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Mario's Time Machine

Mario's Time Machine (NES, SNES, PC): Better check your watch! Bowser's out to turn back the clock.

Mario's Time Machine NES title screen

Release dates

Australia Unconfirmed
Europe Unconfirmed
Japan Unconfirmed
N.America June 22nd, 1994

General information

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System

Developed by Radical Entertainment

Published by Nintendo

Players: Single player

Mario's Time Machine SNES title screen

Release dates

Australia Unconfirmed
Europe Unconfirmed
Japan Unconfirmed
N.America December 5th,. 1993

General information

Platform: SNES

Developed by The Software Toolworks

Published by Mindscape

Players: Single player

Mario's Time Machine PC title screen

Release dates

Australia Unconfirmed
Europe Unconfirmed
Japan Unconfirmed
N.America February, 1993

General information

Platform: Personal Computer (PC)

Developed by The Software Toolworks

Published by Mindscape

Players: Single player

 on Buy Mario's Time Machine on

 

Quick links: Overview / Story / Gameplay & Object / Time Periods / Videos: Trailers, Commercials & Gameplay / References to other Mario games / Reception & Sales / Trivia & Facts / Reference & Information / Media

 

Overview

 

Mario’s Time Machine is an educational video game developed and produced for multiple platforms (MS-DOS, NES and SNES consoles). It was originally released for MS-DOS and after that for the later two consoles. The Software Toolworks was in charge of the MS-DOS and SNES versions of the game (they were both published in 1993), while Radical Entertainment developed the NES version, and its publisher was Nintendo itself (the game came out in 1994). The MS-DOS version of the game was rereleased in 1996 under the name – Mario’s Time Machine Deluxe. The PC version of the game was distributed via floppy disks, while Mario’s Time Machine Deluxe came in a form of a CD-ROM. It had voice acting added on, as well as a referenceMario flying the timulator as he travels through time file that featured Bowser’s mother.

This was one of the several Mario educational games that were released in the 90s. Needless to say, all of them received quite negative critics from both the media and the gaming community itself. Educational games are a very unpopular genre for the industry, and even though developers gave their best effort into this game (as well as the other Mario educational games like Mario is Missing! and Mario’s Early Years!), it couldn’t escape the fate of other educational games and that is a collapse on the market. This title holds an aggregate score of 60.25% on GameRankings based on two reviews, and it is compared to another similar educational game called Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?
 

Story

 

The storyline of the game is pretty basic and simple – Mario’s arch-nemesis Bowser (who else?) is up to no good yet again, and this time with the help of a time machine that he developed. He uses this time machine to travel back to different significant historical points in order to steal various artifacts and keep them in his own personal museum inside his castle. Mario soon learns about his intentions and realizes that history will change forever if he does nothing, so it is up to him to stop Bowser yet again. So yeah, as you can guess………..the educational role of this game is to teach you some history.

There are some differences in the plot between different versions of the game, though. For example, both the NES and the SNES versions of the game add that Bowser has intentions to destroy his time machine (that is referred to as Timulator in the manuals), in order to permanently change history and send the world back to the Dark Ages. In the NES version, Bowser’s Museum is already fully built and it is equipped with the greatest historical artifacts. Yoshi joins Mario in order to stop him, but he is captured and taken as a prisoner while he is scouting ahead. So, in addition to the original storyline, Mario also has to save Yoshi.

 

Mario flying the timulator on a Mario's Time Machine poster
 

Official story from the SNES version of the instruction booklet.

 

Better check your watch! Bowser's out to turn back the clock. Not to Daylight Savings. No! To the Dark Ages!

That terrible turtle is using a time machine, called a Timulator, to loot historical artefacts from the past. His twisted intent? To build Bowser's Museum, fill it with historic booty, then destroy the time machine. This dastardly plan will turn time inside out, make the future bend over backwards, and change the course of history. Forever.

This is no time to let bygones be bygones. Help Mario stop Bowser before he warps time and puts hiccups in history. If not, it's back to stone tools and hieroglyphics! This quest is hot. If you're too late, it'll be lights out. Time's up.

 

The NES version of the instruction booklet contains the same story.

 

As for the PC version, the manual (the manual that doesn't seem to exist) doesn't contain a story. It was merely an insert in the jewel case telling you how to install the game, however the opening dialog of the Deluxe edition acts as it's back story of the PC version:-

 

Bowser and his Koopas using the Timulator to steal artifacts Mario vows to stop Bowser!

