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Super Mario Bros. 2 Review Rewind

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On 06/12/2017 at 10:00 AM by Jamie Alston


A good game to own if you can adjust to the slightly off-beat gameplay logic (for a traditional Mario game).

If you told me when I was a kid that Super Mario Bros. 2 was merely a localized version of a pre-existing game from Japan, I wouldn’t have believed you. But in fact, that’s precisely what Nintendo did for the US release of the next chapter in the Mario series. This was mostly due to the fact the original Japanese sequel was nearly identical to Super Mario Bros., only with slightly improved graphics. There was also concern that the game’s high difficulty would be off-putting for American audiences. The solution? Take Doki Doki Panic, swap out the main characters, slap a “Super Mario Bros. 2” label on that bad boy, and you’ve got yourself Nintendo’s best-selling game of 1988.

The impetus for this adventure involves a strange dream Mario has about a place called “Subcon.” Its inhabitants have been conquered by Wart- a mischievous ruler who uses a dream machine to subdue the land of Subcon. After waking from the dream, Mario and his friends discover a nearby cave with a doorway that, after opening it, leads them to the world he saw in his dream. They press on forward to explore the area and help the good people of Subcon defeat Wart. But is this reality, or just another illusion in Mario’s mind? Unfortunately, he left his spinning top totem at home. Sorry.


This time around, along with Mario and Luigi, you’ll have Toad and Princess Toadstool (or Peach as she is now known) accompanying the brothers on their adventures through this strange new land. And as can be expected, they all have different attributes that sometimes make them particularly useful in certain levels in the game. Naturally, Mario is the most balanced character in the in the group with average stats in jumping and lifting items. Luigi has the highest jumping ability; Toad can swiftly pick up objects and is quite nimble; the Princess can float in the air for a brief moment after a jump. She also is the slowest at picking up items and enemies.

Gone are the familiar Goombas, Piranha Plants, Lakitus, and Bullet Bills. Instead, you’ll get to square off against a host of new enemies like Shyguy, Snifit, Ninji, and Birdo. Certain doors in some levels require a key that is closely guarded by Phanto, a mask that chases you relentlessly until you finally open the locked door. I always would dread it when I had to grab a key and run for my life from those Phanto masks. This game also marked the debut of the infamous Bob-ombs- a ticking time bomb that would later show up in almost every major Mario title after this one.


All four playable characters have the ability to reach higher places by doing a “power squat”- performed by holding the “down” direction on the control pad until your character begins to blink, and then jumping afterward. It’s a nifty feature that will have plenty of chances to be used in the game. And since our version of SMB 2 was a re-worked title, it’s no surprise that the familiar green pipes are nowhere to be found in the game. Instead, they were “replaced” with jars that can be entered instead.

When exploring the various stages in the game, you can sometimes uproot a potion bottle that leads to “Sub-Space,” a mirrored non-scrolling version of the area you’re in. This is good for finding coins that are useful in later levels. Additionally, individual warp areas can be accessed by entering the correct jar while in the sub-space mode. Though this was a very different game, the inclusion of warp jars helped the game to remain faithful to a few of the principles that players of the first game had come to expect.


One of the biggest contrasts between the first SMB and this game is how your foes are defeated. In the first game, all you had to do was jump on almost any critter to send them to an early grave. In this one, you can pull a vegetable from the ground and throw it at an enemy, or you can pick up the enemy itself (in most cases) and throw them into another baddie or toss them off a cliff. Personally, I find it more amusing just to bean them in the head with a radish.

The game had a much improved visual appeal over the original Super Mario Bros. While it looks little more cartoony, this helps the game in this case. Everything just seems a bit more alive. All four playable characters have a certain personality that makes them unique in their own way. This was the first game in the series to establish a tangible difference between Mario and Luigi- Mario being the shorter portly one, and Luigi being taller and a bit leaner around the waist. This was done out of necessity, as Luigi had to be redrawn to match the same sprite size as the corresponding character from Doki Doki Panic. Other small details like the animated leaves on vines, cherries swaying in midair, and quicksand pulling your characters downward did much to make the US version of this game feel like a true sequel in every way.


The audio presentation was well-fitting for the game as well. Most of the music was left unchanged from Doki Doki Panic. The title screen starts off with the now familiar saloon style theme music. The main music for the outdoor sections of the stages is a fast paced, bouncy kind of tune. In contrast, the indoor parts have somewhat slower paced music with a dash of Middle-Eastern flare. However, certain Super Mario themes can still be heard at times. Getting the invincibility star plays the familiar “Star Man” tune found in nearly every Super Mario game to date. Also, the original Super Mario Bros. theme plays when you enter any Sub-Space sections, though it’s only for a short while since you’ll automatically go back to the normal area after about 10 seconds or so.

Due to the change in gameplay elements from, Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn't leave quite as lasting an impression as the first or third game in the series. But it's still pretty darn good in its own right. The visual style, while a bit more surreal, still worked very well for a platforming game and fit the Mario universe quite nicely. Overall, it's an enjoyable sequel that deserves its place among the pantheon of games that made Nintendo the enduring company it is today.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

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Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




06/12/2017 at 05:51 PM

My wife and I played the crap outta this game, as did my kids when they were old enough.

We had no idea about the Doki Doki Panic thing until many years later and even then it didn't change a thing. Great game.

Cary Woodham

06/14/2017 at 02:33 PM

I'm going to get a lot of flak about what I'm going to say, but...I actually enjoyed Mario 2 more than Mario 3.


06/16/2017 at 11:05 AM

Another example of a 1980s sequel where they tried radical gameplay changes rather than simply reiterate the original, with mixed results. See also: Zelda II, Final Fantasy II, Ultima II, Castlevania II. None of these are bad games, they're just different, and the designers kept what worked and discarded what didn't work so well.

I will say, however, that this game was far more interesting, memorable, and fun than the "real" SMB2 (Lost Levels). That game honestly wouldn't have been as successful in the USA, and I think Nintendo knew it.

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