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Literature / Nintendo Adventure Books

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The Nintendo Adventure Books are a Gamebooks series from 1991-1992 featuring twelve books, ten of which feature you playing as one (or, rarely, both) of the Super Mario Bros., the other two feature you playing as Link or Princess Zelda.

Unlike many gamebooks, each of these had only one good ending, which was reachable only by solving puzzles correctly (or in a couple of cases, incorrectly) and collecting items. All the others awarded you with a nice, big, bold GAME OVER!

These books also had a point scoring system; after reaching an ending, you turned to a final page at the end of the book where you added up your points (or coins in most of the books) and received a ranking.

Books in the series:

  1. Double Trouble
  2. Leaping Lizards
  3. Monster Mix-Up
  4. Koopa Capers
  5. Pipe Down!
  6. Doors to Doom
  7. Dinosaur Dilemma
  8. Flown the Koopa
  9. The Crystal Trap
  10. The Shadow Prince
  11. Unjust Desserts
  12. Brain Drain

See also Metroid: Zebes Shin'nyuu Shirei, another Gamebook based on a Nintendo game.

The Nintendo Adventure Books provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Pipe Down! is about a ton of pipes the Mario Brothers go through.
  • Alternate Continuity: The novels share a few thematic elements with the Nintendo Comics System adaptation and animated adaptations like The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!.
  • All Your Powers Combined: Wendy O. Koopa steals all the magic wands she and her siblings stole from the Mushroom Kingdom to combine them into a super-wand she can use to take over Bowser's position as ruler of the Koopas.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: In Monster Mix-Up, Bowser has been making weird hybrids of his minions. As one point, he combines the Mushroom King and a Koopa Troopa! Amazingly, he actually becomes smart and helpful this way!
  • Animal Athlete Loophole: In Leaping Lizards, the Mario Brothers and company are competing in the Mushroom Games. Why? The king of the Mushroom Kingdom has been turned into a rabbit and the prize is a magic whistle that will change him back. This rabbit form, however, is advantageous; depending on what choices you make, you can have the king in rabbit form complete the high jump event and win big!
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In Koopa Capers, Bowser asks if Wendy stole his book of Reptile Magic and VCR Programming Instructions.
  • Artifact of Death: In most books, there was one item that would end up leading to one of the bad endings if you possessed it. One example was an anchor which would make you sink to the bottom of the sea.
    • In addition to the anchor mentioned above, Leaping Lizards has the opposite as well. If Luigi tries to complete an obstacle and has one of two items he does all right. If he tries to use both together, their combined power is so extreme he goes shooting into space, resulting in a game over.
    • In The Crystal Trap you have the choice of a pair of insanely powerful magical weapons to use to defeat Ganon. One is real, the other's a dummy planted by Ganon himself to lure Link and Zelda into an unwinnable situation.
    • In The Shadow Prince, make a mistake and it's possible for Charles to take a useful item from you and give you one that kills you before the final battle.
  • Artistic License - Archeology: In-Universe. In Dinosaur Dilemma, it's stated early on that Bowser has been granted the "Snowbell Prize" for his theory that the dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't look both ways before crossing the street. Mario knows the "theory" is bogus (Especially since on Dinosaur Island, dinosaurs aren't extinct), and when you confront him, Bowser will admit it too.
  • Ballet Episode: Pipe Down! features a basketball-themed ballet Ludwig von Koopa composed for an unwitting Princess Peach.
  • Blamed for Being Railroaded: Before the final event of the Mushroom Kingdom Games in Leaping Lizards, Mario and the others are mad at Luigi for his poor leadership abilities but you still get this even if you do all the options the book recommends (The player always loses the Turnip Toss and Waterfall Race and always wins the Fungus Lift).
  • Canon Character All Along: Sir Charles in The Shadow Prince is Ganon all along.
  • Canon Foreigner: The novels introduce a few new characters for the Mario and Zelda universes that are not mentioned elsewhere.
