6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

Imagine an alternate reality where Mario is packing heat, Link looks like Wolverine and Halo games are all about strategy instead of shooting aliens in the face.
6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

Imagine an alternate reality where Mario is packing heat, Link looks like Wolverine and Halo games are all about strategy instead of shooting aliens in the face.

All those things were close to happening but were changed at some point, for better or for worse. You be the judge.

Super Mario Bros. Was Almost a Shooting Game


The Game We Know:

If there's one thing Mario does well, it's stomping on shit. Even in his early games, jumping on or over things was always, well, pretty much the only thing he did. But that wasn't always the plan for our dear red-shirted plumber when he got his big NES debut.


Mario showed us how to cut corners. In honor of that, we're not writing a punchline.

But It Was Almost:

Mario was going to shoot the shit out of his enemies. Seriously. In some early design documents and test versions of Super Mario Bros., Mario was going to carry guns.

Oh, and he would also be able to punch and kick his enemies when he was empty-handed. Instead of stomping enemies' heads, he was gonna stomp their asses.

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Turns out those Russian bootlegs had it right all along.

And yes, we said "guns," as in more than one: Mario was going to carry a "beam gun," which sounds kind of like what Samus uses in the Metroid games, but then he would also have a freaking rifle. Instead of fireballs, Mario was gonna roll like a gangster and spit out bullets.

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

"Is he ... is he whistling 'The Farmer in the Dell'?"

Some levels would even have Mario riding on a cloud and firing at enemies in what sounds a lot like the Mushroom Kingdom's version of a drive-by. Earlier in development, he was going to be "flying on a rocket," but clearly a cloud made more sense in that context.

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Sweet revenge on that goddamn Lakitu.

Even the classic control scheme would have been different: Mario would jump by hitting the up arrow on the control pad, leaving the "A" button for attacks. All this changed when Nintendo decided to focus more on the jumping (and stomping) aspect, but some elements of these insane early versions did end up in the finished game. The guns became fire flowers, the cloud drive-bys eventually turned into bonus coin stages and Mario finally gained the ability to punch and kick enemies in Super Mario 64. Rifles can't be that far behind. After all, we got Super Mario Sunshine's water cannon ...


He can waterboard 50 Koopa Troopas a minute with this thing.

While it's probably for the best that they simplified the game, we can't help but wonder what a game starring a gritty, badass Mario would be like. He could even roam around an alternate world New York, with realistic Goombas and Koopas and ...

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

Oh wait.

Mortal Kombat Was Almost Jean-Claude Van Damme: The Game

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

The Game We Know:

It really speaks for a game's content when punching the head off your opponent is considered tame in comparison to the rest of the shit you can do. But Mortal Kombat isn't just about the mindless violence -- OK, it's mainly about the mindless violence, but there were other things that set it apart from all other fighting games of its time. Like its rich mythology, dark sense of humor and extremely realistic graphics.


This is exactly what blood looks like when you drink nothing but Pepsi and "Pixy Stix tea."

But It Was Almost:

A game about Jean-Claude Van Damme. Seriously. Mortal Kombat was originally conceived as a vehicle for Van Damme in which he would fight a selection of digitized opponents -- like Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu with better graphics. However, the license to use Van Damme's name and likeness was apparently too expensive for Midway Games at the time ... so they started calling him "Johnny Cage."


"If we add a 15 percent Nicolas Cage to his face no one will notice."

Small snippets of Van Damme still remain in the game: Johnny Cage is modeled after Van Damme in the movie Bloodsport, including his signature shorts and, of course, that double groin punch.

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

It's called a double groin punch because it involves slamming his own against the floor.

However, not having to center the game on Van Damme also meant they were free to go crazy with the characters and the settings -- they kept the photorealistic look that presumably would have reminded people of a Van Damme movie, but used it to feature undead ninjas, lightning gods and cyborgs. There's also a pretty big chance that if the game had been associated with a Hollywood star, they might have been forced to tone down some of the most outrageous examples of violence to avoid controversy, or at least to avoid Van Damme having his spine ripped out of his body. So in addition to some pretty hilarious viral videos, you can probably thank Van Damme's ridiculous ego for the existence of fatalities.

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

This is how many careers in medical school got started.

So basically, the creation of one of the most influential games ever was governed by the fact that the company didn't want to spend a lot of money on it. This might explain why the controls were so simple (forcing developers to focus on special moves to differentiate the characters) and also why they reused the exact same character model for Sub-Zero and Scorpion, only changing the color.


The beginning of a noble tradition.

Mortal Kombat turned out to be a major arcade hit and went on to have one of the biggest console game launches of all time. And it could have all been lost if Van Damme was willing to sell out for less money.

