Wario stole the show in Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins for the Game Boy in 1992, and while he didn't really make a big splash on home consoles until appearing in Mario Kart 64 four years later, he did pop up in a few titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super NES prior to that. Most notably, he fills the antagonist role in 1993's Mario & Wario for the Super Famicom. Released exclusively in Japan and requiring the SFC mouse accessory, this Lemmings-like puzzle title chronicles Mario wandering through trap-filled platformer levels with a bucket stuck on his head. Players control the fairy Wanda with the mouse to manipulate the environment as Mario marches to the goal. Hardcore Gaming 101 has revisited the forgotten game as part of a series focusing on Pokémon developer Game Freak who tackled this title prior to coming up with Pikachu and friends. Here's a piece:
Mario & Wario only saw release in Japan, available with the game only or with the mouse controller and pad for those who haven't picked one up with Mario Paint prior. The game would see previews in magazines in North America like Nintendo Power and was listed as one of the prizes people could win in a Kellogg's cereal contest in Canada. However, unknown factors such as marketing or other costs seemed not in alignment as the Western release never came to pass, despite the game itself only containing English throughout. It's a shame since it would have been a big-name title that could've helped maintain a use for the SNES mouse, though later on the US-exclusive light-gun game Tinstar published by Nintendo was compatible as an alternative to using the Super Scope. As for Wanda, she made a small cameo with a radically different design as a tiny helper in both versions of Wario's Woods. Aside from that, she made a brief appearance in the long-running manga Super Mario-kun in a volume based on many spinoffs of the mid-90s era. Furthermore, the concept of the gameplay would be later expanded with touchscreen controls in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, leading wind-up toys to a door. A reference to this game would make its way into Pokémon Red / Green / Blue / Yellow and their remakes, as the TV in Copycat's bedroom in Saffron City has a Super Nintendo hooked up to it and mentions displaying Mario with a bucket on his head. Super Smash Bros. Melee also contains the bucket as a trophy.
I've played Mario & Wario and it's an acquired taste. It wouldn't have sold more mouse packages in North America, but for those of us who had the accessory, it would have made a nice addition to our collections. It's fun, but requires patience. It would make for a neat eShop remake on the Wii U thanks to the GamePad's touchscreen where players could tap obstacles to trigger them instead of using a point and click interface, but I wouldn't expect to see this game again. It's one of those lost Nintendo games that turns up as little references in bigger games caught by those in the know. Now you're part of that club!