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The weirdest Mario games you never knew existed

Mario is a busy guy. Platforming and princess-rescuing might be Mario's bread and butter, but since he first burst onto the scene in Donkey Kong all the way back in 1981, he's popped up in sports titles, fighting games, and RPGs. Basically? He's done it all.

It's taken Mario over 200 games (and counting) to get there, too. Unless you're completely Mario-obsessive, we're guessing that there are still some Mario games that you haven't played. Heck, with numbers like those, there are probably a few that you've never even heard of.

If you treasure your happy Mario memories, you might want to keep it that way. In the following titles, you'll see Mario shed his family-friendly public image. You'll watch as he abuses animals, transforms from a plumber into a ruthless real estate mogul, and become a wisecracking, floating head. You think Super Mario Bros. is weird with its walking mushrooms and killer turtles? Trust us, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

The knitty, gritty Super Mario Sweater

The very first Super Mario spin-off wasn't a sports game. There were no parties, and there's nary a go-kart to be found. There was, however, plenty of warm clothing — not to mention a pretty clever way to separate players from their cash. I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater sounds like an educational title. In reality, it's really more of a fashion design application with a Mario skin. It makes absolutely no sense. It exists anyway.

In fact, I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater isn't really a game in the traditional sense at all. There aren't any challenges to overcome, and there's no way to win. Instead, you simply design sweaters. Super Mario Sweater provides players with 15 different patterns, all of which feature sprites from Super Mario Bros, that can be tweaked using some basic editing tools. You can also alter the sweater's measurements, and select from a handful of different styles. That's pretty much it.

Well, almost. See, I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater was made for the Famicom Disk System, a Japan-only peripheral that used rewritable floppy disks to store data. Usually, that capability was used to get new games to play, but with Super Mario Sweater, you could also use the Disk System to send your designs to Royal Industries (a Japanese sewing machine manufacturer) itself. That, plus about $24 worth of yen, would get you your very own custom-made sweater in real life. Maybe, back in the day, that was cool. To modern eyes, though? I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater just weird and very, very boring.

That time that Mario got bombed

Before Mario was a plumber he worked a number of odd jobs. In Donkey Kong, he's a carpenter. In Wrecking Crew, he works construction. In the Game & Watch edition of Mario Bros. he runs a brewery, and in a different Game & Watch title he enlists in the army, gets shipped off to Vietnam, and must hand-deliver explosives to his hamfisted brothers-in-arms.

No, seriously. Mario's Bombs Away might not be the best-known Mario title, but it's undoubtedly one of the darkest. In the game, you must guide Mario, who's decked out in fatigues, through the jungle. He carries a bomb with him, and the goal is to get from his outpost to a soldier waiting on the other side. Deliver the explosive successfully, and the soldier will chuck the bomb at enemy soldiers. Hit them five times, and you'll get a big bonus.

That's easier said than done, however. Not only do the Viet Cong forces carry torches, but one of Mario's comrades carelessly flicks a never-ending stream of cigarette butts onto an oil spill. If the bomb touches either flame, it'll go off early, taking Mario — and possibly his entire base — with it. Explode three times, and it's game over. Mario's Bombs Away is violent and strange and oddly adult, but it's also an official Nintendo product. That means, like it or not, it's canon.

The Super Mario nightmare that'll keep you up all night

For hardened Super Mario Bros. veterans, All-Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. won't offer any new challenges. Mechanically, this is the same game you've been playing for years. The level mix is uniqueAll-Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. has some stages plucked from Super Mario Bros. 2 (known in the US as The Lost Levels) and VS Super Mario Bros., the arcade edition in addition to those from the NES original — and the physics engine comes with The Lost Levels' minor upgrades, like Luigi's superior jumping power. Still, though, this is a familiar package, at least as far as gameplay is concerned.

Visually, though? All-Night Nippon is bizarre. In 1986, Nintendo teamed with a popular Japanese radio show, All-Night Nippon, to create a specially-themed edition of its blockbuster platformer for the Famicom Disk System. It's not a straight-up port, however. In All-Night Nippon Super Mario Bros., the plodding goombas and plumber-eating piranha plants turned into disembodied heads wearing sunglasses. Mushroom power-ups became microphones. The Toads who let you know that your princess is in another castle now look like Japanese celebrities. For some reason, Princess Peach dresses like a geisha.

