Commander Keen and Super Mario 3

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Gamasutra reported yesterday was the 25th Anniversary for id Software’s Commander Keen. Not only that, but John Romero (id Software alumnus) also posted a video of a demo for Super Mario Bros. 3.

Back during the NES era, one of the amazing things that helped its games to stand out visually over PC games at the time were hardware-driven effects such as the kind of smooth side scrolling seen in arcade games.

John Carmack, then working at Softdisk, later discovered a way to do the same effect on PCs with a 16-bit EGA (Enhanced Graphics Adapter) card. Both he and Tom Hall created a side scrolling clone of Super Mario Bros. 3 (which had hit North America on February 12, 1990) replacing the main character with John Romero’s Dangerous Dave (from his 1988 game).

Romero and Jay Wilbur, then-project chief at Softdisk, were impressed and together, the team decided to go all the way with a Super Mario Bros. 3 port for the PC which they hammered out in a week, completing it on September 28, 1990. They took it to Nintendo as a proposal, but the Big N characteristically decided to stick with their own hardware (not too hard to see why with the NES’ immense popularity running wild at the time) though they reportedly congratulated the team regardless.

Since then, the word of the demo had only existed on text and via interviews with the team. But now, thanks to Romero’s archives, it exists in video form as a piece of gaming history and a taste of “what could have been”.

Super Mario Bros. 3 Demo (1990) from john romero on Vimeo.

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