This isn't one of those "Haunted Game" stories. At no point are you going to hear me claim something within the game spoke to me, reacted to my words, or forced me to punch myself repeatedly in the face.
No, this isn't about a haunted game or a game doing something impossible or even something it shouldn't have.
This isn't about a glitch or a hidden Satanic message and at no time did I phone Nintendo Headquarters only to have my questions answered with hushed whispers or anguished screams.
This story is about a game feature I don't think anyone else has unlocked.
No ghosts. No conspiracies. Just a secret we were all supposed to find, but never did. Something that changes an entire generation's childhood and the very essence of a multi-million (billion?) dollar franchise.
This is about what I assume to be a previously undiscovered alternate ending of Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo.
In 1996, I received my first computer as a birthday gift. I'd been on the internet before, had used computers before, but it had always been in school or at a friend's house.
This one was mine. All mine. I explored the crude, pre-historic web of the time with great interest - I downloaded all sorts of pornography and even printed it out, which made absolutely no sense.
I also pirated media like a madman. Music, games, anything.
This was where I first discovered Mario World. I'd never had a Super Nintendo as a little kid, so it was all new to me. I'd downloaded tons of games along with the SNES Emulator, but Mario World was my favorite.
For over a decade, the same Mario World ROM was my time-wasting hobby. I played it over and over again, beating the game faster and faster until I began to lazily explore the worlds with no particular purpose.
Game Genie codes helped immensely. I could turn off the timer and re-live a particularly entertaining map for an hour as I waited for a download or any number of boring events.
It was in this manner that I must've beaten and re-beaten the game thousands upon thousands of times.
There was comfort in the obsessive-compulsive behavior of this routine... but all of that was shattered when I saw the Blind Boo.
The Blind Boo, as I referred to it, was hovering over the exit from the haunted "Sunken Ship" level later on in the game.
I call it blind because it actually had no visible eyes. It was like someone had made a lazy ROM hack... but I knew from years upon years of experience that this was a normal game.
The Blind Boo just hung there over the exit pipe... blocking it. I turned my back on it, but it didn't chase me.
How could it? It didn't even SEE me.
Then, I noticed something else out of sorts...
There was a Key and Keyhole misplaced above the exit. Keys and Keyholes as such are ways of ending a level in an alternate manner and discovering a secret area.
Still, this didn't belong there and I knew it. For a moment, I considered the fact I'd actually BROKEN a ROM file from over-use!
After taking a screenshot specifically to show all of you Mario Bros. fans out there, I picked up the key and opened the "door", figuring the game would seize up and I'd have to restart.
Instead, it opened up a new path on the map selection screen:
A whirlpool next to Bowser's already creepy head-cave-thing.
I pressed the right arrow and moved onto the whirling drain...
"Oh God No"
This didn't really strike me as odd, because if you're familiar with the Mario World game, there's an area called Star Road that you may note has similar names.
Just stuff like "Tubular" and "Awesome" and all manner of dumb words and phrases. Most of the areas were called "Vanilla Forest 1" and "Donut Mountain 3" and all that, but there WERE maps with odd names like that.
What did concern me, though, was Mario's expression. Surprise? Shock? Fear?
I entered the map.
Oddly enough, the whirlpool in the middle of a lake began with the standard "Castle" entry animation. Mario walked up to a castle door, looked up, then went in.
I could tell it was under water, though, because of the bubbles that periodically emerged from the sprite's mouth and floated to the top of the screen.
Inside the castle, it started to look more and more like I was in fact experiencing a glitch...
There was no room to jump. No room to do anything but run left and right. I must've gone right for ten to twenty minutes, just holding the B-button and running along at full speed.
After a while I ran into one or two Blind Boos in the darkness above. Then three or four... then the screen was full of them.
They just kind of hung there, doing nothing. They wouldn't chase me if I turned my back, as with the previous Blind Boo. If I made any noise... like Mario's jump sound... they would just kind of SHUDDER a bit, like they heard the sound of Mario's movements, but couldn't do anything about it.
Then something made me stop and turn the other way.
Now I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this map was designed specifically to screw with the player. Not because the giant "Bleeding Bill" was hemorrhaging profusely from its face, but because it was INESCAPABLE.
There was literally no way to avoid being killed by it, as you can clearly see above.
That is, unless you're like me and you have the Game Genie cheats on hand. I switched on the code for permanent invincibility.
