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Video Game / Mario Is Missing!

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He's not missing, he's right behind you, Weegee!

"You won't find adobe here in Nairobi..."
Policewoman, Mario Is Missing!

Mario Is Missing! is a geography-based educational game developed by The Software Toolworks and released for the PC in 1992 and Nintendo consoles in 1993. The game is the result of Nintendo partering with Radical Entertainment to create an educational Mario game. Nintendo licensed the Mario characters but was otherwise not involved in the game's development. While Mario still stars in the title, this was the first game with Luigi as the main character, and remained the only one until Nintendo released their own take with Luigi's Mansion in 2001. The PC version is notable for giving birth to the "Weegee" internet meme, based on Luigi's creepy sprite.

The premise is that Bowser has an Evil Plan to flood Earth, and he sends Koopas to steal famous landmarks to help fund his operation. Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi travel to Bowser's castle to stop him. Mario enters all by himself and gets captured, prompting Luigi to go and rescue him.

Luigi progresses in the game by completing levels in Bowser's castle; each floor is guarded by one Koopaling whom you must defeat and contains a number of pipes which transport Luigi to a city containing Koopas. Once in the city, Luigi must collect the stolen artifacts. He must then find and reopen the landmarks by correctly answering three questions about them.

A sequel, Mario's Time Machine, eventually came, which is pretty similar, but WITH TIME TRAVEL!

Relevant tropes:

  • Adapted Out: The Koopalings are entirely absent in the NES version.
  • A Day in the Limelight: This is Luigi's first outing as the main protagonist of a game, years before he began his more esteemed ghost-hunting career.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The text in the game frequently does this. Most notably, one of the newspapers you read in Kathmandu talks about the 'M' Club, whose members are Mayors of Moscow, Madrid, Marrakech, and Mexico City (they are said to have met the day before in Montana) and want to make Luigi an honorary member for saving their cities. They regret that Luigi's name breaks the whole alliteration thing (so do the mayors' actual names — respectively, they're Schmutznikov, Smallburg, I. V. Gottserve, and Devotegetter).
  • Adventure Game: Sure, you'll pull off the Goomba Stomp on enemies (in the console versions anyway), but it's mostly traveling around and picking answers.
  • Bag of Kidnapping: At the opening of the game, Mario gets kidnapped when a Koopa puts him in a sack. The Koopa takes the sack back to the castle.
  • The Cameo: Princess Daisy runs the information booths in some versions.
  • Celebrity Paradox: One of the missing "artifacts" is King Kong — the inspiration for Nintendo's very own Donkey Kong, famously inciting a trademark infringement lawsuit from Universal Studios in 1982.

  • Creator's Culture Carryover: All five of the NPC townspeople always have the same voices in the Deluxe version, regardless of where you are at...up to and including their lack of local accents. Particularly jarring considering the mayors do get proper accents (albeit of the Fake Nationality sort).

