MARIO is a Super Mario World ROM hack pasta by SMW Central user Adam. The hack patch can be downloaded here. The patch itself is made by SMW Central user M A R I O, whose avatar is a SMW Mario without a face. He (she?) used to not to be seen as inactive (one month of no activity makes you inactive on SMW Central), as he (she?) posted mysterious and eerie things every now and then, just before he (she?) would turn inactive. As of recent, the SMW Central account has been disabled.
(Note: This is a true story, and sums up what was going through my mind as I was playing this, and I had no idea I was about to be bullshitted the way I was when I played this and I can say it is by far the creepiest hack I've played. If you were on IRC you would have heard me talking about it as well, but anyways it's late at night, and I don't have a lot of time, and I need to get to sleep, so this is all I have time for...)
So, it all happened, on tonight of all nights. I was bored, obviously contemplating what I thought I could do to waste time as I chatted with the people in #smwc. We had good times, and shared a few laughs together. Out of boredom, I decided to patrol the "Hacks waiting to be moderated" section. Seems that we had quite a bit, 33 if I recall correctly. The first few hacks I saw when I sorted them by date were a couple really horrible ones with bad screenshots to boot.
Naturally showed these hacks to the centralites currently on #smwc. We were laughing at how bad some of them were, but then I got to a hack called "MARIO". Just that, nothing more, nothing less. The description seemed quite odd, as if some Japanese hacker was trying to translate the original plot of Super Mario World into English and failing horribly. I showed this to Kieran and he started laughing at the description. It read as follows:
As you play the role of Super Mario plumber, verify that you are beautiful Purinsesutozutouru again Bowser kidnapped the evil king. It is your job to save her! This hack includes six levels of very long.
I simply dismissed this as someone trying to act Japanese and release a crappy hack with some edits, or so, that's what I thought this was, at first...
Curiosity got the best of me. I decided to download the hack, not knowing what I was in for, since the single screenshot of the hack was the title screen with nothing but the letters "MARIO" from Super Mario World's title screen. I thought it was a little odd how there were no dates or anything either, as hackers usually place their names and dates on the titles to mark when the project was started.
So, when I opened the hack, I was greeted by 2 files. One called 3007014, a simple .txt file 27 KB in size, and the IPS file, simply named "MARIO". For some odd reason I wanted to see what the author of the hack had to say, but when I opened the hack in Notepad, there was nothing but indistinguishable symbols and letters and punctuation, sort of like how when you open a rom in a text editor like Notepad. Seems like the author just completely copied his ROM to .txt form, though I could be wrong. Taking a closer look, at the top of the .txt file mixed in with the gibberish I found the only thing that looked like English there. Here is a piece of what I found:
ÿØÿà JFIF H H ÿþ 1find me find me find me find me find me find meÿÛ C
To be honest, I didn't know what to make of this, and I thought it was to simply waste some of my time by making me find some text in the gibberish file. That, I'm willing to bet, no one will ever be able to make sense of.
I decided that, because my interest was growing steadily, I would start looking through my horribly disorganized download folder for a copy of a clean ROM, which I had downloaded a great deal of time before the events of tonight unfolded, and an IPS patcher; of course my choice for the job was Lunar IPS.
So, I then proceeded to move the ROM and the IPS patcher to the folder with the hack. I patched the ROM, not knowing what to expect next, and I quickly hurried to drag it to ZSNES and play what I thought was to be terrible in the form of a ROM image. I noticed on boot up that the author had taken the time to change the header of his hack. Instead of the usual "super marioworld" you normally see when booting up a rom in ZSNES, it just had the letters "MARIO" there again. At this point I gained a little hope, because normally people who do horrible half-assed edits to the ROM generally don't know enough to change a header title. I thought I wasn't wasting my time with this, and my mood brightened slightly at the thought of seeing what the author had to offer in his interesting little hack.
