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Video Game / (Mario) The Music Box

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"Ever heard of 'Curiosity Killed the Cat'?"

The colorful world of Super Mario Bros. is one where Mario and Co. venture off to engage in light-hearted and wacky shenanigans with friends and foes alike. This game, however, is none of those things mentioned above. This game is what happens when you take Mario out of the happy-go-lucky Mario Universe and throw him into a game the likes of Corpse Party, The Crooked Man, Mad Father, Misao, and The Witch's House.

(Mario) The Music Box is a fangame created by Team Ari (led by Creator Couple Jessica "CorpseSyndrome" Marcec and Chloe "ogniK" Marcec)invoked, starring Mario as he ventures out to an abandoned home that's been close to the Mushroom Kingdom for over a century. People have gone inside it before, but none have returned. Princess Peach was also supposed to come along for the ride to investigate, but Mario left her behind for her own safety. Soon after making it inside, the plumber comes across a quaint little music box that was playing by itself. Little did he know, the "harmless" music box would trap him inside the house and set off a series of events that would serve to utterly break and terrify him every step of the way while also trying to get him killed. As a horror/puzzle/survival game, it tests the player in a way where one little thing could lead to a nasty, Gorn-filled Game Over.

In 2016, a sequel, titled (Mario) The Music Box -ARC-, was released, which takes place during the "Missing" ending route of the original game. There, Mario continues his escape from the mansion, but finds out more about the history of the abandoned town it overlooks. When memories of his past begin to surface, Mario realizes that he may be more connected to the town and its history than he knew. Mario may choose to follow either the "Insane" or "Sane" path, depending on the first decision he makes. Both paths have a variety of endings depending on decisions made through the game. Later, the Wonderland DLC was released, serving as an extension to the original. A Remastered version of the original game was also released, with an addition of 4 new endings, and a Remastered version of ARC is undergoing development.

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This game contains examples of:

  • Art Evolution: As the series goes on, the art evolves, starting with the maps and then the lighting, and this is also shown with the images, especially with ARC's Wonderland update, released in the summer of 2019. For example, the images show more details, like Mario and Luigi having bloodshot eyes and often discolored skin when they die, they are seen sweating more noticeably when they are scared, the blood effect is more realistic and Mario's face graphics in the text boxes are updated in comparison to the old ones from the original 2015 game. A few of the male characters like Mario are also shown with visible eyelashes at times.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Alice, Riba, Marchionne, and Len are the primary threats throughout the games, with each part of the series focusing on a specific one:
    • In the original game, Alice Aduraice is the one behind the curse on the mansion keeping Mario trapped in, having killed all the residents beforehand, and wants to possess his body so she can become immortal and kill Riba. In ARC, she tries to assert control over his body and appears in Wonderland as the tyrannical Queen of Hearts. Though Riba himself turns out to be the demon who turned her into a witch in the first place.
    • In the Sane route of ARC, Riba Aduraice, the seemingly kind man who warped Alice into becoming a witch and killing her family, becomes the primary threat as he chases after Mario and Luigi, repeatedly trying to kill them, and is the Final Boss of the route.
    • In the Insane route of ARC, Marchionne Evangelisti, Mario's past self who led the witch hunts in the town of Evangeline, is the antagonist who controls the remains of the town and seeks to kill his reincarnation. He is also one of the antagonists in Wonderland as King Sündige Nacht, who still seeks to kill Mario to prevent him from repeating the endless cycle.
    • In the Continuance 4 ending and the Wonderland DLC, Len Alwena Foska, the Witch of Fate, is revealed to be the true mastermind who engineered everything as part of her experiment on humanity and takes over from that point onward. Her twin, Layla, appears in the remastered version of the original game as a minor character and Riba's "guardian angel".
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Jisatsu no Mori" translates into "Forest of Suicide". Riba's name also means "beautiful".
  • The Cameo: Princess Peach. She only makes a proper appearance near the end of the "Omitted Memory" ending route, and she's the only other Mario Universe character besides Mario and Luigi to make an appearance. This is especially egregious if you don't take the "Omitted Memory" ending route, because her only appearances would have been illusions and a spirit impersonating her who tries to inject poison into Mario. You can also hear what appears to be her on the phone with Mario (whether it's her is ambiguous).
