The Game: Mario toils away on a construction site when his tools turn against him and start acting like, well, tools. Now Mario has to outfox his own tools and demolish the platforms around them – maybe taking the tools out in the process. He has his trusty hammer, and strategically placed bombs help to speed the process as well (but can be dangerous if Mario hangs around too close). Great care must be taken to demolish the structures in the correct order so access isn’t cut off to areas needed to finish the level. (Nintendo, 1985)
Memories: Possibly the most obscure of Mario’s career detours, this game at least depicts Mario in the same job he was pursuing before Donkey Kong came along: as a construction worker of some kind, rather than a plumber. At its heart, though, Wrecking Crew is about blowing stuff up – in the right order – rather than building anything. It’s a neat puzzle game disguised as a platformer.
It was also one of the launch titles for the NES and a contemporary of Super Mario Bros., a fact that a lot of Mario afficionados seem to forget; Nintendo hasn’t forgotten, though. Wrecking Crew has been revived on the Wii virtual console, and even before that was available as a downloadable game on the Super Famicom (Japan’s equivalent to the SNES), included with a graphically updated version, Wrecking Crew ’98, which tried to shoehorn the gameplay of the original game into the Mushroom Kingdom setting that was now the setting of all Mario adventures. The original game was ported to the Game Boy Advance – again, in Japan only – as part of the Famicom Mini series celebrating classic NES games with new GBA ports.
Wrecking Crew also had a unique level-editing utility, somewhat similar to Lode Runner, that baffled NES users simply because, for all the effort that went into editing levels, they couldn’t be saved. (In Japan, there was an optional cassette drive that could be plugged into the Famicom for such features, but despite the North American NES including an “expansion port” on the bottom of each console, no such capability was ever made available to the English-speaking world, so budding Wrecking Crew level designers were at a dead end.)
It’s a beguiling little puzzle game in the best early NES tradition, but it’s one that Mario doesn’t put on his resume very often on this side of the Pacific.