If you're up on '80s Japanese pop culture, the changes aren't quite so jarring. Still, it's all fairly unsettling. These days, All-Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is also incredibly rare. The game was handed out as a raffle prize, and while it's not clear how many copies exist, you can expect to pay $1,250 for the privilege of owning one. The nightmares it'll give you, on the other hand, are totally free.

Dance Dance Revolution's Mario Mix goes way off track

Look, if Star Wars deserves a dancing game, Super Mario Bros. does, too. At this point, Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. soundtracks are just as iconic as John Williams' triumphant film scores, and while the songs that accompany games like Yoshi's Cookie and Mario Kart aren't quite as well-known, there are a number of secret toe-tappers out there. Seriously, have you ever tried to get Dr. Mario's "Fever"/"Deep Freeze" out of your head? Yeah, that's what we thought.

So, it's not the premise that makes Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix so weird. It's the track list. By the time that Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix arrived in 2005, Mario had appeared in well over 50 games. That should've given Konami's developers plenty of options to choose from. For some reason, however, Mario Mix isn't just filled with Nintendo songs. About a quarter of its soundtrack is made up of classical music. There are a few folk songs thrown in for good measure, too.

That means that, if you're willing to get your dance pad out of the closet, you can watch Mario stiffly swing his arms to Mozart while a chorus of piranha plants and shy guys watch. Ever dreamed of seeing Nintendo's mustachioed mascot hop in place to remixed opera? You can. Once you start cruising through the cosmos, dancing to "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," it starts to feel silly. By the time that you're busting a move to the Famicom Disk System's BIOS music, Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix isn't just a little odd. It's flat-out strange.

Mario Artist: Talent Studio is all about Mii

The Nintendo Famicom had its own disk drive, and its 64-bit younger cousin, the Nintendo 64, had one too, although like the Famicom edition, it never made its way west. As it turns out, that's probably okay. Nintendo might've had some big plans for the 64DD peripheral, but it only got ten actual games, and two of those are just expansion packs for existing titles.

Still, it's a shame that we never (officially) got our hands on the Mario Artist series. Mario Paint, Mario Artist's spiritual predecessor, is an underrated classic, and people are still using it to create some pretty cool stuff today. It's especially unfortunate that Mario Artist: Talent Studio never hit the Americas because, quite frankly, the whole thing sounds bonkers. Using a special camera, Mario Artist: Talent Studio let you take pictures of your friends' faces, then graft them onto custom-made avatars. From there, you could make your digital creations disco dance, limbo, strut their stuff on a virtual runway, and more.

Back in the day, IGN got its hands on a copy of Talent Studio, and its reporters confirm that it's just as hilarious and bizarre as it sounds. Thankfully, while we didn't get Talent Studio, we did get the next-best thing. The 64DD might've been a bust, but Talent Studio laid the foundation for for Nintendo's Miis.

Nobody's having a good time at Donkey Kong Circus

When Mario landed his debut role, he wasn't the star. Donkey Kong was, and from the looks of things, Mario's never forgiven him for stealing the spotlight. In Donkey Kong Jr., Mario breaks up a happy family and locks Donkey Kong in a cage, forcing Jr. to leap into action (and quite possibly scarring him for life). Donkey Kong Circus is even worse. If you've ever wanted to see Mario act like a real villain monster, Donkey Kong Circus is the game for you.

Not that anyone should be surprised, of course. Circuses have a terrible record when it comes to animal rights, and the one that Mario runs is no different. Despite the game's title, this is absolutely Mario's circus, too: Donkey Kong might be the headliner, but there's no doubt who's in charge. See, in Donkey Kong Circus, you control the big ape as he does tricks. Unfortunately, that's not the end of it. Under Mario's watchful eye, Donkey Kong needs to juggle pineapples, balance on a rolling barrel, and avoid flaming torches that fall from above. Drop a pineapple and Mario ridicules you. Touch a torch and Donkey Kong is burned alive.

It's abuse plain and simple, and we're kind of surprised that PETA hasn't stepped in. On the other hand, it's been a long time. Donkey Kong Circus is a Game & Watch title that came out in 1984, a year before Mario became super. At this point, animal rights groups have plenty of other crimes they can use against him.