So, the title screen loaded, exactly like it would with Super Mario World, except it had just "MARIO" on the title like I had mentioned earlier. Something else had grabbed my interest moreso than the unusual absence of layer 3 tiles on the title screen. Mario's normal bright colored and happy palette seemed, how can I put it... "dull". What was once violet-like red was now what seemed like grey with a slight red tint to it, and I'm fairly sure his pants were looking more grey than blue too... I thought this was strange, and I wondered why he had decided to give Mario such a dull palette... Regardless as to what his intentions were, I felt that something was... wrong. Not in the sense that the palette was slightly bad, but that the hack was empty, like something had happened. Upon pressing start and selecting a new file, like a lot of other countless Mario hacks I have played in the past, there was some sort of intro screen that basically described the entirety of the plot in a short paragraph just small enough to fit into a small black box. I began reading, and for the most part, the message stayed the same, but there was one key factor that made this interesting. Apparently the main antagonist of this hack wasn't Bowser at all... it was... Mario?!
The message read as follows:
What the...? "This wasn't the original message from Super Mario World," I thought to myself. Normally I wouldn't think anything of this, seeing as how, over my nearly 2 years at SMWCentral, I have played countless hacks and have seen many different intro messages, but this one really stuck out. At this point, I definitely knew there was something odd about this hack. Upon letting the intro level music play, I pressed the start button on my controller to finally get to the overworld and begin my journey into this unknown hack.
Upon entering the overworld, everything seemed normal. Same old level paths, same old music, but the level names were different. Instead of "YOSHI'S HOUSE" like it always has been every time I've ever played Super Mario World, it was now simply just "YOSHI'S". The "HOUSE" part was gone. I thought that this was strange, and I began to lose hope in the hack because it had seemed like barely anything had changed at all from the original. I was hoping to see something new. Well, unluckily for me, I got my wish, as you'll see when you read on. I decided to enter the level out of curiosity. When I entered, the whole house that's normally there was gone. No more smoke, no more fire, no more little birdies, no more treehouse. All that was left was the message box. I decided to hit it. Upon opening, the message I expected to be there was replaced with what seemed like binary.
Apparently it says "notepad".
At this point, I was on IRC telling everyone about how the hack was starting to weird me out, which in itself yielded some sarcastic responses, but hey, I expected it. Anyways, after this my interest level in the hack skyrocketed, and along with it my paranoia. Oh, boy, was in in for a fun surprise. So, I decided to head left. Upon reaching what was before known as "YOSHI'S ISLAND 1", the level was now labelled "never come back". Now I thought things were going to be all kaizo death trap, because generally that is what people name their levels in kaizo hacks to make sure the player doesn't go there. To my surprise, it wasn't quite that way, though, I wish that it had been. Upon entering level 105 I was greeted by the insanely loud clown car sound that Bowser's flying vehicle makes right before Peach falls out. Of course, with my headphones being moderately high, the sound scared the living shit out of me, which wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been so nervous beforehand. I decided at this time it would be best if I turned the volume on my headphones down, as to not get anymore unpleasant surprises such as that one.
When I entered the level, other than the music, everything seemed to be the same, except for the fact that the little Koopa that slides on the ledges wasn't there anymore, nor was the Banzai Bill. The Dragon Coin was still there; however, for some odd reason, I wasn't able to collect it, or rather any Dragon Coins at all. The author made certain of that. I also noticed that there was a brown used block near the spot where the Banzai Bill normally shows up. I can only assume this was a revisit to the level after I had beaten it like I heard in some half-assed creepy stories in other Mario games. Now I was wondering why things were like this, making me wonder about the intro message. Had Mario done something previously to Dinosaur Land? Was this in Bowser's point of view? I quickly dismissed the latter option, because it seemed kind of stupid. So that left me thinking that Mario at one point in time in the author's story did something, but what?