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

He was waiting for a bigger fish, apparently.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Was Almost a First-Person Shooter

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

The Game We Know:

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is often lauded as one of the best games of the Zelda series (or any series), with its innovative and much copied target-based gameplay system and a story that borrowed the best elements of all its predecessors -- except maybe Zelda II, because that one sucked. Zelda II had that side-scrolling stuff going on and had a bunch of boring RPG elements thrown in. It was not very Zelda-like at all.

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Yes you are, Zelda II.

But It Was Almost:

Originally, Ocarina of Time was going to be played mainly from a first-person perspective, like a shooting game but without the shooting (presumably). That means the over-the-shoulder lock-on mode the game was known for would have been completely absent. Also, whenever an enemy approached, the screen would switch to a side-scroller -- we're thinking this would have ended up looking like a combination of Wolfenstein 3D and Zelda II. In fact, some of the developers initially set out to remake Zelda II instead of creating a whole new story that didn't suck. In fact, thanks to Radix on the TIGForums, we have an idea what this may look like:

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Needs more swastikas.

However, the developers changed their minds when they realized that if they went ahead with the FPS format, that meant that for most of the game, you wouldn't be able to see the Link model they'd spent so much time on. And speaking of Link, he was initially meant to be an adult the whole game and had a "distinctive" button nose and sideburns.

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

Link gets closer to Wolverine with each update.

That also got dropped when a developer's wife said Link wasn't handsome enough. Link looks like he does today because one Japanese woman happened to find him a little unattractive. Exactly how many bullets did they dodge while making this game?

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

Hey, listen! It wasn't enough!

As for the lock-on targeting system, that came up because they were initially interested in featuring one-on-one sword fights. So instead of two backflips, throw the boomerang and then a jumping slash, it was more like fencing, with parries and dodges and stuff. That turned out to be too complicated, so they simplified things and added the targeting system that every other game would go on to copy.


Ocarina's enduring legacy. That, and grown men in pantyhose.

Super Mario Bros. 2 Wasn't a Mario Game


The Game We Know:

Remember when we said that Mario should stick to stomping on things? Well, Super Mario Bros. 2 is the best evidence of that. Much like Zelda II, Highlander 2 or Daniel Baldwin, Super Mario Bros. 2 was the baffling embarrassment of its series. It featured some pretty weird changes for a game that was already weird to begin with: Instead of stomping on Goombas, Mario was going around throwing vegetables at masked midgets. Instead of rescuing the princess, she was a playable character and could inexplicably float. They even skipped the iconic question blocks and replaced Bowser himself with a forgettable final boss that was never seen again.

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

We meet again, green ... frog ... thing!

Nintendo went back to the original formula in Super Mario Bros. 3, but the question is, why would they even change it in the first place?

But It Was Almost:

There's a reason for all the incongruities in Mario 2 -- it wasn't a Mario game at all.


Ha! Luigi's a woman!

The original Super Mario Bros. 2 released in Japan was essentially the same as the first game, only with much harder levels. When Nintendo of America realized that the game was way too difficult for Western audiences, they decided to do their own thing instead. And by "their own thing" we mean "rip off another Japanese game."

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

"America's feeble brains are not ready for a game of this mind-bending sophistication."

Doki Doki Panic was actually a promotional game starring some of Fuji TV's mascots helping two kids who get trapped in an old Arabic book. Nintendo simply swapped out those characters with characters from the Mario franchise and sold it as a Mario game. Invincibility stars, POW blocks and gold coins were already present in the game because Nintendo had just recycled those things in Doki Doki Panic in the first place. Other than the music, some changed icons and minor improvements in animation, the games were largely the same.

For example, the classic Mario turtle shell that you could dig out of the ground and throw at enemies was actually a replacement for the decapitated head of a, um ...

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

Japan, we need to talk.

That's also why the characters had special abilities they never had before. The princess could suddenly float because the character she was based on could float. The same goes for Luigi's tallness and Toad's speed -- those abilities are now part of the Mario canon, and they were all originally taken from a completely unrelated game. Also, several enemies from Doki Doki Panic stuck around in Mario games and continue showing up to this day, like the Shy Guys, Birdo and the Bob-Ombs.


The Japanese hate silent Bs.

While Doki Doki Panic had sold modestly in Japan, Super Mario Bros. 2 became a hit in the U.S. It was presumably at this point that Nintendo realized they could sell literally anything as long as the word "Mario" appeared on the cover. Oddly enough, the game was eventually translated back to Japanese and released as Super Mario USA.

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This led to a lot of misconceptions about what America looks like to Japanese children.

Halo Was Almost a Real-Time Strategy Game


The Game We Know:

Statistically speaking, Halo is the reason you owned an Xbox. With over 40 million copies sold worldwide, the Halo series is largely responsible for the huge rise in popularity of the shooter genre and competitive multiplayers in general, as well as launching Microsoft's Xbox as a serious contender in the console market. Whether you enjoy watching space marines shooting things or not, you have to admit that the gaming world would be completely different today if it weren't for that first Halo game.