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Many of the deaths, which sport lots of blood and gore with Mario and/or Luigi being gruesomely murdered.
  • Dark Fic: By a lot, since it's an Explorer Horror game openly inspired by Corpse Party. Outside of having a few Mario characters here and there, this game is nothing like the franchise. Disturbing visuals, evil spirits, lots of blood, gruesome and violent deaths, you name it.
  • Darkness Equals Death: Most of the mansion and town is dark, and wandering around carelessly results in deaths.
  • Downer Ending: Barring a few, most of the endings are entirely bleak.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: There are a sheer number of ways you can get a game over. There are some things that look like they may not kill you, some things that look like they are obviously going to kill you, and some things that are (in)active at certain points of the game with certain characters. Justified in that the mansion is cursed and filled with deadly spirits.
  • First-Person Perspective: A number of game overs treat the viewer to a lovely shot of whatever enemy is killing Mario and/or Luigi at the time.
  • Glamour Failure: Whenever someone's possessed, their eyes change color to that of the spirit possessing them.
  • Gorn: There are many ways the investigators of the mansion can die, and very few of them are quick and clean.
  • Have a Nice Death: Every time Mario, Luigi, or Riba dies, a cutscene plays where we see their death in detail.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: A heartbeat can be heard when something really intense happens, like a death.
  • Hell Is That Noise: A few spirits make some nightmarish sounds when they're on the prowl.
  • Hidden Eyes: Several villainous or otherwise threatening characters are usually portrayed without eyes.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Between Mario and Riba, especially in the ARC Expansion, when it's revealed Mario is the reincarnation of Marchionne, Riba's liege and ally. Riba recalls how orchestrating Marchionne's death was one of his biggest pleasures he ever felt. If Mario is kind to Riba, it results in the "Continueance" 3 and 4 endings, where Riba pulls a Heel–Face Turn and learns to care for Mario, becoming a true friend to him. Also, when Mario dies of an illness in the "Continuance 3" ending, Riba mourns him and comments how he came to care and love for Mario as much as he loved Elizabeth (his first wife)...
  • The Many Deaths of You: There are forty-seven different ways to get a game over in the original game alone. The ARC expansion bumps that number up to sixty-one.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: There are some deaths in which you never actually see what happens to Mario or Luigi.
  • Old, Dark House: The location that takes place, is an old abandoned giant mansion.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Spirits are said to mostly lack corporeal forms (even though most if not all spirits in the haunted house have a physical body), and angels are even mentioned once. Spirits that do have corporeal forms also tend to be hostile with few exceptions. Entities are mentioned (though they aren't given much explanation) and only two of them exist: Alice and Anna. The circumstances that allowed said characters to become entities are also different in nature.
  • Point of No Return:
    • The game gives you two informed instances of this after Luigi is reunited with Mario. Another less obvious one is when Mario and Luigi pull a lever and have to make it into the deeper parts of the mines before the time limit is up.
    • The same warning is given in ARC whenever you are about to make a significant choice. Since there are many endings, the message appears much more often.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: Frequently, Mario and Luigi will be drawn like this in response to some horrors of the mansion.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There are some spirits who you never find out about at any point in the story (and some of them are better off left alone for the playable cast's sake).
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: Many deaths for the Mario Bros. are in store. Some come out of nowhere with little warning. Some are the result of bad judgement. And then there's the ones that come with a lack of common sense, or for those who are actively trying to collect all the death scenes. Most of these give the player plenty of warning, most commonly in the form of one of the Bros getting a bad feeling about the decision the player is about to make.
    • The very first possible death sees Mario hiding in a crate from an unknown entity. Right after a creepy scream is heard, Mario has the option to immediately sneak a peek at the spirit. YouTuber Space Hamster puts it best.
      Jeff: Oh yeah, Mario, the first thing you do, the first thing when you hear a creepy scream is to come out of hiding. We all know that.
    • Having faith in Mario's ability to jump over a deep pit while it's raining might not sound stupid on paper, but he gives you two options to back out before committing.
    • Go ahead, sleep in a bed while avoiding murderous ghosts. That'll end well.
    • Yes, walking into the still-working freezer is a great idea.
    • You'd think Mario would have experience with avoiding getting trapped in books after Luigi's Mansion.
