Though the U.S. version of Super Mario Bros. 2 is considered a fine game by many, I don’t think it gets the full credit it deserves. Often times whenever I see it mentioned in a video game magazine or site, it is a one-off line about it being weird, “not really a Mario game” or not being able to compare to the original game or Super Mario Bros. 3. WRONG!!!
Look, everyone knows the story behind SMB2. For those that don’t, here’s a recap:
In 1986, the original version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was released in Japan and it was very similar to the first Super Mario Bros. game known the world over. Nintendo of America was uncomfortable with the difficulty of the game, thinking that Americans were just too stupid and they also deemed it as being too similar to the first game. They ended up taking a Japanese game called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (translation -“Dream Factory: Heart Pounding Panic”) and giving it a redesign and plugged Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad into the four starring roles (my favorites to use were Peach and Toad).
This alternate version of Super Mario Bros. 2 hits American shores in 1988 just in time for Christmas and it was the top priority for my sister and I. I think technically it was her game (I think I got Castlevania that year), but it didn’t matter — I basically reigned supreme over the NES in our house. Once I got over the initial shock of such a drastically different Mario game, I ended up having a lot of great memories playing this game, the most vivid memory I have is playing it during the following summer while having our babysitter around. In the 1980s, what better way could you spend your summer vacation than playing Super Mario Bros. 2 nonstop for three months?
For my money, this game is genius. NOA took an awful big chance by following up the most successful game of all-time with a completely different looking sequel, but it worked! I love that you can pick between four different characters and that each one excels in certain abilities: Toad’s a fast digger, Luigi jumps really high, Princess can float and Mario is the balanced character. It’s a shame Nintendo themselves admitted that they were too lazy to design Peach for New Super Mario Bros. Wii because it would have been a great nod to this game.
The great new feature was picking up enemies instead of stomping them and picking up items instead of busting them with your head. Throwing potions for warps and secret coins, tossing turnips at enemies,POW blocks, jumping for cherries and stars, picking up those Trouters from the waterfalls and watching them wiggle in your hands… It was all in good fun and I lapped it up like a cat drinking milk! And let us not forget the slot machine mini games between worlds where you spend your coins and hoping to comes up aces in order to gain more lives. Nothing more frustrating than going through 8 coins and getting turnips each time.
Even into the late-90s (when I still had my NES hooked up), I was playing this game. I never got bored with it. Heck, I’ve got it on the Wii’s Virtual Console right now and just typing this post has me salivating over the idea of playing it again. Truth be told, this may be my favorite Mario game. The first one is classic, but primitive. The third one puts Mario back in familiar yet new territory but I don’t know — it just isn’t as much as fun as SMB2. SMB2 was way out there and goofy and didn’t seem like a Mario game but it had Mario so that made everything okay.
I was slightly disappointed after beating the game. Get ready, I’m about to spoil a 22 year old game’s ending… IT WAS ALL A DREAM! Yessir, Mario dreamed up this whole adventure which explains away to American audiences why it was so different. Dream endings are kind of a ripoff, I felt a bit robbed that all of my efforts and frustrations didn’t really mean anything in the Mario canon.
Though some elements of the game have seeped into Mario continuity (explain THAT, Nintendo), we’ve yet to explore more of Subcon (the land of dreams) and its ruler Wart. I, for one, would love for Wart and that strange land to appear once more. Either as another “dream” game or full-blast coming into reality ala Freddy Kruger. Seems like great fodder for the quirky Paper Mario series and frankly, I’m surprised no one has mined this area of Mario’s past yet.
By the way, when I was a kid, the box art confused me. It always seemed to me like it should have been called Super Mario Bros. 2: Mario Madness. Not that it would have made any sense.