  • The Cameo: Wart appears in Dinosaur Dilemma, where he's described as King of the Land of Nightmares.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Many of the items. Unlike most such gamebooks these had a page in the back with a series of pictures of all the items you could find, and you were told to circle the picture of each item as you found it (Well, usually. Sometimes they forgot to add a picture).
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Pipe Down! has this happen to Princess Peach when she receives a mysterious pair of red sneakers for her birthday. When she puts them on, they begin forcing her to dance a la the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Red Shoes, and she eventually becomes the unwilling star of a Koopa basketball ballet. If Mario and Luigi manage to find her in the desert in one sequence, she'll tell them that she's tried over and over again, but the sneakers just won't come off her feet.
  • Crappy Carnival: The heroes are going to one in book 8, but when it turns out to be all cheap and crummy, they realize something's wrong, prompting the main adventure.
  • Cruel Twist Ending:
    • As much a staple of this series as other CYOA-type books. In one particular ending in Monster Mix-Up you can have Mario knock down a brick wall with a hammer you found earlier in the quest. After reading an entire page, the wall collapses on him in the very last sentence.
    • The final choice of Dinosaur Dilemma involves Mario deciding whether he should break open an egg or leave it alone (note that Mario has seen trapped dinosaurs in other eggs previously). If Mario smashes it, he breaks it open in a gooey mess, only to find the dead body of Luigi (while not stated, but it's heavily implied, especially with the immediate Game Over). If Mario leaves it alone, an alive Luigi pops out in seconds, and the two share an egg-based pun as the book triumphantly ends.
    • In The Crystal Trap, if instead of the spear you throw the battle axe at Ganon, he will stop the weapon, gloat that it's his own and trap Link again in the crystal. If you throw the spear, you destroy the scroll that enables the spell.
  • Crystal Prison: The Crystal Trap, naturally. Ganon has placed a Curse on all three Triforces; since the Triforce of Courage is in Link's heart, this means that he is also trapped inside a crystal. Zelda has 24 hours to find three items to free Link from the crystal. Failure turns it into stone.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Luigi is the main protagonist in Leaping Lizards, Koopa Capers and Brain Drain, and Zelda is the protagonist in The Crystal Trap.
  • Distressed Dude: Link is imprisoned in crystal by Ganon in The Crystal Trap, and it's up to Zelda to find three items to save him.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: In The Crystal Trap one puzzle involves Zelda noticing a weird guy in an inn staring at her, and then trying to escape. The obvious thought is that he's one of Ganon's minions, especially since he's represented in the puzzle as a picture of a slime monster, and you need to escape from him. You actually need to confront the guy, who turns out to be Zelda's old mentor Estragon, to get the last item needed to save Link.
    • Doors to Doom also has what's probably an unintentional example, because the reader actually has to get a puzzle wrong and avoid getting a crucial item at one point. If they get it right, they go straight to the ending evaluation. The thing is it's impossible to reach the Golden Ending this way, and the reader has to fail because they don't have this item, loop back through some sections they're probably already gone through, and collect points from them again to have enough get the good ending. They should only solve the puzzle correctly and get the item they need next time they run into it.
  • Duels Decide Everything: Leaping Lizards features Princess Toadstool's father being turned into a giant rabbit. The heroes learn that Iggy's magic whistle can turn the king back to normal, but Mushroom Kingdom law prevents them from just taking it. They can only make Iggy hand it over if they win the Mushroom Kingdom Games, a spoof of the Olympics. The second half of the book consists of the heroes entering the Games as a competing team, and you have to track how many medals they win in the various events.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Especially in Doors to Doom, where the quality of the ending you get depends on your score.
  • Enemy Mine: In Koopa Capers, Bowser recruits Luigi to help him find Wendy.
  • Evil Weapon: The red arrow Link can find in The Shadow Prince, which kills him if he tries to use it.
  • "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: Through Yoshi's body in Unjust Desserts.