    • When presented with the option to run or sneak toward the exit to a blacked out room while playing as the younger brother, Luigi's most in-character option is also the dumbest.
    • A strange barrier is keeping you from passing through? Yeah, running into it over and over sounds like the best way to go about it.
    • Luigi has multiple deaths where he reaches for something in muddy water, and say out loud that it'd be in his best interest to not pick it up.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The spirits constantly sprout this, which gains a whole new level of subtext and Foreshadowing when The Witch of Fate appears.

    Original game and Remastered 
  • 100% Completion: In the original, getting all of the journal entries and taking the "Puppet" ending route will instead give you the true ending. In the remastered version, getting all of the journal entries will instead give you a secret cutscene after the credits.
  • Artifact of Doom: As spoiled by the website to download the game itself, the titular music box is this, but not necessarily on its own. We don't find out why until much later in the game. It's what kept Alice sealed inside of it until Mario broke the seal by touching it. It becomes Mario's prison during the "Omitted Memory" ending route, and it seals Alice away for good (and Mario whom she dragged with her) during the "Sealed" ending route. It apparently fails to seal Alice away during the "Puppet" ending route (which leads to Mario getting taken over) and the True Ending route "Better off Lost" (it's smashed by Mario to completely free Alice so that her pacified soul can finally pass on).
  • Battle in the Rain: This gets mixed with Rooftop Confrontation when Mario faces Alice for the last time in the "Omitted Memory" ending route. Somewhat enforced/justified in that Mario mentioned that it always rains in the area.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The first item Mario ever picks to enter the mansion, was an rusty crowbar in the fountain, that easily breaks and he deems it useless afterwards. It then shows that in the past, Riba killed someone with it, and proceeded to throw it into the same fountain Mario has found it afterwards.
  • Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: A recurring theme that is hammered into the heads of Mario and the player. The entire mess he is in started because he opened the titular music box, unleashing the evil within.
  • Death Trap: The mansion is littered with them.
  • Haunted House: The Aduraice Mansion, from where people are said to never return, serves as the main setting. It has a dark history and is cursed with spirits.
  • Leitmotif: Several remixed variations of the song Ensei (Yuki Kajiura being the original composer) make appearances throughout the game as the main theme. The title screen itself even has three different remixes of the song.
  • Multiple Endings: There's several ending routes that are available depending on where you go after Luigi joins your party. There are 4 new endings added in the remastered version, which can be obtained at certain other points in the game.note 
    • "Coward": After breaking into the mansion, Mario at first decides to look around for something to light his way. However, he has second thoughts and decides to just leave the mansion altogether and head home. Mario gets an ominous feeling about the place and decides for his sake that despite never knowing what events took place in the mansion, it's better he not find out what exactly.
      • "Cowardice": When Luigi is first playable, do exactly the same with the Coward ending to obtain this ending. Luigi, feeling the mansion's negative energy decides to leave, assuming Mario already left, being unaware of the events transpiring in the mansion. The fate of Mario, Alice, Riba and the rest of the spirits remain unknown.
    • "Omitted Memory": The ending route you're locked into if you go to the second floor from the former nursery room after Luigi joins the party. Luigi and Mario do manage to defeat Alice, wiping her out from existence (In the remastered, Alice is detached from her curse, with her being reborn as a baby), but as a result, her curse is left to spread. Mario, in an effort to save the Mushroom Kingdom from Alice's curse, takes it within himself — resulting in his being completely erased from existence and from everyone's memories (except Luigi's, until Mario wipes his memory too). In the remastered version, a secret scene after the credits shows the fate of Mario and Alice. They're both in a new reality Mario created, separate from the main one. Mario has spent the last few years raising Alice as her father, having grown fond of her. Alice has grown from a baby to a young child. Unfortunately, Mario can't stay in this reality forever. He must return to the mansion, otherwise the world he's in will crumble. One night, while the two are stargazing, Mario says his final goodbyes to Alice, stating that he will watch over her as well. Alice, now all alone, strives to be a strong independent woman when she grows up, for her Appa Mario.
    • "Missing": Mario and Luigi decide to leave the house through the front entrance (which was gone after Mario first touched the music box). Unfortunately, Mario is possessed by Alice and kills Luigi, before heading out to engage in another killing spree and start the ritual she started long ago. A newspaper details Luigi's death and how Mario had gone missing (In the remastered, the newspaper is removed and is then replaced with Luigi reaching out for Mario as he walks back to the mansion). ARC starts after this ending and Retcons some of its details.