What did Mario do? My mind was nothing but rushing thoughts at this point. However, I quickly dismissed them and ventured further into the level, only to find that all blocks had basically been hit, coins had been collected (save Dragon Coins, those were still there and unobtainable), that there were no enemies, and that I could no longer go down pipes. "What kind of bullshit am I playing here?" I kept thinking to myself. At this point, I felt uncomfortable. I decided to keep venturing. Eventually I came across a message box, which I wasn't surprised was still in the level. Being the idiot I am, I went and hit the box. Upon hitting it, I was greeted with the familiar black box once again. The message was edited, obviously. As I had figured that this was a given at this point. It reads as follows:
Now, I thought things were starting to get the vibe that the author was a twisted and warped individual, and that I was right about Mario having done something. At this point I was basically rushing to get to the end of the level, so I just scurried by, and then I came across another message box, however this one was just a blank box with "POINT OF ADVICE" at the top with nothing else in it. I quickly disregarded it and headed off further to the right hoping to free myself of the hell that was once level 105.
Upon reaching the end I saw a Fire Flower in the top block where the 4-way block intersection used to be, however it was too high for me to reach by normal means, so I just continued onward, like the blind, curious idiot I am would do. So I finally beat the level, and as usual the path to the Yellow Switch Palace was unlocked. I decided to head up the path that normally leads to the Yellow Switch Palace, and I found that when I entered the main overworld, every other landmass and decoration besides the ghosts from the Ghost Houses and Yoshi's island itself were gone. Nothing really changed at the Yellow Switch Palace except for the switch message. All that changed was that -SWITCH PALACE- was changed to -MARIO WORLD-. Boring. Anyways, just when I thought I was done with this abomination that calls itself a hack, I found that Yoshi's Island 2 has also been edited. "Oh, joy!" I thought to myself. <sarcasm/>
Upon reaching Yoshi's Island 2, I found that it had been renamed to YOSHI'S HOUSE, the original name of level 104. I decided to enter and found that the palette of the level had been changed along with the background. They seemed to have been changed to the same palette as Yoshi's Island 3, you know, greenish tan and such, except the background was pushed down some and was now a rotting brown color, and that the vegetation on the FG was now no longer present. I decided to explore the level a bit and came across the trail of Koopas, that countless players have used a shell to rack free 1-Up's with. I decided to ignore them and go see if any more of the level was changed. I eventually came across the "?" that holds Yoshi and decided to free him. Upon freeing him, I got this message:
This had me wondering what kind of sick and twisted hack I was playing. I had thoughts of all possible scenarios of Mario attacking Dinosaur Land horribly and causing irreversible damage. The author had me hooked with his sick little game, and like any other idiot, I took the bait and kept coming back for more...
Somewhere not far off from the Yoshi "?" Block, I found a message box, in the same place I remember that it always had been, though, if I've learned anything at all from playing this, it's that whatever had to be in that message box message was not going to be even remotely normal in the slightest. This made me hesitant to hit it, but I ended up doing so anyways. I wanted to find out more. The message I was greeted with was as follows.
"What the fuck?!" I thought to myself. What the hell did this even mean? Change my mind? What would I change my mind about anyways? Was this about Mario and whatever he did, and about how people were trying to convince him to stop? Was Yoshi talking to me through message boxes? Or, was it about me? About me playing the hack, asking me, as if the hack was trying to talk to me through message boxes. Either way, whether it was for more backstory on what Mario had done, or if it was questioning my decision to keep going, I decided to keep progressing despite the obvious signs that I should have quit playing the hack a while ago. As I progressed further, I found that I was right, all vegetation was now gone, and nothing was left at all, save a few enemies, like Chucks and moles and such, even the pipes were gone. I came across another message box. Like all other times before, I decided to hit it. I was greeted with yet another cryptic message...
