Developed by Fantasy Factory and published by Philips Media in 1994, Hotel Mario is a legendary "poop" game that has been unfairly criticized by a vast majority of people (most who have never actually played the game in detail or have made various contradictory claims as to why it is insufficient). I'm sure if it was the same exact game and produced by Nintendo, people would defend it to no end.
I've heard many things such as "the story sucks", "lacked identifiable Mario elements", "is a terrible platformer", and "doesn't have enough content to justify a whole gaming experience", just to name a few things. First of all, if you're looking for a deep and intricate story that makes sense about a plumber who saves princesses, plays sports, and eats strange mushrooms, you're probably playing the wrong game. Secondly, the oldest Mario titles were far more primitive than Hotel Mario and this game is a lot better than "Mario Clash", a game later produced by Nintendo themselves for the ill-fated Virtual Boy. Third, the voices and setting are undoubtedly hilarious, but that's part of what makes them charming...they were as cheesy as other Mario things at the time. Fourth, it's not a platformer, so saying it is one just to fault it for not being like Super Mario Bros. is ridiculous. Lastly, it has Mario, Luigi, Bowser, many Mario enemies, mushrooms, fire flowers, starmen, and a decidely "Super Mario World" font and this still means it doesn't have "enough identifiable Mario elements"? If that's the case, then what the hell have I been playing all these years?
I'm not saying one shouldn't be critical of this game, but if you're going to bash it, at least make sense! The memes got a lot of people saying how horrible the game was just based on the cutscenes. The story takes place in the Mushroom Kingdom. Bowser Koopa has kidnapped the Princess and occupied the area, turning it into a resort for his kids. As usual, Bowser simply isn't satisfied by having "it all" so long as the Mario Bros. are free, so he let's them in on the Princess' kidnapping to lure them into a trap where his siblings and underlings await to defeat them. Naturally, the two decide to go after Bowser, close his resort, and rescue the Princess. The goal of the game is to close all the doors on each stage, though enemies can open them as well. In addition, various coins can be collected and you can open doors to find secrets that will make your life a little easier. If all the doors on a stage are opened, you will be overwhelmed and lose a life. As you progress, enemies get trickier and some can even go in doors or elevators (which is normally your hiding spots). You can lose by getting touched by enemies, running out of time, if all doors are opened, and by falling off the sides of the screen.
By CD-i standards, this is a GOOD game and here's ACTUAL REASONS why. For starters, the game is one of the few CD-i titles that is 50/60FPS and plays music and sound effects simultaneously during gameplay (you'd be surprised how many CD-i games don't). Next, the game is two players alternative. Additionally, you can save your progress and high scores for both players and return to play past hotels. The graphics are not particularly great by CD-i standards, but are quite serviceable overall with clean enemy designs and detailed background/foreground elements and animations -- some foes like the Boos even try to fake transparencies and stages are lively! Also of note is the music, which is of good quality (not exactly good composition) and has a certain "Mario" feel. Also, even though the game is repetitive, each world has multiple music tracks (mainly remixes and updates of the same theme) and its own clear theme... many games of this type only have one theme per world and the same clear theme throughout. The game also controls well, though you'd need a good controller for best results (the default ones sucked hard, but the game was still playable for a while anyway).
Now, the game has some problems too. The biggest one is that the game is hard as hell... if you get to certain levels without flower power, you'll literally get stuck or incredibly frustrated as jumping on enemies is not very effective on later levels. Some enemies just spawn too darn fast to be dealt with respectably and brings home the issue that without a good controller, this game will find itself collecting dust before long. Another (more minor) annoyance is that you can't skip your score racking up after a stage. It's not too long, but does get annoying (especially when you can skip just about everything else, like the "awful" cutscenes). Lastly, the game could use more options.
The game has over seventy levels and once it's done, it's done, but will last you a good little while. While the game isn't perfect, it's far from something that one should "be ashamed of" and is a worthy addition for CD-i collectors. This is a video of the game in action. Enjoy.