    • "Comatose": Layla tells Luigi that there's a door that leads to outside of the mansion and all he needs to do is to get rid of Rosa and Alfred in order to do so. After freeing Rosa's spirit and getting the holy water, Luigi obtains the first half of the key. Rather than using the holy water to dispel Alice's spirit from Mario's body and continue through the Omitted Memory ending, he instead erases Alfred's spirit and obtains the second piece of the key, which unlocks the door. The two are finally able to leave, but at a costly price. Due to not using the holy water on Mario, he remains in a comatose state, not being able to move. His eyes also remain a glowing green, since Alice is still inside of him. Luigi desperately tries to find any sign of Mario being alive and that his condition will get better, to no avail. Luigi contemplates killing Mario and putting him out of his misery, immediately begging Mario's lifeless body for forgiveness for those thoughts. Mario remains in comatose, and whether he is ultimately put down or spends the rest of his life paralyzed remains unknown.
    • "Sealed": Mario and Luigi attempt to leave through the "Forest of Suicide" and continue into the mines. On this route, the player learns from Alice, Serina, and Riba the full truth of how Serina died, as well as the full story of how Riba was responsible for Alice's actions. Luigi ends up battling Alice and wins, but Alice takes Mario's soul with her as she's re-sealed. Luigi leaves the mansion and attempts to bring help, but he and Princess Peach's search party only find Mario's corpse in the mines.
    • "Puppet": Mario and Luigi go through the forest as before, but before going deeper into the mines, they discover a note from Alice detailing her descent into evil, which was caused by a combination of Riba's influence and Alice's terminal illness. They use this knowledge to pacify Anna's vengeful spirit, and she encourages Mario and Luigi to not let Alice take Mario's body. The rest of the sequence from "Sealed", including Alice's defeat, happens as before, except that Alice doesn't take Mario's soul with her and the brothers head home. Late in the night, however, Luigi discovers that Alice was able to escape and possess Mario anyway. In the remastered version, the note doesn't exist and you just have to find Anna and talk to her. After the final battle, the music box seals both halves of Mario and Alice's souls, while the other halves remain in Mario's body, resulting Mario to feel empty and become susceptible to Alice's control. Luigi awakens, only for Alice to kill him in cold blood. Alice goes on to puppeteer Mario's body, beginning her plan to purge the world.
    • "Tragedy": Riba manipulates Mario into being used for the ritual, stating that if he gives up his body for Alice, Riba will protect Luigi from her wrath. Mario agrees to make the sacrifice to save his brother. Meanwhile, Layla tells Luigi about the ritual currently happening and Luigi rushes to stop it. Riba suggest Luigi leave, letting the ritual take its course. Rather than choosing to stay and face off against Malice when the ritual is completed, Luigi chooses the coward's way out and walk away. Luigi, questioning his decision, wanders the caverns. Eventually, he stumbles upon the exit and heads back to the Mushroom Kingdom to get extra help and begin a rescue mission to save Mario, but it's too late. He discovers the sky is red and the landscape is ravaged in fire. Layla mocks Luigi for his cowardice, stating that he had caused the end of the world. Alice, puppeteering Mario's body, successfully spread her curse and plunged the world into apocalypse. Luigi is left in tears, devastated on what his choice cost the world.
    • "Better off Lost": All of the journal entries are required to see this ending in the original, while in the remastered, you only need to pacify Anna's and Serina's souls, as getting all journal entries results a secret cutscene at the end of the game. Everything's the same as the "Puppet" ending route, but when Mario and Luigi exit the mine, Alice's spirit confronts them a final time and is instead pacified by Mario. Rather than imprison her, he reassures her that she's no longer subject to Riba's will, promises to never tell anyone else about what they found in the mansion, and smashes the music box to set her free. Alice finally fades away and Mario and Luigi return home in peace, Mario burning his journal entries on the mansion to keep his promise. In the remastered version, everything's the same, except Anna and Serina's souls aid Luigi in sealing Alice's soul inside the music box; instead of a rainy night, it's now sunrise by the time the brothers exit the mines, and a new scene shows them making their way back to the Mushroom Kingdom. A secret cutscene plays after the credits if all journal entries are collected, which shows Riba celebrating his freedom now that Alice's curse is gone. Layla appears and taunts Riba, prompting him to chase after her. Riba gleefully hunts Layla down, stating the gory ways he'll kill her, only for him to stumble into a trap. Layla led Riba to the forgotten town of Evangeline, where the spirits of Marchionne, Luciano, Misery and the other residents and people he hurt are waiting, ready to torment him.