"The selfish way out?" What the hell? Was he calling me selfish for continuing to play the hack despite the warnings? Had Mario made some kind of selfish decision that only benefited him? Was Yoshi still trying to talk to me? What the hell was this guy trying to tell me? At this point I was creeped out to the point that I was shaking slightly, a mix of anticipation, fear, and the fact that my room was terribly cold last night. I closed the message box and once again proceeded further. The area with the moles seemed the same, except for the fact that the block next to the vine block was gone, along with the happy clouds and Dragon Coin the vine allowed access to. This made me feel gloomy, to say the least, not so much frightened as I was depressed... it's a feeling I couldn't really explain well. From this point on, it was basically just a big empty stretch of land to the end of the level. I proceeded quickly, I wanted to get the fuck out of there, as I felt that I had spent enough time looking around. So, me and Yoshi (I still had him at the time) opened up the next path on the overworld. It too was changed. What was once Yoshi's Island 3 now read as "Yoshi's Island 7". Memories of Super Bobido World flooded my mind, how the levels would take giant leaps in number order which made it seem ridiculous, though at this time I didn't quite find it as humorous, due to common sense and obvious reasons explained earlier. I entered the level. As I entered, I was welcomed by a solid black background, and a blue and grey colored floor. The place seemed frozen... lifeless and barren. There was nothing in the level at all, save the goal point.
Just a clear stretch of land with nothing else at all. I quickly lost interest and finished the level, this was what seemed like the most empty and creepy level in the game, though as you'll read on, it gets far worse. With the level beaten, a new path opened up. Yoshi's Island 4 was now just "leave now". Now I hesitated as to whether I would stop playing, but my interest kept me going further. At this point #smwc was nothing but me posting findings and messages from the hack, so others could experience what I was experiencing. The channel sadly was unusually inactive, seemed like no one really cared, or wasn't around. I felt alone. I proceeded into the level. For the most part, everything seemed the same, save for the fact that there was now no water at all to keep me from falling in pits without using Yoshi as a sacrifice. The level was also void of all enemies as well.
Whenever I got to an area that seemed too far for me to jump, I found that I could just walk right across on the air, thus getting rid of the need to use Yoshi as a sacrifice. It's apparent that the hack wanted me to keep him, I could tell that much. I was able to get to the pipe that usually leads to the exit level. I went in and found that the room was exactly the same, everything in the right place and nothing edited... or so I thought. The message box once again broke the mood of that brief moment of relief I had gained upon entering the pipe. At this point I was questioning whether I should keep going to see how it ends, or quit now while I still have a bit of common sense left. The message box was sort of indistinguishable, and I couldn't really make sense of it. For a moment I tried to figure out what the box meant but eventually I just gave up and beat the level. I figured that box wasn't worth the time anyways. With the level beaten, the path to the first world castle opened, now renamed from "#1 Iggy's Castle" to "#1 GO BACK". I sure did feel welcome here. <sarcasm/>.
I decided to completely ignore the level name, as I just wanted to get this over with and to be done with it forever. What seemed like a normal castle intro was made especially creepy, given the fact that I had to dismount Yoshi. I felt for the first time that I was actually abandoning him, and I wish I had taken him with me. The inside room of the castle looked strange. There was this darkish blueish greenish black lava on the ceiling, and there were goal points that looked like pillars. Aside from that, next to each pillar, there was an increasing amount of message boxes next to each pillar the further I got. The room was basically just a big hallway with no enemies or anything of the sort. Every message box I pressed either gave me a blank box with Yoshi's signature at the bottom, or the message that read as follows...
Another cryptic message, though at this point I wasn't surprised, not in the slightest. Again, the thoughts in my head started circling. Wondering what exactly Mario had done, why he was here, and why everything seemed to hate everything about him and wanted him gone forever. I was feeling more depressed than scared at this point to be honest, and I had no idea what to expect next. I proceeded down the long hallway, checking message boxes filled with nothing but the same 2 messages over and over. It's like they were telling me to stop playing, or something. Obviously, I ignored them and kept going. I eventually reached the end of the hallway.
There was a door, which I entered. I was welcomed by nothing but a small section of land, and at that, the level was auto scrolling, so I figured that this must be the end, that the author wanted me to jump in the pit and commit suicide or something, thus ending my journey. I was wrong, the auto scroll pushed me over the ledge, and I was still walking, unfortunately. The whole level was nothing but a long stretch of invisible land to another small piece of land just big enough for a boss door to fit. The auto scroll came to a stop, and I prepared for the worst. I gathered my composure, swallowed some of the spit in my mouth, and took a deep breath. I entered. Nothing but a normal Iggy boss; I felt cheated in a way, though. I was happy to THINK it was finally over. I defeated Iggy with 2 jumps effortlessly, which was actually the quickest I'd ever beaten him before. After he fell in the lava, the course clear message popped up as usual. It ended and I was brought to the rescue egg scene, though instead of the usual message, I was shown something disturbing and vastly different, like a profile for the scene of a crime. It was as follows.
