Seeing as it’s the holiday season, I decided to take a look back at a game I first played way back during the Christmas of 1993. That year I finally entered the world of contemporary console gaming as my parents snapped me up a Super Nintendo. Prior to that Christmas, I had only had my father’s old ZX Spectrum to play with, so the jump up in graphical and sound quality was pretty staggering. My SNES came with one game boxed in, which just happened to be Super Mario All-Stars. This was no ordinary release as Nintendo had stuffed four whole games onto the one cart, which is what allowed me to have a go at Super Mario Bros. 2 for the first time.
I had experience with playing the original Super Mario Bros. at my cousin’s house, and it was the first game I booted up upon inserting the cart into my new console. After enjoying that immensely, I decided to move on to Super Mario Bros. 2 with no idea of what to expect. I knew enough from playing the first game that jumping on the assorted baddies would usually lead to them being squished underneath the pugnacious plumbers’ feet, so I attempted that once I encountered the first enemy I found. However, to my surprise the baddie didn’t die, and I instead saw Mario stand on top of him, essentially getting a free piggyback ride. This was when I realised that I wasn’t going to get the usual Super Mario experience that I was accustomed to.
This was actually by design from the people over at Nintend, as the western wings of the company had decided to reject the Mario sequel that video game enthusiasts of Japan had been bequeathed because they thought it was too similar to the original. We westerners would indeed get our grubby paws on that particular game, but that was to be in the future, ironically, on Super Mario All-Stars of all things. Instead, we got a re-skin of a completely different game known as “Doki Doki Panic”, with Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool and Toad being inserted into the game to replace the existing characters.
This not only meant that Bowser was replaced as the main villain by the tyrannical frog known as Wart, but the gameplay was also different. Rather than jumping on enemies to defeat them, you had to instead either pull vegetables out of the ground to fling at the enemies like projectiles or just outright hurk the baddies themselves up and then throw them at their evil colleagues. As well as pulling up vegetation, you would also be required at times to throw bombs a la The Legend of Zelda, along with Toadstools and even the occasional Koopa shell or “POW” block. Collecting fruit strewn about each level would give you the chance to collect a Starman, which would allow you to become invulnerable for a momentary period of time like usual.
Having four characters to select from gives you some variety in how you wish to tackle each level, especially as all four of the characters play differently from one another. Mario is your typical all-rounder with average jumping height and lifting speed, whilst Luigi can jump higher but is also harder to control and also slower to lift things. Princess Toadstool has the slowest lift of all the characters on offer, but that is offset somewhat by the fact that she can glide for a brief period by using her skirt. Toad is the quickest to lift things, thus making him a good option on some of the desert levels where you are required to dig your way through sand to reach important areas, but that’s offset by him having less of a jump and just generally being a bit weedy.
Super Mario Bros. 2 is certainly a different take on a classic formula, and it reviewed well when it came out and was also a commercial success. A lot of people look back on it fondly, and I must admit that it’s a game I will still go back to now and again. I still personally believe that the original Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 are better than this game, and I would recommend both of them before I recommended Super Mario Bros. 2 if you were looking for a 3rd gen Super Mario experience. Ultimately, I prefer the typical Mario formula to what Super Mario Bros. 2 brings to the table, so I would rather play the other two games from the Nintendo Entertainment System era.
If you do decide to play Super Mario Bros. 2 though, I think there’s a good chance you will enjoy it, provided you like yourself some 2D platforming action. Though I personally prefer the standard Mario gameplay, Super Mario Bros. 2 does still play really well, and it’s cool to see the Mario characters taken out of their respective comfort zones and thrown into a completely different world. Nintendo haven’t really gone for a similar type of game in the Mario series since this one, instead focusing on the gameplay of the first Super Mario Bros. for latter games in the series. Ultimately, Nintendo decided it was better to tweak the Mario formula rather than taking such a sharp left turn again. Even though I prefer the usual Mario action, I can still appreciate Super Mario Bros. 2 for trying something different with the series, and the fan base the game has gained shows that Nintendo still gave the majority of Mario fans a great experience.