario Bros. 3 for PC; the game was then pitched to Nintendo, which they ended up rejecting. The Super Mario Bros. 3 demo was later extensively modified and turned into Commander Keen in Invasion of the Vorticons, which released on December 14, 1990.
Yoshi's Cookie on Wii U Virtual Console
Yoshi's Cookie was originally slated for release on the Wii U Virtual Console, but was ultimately never released. Its cancellation was likely due to a copyright issue (either with Biox or Bullet-Proof Software), which is further evidenced by the Wii Virtual Console version being delisted from the Nintendo eShop around the same time.