"What the fuck is wrong with this guy?" I said as I read the disturbing message. I mean, it was a hack, but still. Who the hell was this victim? Why were her eyeballs gouged out, and just what could have made those unidentifiable fingerprints that were found on her body? Was this Mario's doing? Is this what the author was trying to tell me? And furthermore, was the girl Princess Toadstool? It took me a while to see if I read the message correctly, then I proceeded outwards, though I was wondering what happened next, since the main map was completely gone and there was no trace of it anywhere. To my surprise, it still showed the path marked for Donut Plains, the event tiles still being there, marking the path to the lone level on the giant map that was once the main world. It was still called Donut Plains 1. I thought we were finally done once more, but when I entered the level I could see that like the previous times, I was once again wrong. Upon entering I saw 2 message boxes. They said as follows:
I found it quite strange that both message boxes were contradicting each other. One was telling me that there was no way out of this accursed hell, and the other was telling me that, if I could fly away, I could be free, though I saw no feather or enemies to grab one with. Was this telling me that I could either rise up and go to heaven, or stay in hell forever, wallowing in despair? Did I need a cape to proceed? And what happens after this? Is the whole game like this? I began to create more thoughts in my head trying to figure the message boxes out, but to no avail. I proceeded to walk to the right. I made a jump, but I found that I was stuck in the area, there was an invisible wall, and I had thought I hit a dead end. When I landed I tried moving right again to see if there was any way to go on. All of a sudden I heard the pipe sound, and I was making the pipe animation, except, there was no pipe present, so it looked quite odd.
I was then taken to a level with a black background, stone blocks for ground, and a small door. I was immediately given a mushroom to prevent me from entering it, So I proceed further to see if there is anything else in the level. I found that the room was nothing but a long stretch of concrete blocks and doors that were too small for me to enter because of the mushroom I got. It's obvious that the author didn't want me going through any of them, or I wouldn't have gotten the mushroom in the first place. As I proceeded, I found myself at a dead end. Since there was nothing left for me to look at, I tried to go right again. It worked, I went through the brick wall. It acted like a pipe, and I did a pipe animation that looked like I was going into the darkness.
I was then taken to a small room, with what seemed like a pit, and a wall. I jumped down the pit seeing as how there was no other option, though I found that the bottom of the pit was solid. I tried pressing down in a bunch of areas until I came across a pipe. Mario slowly did the pipe transition downwards off the screen. Expecting another level, I waited, but there was no more. Just a black screen. I was unable to continue. Unable to pause or exit the level, or move. There was nothing, nothing at all. This was the video game representation of death: a crash. Mario had died...
After playing, I think I finally understand what was happening. I believe Mario was atoning for his actions, eventually being plummeted into a hell that looked exactly like yoshi's island, where, he was lost to the grip of death, forever...
I was finally done playing and quite relieved at that. The nightmare was over, activity on the irc seemed to be back up again, I quickly shared my tales with the rest of #smwc, and typed this documentation of it.
If you feel daring enough, you too can witness my tale, first-hand.
Remember, guys, it's only a hack, it can't hurt you... Or can it?
This hack, being the first of its kind to hit SMW Central, of course gained a lot of attention, even the site's founder and Administrator Kieran (currently Kieran Menor), who then immediately recognized the .txt file, that Adam mistook for the .smc (ROM image) converted into .txt, as a .jpg file, due to its header.
He tried manually converting it back into .jpg, but the result was barely viewable, the only recognizable part was the very top. He then continued searching Google for images with his attempt's resolution (327x277) and the second result struck him as relevant.
You can find Kieran's post here, his original attempt only displays a broken image now.