  • Fetch Quest: All the books have items you must find to progress in the story, but Koopa Capers and The Crystal Trap are the clearest examples.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: In Brain Drain, Mario and Luigi must defeat the "synapse switcher", a radio frequency that causes characters to switch bodies with each other.
  • Friendly, Playful Dolphin: Unjust Desserts. Mario encounters "Micro-Dolphins" inside Yoshi's belly who help him transverse the sticky stomach fluids. Due to the nature of their existence, the Micro-Dolphins believe cows are extinct, and that the world is not round. They also laugh off Mario's assertion that they live inside a dinosaur.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • A couple of the books have a puzzle page with the page numbers based on your result reversed, resulting in a bad ending for a successful solve and vice versa.
    • In many books it's impossible to have the highest score rank. In Doors to Doom, for example, it's impossible to get the highest score without failing a puzzle and not getting an important inventory item at one point, making you loop back through some sections you've already read and collecting the same points again until you end up at the spot where you get that item again. Particularly egregious because that's the one book in the series where your final score matters for anything, with the quality of the book's Multiple Endings varying by your point total.
  • Giant Mook: The three-headed Soopa Koopa Paratroopa in Monster Mix-Up, created by combining three regular Koopas in the mixing machine.
  • Golden Ending: There is only one good ending in each book; ALL the other ones are bad.
  • Golden Snitch: The ending of Koopa Capers awards you more than the number of points possible for the best score.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: As is typical for Link and Zelda on those rare occasions where they get to fight side by side, Link fights with his sword and Zelda usually uses her bow.
  • Hall of Mirrors: There's one protecting Iggy Koopa's lab in Double Trouble. Mario can navigate it, or, if he brought a hammer, just smash his way through.
  • Hard Head: At one point in Koopa Capers Luigi falls off a ledge. The book notes he falls on his head so there's no damage.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Wart was evil in Mario 2, turned good in Doors to Doom, then goes back to being evil in Dinosaur Dilemma.
  • Hijacked by Ganon:
    • In Koopa Capers, once Bowser figures out what Wendy's up to, he decides to take control of her scheme.
    • Prince Charles of Moria does seem suspicious and is indeed Evil All Along, but he is also the Trope Namer.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Unjust Desserts. Mario has to shrink himself down and enter Yoshi to rescue Luigi, whom Yoshi swallowed after eating a cursed cherry on a birthday cake.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: In some of the bad endings, the Koopas go on to take over the Mushroom Kingdom with the Mario Bros. incapacitated.
  • Just Between You and Me: in Dinosaur Dilemma, after capturing the heroes, Bowser decides there's no harm in doing a bit of Evil Gloating on his evil scheme.
  • Kidnapped by the Call: Koopa Capers opens with Luigi being captured by a magic rug and delivered to Bowser's doorstep so he can help find Wendy.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: In Leaping Lizards, the final event in the Mushroom Kingdom Games is a series of high jumps. Participants have to leap over a high bar, a pipe hanging horizontally in the air and then jump as far as they can across a field. One of the participating teams is a group of Sledge Brothers, Giant Mook versions of the regular Hammer Brothers. The Sledge Brothers are Mighty Glaciers that simply can't jump high enough to clear the bar or pipe, so they just drop out of the competition.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the first book whenever Mario gets a large payout in gold coins, he mentions something fun he'd like to buy with them. One of them is a new comic book he's heard about starring a pair of handsome plumbers from Brooklyn. There was indeed a comic book series about various Nintendo properties being run more or less at the same time these books were coming out. Indeed it was the main basis of the version of the Super Mario-universe used by these books.
  • Left the Background Music On: One time in Doors to Doom Luigi points out the "neverending organ music" in Subcon.
  • Living Clothes: A pair of magic, self-propelled boots is needed to resolve the plot in Pipe Down! Pick the right pair, and they eventually show up with an army of magic boots and literally walk all over Ludwig's evil plot.
  • The Many Deaths of You:
    • Mario? Check. Gamebook? Check. You're going to die. A LOT.
