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Video Game / Mario's Time Machine

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Mario's Time Machine is an educational game released for the PC in 1993 and Nintendo consoles later that year.

The premise is that Bowser has stolen valuable artifacts from throughout human history to display in a museum, and Mario infiltrates the museum to reclaim the artifacts and return them to their owners.

The game opens with players in Bowser's Museum, and they can pick up one of five artifacts to return. After figuring out the time and place it was stolen from, players play a surfing minigame to time travel — assuming they set their coordinates properly, they will arrive at their destination, otherwise they return to Bowser's Museum. The player must then fill out a fact sheet detailing the importance of the item and its owner, by filling in blanks in the document with dates, names, locations, etc. They can learn these facts by going around town and talking to people. Once the fact sheet is filled out, they can return it to its proper owner.

The NES game, despite an identical premise, plays out a bit differently. Mario rides Yoshi to Bowser's museum, and Bowser captures Yoshi when he runs inside alone. Mario explores the museum, where doors open to different time machines, and beats up Bowser's minions to reclaim an item they stole and then return it to its proper place. The player just has to physically return the item, no fact sheet necessary, though information blocks in the areas give you trivia about the time period.

Compare Mario Is Missing!, which has a similar educational premise involving geography.

Relevant tropes:

  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: In the NES version, one of the places Mario visits is the Moon; he is just fine. The game even lets you know "don't bother holding your breath, this place has no atmosphere." Oddly, the Koopas and NPCs are wearing space helmets, but not spacesuits.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Bowser's theft of various artifacts throughout history may lead to timeline divergences. Resulting in potentially terrible consequences for human civilization and, perhaps, the planet itself.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: In the game's good endings, Bowser is stomped into a disc by a T-Rex in the dinosaur era. In the PC version, a velociraptor then picks him up and uses him as a frisbee.
  • Developer's Room: In the PC version, one of the artifacts stolen is a prototype of this very game. Mario has to return it to the developers' office in Novato, California during its development in 1993.
  • Dialogue Tree: Players use them when talking to NPCs.
  • Edutainment Game: One that purports to teach kids about history.
  • Excuse Plot:
    • In the NES version, the player is forced to return the historical artifacts before they can go deeper into Bowser's castle and save Yoshi. Then before you're allowed to enter Bowser's throne room, you have to answer a quiz.
    • In the SNES version, you can't just return the artifacts to their owners once you arrive in the past, you have to complete the fact sheet first. There is no given reason for why the player must do this, but somehow once they do, now Mario can return the artifact. While one could Hand Wave this as Mario using the fact sheet to be absolutely sure he is returning the artifact to the right person, often showing the artifact to others in the past will have them directly tell you who it belongs to and where they are, but you still need to fill out the fact sheet.
  • For the Evulz: Bowser has used a time machine to steal artifacts from history just to display them in a museum.
  • Goomba Stomp: In the NES version, Mario's trademark attack somehow works on Bowser when it usually doesn't in other games.
  • Guide Dang It!: You have to return the artifacts on each floor in the same order as they are displayed; if you don't, you get a Downer Ending.
  • In Name Only: Mario is Missing at least included Mario enemies, had a couple boss fights, and its graphics were taken from Super Mario World for the characters and the maps. The SNES version reuses Mario's Super Mario World sprite but otherwise the SNES and PC versions have nothing to do with Mario in any way. You could replace Mario and Bowser's sprites with Link and Ganon and you'd have to change nothing but the names in the opening text crawl. Curiously, the NES version does use many more Mario assets and enemies; it's the Super NES and PC versions that skimps.
  • Multiple Endings: Three of them.
    • If Mario takes too long to return the artifacts, Bowser activates the time machine and goes to Paradise, a tropical island, where he then taunts you.
    • If Mario returns the artifacts in time, but in the wrong order, Bowser activates the time machine, the time machine overloads and sends Bowser to prehistory, but he decides to taunt you anyway.
    • If Mario returns the artifacts in time and in the right order, Bowser is sent to prehistory and gets stomped on by a T. rex. The PC version also has a Velociraptor throw him off into the horizon like a frisbee.
  • Never Trust a Title: Not that it affects anything, but the time machine is actually Bowser's, Mario uses it when he sneaks into Bowser's castle.
  • Squashed Flat: In the good endings to the SNES and PC versions, Bowser gets stepped on by a Tyrannosaurus rex, leaving him like this. The latter case has a velociraptor tossing him into the horizon like a frisbee.
  • A Winner Is You: The NES version ends with Mario freeing Yoshi, and the two posing on a "YOU WIN" screen while Bowser cries to the side.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: Bowser in the NES version. He is unable to damage you.