A little Monopoly, a little Dragon Quest, a little Mario, and a whole lot of weird

Forget the death-defying leaps of faith, the wacky power-ups, and the pixel-perfect platforming challenges. You know what Super Mario fans really love? Real estate investment! That seems to be the thinking behind Itadaki Street DS, anyway. In this 2007 portable title, Mario, Bowser, and the rest of the Super Mario clan set their differences aside to play a board game that's kind of like Monopoly except a whole lot weirder.

For one, in Itadaki Street DS isn't just a Mario game. As per series tradition, it also stars characters from Square Enix's long-lived RPG series, Dragon Quest. From a behind-the-scenes perspective, that makes sense. Yuji Horii, who created Dragon Quest, is also the man responsible for Itadaki Street. Thematically, it's an odd fit: Dragon Quest takes place in a medieval fantasy world, whereas Super Mario Bros. is set in, well, whatever the Mushroom Kingdom is, and neither have much (or anything, really) to do with buying and selling plots of land.

That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. Given Mario's background, we can see why he might build a wood shop or a circus tent, but a bar where everyone can get drunk? That's not the family-friendly plumber that we know and love. It's also unsettling to see Mario read tarot cards, especially ones adorned with the Grim Reaper, and worry about bank loans. Super Mario Bros. is a wild, adventurous fantasy. Itadaki Street is fun, but it's also mundane. The whole enterprise just feels like a very odd fit.

Nintendo takes a chance on Super Mario Roulette

If young Mario fans grow up to be victims of the one-armed bandit, don't be surprised. Gambling has been a part of the Super Mario universe since Super Mario Bros. 2, which comes with a slot machine that doles out extra lives. Super Mario Sunshine has its own casino level. So does Mario Kart Wii. Super Mario RPG comes with both a secret gambling den and a straight-laced blackjack minigame. None of those, though, are quite as shameless as Mario Roulette. It's exactly what the title says: it's roulette, but with Mario's face plastered everywhere. Y'know, for the kids!

Okay, okay, maybe things aren't quite that simple. For one, you can't actually earn money playing Mario Roulette. Like many other Japanese amusements, the game pays out in medals. Gambling is illegal in Japan, you see. As a result, many people use medal games, which give and take tokens that don't have any monetary value (although, sometimes, they can be redeemed for prizes), to get their kicks. For another, it's not traditional roulette. Mario Roulette has no ball, no wheel, and no table. It's an icon-matching game-of-chance that comes with naught but a video monitor and a single button.

Contextually, though, it's still weird to see Mario, Yoshi, Peach, and Bowser encouraging people to spend their time gambling, especially given how protective Nintendo can be of its flagship franchise. Still, though, the game must've been pretty successful. In 2011, Mario hit the tables again with New Super Mario Bros. Wii Coin World, an arcade installation that, the occasional minigame aside, is little more than a high-tech slot machine.

Mario teaches typing (and body horror)

Mario Teaches Typing is a decent, if uninspired, educational game. Mario Teaches Typing 2 is straight-up nightmare fuel. Oh, if you stick with it, it will teach you how to type. It'll also weird the bejeezus out of you. This is the game that has an in-depth plot (well, in-depth by Mario standards) about a magic typewriter, killer octopi, and Koopa Troopers playing poker. It's the game in which Mario's stretchy head keeps you company. Really. Watch this. We'll wait.

Look, as much as we love actor Charles Martinet, when it comes to his Mario voice, a little goes a long way — and Mario Teaches Typing 2 goes way, way too far. This take on Nintendo's mascot isn't the stoic, silent hero that we've come to know and love. This dude is a straight-up chatterbox. As you play, he'll offer to buy your computer, launch into a punny rendition of "That's Amore", do impressions of old commercials, and pretend to be an airplane. The mid-'90s CG animation pushes the whole thing deep into the uncanny valley, too. It's terrifying.

Even worse, however, Mario Teaches Typing 2's floating Mario head likes to make jokes about how he's, well, a floating head. By the time that you see Mario's noggin wiggle across the bottom of the screen while shrieking "move on the ground" — he's got no legs, get it? — you'll probably decide that you don't need to learn how to type anyway. It's a valuable skill, but you know what? Nothing is worth enduring that horror. Absolutely nothing.