Mars is the fourth planet in Earth's solar system. It is currently not thought to be the home of any civilizations, but early astronomers seeing lines on the Martian surface thought these lines might be canals built by a technological civilization. Numerous works of fiction expand on this idea, especially the early sword-and-planet fantasies of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett, which supposed that the canal-builders were of an earlier era that vanished with the dessication of the planet. The inhabitants of Burroughs' Mars (which they called "Barsoom") played a chess-like game called Jetan. In Chessmen of Mars, Burroughs also described a game of "living chess" in which humans were forced to fight each other in an arena governed by the rules of Jetan.
A significant literary development can be found in Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. Some of today's cutting-edge Martian science fiction has been written by Ian McDonald in the books Desolation Road and Ares Express, set in a far future where humans have terraformed Mars, and built vast nuclear-powered railroads to serve as surface transport.
Looney Pyramids from Mars
When Andy Looney wrote his Empty City series of stories, he added to this mythos. One of his characters believes that as the Martian surface became too dry to support life, the Martians emigrated to Earth. They interbred with Earthlings, but the mark of Martian heritage is red hair. This character dubs himself the Emperor of Mars, and founds an organization called "The Children of Mars" to preserve Martian genetics and culture. Within the context of the stories, the Emperor of Mars is the inventor of Icehouse, which he believes to be a recreation of an ancient Martian game.
When Looney Labs made injection-molded plastic pyramids available as "Icehouse: The Martian Chess Set", the linkage between pyramid games and Mars was solidified. Today, there are many "Martian Something" games available (see Category:Martian theme).
Other Martian Weirdness
A further curious correlation is afforded by the 1975 Doctor Who television serial from the BBC "Pyramids of Mars," which mixes time travel and an alien menace from Mars with Victorian occultism and Egyptology. Since the airing of that story, there have been suggestions that there are actual pyramids in the Cydonia region of Mars.