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The Bitereon Collection: 10 – ‘Mario Paint’ (SNES, 1992)

Mario Paint 1

The Bitereon Collection is a series on Default Prime that seeks to catalog the most important, interesting, and entertaining video games out there.  These are the games you should be playing, whether you know it or not.  These are the games that define the people who make them.  These are the games that define the people who play them.  These are the games that define video games as an art form.  Once a week, a new game will be inducted into the collection.

One quick look at Mario Paint and one might be tempted to make the assumption that it’s nothing more than a Super Nintendo port of MS Paint with Mario’s happy face plastered all over it. Well, that’s where you’d be wrong. Mario Paint actually had almost nothing to do with Mario and served as a bizarre artistic tool by Nintendo. The game could’ve easily been its own system or PC application, but Nintendo decided to prove how creative they could be by giving us a fully functional painting application on a single cartridge. You could draw pictures, color pre-drawn illustrations, make your own animated shorts and so much more. But how could you possibly do this on a controller without everything consisting of 90 and 45 degree lines? Well, you couldn’t, you had to use the SNES mouse.

This nifty little tool was just like any mid-90’s mouse, except it plugged right into your Super Nintendo. This allowed you to control the game with the exact precision you would need to make whatever pretty pictures were in your mind. You could use paintbrushes, paintbuckets, spray paint, textures, and stamps to make any image you want. The stamps were simply sprites that you could sprinkle across the screen ranging from generic 16-bit cars and pets to Mario mushrooms and tiny Yoshis. You could also use all these tools in any animations you made, too.

Mario Paint 2 600x334 The Bitereon Collection: 10   Mario Paint (SNES, 1992)

You want to color Mario? Go for it. Wanna make him any color but his iconic red? You can do that too! Fight the power!

The official Nintendo strategy guide for the game actually didn’t give any real “strategy” for the game (after all, what is there to master?), but rather gave you little tips to help you get the most out of Mario Paint. As the years went on, it became clear that many artists were certainly pushing this game to the limit—but more on that a little later.

There was also a tiny fly swatting game you could play to kill time when you didn’t feel like drawing (or you just weren’t good at it). In the game, you control a hand armed with a small blue flyswatter. By clicking, you could kill the bugs flying around the screen that were attempting to give your hand a good stinging/biting. Every now and then a giant bug would show up that you’d have to smack a couple of times to take it down. It actually was not unlike a shoot-em-up, and the game remains immortalized to this day as a microgame in the original Wario Ware.

By far, the most easily remembered feature of the game to this day is the music-making mini-game. The game presented you with a basic music staff in addition to some features to tweak things like tempo and looping settings. Instead of notes, however, you placed those stamps around the stafflines. When you hit play, each stamp would produce a different noise—a heart provided a bass pluck, a cat offered up a tiny meow and the Yoshi stamp would make… that Yoshi noise. Most players would probably manage to make a simple tune or a random amalgamation of assorted sounds, but there were some musically inclined types who managed to make full suites using the game. This practice still continues today with a simplified app that emulates the music-making program, but it still lacks the impressive “oomf” that the actual game offered.

Mario Paint 3 600x351 The Bitereon Collection: 10   Mario Paint (SNES, 1992)

Some of the things people are doing with the music program to this day are insanely impressive. One quick YouTube search will illustrate my point.

Mario Paint still stands the test of time as the textbook example of the sheer creativity of Nintendo in what many consider the Golden Age of gaming. We not only got a paint application we could use on our Super Nintendo, but it also had a ton of features which paralleled the other cult classic image application Kid Pix Studio. And the other features guaranteed that you were getting your money’s worth with extra games and features. There is an entire underground internet culture devoted to remaking classic tunes (both gaming and non-gaming related) using the music program included (or the aforementioned standalone PC program). There also has been a smaller community devoted to crafting intricate animations using the animating feature. One of the most famous animations would go on to become internet sensation Homestar Runner—no doubt that some aspiring artists and animators may have gotten their start on Mario Paint. Another of the most impressive products has been the bizarre indie-film project Oly Paint, a compilation of various bizarre Mario Paint animations that were both created and recorded by hand using the game and an old-school VCR. The short film is by far one of the strangest and most poignant things I’ve ever seen and is the true testament to the potential of Mario Paint.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jed-BMD3aFg]

If you want to seek out a copy of Mario Paint, this endeavor varies in its level of difficulty based on how you go about it. Copies of the actual Mario Paint game are quite common and go for about $5-10… but don’t forget that you need that mouse to play it. The bundle can be found around for about $20-30, perhaps less if your local gameshop is nice. But a quick search on the internet yields SNES mice for about $10-15, so you can easily just assemble the package yourself if you’d like. The game is not available on the Virtual Console, nor have there been any ports, so the original SNES version is your only way to go. Though, if you really are desperate, there are many emulators that allow you to emulate the SNES mouse and it should work fine with any… backups you might have lying around.

Many people have been clamoring for some sort of return to Mario Paint, especially with the advent of the Nintendo DS and the accessibility of user-created content on the internet. We came a bit close with things such as LitteBigPlanet and the upcoming WiiU (if that thing doesn’t have a native Mario Paint app, heads will roll), but nothing has quite reached the iconic, legendary, and inspiring status of the original Mario Paint.

Past Entries

09: Sam & Max Season Two
08: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
07: Parappa the Rapper
06: Gunstar Heroes
05: ActRaiser
04: World of Goo
03: Rhythm Tengoku
02: Bionic Commando (1988)
01: LSD 

John-Charles is an avid video game enthusiast who loves games with strong story, smart design, and a lick of fun. He's very hopeful for the future where others are doubtful and looks back on retro games with fond memories. With a long history with games, both old and new, he tends to Defaullt Prime's veritable museum of games, The Bitereon Collection, with a new entry every week. He's also a studying engineer turned communications with an eye for design. He also thinks cartoons are neat.
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