I recently went to a yard sale and found a SNES game with "ｽｰﾊﾟｰﾏﾘｵ4 SUPERMARIO4" written on it, right next to games such as Tekkon (a hacked Mortal Kombat with Tekken characters) and Pokemon Crystal for the Master System. Since I haven't seen that particular game before, I asked what the game was about in case it turned out to be regular old Super Mario World with the copyright removed or something. The owner of the stand said he didn't know, but that I could have it for free with another purchase, so I ended up buying Sonic Jam 7 for $11. I only bought it because I really wanted Super Mario 4.
In case you wonder how I was going to play it, I own plenty of old consoles. Some of them are so obscure you can't find them on eBay most of the time, and if you do, they're starting at $1000. I used my Japanese Super Famicom (I'm going to refer to it as a SNES) to play Super Mario 4 in order to avoid it possibly messing up my more expensive European or modified-to-play-anything American SNES.
The first thing I saw was the title screen. "SUPER MARIO 4" in what looked like free hand writing and the paint bucket tool. The subtitle was スーパーマリオ4, again no mention of the brothers anywhere. I thought it was a modified Super Mario World until I saw the bottom of the screen: "(C) 1989 Nintendo". Copyright date one year before the SNES was even out? A joke? Someone trying to pass a cheap hack off as a prototype? This couldn't possibly be real.
I pressed Start and found myself on an early version of the world map that was mushroom-shaped. Mario floated around freely and I couldn't access any levels no matter where I pressed the A button, until I hit Select by accident and a set of numbers appeared on the screen, right above Mario. Up/Down to increase or decreased a hexadecimal value which changed the level (I'm going to refer to the levels in "regular" numbers, trust me, you'll see why). Level 0 sent me falling through the ground of a level that looked a bit like the first level of the final Super Mario World, but less colorful and with a gray background. I lost my single life and got a game over. That's when the game stopped, so I reset my SNES.
I chose level 1 next, and it was Yoshi's house. Or at least it was supposed to be Yoshi's house. It was completely beaten down. Also, I couldn't leave the level, so I had to reset. Level 2 was the same as level 0 but with collision data. No coins, items or enemies anywhere. After completing the level, nothing happened, Mario just walked through a black void like in Super Mario Bros 3. That started to annoy me. By playing the levels, resetting and choosing the next level, I got as far as level 13, which was the last level. Until then, all levels were either heavily edited levels from Super Mario Bros 3 or very early versions of Super Mario World levels. They all lacked enemies, coins or other extras and couldn't be completed though.
Level 13 was just a single screen. I was about to turn off my SNES, but as I moved closer to my TV I started to hear very quiet music playing. I turned up the volume to the max and didn't recognize the piece. However the music went on for over three minutes without looping, it was very elaborate for an original song that didn't make it into the final game. Once the song was over, it didn't loop, but instead the look of the level changed. Everything went darker. My eyes were fixated on the screen. A different song played, a sad piano melody. My hands weren't on the controller, but Mario walked slowly to the center of the screen. It was like a cutscene. He looked up and down and looked sadder than usual. Then, for the first time, text appeared on the screen: "マリオ「ぼくの しんだ あにの ために" I quickly went to Google translate on my computer and it said something about his brother being dead.
Luigi died? Suddenly the lack of a "Brothers" or a two player mode on the title screen made sense. But, why? And how did he die? Why did this suddenly happen? Everything felt so surreal. Then, Luigi spoke to Mario, but he was nowhere to be seen: "ルイージ「しかし てんごくに、 ぜんぶの ふあんは きえる" After his death, he wasn't afraid of anything anymore. I missed another few lines of the dialog due to slowly entering the hiragana into my computer, but I guess that was the gist of it anyway. Mario started to cry. A very detailed animation of tears running down his face and onto the ground could be seen. There was no sound.
By the time he stopped crying, the background was completely black and a new string of text appeared: "いっかげつご" One month later, we see almost everyone from the Mushroom Kingdom at a Japanese-style funeral. The detail in this scene was even more shocking. Everyone was animated and the rain looked and sounded realistic. The flowers surrounding the shrine seemed so real you could practically smell them.
Even Bowser and some other enemies were present. The text moved too fast for me to write anything down. I only got Toad's part: "キノピオ「それが おわりです・・・" Mario wasn't among the crowd, but this time the portrait of the deceased had changed. This was Mario's funeral. He had committed suicide after Luigi had died. This was probably supposed to be the final Super Mario game. At this point in time, Nintendo thought they could end the series on the Super Famicom and launch a new mascot on the SFC CD add-on. However, the business relationship ended on rather bad terms and Sony made the console all by themselves a few years later which caused Nintendo to rethink how they wanted the series to continue.
I forgot to turn the volume down which I regretted as soon as I heard voices. It sounded like a family arguing and the father was quick to resort to shouting. Later, a kid screamed and sounds of beatings could be heard. It scared me because it was so loud and seemed so real, like I was really there. Pictures started to pop up. They were tinted in a bloody red. Lots of pictures of what I guess was the family in the audio. The pictures turned more gruel as they showed the father beating his kids. Eventually they were bleeding all over. I couldn't watch it anymore. I finally grabbed my controller and pressed every button, but nothing happened. I reset the SNES, to no avail.
I wanted this level to end. After the painful slideshow, my name appeared in big red letters and that I would die. "なまえ：DAVID うんめい：しぼう"
I stared at this screen for an hour because I was so terrified that I couldn't move any part of my body. How did the game know my name? Why does it want me to die too? Suddenly the SNES turned itself off, as did the power in our house. I spent the rest of the night in my pitch black room thinking about what just happened. I didn't even care about Mario and Luigi anymore, I was wondering what would happen to me. The game wanted me dead.
I ended up falling asleep, but woke up after only half an hour. I couldn't find the game anywhere when I woke up. It was gone. I asked my mom, but she didn't even know I bought it. The yard sale was still going on, so I went back and asked the man about the game. He said he never had a game called Super Mario 4, but he remembered me buying Sonic Jam 7 yesterday and nothing else. When I came back, my dad was reading a newspaper. There was a huge picture of the yard sale.
It was taken yesterday, and I saw me, on my way home, holding a single game cartridge. I asked my parents about the power being out, and they said "The power was never out". My mom knew I was worried about something, so she gave me a book to read. It was very interesting, but then I got to a part about unlucky numbers. It mentioned that in the Japanese language, the number 4 sounds just like the word for death.