  • Nintendo Hard: Before the Smashing Survival was put in place, players used to have to press specific keys in a long string of them before time ran out. This method of survival is still available for players who want the challenge, though it was noted to be notoriously difficult.
  • Ominously Open Door: Downplayed in that whatever is behind any open door in the house you find (meaning any doors you find wide open) is dead. Such doors you can enter will both result in game overs.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Invoked by Riba in the only "funny" death scene in the game. In the scene where Mario, who is possessed by Alice, chases Riba, there are multiple options for where to hide from Alice after the player locks the door. One of the selectable options is a lamp. The screen cuts to black with Riba confident that his hiding place will work. After Alice breaks down the door, she (along with the player, most likely) is struck silent by how obvious Riba's hiding place is:...standing out in the open with a lampshade on his head. She pretend searches for a while and then jokingly tries to turn the lamp on so she can see better. We are treated to this lovely exchange before the game over screen.
    Alice: Oh where, oh where could he be? I can't see him anywhere. Hmm...let me turn on the light to see better.
    Riba: Uhh...(Beat)
    Alice: Nice try, Riba.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Certain areas will be blocked off for good after a certain point in the story, meaning you lose out on journal entries associated with the area or things you learn from them. This is especially frustrating because some rooms are not accessible all the time and the player may just forget about them by the time they are accessible. This was problematic in the original because the player needs all journal entries to see the True Ending. If you saved at a certain point, then your only hope of getting the True Ending is to start all over from the beginning. In the remastered, this is no longer a problem for players, as the True Ending is now considered a Good Ending, as getting all entries will give you a secret cutscene instead.
  • Timed Mission: This used to be how survival portions of the game were, and this constitutes about three game overs should you fail them.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Figuring out certain things to do, especially if the player is attempting to get all the journal entries, because of the frequency of rooms becoming accessible.

  • Adventures in Comaland: The bonus ending of ARC, only achieved without saving once, reveals that the whole game was All Just a Dream Mario had after getting into an accident while go-karting while being unconscious for a day; however, Len still appears and reveals she let him go because, since he got through without saving, she doesn't need him for her experiments anymore.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: During the test of Lust in ARC, the Aurora apparitions are naked, but none of the naughty bits are drawn.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Tragically, it turns out that the Evangeline Town witch hunts came about partly through an attempt to prevent them — Dorothy, after discovering her cousin Aurora was falling in love with the devoutly religious village heir Marchionne Evangelisti, tried to kill Marchionne and stop him from becoming a threat to the witches in the future, only for her attempt to fail and convince Marchionne that the witches were indeed a danger to the town's safety.
  • Sequel Hook: The "No Save Ending", which sets up the plot of a future installment, titled "Mario: The Pocket Watch."
  • Story Branch Favoritism: While the Sane Route would seem like the moral choice, it is the Insane Route that contains the bulk of the content — it has more branching paths and endings, allows you to fight all the bosses, gives more insight into the backstory, has the Church serve as a proper final area instead of just a place to fight the Final Boss, introduces the real Big Bad (Len), and is the route that both DLCs take place in.
  • Story Branching: The main gimmick of ARC is that it is split up into the Sane and Insane routes, depending on whether you choose to kill Princess Peach in the beginning, and while you will go through the same areas, the resulting content changes, with many branching paths and endings.
  • Success Through Insanity: If you pick the Insane route, Mario is far much tougher and durable; some traps or puzzles that normally net him a game over instantly in the Sane Route now instead prompts him to hold on till his last breath.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: In the Insane Route, in one of the Tests of Greed encountered in the Church, there are two rooms with chests filled with healing items, most likely to help the player against the Final Boss that soon follows. This example is unique for two reasons: first, you are actually required to collect all the healing items inside the bundle of chests to proceed; second, the player still has to traverse one more, somewhat lengthy test before they can fight the aforementioned final boss.