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It wouldn't look all the same, for one.

But It Was Almost:

Halo is synonymous with the shoot-'em-up genre, but the original game, Halo: Combat Evolved, was intended to be a real-time strategy game, like StarCraft or Age of Empires. Also, it was being developed for Apple, not Microsoft -- as presented by Steve Jobs himself back in 1999:

Apple, the company that has only very recently introduced old school Grand Theft Auto games from the early 2000s into its gaming library, held the rights to one of the most profitable and well-known franchises ever known. Well, sort of. At that point, Halo was described as "a third-person action game," and before that, it was set in a "real time tactical 3D environment." For those unfamiliar with RTS games, they usually involve looking at the action from the perspective of some kind of God-like figure, controlling masses of your troops from above. So, the exact opposite of a shooting game.

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Playing a sociopathic god general really appealed to those of us without the reflexes for Halo or dodge ball.

As the game evolved, they decided to include some of the elements that are associated with the series today ... and some that aren't, like the ability to ride dinosaurs. Seriously, Halo was going to have roaming dinosaurs that you could tame and mount. We're guessing they ditched this part when someone in the development team finally got around to playing Super Mario World.

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

"I'm serious, it's even called Yoshi, just like ours! It's fucked, it's all fucked!"

The iconic look of the Halo games was still there -- just in its very early stages. It wasn't until Microsoft bought the developer Bungie (which understandably made Steve Jobs lose his shit) and gained Halo as their flagship Xbox title that the game finally became a first-person shooter. The widespread popularity of FPS games soon followed.

Then in 2009 Halo Wars came along: an actual Halo RTS game. A new revolution had hit town, and once again the face of gaming was changed.

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

Just kidding, we barely remember it.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Was Almost a Rhythm Game


The Game We Know:

Watching Batman movies and reading Batman comics is great and all, but if you really want to feel like you are the Dark Knight, playing Arkham Asylum is probably as close as you can get without becoming a billionaire and having your parents murdered. What makes the game so great is that it features all the elements of being Batman: detective work, awesome gadgets, martial artistry, chasing crazy people, wearing your underpants on the outside, and so on.

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Don't pretend you don't do "the voice" while you're playing it.

But It Was Almost:

On the other hand, here are some things that are not very Batman-like at all: Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, getting jiggy with it. That's why it's so baffling to think that Arkham Asylum started off as a "rhythm action game."

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

"I'm going to express my sadness and anger at your deeds in a medium fit for all ages."

Early versions of the game were apparently a lot more colorful and upbeat from what we know. According to the developers, whenever you got into a fight the screen would switch to 2D, and from there the rhythm game would take over, involving "colored circles bashing into each other," like the notes in Rock Band or something. The idea was that the fight would unfold depending on how well you hit those notes.

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

"Is that 'Nevermind' again? Seriously, asshole, learn another song."

This wasn't a crazy idea that they joked about and tossed right away -- at a different stage in development, they even considered making Arkham Asylum a "full on rhythm action game." The game's director Sefton Hill puts it like this: "We went off in some slightly crazy directions to begin with. In fact, one of the earliest versions was like a rhythm action game and saw you judging when to hit the 'notes' (i.e. punches), which was an interesting idea but never really worked."

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

Maybe because you'd be dressed as the goddamn Batman, which is way too restrictive in the groin area.

As bizarre as that seems, he also points out that the final game isn't that different from this version: "When you're fighting enemies there's a kind of rhythm to it. I'm a big kung-fu fan and when you watch the fights in those films there's a lovely natural rhythm to it. That's something we wanted you to feel when you were playing Batman; that you're in control at all times. We wanted it to look choreographed, but with you being directly responsible for every move and attack."

6 Baffling Early Prototypes of Your Favorite Video Games

Pirouette, punch, angst, neck break, press X to pretend you're a seed.

If you've played Arkham Asylum, you know this is true. It's all about timing your movements correctly -- pressing the punch button at precisely the end of the previous hit on an enemy, or the counter button whenever an enemy shoots electrical wires out of his head. The special combos in Arkham Asylum are basically like note combinations in Guitar Hero; the main difference is that you don't look like that much of a dork while playing it.

We do wonder what the soundtrack would have been like in this version. Here's a strong possibility:

You can find Steve's Twitter by clicking these words here. For more from Ashe, check out Weird Shit Blog and Film School Rejects. For more from Karl, check out his blog or find him on the Facebook.

For more drastic changes in direction, check out 6 Global Corporations Started by Their Founder's Shitty Luck and 7 Bizarre Early Versions of Famous Cartoon Characters.

And stop by LinkSTORM to see how Jack O'Brien was almost the CrackedTV host-droid.

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