I let the Bleeding Bill chase me for a while when I was invincible, just to get a good LOOK at the thing. I stopped, and killed it with my invulnerable touch, only when I saw a message that hadn't been there when I'd passed before.
"I HATE YOU!"
THAT kind of creeped me out. But on the other hand it was kind of interesting because it meant this was definitely a map that was supposed to exist. There was some sort of plot element, here. Something undiscovered.
What did it mean? WHO hated me? King Koopa seemed the obvious answer. Or maybe just the ghosts. When you're in a Haunted Castle that you found by way of a Haunted Ship, a bloody-looking hate message isn't so unbelievable.
I saw it again as I approached some Giant Boos...
I was thankful that the Blind Boos ended at this point, because the more I watched them shudder, the uneasier I felt... almost empathetic toward them, etc.
The thankfulness ended when I turned my back on the Giant Boos and this happened...
Giant Boos with faces I hadn't seen before. They always looked MAD at being awakened, angry that you were invading their haunted houses across the Mario World Island. This was different, and they looked gleeful. Demented.
I could see right down their throats, which seemed odd given the lack of detail their mouths usually displayed.
And yes, of COURSE I'm going to address that message you saw in the picture. "WHY WON'T YOU DIE?!"
... I don't know why. Am I supposed to? Who's asking??
I let the Giant Boos touch me, and they died like the Bleeding Bills, of which I had encountered two. Despite any attempt to SCARE the player, I knew that being invincible meant INVINCIBLE no matter what they threw at me.
After a while of running down this strange claustrophobic corridor with no more eventful happenings, I came to a room with an exit pipe. Taking the pipe downward, I came out the other end and dropped into a room filled with water.
The water made sense, this being a sunken castle beneath a whirlpool and all...
I was rewarded for my troubles with a question mark block that released a mushroom for me. I could've easily done this with a cheat code, but the thought had escaped me as I faced all these new and strange sights.
The first creatures I encountered in the underwater portion of the castle where Thwomps. Unless you've been living under a rock since the mid-80s, you know Thwomps are stone-like square creatures that hang from the ceiling and fall whenever you come near. They try to crush you, essentially.
Well these Thwomps, lined up in a tight row, dropped repeatedly and randomly with no real trigger or any sense of logic. They would just wait or drop whenever they seemed to feel like it.
It also looked like these Thwomps had been very successful Thwomps...
More cartoony blood. This was getting pretty unusual for the Mario Bros. franchise, which I hadn't recalled seeing BLOOD in at all. Now I'd seen it used three times. The Bloody Bills, the messages, and these perpetually smashing, grinding Thwomps who were working their victims (who?) into pulp... forever.
In the hampering effects of the water, I walked slowly under these things, making sure every single one touched me and DIED. There were almost thirty of them in a row.
The sight of them mindlessly crushing over and over again just made me hate them with an unsettling intensity.
What's weird is that the blood caused Mario to slide as if he were on an ice level.
After walking through that gauntlet of depravity, I swam into a more open area that was filled with spikes on the floor and ceiling.
It was difficult to swim in this manner without touching the spikes, but since I was still invincible I didn't think much of it. I avoided them more for fun than out of any sense I'd be damaged.
It stopped being "fun" really fast, though.
Now I knew some of what was going on. The bloody mess the Thwomps were unendingly spattering? It was other Marios. Past Marios that had tried to traverse this level and failed.
I had to admit this was an excellent touch, even if it was a bit ghoulish. Whoever had designed the map actually broke the fourth wall and showed you the bloated, motionless abortions of the player's own careless treatment of Mario's tiny life.
The bodies only floated straight up and down a tiny bit, as if to show the effects of a light current.
It was genius, and I couldn't believe I MIGHT be the first and only person to ever see this.
I toyed with the idea of taking more than the one screenshot I just presented to you, basically so all of you reading this could enjoy the secret map as much as I had, especially this weird little touch...
Without swimming... without kicking or moving in any way... the Dead Marios started to come at me like torpedoes. Their faces remained blank and blue and... dead... but they moved with astounding speed.
They angled and positioned and worked all sorts of unique trajectories that left me almost nowhere to move. They continued coming at me and swarming and backing up to try again, and... I just couldn't bring myself to let them touch me.