 

Bowser: It's time, my cunning koopas, to use the time machine and steal the most valuable artifacts that history has to offer...

Bowser: Mario, my collection is almost complete ... and there's not a thing that you can do to stop me!

Mario: Bowsers museum is inside his castle, I have to get in there and return all the stolen artifacts before history is changed forever!


Mario: At last, Bowsers castle! I'll show that no good reptile! he can't mess with history, as long as I'm around to set things right!

Bowser: The greatest collection of ALL time is nearly complete and it's all mine! No one can stop me now! Not even Mario!

 

Mario arrives at Bowsers Castle / Museum

And so it begins.

 

Gameplay & Object of the Game

 

As it was already mentioned in the previous section, the objective of the game is to return the historical artifacts to their proper time periods, and this is mutual for all 3 versions of the game. However, the overall gameplay varies between the 3 versions, so we will divide this section into 3 different parts and describe the gameplay for each of them:

MS-DOS version
The central hub in this game is the museum inside Bowser’s castle. It has 3 floors and each of them has 5 artifacts to be found. You need to take the artifact from a pedestal, look at its date and location, and then add that information into the time machine, in order to access the appropriate time period.

As soon as you enter a certain time period you need to explore and interact with various residents of the area in order to get more information about the artifact, the period itself and the person connected to it. To do so, you must get the items from certain residents and give them to others, in order to satisfy their needs. After you speak with everyone, you will automatically fill out a History answer sheet (it is a two-page biography about the person who is connected to the artifact and the time period, and it has some blanks which replace certain words). You must use the information that you have acquired in order to correctly fill out the blanks. If you miss the correct answer 3 times (or more), you will return to the present time, and you will be forced to play through the same time period from the beginning. However, if you manage to get the correct answer, you can return the artifact to its owner and return back to the present time, having the mission accomplished. Once you get all the artifacts on a certain floor, you automatically advance to the next one.

 

Mario walks through a corridor of Bowser's museum in Mario's Time Machine for PC

A hidden checklist as well as a timer are both used in the game. How long you spend in each of the time periods, and the order in which you acquire the artifacts all trigger one of several different endings of the game (there are 3 of them, in total). If you spend too much time to return the artifacts and/or if you return even one of the artifacts in the wrong order, Bowser manages to escape to Paradise (a tropical island first and last seen in this game), or he gets teleported to the Cretaceous period, where he looks confused and waves his head all over the screen. Also, a message that reminds you to return the artifacts to their correct order appears as well. Basically, you must start over from the beginning, or you can use a password to go back to the preceding point. In case you meet the 2 objective conditions, the time machine will overload and it will destroy itself, sending Bowser to the Cretaceous period, only for him to get stomped by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

SNES version
As this is, basically, a port of the original game it has some changes. The amount of overall content is much lower so, automatically, that means that there is a smaller number of time periods as well. There are some changes in terms of the overall design of the time machine as well. On time’s waves, you can move in all directions, and not just forward, thanks to the SNES’ Mode 7, which is an improvement from the original game.

NES version
Unlike its predecessor (Mario is Missing!), this is a completely different game and overall experience than the previous 2 versions, as neither do you travel to the same time periods as in the MS-DOS and the SNES versions of the game, nor do you restore the same artifacts either. Bowser’s castle is a hall that consists of seven chambers, and at the end of it there is Bowser’s chamber. Behind each of these doors, there is a mini-game that resembles the Mario Bros. style of gameplay. It involves beating the Koopa Troopas and getting a special item in case you manage to beat all of them. The Timulator is located in the bottom centre of each room, and it is a typical elevator-pipe with a transparent box added on. Inside the Timulator, you can select time periods in a linear fashion (you can’t access them manually like in the previous 2 versions). Once you enter a certain time period, you will see short platforming elements with some enemies and, often, indigenous inhabitants of that time period as well. There are some message blocks scattered across the area, and their function is to describe the entire location. In order to get the item, you must win a mini-game and then return it to the correct spot. If the spot is not correct, the item will return to the Koopas, but if you get it right, you will beat the stage. There are 2 artifacts in each of the doors, so you must go through each of the doors at least twice in order to close that part of the museum. After all doors of the museum are closed, a deeper part of the castle becomes available as soon as you pass a history test about what you have learned until that point (what is this, school?). After you defeat Bowser, Mario acquires the key and he releases Yoshi from the cage. The ending sequence has both Mario and Yoshi posing next to a sad and crying Bowser.

