A modder who spent seven years building a version of Super Mario Bros. that could run on a Commodore 64 faced a sad but predictable reaction from Nintendo this week: Not on our watch. The company has already filed takedown notices against the modder, ZeroPaige, though his creation can be found online if you know where to look.
Getting Super Mario Bros. to run on a Commodore 64 was no small feat in the first place. The NES uses a Ricoh 2A03, an 8-bit chip based on the MOS Technology 6502 clocked at 1.79MHz. The Commodore 64 also uses a derivative of the 6502 — the 6510, in this case, but clocked at 0.985MHz (PAL) to 1.023MHz (NTSC). That puts the clock speed in the C64 at ~57 percent of the Nintendo NES, best-case.
One of the specific features of Super Mario Bros. is full-screen side scrolling, which apparently isn’t easy to implement. Nevertheless, the C64 version of the game is an incredibly faithful port, as can be seen below:
Of course, this means Nintendo was also watching. Almost as soon as the mod started to become popular, it was immediately taken down. The Commodore Computer Club tweeted about the issue:
Good times. Due to a DMCA takedown notice we had to remove the Super Mario Bros 64 download from our website blog post from 4 days ago. Hopefully everyone enjoys the #Commodore 64 #C64 game who was able to snag it.
— PDX Commodore Club (@c64club) April 22, 2019
This sort of situation is expected on the one hand — Nintendo is typically aggressive about enforcing its IP rights, and SMB is unquestionably Nintendo’s IP — and unfortunate on the other. Realistically, the company is not losing sales of SMB because someone ported it to the Commodore 64. The C64 homebrew and enthusiast scene is, at this point, quite small in absolute terms. No one is going to avoid buying a Switch or a 3DS because they can download a 34-year-old game for a nearly 40-year-old platform. But since SMB is still a commercial product Nintendo sells on its various platforms, the Commodore 64 port is a threat — however unlikely.
Of course, the flip side to this is that you can still play SMB online in any number of ways, provided you can Google the phrase “play Super Mario Bros. online.” Striking down the C64 version is more about sending a message than actually preventing people from playing the game.
If you’re curious for more information on how old-school game programming worked in a very different era, check the YouTube video above. The techniques and skills programmers used to create early games were quite different — but no less interesting — than what we see today.