Unreleased Atari game Marble Madness II leaks online after more than three decades

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,141   +154
Staff member
What just happened? For the last several decades, the only way to play the unreleased sequel to Atari's Marble Madness was through a handful of prototype arcade cabinets. That all changed this week with the unexpected leak of the Marble Madness II ROM and nobody seems to know why.

As the story goes, Atari developed a sequel to Marble Madness and created a handful of prototypes for internal focus group testing in the early 90s. Feedback wasn't all that hot, however, and Atari reportedly blamed it on the game's trackball controls. Another prototype was made with an updated control scheme that replaced the trackball with a joystick and accelerator button but it didn't fare much better.

Rather than try a third time, Atari scrapped the game and moved on to another project. It was thought that maybe a dozen or fewer prototype game boards survived.

Recently, an emulator-ready ROM of Marble Madness II started circulating on the Internet. As Ars Technica highlights, it's unclear who is responsible for the dump but longtime MAME contributor David Haywood has a theory.

"I think the most likely explanation is the simplest: a PCB turned up, the owner dumped the ROM data from it and put it on The Internet Archive, not wanting the attention it would bring with a more public announcement," Haywood said.

The leaked ROM is of the second, trackball-free version of the game. Its release is significant from a historical perspective but that doesn't make it a good game.

"Marble Madness II is a classic example of [when] a beautiful game is created and the sequel completely forgets why the original was great," said Jason Scott with the Internet Archive. "I am excited that this long-anticipated game is out in the wild, because people can realize how uninteresting the game is and move on."

"I think Marble Madness captured a lot of imaginations, and whether the sequel was worthy of it or not, it's hard not to be compelled by the idea of it," added Frank Cifaldi, founder of the Video Game History Foundation. "We all love a good 'what if' story, [and] unreleased games like this are the closest we get to peeking into alternate realities."

Image credit: The Arcade Hunters

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Neatfeatguy

Posts: 839   +1,450
I remember Marble Madness in the arcade. Had the rollers on it, one for blue and the other for the red player.

I remember always getting my hand pinched between the roller and where the cabinet met. After getting pinched a couple of times I never played the game again.
 

ZedRM

Posts: 1,037   +725
This is very cool! The first game munched more than a few of my quarters BITD. This game would have been fun!

Its release is significant from a historical perspective but that doesn't make it a good game.
If you enjoyed the first one, the new one would be enjoyable too. If you didn't like the first, then this will not impress you. But to imply that it's not a good game is entirely subjective and a matter of opinion. The old saying rings true, practice makes perfect...
 
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Axle Grease

Posts: 254   +204
Marble Madness was the first game I bought for the Amiga 1000 around 1986. I still have it, but could never complete the game. The stages got ridiculously hard. And look, guys! Our favourite publisher was doing business way back then.

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R00sT3R

Posts: 632   +1,861
Marble Madness really stood out for its graphics in arcades, still filled with the Galaga & Galaxian type shooters that dominated them. It looked truly next level compared to them.