 

Mario rides Yoshi up to Bowsers Museum in the NES version of Mario's Time Machine

Bowser and his koopas have built the greatest museum in history, but to do it they have stolen many important items from the past.

 

Time Periods

 

As much as the gameplay varies between the 3 versions of this game, it should be noted that time periods in all these versions are also different, and that should be no surprise knowing all of the circumstances. In this section you can find out what time periods you will encounter in each of the 3 different releases of this game:


MS-DOS version

369 BC — Athens (Plato's book, The Republic)
47 BC — Alexandria (Cleopatra's Royal Staff)
105 AD — Luoyang (T'sai Lun's Bamboo)
1292 — Gobi Desert (Marco Polo's Printing Block)
1429 — Orleans (Joan of Arc's Shield)
1455 — Mainz (Johann Gutenburg's Printing Machine)
1503 — Florence (Michaelangelo's Chisel)
1505 — Florence (Leonardo Da Vinci's Papers)
1521 — Pacific Ocean (Ferdinand Magellen's Astrolabe)
1595 — London (Crown of Queen Elizabeth I of England)
1601 — Stratford-Upon-Avon (William Shakespeare's Skull)
1610 — Padua (Galileo's Telescope)
1687 — Cambridge (Sir Isaac Newton's Apple)
1752 — Philadelphia (Benjamin Franklin's Key)
1776 — Philadelphia (Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence)
1791 — Vienna (Wolfgang Mozart's Flute)
1824 — Vienna (Ludwig van Beethoven's Music Sheet)
1831 — London (Michael Faraday's Magnet)
1843 — London (Charles Dickens' Inkwell)
1863 — Washington (Abraham Lincoln's Glasses)
1879 — Menlo Park (Thomas Edison's Filament)
1885 — Paris (Louis Pasteur's Flask)
1915 — Tuskegee (George Washington Carver's Crank Handle)
1947 — Calcutta (Mahatma Gandhi's Indian Flag)
1994 — Novato (Software Toolworks' Floppy Disk)

SNES version

369 BC — Athens (The Republic)
47 BC — Alexandria (Cleopatra's Royal Staff)
1292 — Gobi Desert (Marco Polo's Printing Block)
1429 — Orleans (Joan of Arc's Shield)
1455 — Mainz (Gutenberg's Printing Machine)
1503 — Florence (Michelangelo's Chisel)
1505 — Florence (Da Vinci's Papers)
1521 — Pacific Ocean (Magellan's Globe)
1595 — England (Elizabeth I's Crown)
1601 — Stratford upon Avon (Shakespeare's Skull)
1687 — Cambridge (Newton's Apple)
1776 — Philadelphia (Declaration of Independence)
1824 — Vienna (Beethoven's Music Sheet)
1879 — Menlo Park (Edison's Filament)
1947 — Calcutta (Gandhi's Indian Flag)

NES version

80M BC — Prehistoric dinosaur egg
776 BC — Olympic torch
31 BC — Marc Antony's throne
1192 — Crusader's sword
1520 — Magellan's steering wheel
1602 — Shakespeare's quill pen
1687 — Newton's apple
1862 — Lincoln's stovepipe hat
1879 — Edison's light bulb
1903 — Wright Brothers' propeller
1905 — Einstein's physics equation
1947 — Gandhi's Indian flag
1969 — Armstrong's U.S. flag
1989 — Sledgehammer that destroyed the Berlin Wall

 

Videos: Trailers, Commercials & Gameplay

 

 

The Ending from the NES version of Mario's Time Machine.

 

 

The slow-completion ending from the PC version (if you weren't quick enough for the next ending shown beneath)

 

 

The optimal ending for the PC version of Mario's Time Machine.

 

 

A full playthrough of the NES version of Mario's Time Machine.

 

References to other Mario games

 

Even though not as successful and popular as most of the other games from the franchise, it still brought some elements that had their references in the other Mario titles. Which elements? And which games? You will now find out…..

