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Clear Mario Bros. Atari 2600 Prototype Game Cartridge

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Here's a cool bit of gaming history I picked up this week for our growing Atari I/O classic gaming museum...


This is a prototype Mario Bros. game cartridge for Atari 2600. There are a few reasons (obvious) that make this a great addition to the museum:


  1. This is not the retail release. The game is playable, but not entirely complete. 
  2. It's essentially two prototypes in one. This isn't just a prototype of the game, it's a prototype of the physical cartridge itself. Or rather an engineering sample. Most Atari prototypes were placed in black "Lab Loaner" Atari cartridges. I'm sure we've all seen these at some point. This cartridge is different, because it's half clear.

    When Atari redesigned the game cartridges to house both 2600 and 7800 games and removed the dust cover mechanism, they likely shot off a few samples in clear plastic to test the molds. This is one of those clear cartridges. So it's a pre-production engineering sample of a clear cartridge with a prototype game inside of it. This cartridge was originally found among the clear Atari 7800 console shells.
  3. It's not just any prototype, it's Mario Bros.! How cool to think that this would be one of the very first game cartridges in the world to bear the "Mario Bros." name and take Mario & Luigi on their first adventure together  :nintendo_mario:


Pretty cool stuff. I've made this image openly available so feel free to use it and share it in any way that you'd like:


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I find it cool/interesting that only one of the three visible part numbers shows up in the Jan. '84 Atari Engineering Information System Item Master List, which is chock full of parts and other things that never went to retail.


C010312 - listed ("TOP HOUSING CARTRIDGE")

C017782 - unlisted (PCB Rev 3?)

C025351 - unlisted (?)


Post more collection photos!  

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On 9/18/2016 at 8:47 PM, Atari Creep said:

That is one of the sexiest thing I have seen in a long time. Ya I don't get out much. Haha



Haha, that's exactly what I named that section on the 2600 page! "The Absolute Sexiness of Atari Prototypes"  


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9 minutes ago, Justin said:

Not yet. I still have it in my collection.

Would you mind telling me what some of the differences are from the released edition? I love Mario Bros, and this is really interesting to me. Sorry if I’m bothering you any.

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1 minute ago, HDN said:

Would you mind telling me what some of the differences are from the released edition? I love Mario Bros, and this is really interesting to me. Sorry if I’m bothering you any.

None really. Just what was discussed above. The game plays well.

Here is a more recent image of the Clear Mario Prototype from our @atarigames Instagram:



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Those cartridge shells (with the 2 holes) were only used during the Tramiel era (though the early 1984 7800 carts might have used the same shell) and Mario Bros. was released in 1983.  The clear top half were probably part of a test sample production.

The only way to know for sure if the version on your cartridge is different from the released version is to dump the cart and compare the code (which I can do for you if you're interested).  But considering the cartridge top shell and the EPROM labels, this is not a legitimate prototype cartridge, so it's either a copy of the released version or a genuine 'Lab Loaner' cart (such as these: http://www.ataricompendium.com/game_library/prototypes/vcs/mario_bros.html).

Here's some photos of a clear case 7800 console, controller, and cartridge.

clear 7800 1.jpg

clear 7800 2.jpg

Edited by Scott Stilphen
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