I moved with more speed and skill than I'd ever exerted, frantically trying to keep Mario free of the drowning victims that seemed dead set on rocketing straight into him.
When I finally reached the purple exit pipe you see above, there had to be ten of those things right behind, pitching, turning, and chasing me...
I entered the pipe as fast as I could, thankful that it worked properly and had Mario out of that situation in a heartbeat.
The corridor that followed was empty, thankfully. It was just a blue underwater hallway of sorts with nothing to avoid or kill. It was boring and predictable like the game had been all these years, which brought back a sense of safety.
At the end of the hallway I came to the standard pair of doors you'd enter to face a final boss.
Beside the doorway, a mushroom power-up.
I didn't touch that shit.
Going through the door was as you'd expect. The typical change of map views occurred, and Mario was standing on the ubiquitous bridge over boiling lava.
...Or had it been blood all along?
When Mario walked out onto the bridge, however, there WAS no boss creature.
Instead, Mario immediately looked to the side and froze. I couldn't control him anymore. He just stood there.
Keep looking until you see it.
I didn't even see it at first, so I don't expect you to notice it right away. If you still haven't spotted the thing, look in the third window from the left.
FYI - That's not usually there.
Mario seemed to regain his composure and looked back and forth slowly, surveying the room. There was still no boss, and I still couldn't control him, so I stopped trying and just watched.
This went on... and on... for what seemed like forever. Nothing happened.
Then a familiar face walked in from the right.
Dressed in green, tall, and angry.
It was Luigi.
Mario recoiled in horror. It's difficult to say that without thinking how crazy it sounds, but Mario really reeled back with a sort of terror that was uncharacteristic for such a peppy, happy-go-lucky mascot like him.
Then, Luigi spoke,
It was all connecting, now. The messages scrawled on the walls... "I HATE YOU!" and "WHY WON'T YOU DIE?!"
He's always been Mario's second banana, the "Player 2", the one who doesn't get the Princess in these early games. No matter how identical he is to Mario in skillset and ability and tenaciousness and bravery, at the end of the day the game is "Super Mario Brothers", and he's just "the Brother".
How he must've hated Mario... Who among us wouldn't? Think about it. No matter what happens, Mario always comes back. No matter how many corpses he leaves littering the battlefield, he's always there once more to leap and cheer and get all the adoration.
And Koopa hadn't worked alone? I didn't know what that meant at first, if anything, but again you just have to think it through. HOW exactly does King Koopa consistently succeed in kidnapping the Princess?
From day one, from the original Mario Brothers onward, it had always been an inside job.
Still unable to control the character, I watched Mario simply cower in fear as Luigi leapt high into the air... as high as he could in Mario 2, the bastard child of the franchise...
He jumped on the pathetic, weeping Mario again... and again... and again...
I was powerless to stop it.
When he was done, he seemed to look at Mario's limp body with this overwhelming rage...
Then the bridge started to disappear. Soon, Mario would be dead. As I looked on, I had an irrational thought - would in be permanent?
Within an instant, as Luigi turned to seemingly strike a "victory pose" like he'd beaten the level, Mario awkwardly got to his feet and took him by surprise.
Fear and sadness and confusion had given way to anger, and Mario overpowered his brother with little effort.
To this day, I'm still haunted by the final result of his wrathful reprisal...
There was the map's title.
None of this was a glitch, none of it was a mistake. It wasn't a developer getting back at Nintendo and it wasn't a GHOST haunting a Nintendo cartridge.
It was a planned, purposeful part of the Mario Brothers mythos.
If you beat the same level X number of times, a secret part of the world opened, and you learned that from Mario Brothers through Mario Land, Luigi had secretly been working against you and was in fact facilitating the repeated abduction and abuse of the Princess.
Money? Power? No, it was all there. Because he couldn't take not being the one in the spotlight. Not being Mario himself.
After Luigi died... well and truly died... Mario just sat on the edge of the bridge and wept.
I was forced to watch this for minutes on end before the screen faded to black.
I played the rest of the game through to see if anything changed. Nothing else odd happened, as one would expect since this whole ordeal was just supposed to be part of the actual full story.
I couldn't access the whirlpool again. I'd seen the events once, and that was all I was apparently allowed.
It was back to the game as usual. The same exact game I'd played since the 90s, and would probably continue to play for the rest of my days.
Well, it was the same except for the final image...