For this week’s “Mario Mania,” we’ve got something of a two-for-one special on that ever-popular sport, Tennis!
It’s no secret that Mario has starred in many a tennis game, from the simplistic Mario’s Tennis that was packed in with the Virtual Boy to the more recent release of Mario Tennis Aces for the Nintendo Switch. But long before stepping onto the court himself, our plumbing protagonist played another role in the game.
Unlike either version of Golf, Mario’s role in Tennis this launch title for the Game Boy was made clear right on the cover. Instead of taking up a racquet in hand, his ample rump is firmly seated in the chair umpire’s seat during the matches.
In the game, it’s no different. A nicely-rendered version of Mario watches as the ball bounces back and forth between Player 1 and either the CPU-controlled player, or a second player connected through the Game Link Cable. When a decision needs to be made, a close-up of his mustachioed mug is presented as he gives his call.
Altogether, it isn’t much, but for the complete Mario collector, it’s nonetheless another cameo to be added to the collection.
A related item is Tennis for the Nintendo Entertainment System, upon which the Game Boy title was based in part, if not in its entirety. The pixel art of Mario is different, more closely resembling a palette-swapped version of his appearance in Super Mario Bros. or Donkey Kong than the more cartoony aesthetic he’d have in later NES titles, but he nonetheless follows the action at home just as he does on the go, albeit without the close-ups.
Depending on how you choose to collect, the NES game may prove to be a slightly-easier addition to the collection, as Mario isn’t really featured on the front of the box, and only in screens on the back. As noted before, however, Mario’s featured prominently on the cover art for the Game Boy version, meaning that a particularly dedicated collector will probably want to track down a boxed copy as well as the cartridge.
Thanks to Game Boy Works for the cover art featured above.