Labor Day was this past Monday, and what better way to (belatedly) celebrate than with a look at a Mario game in which our plumber hero puts his nose to the grindstone and performs a little hard labor himself?
Wrecking Crew was released just months apart for the Famicom in Japan as well as the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States in 1985, making it one of the platform’s legendary “Black Box” games. It was designed by Yoshio Sakamoto, who would go on to greater fame (and infamy) for his work on franchises such as WarioWare, Kid Icarus, Tomodachi Life, Rhythm Heaven, and perhaps most notable of all, Metroid.
The title is something of a puzzle platformer (before that was really established as a term) in which the goal is to tear down all the various pieces of a building in each stage. Unbeknownst to many, this isn’t so much a cameo, but an early starring role for not only Mario, but Luigi as well in an alternating 2-player game. Attempting to thwart the brothers’ demolition job are Gotchawrenches that follow them around, running Eggplant Men, the usual rogue fireballs (similar to the ones in Mario Bros.), and perhaps most vexing of all, their own supervisor, Foreman Spike (who acted as the “evil double” years before Wario and Waluigi got in on the act). Of course, if one isn’t careful, the biggest threat to Mario and Luigi could be the players themselves — if you don’t plan your path of destruction carefully, you may not be able to reach everything and clear the stage!
Like a number of titles in the Black Box assortment, Wrecking Crew also allowed players the opportunity to construct their own skyscrapers for the Marios to tear down. Unfortunately, also like those other Black Box titles, the absence of the keyboard and Data Recorder accessories that were released only in Japan meant those same creations vanished into the digital ether once the power button on the Control Deck was shut off.
Mario’s time demolishing buildings would be referenced a few times over the years, though perhaps none more prominently than in the Super Smash Bros. series. In addition to a full Wrecking Crew stage (seen above), complete with appropriate tunes, the Golden Hammer and its accompanying theme also hails from this game.
Nintendo likes to roll Wrecking Crew out whenever it makes their catalog of older NES titles available — most of the time, anyway. While it has been available on the Virtual Console for the Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U, it did not make the cut for the 30 titles featured on the NES Classic Edition. That said, don’t be too surprised if it’s eventually revealed as a title for the upcoming Nintendo Switch Online service.
Oh, and the game also managed to get a sequel, but we’ll talk about that another time soon.