Try a new spin on a platform classic. With Mario-style sidescrolling, cartoon-style graphics and music any gamer should find familiar, the open source Secret Maryo Chronicles is a worthwhile diversion for any computer owner. Even better, you can easily create your own Maryo levels.
The name “Secret Maryo Chronicles” isn’t subtle, but neither is the game itself. Everything about this project screams “fan-made Mario clone”. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing – to this day Mario’s 8- and 16-bit games remain hallmarks of the sidescrolling genre. And unlike other fan games, Secret Maryo Chronicles doesn’t cling to nostalgia for its sake – you’ll find no pixel art here. The game has its own vector-based visual style that kind of feels like an interactive version of a fan’s drawings. It’s jarring at first, but ultimately charming.
Visual differences aside, however, you’ll find most the gameplay elements you love from Mario. Question boxes to open with your head, Goombas to squish with your feet and mushrooms that inexplicably cause you to grow twice your size – all as you jump over pits and obstacles in an attempt to move from left to right. Get your side scrolling on, free of charge.
Playing Secret Maryo Chronicles
So, what’s playing Secret Maryo Chronicles like? Before I attempt to put that into words, check out this video of me playing the game. You’ll get a pretty good idea of what to expect:
How is it? If you couldn’t tell from the video, it’s fun. If you like Mario games you’ll enjoy yourself. Asking it to stack up to an offering from Nintendo is unfair, but how does the game play on its own? Well, let’s break it down.
If there’s one thing that made Super Mario Bros. stand out from the competition, it was the controls. To this day it’s rare to find a game that feels responsive in quite the way a Mario game does – you just know what to expect from each button tap.
The controls in Secret Maryo Chronicles are good, but don’t quite replicate the high standard set by Mario. There’s a certain smoothness to the controls that’s subtly different than any Mario game. The result, if you’re anything like me, is something akin to playing an ice level – you’ll find yourself slipping into things you’d usually avoid.
Of course, this is just my opinion – some may actually prefer these controls. And I couldn’t get my joystick to work with the game, which is too bad: it might have helped.
How does the game look? In a word, odd. Certain things are well-realized, and other things look like they were drawn by children. A wide variety of graphic artists contributed to the game, and it shows: there’s a varying level of quality. This map says more than I could.
Ignore the occasional weak point, however, and the art in this game has a certain charm to it. As I said earlier: you won’t find pixels here. All the graphics are fully-realized vectors, with the artists generally aiming for a cartoony feel. At it’s very best, it works. The game feels fun.
It’s not a Mario game without powerups, and Secret Maryo Chronicles lives up to this. The base powerup, as always, is the mushroom, and naturally the fire flower is the first power-up you’ll find. More recent powerups, like the ice mushroom, also make an appearance, and a ghost mushroom allows you to remain unnoticed by enemies (they can still hurt you, though).
You heard the music in the video – it’s a collection of arrangements from classic Mario games. The arrangements don’t always fit well together – the music after dying seemed particularly out of place – but there’s a lot of charm to these fan covers of classics most gamers know well.
Note that there are several music packs for the game out there – I’m commenting here on those included by default in the Mac OS X version.
Don’t like the way a particular level is designed? You can fix it. Just press “F8” at any time and the in-game editor will come up. You can even insert your own graphics, if you want:
Edit the existing levels all you want, or try creating your own. Try it out for yourself. Read more about the stage editor, if you’re curious.
Download Secret Maryo Chronicles
Ready to try this game out? Linux users should check their package manager, because it (and the optional music packs) are almost certainly in their repositories.
Everyone else should head to SecretMaryo.org, where you’ll find downloads for Windows and Mac computers. You’ll also find instructions for various Linux distros.
Other Free Mario Games
Want more free Mario action? Check out these games:
- Super Mario Bros. X just might be the most faithful fan-made Mario game on earth. It’s been taken off the web officially, but it’s not hard to dig up.
- Super Mario War, which offers 4-player multiplayer. It’s a side scroll brawl – jump on your buddy’s head to win. It even works on a jailbroken Wii.
- Super Mario Crossover allows you to play the original Super Mario Bros as Link, Samus and other classic characters. It works better than it sounds.
- Mari0 mashes up Mario and Portal. Recommended weirdness.
Want to learn more about Mario? Read about the Mario’s history, dating back to Donkey Kong. And please, let me know what you think about Secret Maryo Chronicles in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.