A Look At “Hotel Mario,” One Of The Most Obscure Mario Games Ever

Super Mario fans probably think they’ve played every possible game released with their favorite plumber. However, many retro gaming fans might not realize that “Hotel Mario” even exists. Released on an obscure and overpriced console, “Hotel Mario” is the redheaded stepchild of the Super Mario world. But is it as bad as its reputation suggests? We’re here to find out.

What’s The Story Here?

In the early 90s, Phillips Interactive Media was looking to break into the world of video games. They created the Phillips CD-i, one of the first CD-based gaming systems. It boasted the ability to integrate videos and other high-quality items that were impossible on other game systems of the time. It also “boasted” a price tag of $500 or more, making it a rather pricey proposition.

Here’s where things get confusing. Phillips, or rather Sony, was originally developing its system for Nintendo, as the latter company looked for a way to get ahead in the video game wars against Sega.

As a result, they licensed Phillips to make games based on “The Legend of Zelda” license and “Super Mario.” Once the deal for the system fell through, however, Phillips decided to release the system on its own.

Still possessing the licenses from Nintendo, they went ahead and developed three Zelda games and one Mario game. The Zelda games are often considered some of the worst games in video game history and are still a popular source of memes. But what of “Hotel Mario,” Phillips sole Mario-based game?

The Game Style

While “Hotel Mario” is not the strangest Mario game ever (after all, Mario has had at least a few typing games tied to his name), it’s not far off. You and your brother Luigi just opened a new hotel (WHAT?!) and are hoping to make it successful.

However, Bowser is infecting it with his cronies to ruin your chances at success. As a result, you need to go from floor to floor, closing the hotel doors to prevent guests from getting attacked. Wash, rinse, and repeat for way too many levels.

That’s right: the primary mechanic behind this game is closing doors. You use elevators to go from floor-to-floor and try to avoid enemies. Closing doors can be frustrating because enemies often emerge from hotel rooms and reopen closed doors. It is also difficult to guess where the elevators will take you (hint: look at the arrow underneath the door), leading to many cheap deaths.

Another element of the game which garnered some criticism was the use of full motion video cut scenes. While groundbreaking at the time, the videos were widely panned as being cheesy, rather cheaply drawn, and difficult to load. For a simple game with a basic premise, it took far too long to get playing.

Was It Really That Bad?

While the game, like the Phillips CD-i, was a complete commercial and critical failure, there is a charm to “Hotel Mario.” Hear us out, because we’re probably the only people in the world ready to even slightly defend this game.

First of all, we do like the graphics. While not a huge leap up from the Super Nintendo, they are colorful and well-drawn. They should have been better for such a next-gen video game system, but they’re not bad. We can also see what Phillips was trying to do with the game.

They were focusing on a simple sense of fun and arcade straightforwardness that would soon disappear from the Super Mario franchise. There is a basic strategy behind the game and a frantic energy that really could have been fun. Unfortunately, the execution was too awful for it to be successful.

Is It Worth Hunting Down?

Not really. The game isn’t very fun and, even worse, Phillips CD-i items are often incredibly expensive on the used market. You’re likely to see games sell for hundreds of dollars, a price that is certainly not worth the cheesy cut scenes and broken gameplay. To experience this game at its finest, simply go to YouTube and look up the videos. They’re good for a few laughs.

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