Mario's Time Machine is an educational game featuring Nintendo's mascot Mario and is part of the Mario Discovery Series, along with Mario is Missing! and the Mario's Early Years trio. Whereas Mario is Missing! taught younger players geography, Mario's Time Machine teaches world history instead. The SNES version was developed by The Software Toolworks in late 1993, and the NES version by Radical Entertainment the following year. There are minor differences between the two versions as a result.
The goal is to take stolen items out of Bowser's museum, time-travel to the time period from which they hail (the location and date are important when imputting coordinates) and piece together information about the artifact and its owner by talking to NPCs from that era before they can be given back.
Somehow Bowser has gotten a hold of a time machine, called the Timulator. Using the Timulator he goes back in time and steals many important artifacts of history. Bowser places all of these artifacts that he has taken into what he considers to be "the greatest museum of all time." Bowser will then destroy the Timulator after he is done building his collection, and therefore change the course of history forever.
It is up to Mario to stop Browser from completing his collection of artifacts and return them to their respected time eras. If the artifacts are not brought back history will be changed permanently.
The basic gameplay consists of players talking to historic figures and solving basic puzzles in order to return artifacts to their rightful owners. Each object in Bowser's museum has attached to it a basic explanation of a famous historical figure, including the date and location the item was taken from. By imputing these co-ordinates into the Timulator, Mario can travel back to the correct era with the item in tow.
When travelling back in time, players play a brief minigame where Mario travels trough an endless "ocean of time" with many whirlpools, and the objective is to grab enough mushrooms and deposit them into a wave pool in order to succesfully travel back in time. If Mario does not collect enough mushrooms before falling into a whirlpool or has imputed the wrong year/location combo, he travels back to the prehistoric era where he must play a version of Donkey Kong in order to get back to the museum where players can opt to try again.
Once reaching the correct era, Mario can walk around and ask NPCs for hints. Most will provide at least one of the clues necessary to fill in the explanation provided with the item, and once this report is correctly filled in the item is given to its correct owner and the player can move onto the next.
The NES version is a little different from the original SNES version. In this version, Mario has to fight Koopa Troopas in platforming sequences before being allowed to travel back in time. Mario also has no idea which artifact goes in which period (the SNES version informs the player as soon as they collect one of the artifacts) and must use the NPC hints to figure out which artifact is the right one for each period.
The historical figure that are featured in the game are:
When the SNES version was released in 1993 Electronic Gaming Monthly issued the review scores of 7,7,6 and 7. Danyon Carpenter wrote, "I actually enjoyed Mario is Missing and I expected this one to be the same. Luckily, it is and it offers even more challenging quests than the first. Kiddies may have a tougher time with this one. For all you experienced gamers, the game will seem like a cakewalk, especially the Donkey Kong-like scenes and the surf boarding, but once you start reading those questions you'd better break out the history books".