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SYFY WIRE super mario bros.

Long-lost demo for old-school 'Super Mario Bros.' game discovered on floppy disc

What if Super Mario Bros. 3 had been playable as a PC floppy disk?

By Benjamin Bullard
Super Mario Bros. 3 Demo PRESS

From Mario to Link to Samus, Nintendo has mostly kept its biggest names at home on its native console hardware over the years. But a newly-reported find of a retro NES classic hints at the PC-based Mario mania that might have been — all thanks to the recent discovery of a demo version of Super Mario Bros. 3 on an old floppy disk.

Sometime over the summer of last year, someone donated a box of old media to The Strong National Museum of Play, a curator of interactive entertainment based in Rochester, New York. As reported by local alt-weekly City Newspaper, museum cataloger Kirsten Feigel discovered a red, 3.5-inch floppy disk among the dusty box full of old-school goodies, with “Super Mario 3” handwritten in blue ink as one of the game titles on its aging stick-on label.

Loading up the disk proved the label wasn’t lying, as a PC-based demo version of Nintendo’s 1988 smash hit faithfully displayed the game’s title screen along with a developer credit for “Ideas from the Deep” — the studio predecessor to today’s id Software. For those who aren’t up on their id history, that’s the first-person shooter powerhouse that, to this day, still helps crank out Bethesda-published titles like DOOM, Quake, and Wolfenstein.

Curators so far haven’t reported any solid info about why a Super Mario Bros. game from the NES era apparently took some kind of early step toward getting a PC version (or perhaps a port). And Feigel herself said she kept things low-key after first realizing the significance of the one-of-a-kind gaming treasure she’d stumbled across.

“The next day people were like coming to me and saying, ‘That floppy disc you found yesterday had the rare Super Mario Brothers game on it,’” she told City, “and I was like, ‘OK, I just found a floppy disc, but . . .’”

Beyond a couple of still images, the museum hasn’t yet shown off any action footage from the game demo. But that’s likely to change in the future, once the museum has ensured the original copy’s preservation and copied its valuable digital contents.

“The Strong tries to put the majority of their artifacts out into the hands of the public as well when they can,” museum scholar in residence Stephen Jacobs told City. “Obviously, the original disk won't be put out there, but it's easy to make copies.”

Call us crazy, but we’re betting it still won’t be any easier to defeat Bowser’s tank force before you reach the end. While you still can’t play Super Mario Bros. 3 on PC, you can test your 2D platforming prowess on the Switch, where the game resides as one of the featured retro titles available to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers.