Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Unexpectedly Dark Mario Game You've Probably Never Heard Of

Video games may occasionally seem weird now, but decades ago they were a lot weirder. Game developers hadn't quite found their mainstream footing and frequently found themselves throwing just about everything at the wall. Today, we're familiar with Mario as a cheerful plumber bouncing around in a brightly-colored world inexplicably filled with carnivorous plants and bombs. And even though that's not quite how plumbing works, we just quietly accept it.


But Mario has a past.

In fact, the Mario franchise has had several bizarre and dark installments — some of which were quite popular at the time. From designing sweaters to learning to dance, most of these offbeat iterations of the whimsical Italian plumber have been long forgotten.

There are a few that have become cult classics, and Mario's Bombs Away is most definitely one of them. It has a complete recipe for success: an obscure and defunct system, a bizarre theme, and surprisingly solid gameplay.

Did you know Mario fought in a war?

No, this isn't a joke. Released in 1983, Mario's Bombs Away has the player serving their part in the war effort. In Mario's Bombs Away, the player must move from left to right through a jungle delivering bombs. On the left side of the screen, Mario receives one; on the right side of the screen, he delivers one. Easy, right? Well, the issue is that the enemy is attempting to light Mario's bombs as he passes — and he has to deliver a total of five bombs to win.


The gall of the enemy, trying to light the bomb before he... kills them all.

One of only six games released for the Game & Watch Panorama, Mario's Bombs Away didn't exactly make a big splash. But it's actually a pretty competent game, and only one of the games that places a terrified Mario in army fatigues while holding a lit bomb.

Mario's Bombs Away was seriously dark

Alright, let's be clear about this: the manual for Mario's Bombs Away never explicitly mentions the Vietnam War. Rather, they're referred to as "enemies." Enemies hiding inside of palm trees. Even so, there are a lot of disturbing implications. Now, there are wars in Mario's world. Mario can be drafted


The enemies try to blow up Mario's bombs with their torches while Mario tries to dodge them. Mario gets points for advancing through the game, delivering bombs, and bombing the enemy troops. At the same time, Mario's allies are known only as his "buddies." What flag does Mario fight under? American? Italian? Japanese? 

In 1983, it's hard to believe that the game was created with anything but the Vietnam war in mind. With all of that in mind, and with the fall of Saigon having occurred in 1975, it's probably the very definition of "too soon."