Marble Madness launched in 1984 as an arcade game, the work of Atari and Midway Games. It quickly became a big hit thanks to its impressive isometric graphics.
Plus, you know… marbles! Holy cow, they’re awesome and they roll and everything! Let’s remember it all! Here we go!
The History of Marble Madness
American video game designer Mark Cerny designed the game and it’s, essentially, a platformer.
It doesn’t look like a traditional Super Mario type romp, but that’s the genre it fits into all the same. It’s a platform game.
Cerny’s inspirations for the title came from miniature golf and racing games. He also liked the artwork of M. C. Escher, so merged his concepts into a hybrid majigger with a unique control system.
Other games have since relied on M. C. Escher’s artwork for inspiration (most notably Monument Valley II).
Other than Ultimate Play the Game’s Knight Lore from the same year, there really wasn’t much else that looked quite like Marble Madness!
Back in 1984, this thing would have just looked unreal. Heck, it even had a two-player option like in Joust (1982).
By then, that feature would have become something of a formality in the arcade gaming scene. But here it is in action and all that jazz.
The aim of Marble Madness is to manipulate the marble on the screen from your 3D perspective.
There are six mazes you need to manoeuvre your way around each course before you run out of time.
The faster you are, the more time you get to carry over into the next stage.
It was well received by gamers and critics, shifting over 4,000 arcade cabinets from December 1984 through to mid-1985.
But gamers quickly lost interest in the title due to its short length, meaning it didn’t really have the longevity to make it a Donkey Kong type behemoth.
Regardless of its short length, Marble Madness has a place in gaming history.
It was innovative and daring, offering something truly unique to gamers. Even if it did come at a bloody tough cost for the development team.
All Sorts of Marble-Based Ports
Like an unstoppable juggernaut, Marble Madness went truly insane and leapt from the arcades to as many home consoles as humanly possible.
These started rolling out around 1986, with the Amiga version boasting impressive graphical prowess for the era.
It also went on to hit the Apple II, Atari ST, C64, Game Boy (see the clip above), Game Gear, Master System, NES etc. etc.
Some of these ports varied quite dramatically in quality. As you can see below, owners of the Apple II didn’t exactly get the best visual deal of things.
However, such a level of success warrants a sequel! Right!? No. Foolish fools, of course not!
One was planned for release in 1991. It was to be called Marble Man: Marble Madness II (a project creator Mark Cerny had nothing to do with).
Much of the game was designed, including introducing a superhero sort of dude into the marble mix. And 17 courses were created.
But reaction to the title in its testing faze was poor, which led Atari to abandon its plans for the game. The result? No sequel was ever released!
Maddening? Very possibly, yes, if you’re a marbles fan.