 

  • Mario Bros. – A way of collecting objects in the NES version of the game involves beating 3 Koopa Troopas in a similar manner to the style used in this game. Unlike in the original game, in this one Mario can enter the pipes, and they can also be used to access the main part of the museum

  • Super Mario Bros. 3 – A sprite of Bowser from the NES version of the game is basically a modified version of the same sprite from this title

  • Super Mario World – Most of the sprites from the NES version of the game (including the ones for Mario, Yoshi and the Koopas) are those from this game, with the exception that they are modified for an 8-bit system. A number of additional elements also directly reference this game. For example, the opening sequence where Mario and Yoshi walk up to Bowser’s museum is the same as the sequence before Mario enters Ghost Town or the Castle, with the exception that Yoshi runs inside the museum after Mario gets off his back, instead of waiting for him outside

Mario using a recoloured version of the Bowser's door sprites from Super Mario World & the Bowser sprite from SMB3 Mario Bros style stage in Mario's Time Machine

Mario using a recoloured version of the Bowser's door sprites from Super Mario World & the Bowser sprite from SMB3 (left screenshot), and the full setup of the original Mario Bros (right screenshot). I actually think some real effort went into designing some of these levels.

 

Reception & Sales

 

Since the game was officially released, it has received mixed reviews, although the negative ones are dominating. It has an aggregate score of 60.25% on GameRankings based on 2 reviews. GamePro praised its dialogues with various historical figures, stating that “the scenarios make flesh-and blood human beings out of people who are usually just static pictures in textbooks”. Their critics were focused on the Timulator controls (they called them “too confusing, especially for the game’s targeted age group”, but still their summary was that the game was both educational and enjoyable at the same time. On the other hand, Nintendo Power gave it a mark of 2.65 (out of 5), while Electronic Gaming Monthly liked the game better, and they gave it 6.75 out of 10.

Two reviewers from GameSpy (Brian Altano and Brian Miggels) stated that the ending of the game is one of the worst ones ever seen in a video game, and they criticized it for showing Bowser crying. Another editor of GameSpy (Mike Drucker) described the whole game with a single line: “half-assed”. GameRadar concluded that those who like this game may as well like Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, a game that got a bad review from them. They also added that it is an unpopular game and that “five, maybe six people played the NES version of Mario’s Time Machine”. ABC Good Game stated that the game is awful and added that its concept is way too complicated for any school-aged youngster to understand. Nintendo of Canada included a sealed copy of the NES version of the game as part of a charity auction, along with several other NES games (they were also sealed). In the book Video Games: A Guide for Savvy Parents, author called David Sheff stated that he liked the educational side of the game, but he criticized the gameplay. Andy Slaven, author of Video Game Bible accused the game of ripping off the elements from Where in time is Carmen Sandiego?, also adding that, although it isn’t a bad game, it is not a good educational one either.

Authors Gloria Basczak and David Wesley associated this game with the “flood of ill-conceived Mario spin-offs”, adding that these games almost destroyed the whole franchise. Janet Swift of The Independent wrote about this game in her article about the latest generation of educational titles in 1994. She compared it to its prequel (Mario is Missing!), and she stated that it has an educational value for children. She praised its execution and she called it “special”. Brett Allan Weiss of Allgame called the action scenes from this game “dreadfully dull”, and the presentation was “merely average”. He said that while he doesn’t have anything against educational games, they need to be both “entertaining and enlightening” in order to win the hearts of its players. IGN’s editor Levi Buchanan included it in the assessment of the “other Mario games”, adding that the whole premise is boring and that the game lacks any real platform gameplay. He said that it had “honorable intentions” but that the whole realization was “decidedly shallow”. He also complained about the whole idea of putting Mario in realistic historical time periods, saying that he “occupies the imagination, a place with Star Festivals and giant piranha plants ”.

The game was also considered as one of the worst Mario games ever released by many people from the gamming community and many players themselves as well. That is why it is often found on top-lists of worst Mario games ever (both the lists that were made by official gaming companies and/or websites and those that are fan-made). For example, on Screwattack’s list of “Top 10 Worst Mario Games”, Mario’s Time Machine was put on spot #4. This line perfectly describes what they think of the game: “Nintendo, please take this concept, re-do it and make it the way it should be done…not crappy!”

 

Bowser crying that he doesn't want to be Edutained anymore in Mario's Time Machine

Looks like Bowser could take no more.
 

Trivia & Facts

 

  • One of the first educational or "Edutainment" titles

  • Intended to teach basic history

  • Fifteen periods of time to travel to and between

  • Like in "Mario is Missing", Mario cannot die.

  • This game was released on the NES, SNES, and PC for MS-DOS.

Reference / Information

 

Media / Downloads