  • Creepy Child: Princess Peach's voice acting.
  • Darkness Equals Death: Mario, for no explainable reason, exhibits a fear of the dark in this game. Towards the end of the game, Bowser turns off the lights in Mario's cell which not only means his videophone no longer can be charged, he also has to put up with this suddenly-obtained fear.
  • Dialogue Tree: Luigi can ask questions of citizens and information boards to learn trivia via this manner.
  • Edutainment Game: The game teaches children about geography and the history behind some cities and artifacts.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Because of this trope, you rarely need to actually ask people "Where am I?". Which is good, because almost nobody ever gives a straight answer to that question.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Bowser's grand scheme is to set of a bunch of Hair Driers at the South Pole, melting all the polar ice caps and flooding the world.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Mario is missing, after all. It's the only thing that makes sense about this game.
  • Excuse Plot: The whole robbed cities part of the story isn't even mentioned in the PC version's opening, and references to it elsewhere are only found in newspapers and Mario's calls (Bowser did it to raise the funds for all the hair driers). Exactly why you have to put everything back in order is never really said. Luigi's just a nice person that way.
  • Exposition Fairy: In the PC version, Mario himself can call Luigi with his videophone to give insight on what Bowser's up to back at the castle.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • The Super Nintendo game had Bowser shatter after being cracked in ice. The PC version had his kids get burned alive. Considering their other appearances, it's not much of a surprise. What is surprising the fact that Larry outright tells Luigi that's how he can kill them.
    • The best ending to the sequel, Mario's Time Machine, is arguably just as cruel. Bowser is repeatedly stomped on by a giant dinosaur until he's nothing more than a flattened pile of mush. The PC version adds a bit of humour by implying he was stomped into a frisbee, as a raptor picks him up and throws him into the distance. Nevertheless, the best ending to the SNES ending makes you wish Bowser got the bad ending instead, where he uses his time machine to go off to a tropical island and relax.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Koopas and Luigi travel across the world using a machine found in Bowser's castle called the "PORTALS", or "Passcode Operated Remote Transport And Larceny System".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The San Francisco cable car prominently has an advertisement banner with the slogan "GET BENT" written on it.
  • Global Currency: Returning an artifact will get Luigi a monetary reward in U.S. dollars no matter what country he happens to be in.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Bowser.
  • Harmless Villain:
    • The Koopalings, who don't even try to attack you in any of the games, even after telling you their one weakness!
    • Bowser himself is completely harmless in the NES version and a Cutscene Boss in the other versions.
  • Head Swap: The SNES version has all the Koopalings share the same exact body.
  • Heroic Mime: A bizarre subversion on this. Mario and Luigi both have a lot of dialogue for the opening, but after that, Luigi proceeds to never utter another word for the rest of the game. Mario, on the other hand and quite ironically considering he's, you know, missing, has quite a bit more voice lines throughout the game for whenever he calls you on the videophone.
  • Idiot Ball: There are quite a few moments:
    • In the NES game, Mario notices Bowser and a sack with his name on it, but doesn't think to run.
    • In the PC game, he eats the food Bowser offers him, which makes him lower his guard enough to get ensnared in a net.
    • Also in the PC game, Larry Koopa, who is known in the cartoons for being a manipulative, conniving cheater, (heck, it's in his name) tells Luigi his and his siblings' weakness. Take a wild guess what it is.
    • Back to the SNES version. In the end, Bowser jumps between Mario and Luigi after the latter frees the former. He doesn't attack; he just sits there and watches as Luigi flips a switch and drops him into a cannon. This ends up costing him his life. As we all know, however...
  • Impossible Thief: In addition to stealing Mario, the Koopas go around stealing from national landmarks, which Luigi has to retrieve in order to complete each level. What they've stolen varies. Sometimes they steal something really huge, but other times you'd think they'd be able to get by just fine without. (Just a single brick from the Wall of China and you're closing it down?)
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: The exits back to Bowser's Castle are blocked off by a Pokey. The player has to figure out where in the world they actually are in order to get Yoshi to come and eat the Pokey so they can leave the stage. A bit understandable, as Luigi has no power-ups to dispose of the Pokey with.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Averted. The whole reason Bowser's even doing the landmark stealing to get the cash to fund his latest plan. The exchange rate to Earth currency for coins that float in the air and are hidden in blocks must be terrible.
  • Only Six Faces: There are specific types of people in each city, who give different types of answers to your questions.
  • Painting the Medium: In all versions of the game, Mario notices the title of the game, and does a double take as if to say "'Mario Is Missing'? But I'm not missing!" And then he goes missing.
  • Palette Swap: The NES and SNES versions of the game continue the trend of having Mario and Luigi look exactly alike. Averted in the PC version, where Luigi has his comparatively taller and more lanky appearance that more closely resembles his official depiction.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: At one point, even with safe search on, an H-Game of the same name was featured on Google before the actual licensed game. Even more disturbingly, that means those searches were more relevant than the original game itself.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The NES game has "Pictures at an Exhibition" when viewing your collected items.
  • Punny Name: Many of the city mayors have one.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: In just one other way the game rides off the heels of it, the soundtrack borrows heavily from Super Mario World, with its Leitmotif getting a dozen variations. Hope you like it, because you will hear it a ton.
  • Rhymes on a Dime:
    • Iggy Koopa speaks in rhymes in the DOS version.
    • Luigi also indulges in this a bit in some dialogue cut from the ending.
    • Most of your questions are answered in the form of a rhyme.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Luigi is asked who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the PC and SNES versions, the choices are Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Splinter. The Irate Gamer admitted this was probably the most amusing thing in the game.
    • One of the mayors when entering the city tries to offer a reward when begging to fix the landmarks. Some of the rewards he suggests are Gauntlet II, Chessmaster, and Miracle Piano. Fittingly enough, the latter two properties were also made by The Software Toolworks.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: Certain details and developments of the plot can only be found by reading newspapers or listening to Mario's calls.
  • Tempting Fate: In the PC version, once the brothers reach Bowser's castle, Luigi warns Mario to not take any candy from strangers. No less than a few seconds after Mario goes inside, a cutscene bubble shows Mario taking candy from Bowser and then gets captured by a net from underneath.
  • Totally Radical: The manual's plot summary is so ridiculously cheesy, it could have easily been punched up by Konami USA's localization team.
    With dough through his slimy scales, Bowser hoards hair dryers from the Hafta-Havit Hotline. His plot? Melt Antartica and flood the world! Whoa! Will the brave brothers from Brooklyn permit this abominable snow plan? The boys say "Not!"
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Alcatraz in San Francisco, the canals in Amsterdam, and the Statue of Liberty in New York City all can only be reached or left by taxi token. If you use your last token to get there, you're stuck.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Mario exclaims "Sewage!" during his first call on the videophone. Maybe it's one used among his fellow plumbers?
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: While each city's mayor acknowledges that a bunch of Koopa Troopas with stolen artifacts are running loose, the citizens don't seem to be bothered by the problem or the fact that there's sentient turtle-like beings roaming the streets. The PC version softens the blow slightly when a civilian, when asked, will tell you where the nearest Koopa is, but that is all you will get in terms of acknowledgement. And, as AVGN pointed out, the citizens of New York are not nonplussed about King Kong being abducted by the Koopas.
  • Verbal Tic: Mayor Griffeath of Dublin keeps saying "see", see.
  • Warp Whistle: The PC version allows you to travel to any location in the city you're in as long as you have taxi tokens to hail a cab. The SNES version uses the traditional warp pipes instead.
  • A Winner Is You: The credits roll starts with the highly rewarding phrase "Congratulations! You did it!"
  • Written-In Absence: Lemmy Koopa and Morton Koopa Jr. were the only ones not appearing in the PC game (though they were meant to appear). Only Lemmy's absence was explained: He wanted to play in the snow.
  • You All Look Familiar: Citizen NPCs only consist of a child, a tourist, a police officer, a scientist, and a teacher. No matter what part of the world you go to, everyone looks exactly the same and in the PC/DOS version, they also sound the same.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: The Koopalings in the Super Nintendo version (and Bowser in the NES version) are unable to harm you since the game lacks a health bar.

"...but they do have some spectacular hotels!"