    • Dinosaur Dilemma in particular has a lot of deaths. It features ten bad endings, with all of them involving someone's death (usually the player's, but one involves every dinosaur being exterminated by Bowser, and for such a stupid reason too).
  • The Mole: In both Zelda books, Ganon's spies disguise themselves as civilians.
  • Mythology Gag: Toad winning the Fungus Lift event by lifting 12,000 pounds, surpassing everybody including the Hammers is a nod to Super Mario Bros. 2 where Toad was the strongest of the four playable characters.
  • No Fair Cheating: In some books, puzzles would have a point total it was impossible to actually reach. Trying to turn to the page indicated by that result would tell you so.
  • Nonstandard Game Over:
    • In Pipe Down!, Mario and Luigi eventually come across a Clawgrip, to whom they must give an item to pass. If they do not have the required item or refuse to give it to him, they try to run. The Clawgrip gives chase, and they decide to distract him with a few coins. If you don't have enough, the resulting page is nothing but the word PINCH! in a huge explosion graphic that fills the entire page, along with the "GAME OVER".
    • In Leaping Lizards, Luigi can use either his magic wings or pogo stick to compete in the Mushroom Kingdom Games' jumping event. If he tries to use both of them, their combined power sends him flying into space and he's disqualified, resulting in a "GAME OVER". It's actually impossible to get both the wings and the pogo stick on the same playthrough, so claiming you have them both is cheating.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Leaping Lizards has the heroes compete in the Mushroom Kingdom Games. All of their opponents are the Koopa Kids and various monsters, and all of them cheat in various ways. The heroes themselves might be borderline examples. If Mario competes in the first event, he'll get extra power from a Super Mushroom he gains during the race. If Luigi competes in the final event, he can use either his magical wings or pogo stick to jump higher than he normally would.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Many of the books, but The Crystal Trap in particular has lots of these. Several of the endings have Zelda awaiting a terrible fate (sinking in quicksand or becoming a sitting duck for enemies) for failure to have the correct item.
    • Wendy O. Koopa has one of these near the end of Koopa Capers when Bowser has caught onto her plans to seize his throne.
    • Bowser has one near the end of Dinosaur Dilemma when all the Koopa academics he's invited to supper refuse to give him the "Snowbell Prize" he needs for his latest scheme.
  • Plot Coupons: The Crystal Trap has Zelda needing to find a laundry list of magic items to break the curse Link's been put under.
  • Poison Mushroom: Some items are duds and will lead to your death, like an anchor that sends you to the bottom of the sea, or a ring given by Sir Charles because Ganon has cursed it.
  • Press X to Die: Sometimes happens if you intentionally pick the wrong solution after a completed puzzle.
  • Product Placement: In the first book Mario mentions using some coins he finds to buy a new comic book series that's not too subtly said to be about him and Luigi. Nintendo Comics System was running at the time the books were being published, and indeed that seems to be have been the main basis for how this series was written.
  • Pseudolympics: The back half or so of Leaping Lizards is based on having the heroes compete in weird Olympic events based on the mechanics of the games.
  • Punny Name: Quite a few of the characters and enemies in Dinosaur Dilemma are obvious puns. The members of the Snowbell Prize committee include C. Everett Koopa (Charles Everett Koop, MD), Gary Koopa (Gary Cooper), James Fennimore Koopa (James Fenimore Cooper), and Francis Ford Koopola (Francis Ford Coppola). Meanwhile, the Slimosaurs under Bowser's command include the Tie-rack-asaurus Necks (which wears an assortment of ties and can kill Mario by twisting him into a half-Windsor), the Times-Square-atops (which attacks with blinding lights), and the Thesaurus (a "bookcase-shaped" creature that can pummel Mario as the narration uses a variety of synonyms).
  • Recycled Premise: Books 5 and 11 both use "villains sabotage a hero's birthday party" as a launching point.
  • Reset Button:
    • Literally. In Monster Mix-Up, incorrectly solving a puzzle leads Mario to press a button that brings him back to the beginning of the story, with no memory of what happened. The puzzle itself clearly warns the reader that the button will send Mario back to the beginning; if you still press it, well...
