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Super Mario 64 was pretty much the first great 3D platform game ever developed. Revolutionary in its design and its controls it ushered in an era of 3D games to the mainstream that further established Mario as the top mascot of the video game industry. I remember it like it was yesterday. Playing the game for the very first time and introducing myself to the world and visuals that threw my adolescent mind into bliss. But the game was also known for another big stepping stone. It was the first Nintendo game to have Charles Martinet voice Mario. Only, it wasn't the first. The first game to actually feature Mario's voice was a game that was produced by Interplay Entertainment in 1995 for the PC, the same company that was responsible for Fallout, and it was called Mario’s Game Gallery. This game was the first game to actually feature Charles Martinet voice acting as Mario.
Released a year before Super Mario 64, Mario's Game Gallery is a collection of five games, checkers, go fish, dominoes, backgammon and yacht — which for the uninitiated is pretty much Yahtzee. Unlike the majority of other entries in the Mario franchise Nintendo didn't develop this one. While Mario had made appearances in games that were made by third parties this one stood out for Martinet’s voice work. So why hasn't this game been talked about much over the years? Well it's because it's bad.
It's easy to look back at older games and demonize them for not being as good as newer titles that have had the benefit of years of advancements in game design and technology. But even for the time Mario's Game Gallery offered very little. While it's not a terrible selection of games it doesn't offer anything truly interesting. The gameplay is pretty basic with a sparse interface, simple and non-interactive training and very uninteresting visuals. While Interplay’s own Battle Chess series was an audio visual feast of animations and music Mario's Game Gallery offers a bare bones experience. There isn't even an option to increase or decrease the difficulty. All the games in the gallery offer little in the way of visuals or animations with the majority of games being played on a desk that looked like my uncle's poker table that it keeps in his garage. Every game in the collection is as simple as they come and that's probably why nobody really talks about it anymore. Had it not been for the voice work this game would have faded into obscurity but even the voice work is a little strange. The audio quality is actually really high but the dialogue is repetitive and it becomes a problem when coupled with Mario's lack of ability to speak English all that well. It really starts to grind on your nerves. Plus he will kick your ass again and again and again and he's sickingly sweet about it.
The game saw a re-release in 1997 under the title Mario's Fundamentals but let me make this clear, despite its branding it's not an educational game. And you're probably wondering if it's worth a play. Well no it's not. If you want to play any of the games in the gallery there are other far better examples of these game types from different developers of the time and if you take into consideration the games that have been developed now well this title is pretty much useless. This game should be remembered for one thing — giving a voice to a character that most of us grew up with. And despite its shortcomings it will always have that. It will continue to be a footnote in the history books.