    • In The Shadow Prince, the Golden Whistle, if you screwed up and are thrown to the palace dungeon, can help you escape prison and send you several pages earlier.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: In The Crystal Trap, if Zelda doesn't have the correct item to trade with the beekeeper for some of his magic honey, the beekeeper sends his bees to attack Zelda, resulting in a Game Over. Worse still, the item she needs doesn't appear on the scorecard with all the other possible items, so you might never think it even exists.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: When all the turtle academics Bowser's invited to dinner as part of his latest scheme in Dinosaur Dilemma end up Covered in Gunge thanks to Mario and Yoshi, they all get angry and leave. Bowser suffers a Villainous Breakdown when they refuse to give him the "Snowbell Prize" he needs.
  • Secret Test: In Doors to Doom, the entire adventure turns out to have been a test to measure exactly how heroic the Mario Bros. are by a goomba scientist who was only pretending to be evil. Considering it was all just a test, the many ways the Bros. could die (and strip the Mushroom Kingdom of their only worthwhile defenders) is kind of suspect, though.
  • Shown Their Work: The cover art of The Shadow Prince correctly shows Link wielding his sword in his left hand. The animated and comic book versions missed that detail from the manuals and always drew him as right-handed.
  • Sneeze of Doom: During the brawl against Bowser's Slimosaurs in Dinosaur Dilemma, Yoshi knocks over the spice rack, creating a giant cloud of chili pepper. The Slimosaurs sneeze so badly that they explode, leaving the Snowball Prize committee Covered in Gunge.
  • The Starscream: Wendy in Koopa Capers plans to use a spell to combine everyone's wands and take over the throne.
  • Stealth Pun: In The Shadow Prince, Charles says he comes from the kingdom of Moria, which might catch some as a location out of Tolkien's work, but it's actually an anagram of another famous Nintendo hero.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: After Zelda frees Link from the eponymous Crystal Trap, they try to find one to beat Ganon. However, he plans to direct them to a fake one. If the fake is chosen, all the efforts of the heroes are for naught.
  • Taken for Granite: Yoshi and Princess Toadstool are turned to stone in Flown the Koopa, by the evil Magikoopa.
  • To Serve Man: Dinosaur Dilemma reveals Bowser put the Yoshis in eggs to serve them as party food, with Mario and Yoshi as a special course.
  • Totally Radical: In Doors to Doom Wart decided to turn Subcon into a surfing paradise, and as such speaks like this.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: Near the beginning of book 8, Luigi gets ripped off buying a bag of stale popcorn for an exorbitant amount of money. If he has it, though, he and Mario get to skip a maze puzzle later in the book because they use it to mark where they've been.
  • Trash of the Titans: Whenever Mario or Luigi sneaks into a Koopa fortress, there's usually mentions about huge piles of garbage bags nobody's ever thrown away.
  • Two Beings, One Body: In Monster Mix-Up, Bowser's son Iggy invents a machine that can fuse random monsters together, creating freakish hybrids. In the good ending it ends up combining Mario and Luigi into one super-powerful form.
  • The Usurper: In Koopa Capers, Luigi is kidnapped/asked by Bowser to try and find his daughter Wendy, who's mysteriously disappeared. When Luigi investigates, he finds that Wendy has sneaked off to start her own rebellion, stealing the magic wands belonging to her brothers. She then plans to combine the seven wands into one super wand and overthrow Bowser to rule the Koopas in his place.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Happens to Zelda in one of the bad endings to The Crystal Trap, and to Link in The Shadow Prince.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Pipe Down is a take on The Red Shoes, of all things. Princess Toadstool puts on a pair of magic red sneakers that force her to do a basketball ballet and are magically stuck on her feet. Like many adaptations, the good ending involves a less painful way to get the sneakers off Toadstool and ends with her still alive.
  • Womb Level: Unjust Desserts sees Mario traveling into Yoshi's body.