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Super Mario Bros. 2 – NES

Super Mario Bros. 2 – NES

Picture 4PlatformNES
DeveloperNintendo, R&D4
Publisher: Nintendo
Release DateOctober 10, 1988
Nerd Rating9.0 out of 10
Reviewed by Earthboundmother

Now, you may potentially think that when a brand like Nintendo releases THE quintessential Platforming game of our time – namely, Super Mario Brosfor NES – that they would want to immediately follow up this massively successful release with a worthy yet “rinse/repeat” successor. So exactly how is it that Super Mario Bros. 2 came about? The origin of this trippy little jaunt isn’t solely Mario Bros. driven; this is the main contributing factor as to why I give the game a 9.0 and not a perfect 10 besides the severe concussion I got diving down the “rabbit hole” to research the background of this title. However, given the insane level of creativity exhibited in the ‘shroom-tastic trip throughout each of its 7 worlds, this gem deserves a little bit of credit despite all the cooks in the kitchen.

Throw POW Blocks to take out all the enemies connecting with the ground. Boom goes the dynamite! Yes, that door is smiling at you.

Originally conceptualized by Fuji TV as a game called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, an unrealized prototype developed for the Family Computer Disk System (also called the Famicom Disk System in Japan circa 1986), the title was later re-tooled and released as Super Mario Bros. 2  in the U.S. Oddly enough, if the original, direct sequel to Super Mario Bros. hadn’t been deemed “too difficult” for the U.S. market, we wouldn’t have been gifted with this unlikely dream-based tour-de-force. The more difficult Mario Bros. sequel later surfaced in the form of Super Mario Bros.:The Lost Levels on the Super Mario All-Stars SNES cart. Now, let me just say this… I don’t necessarily adore the idea of believing that a game is supposedly “too difficult” for my own particular gaming market as I happen to reside in the U.S., but consumer targeting aside… Lost Levels is indeed an epic pain in the ass. Pain in the ass. Wind blows you off the screen to your death on your travels throughout the Mushroom Kingdom. Wind. No thanks. Give me Pidgets and Ninjis any and every day of the week.

In Super Mario Bros. 2, our familiar roster of heroes (a couple of them playable for the first time ever, namely Princess Toadstool and Toad) have found themselves in the odd world of Subcon, which has been taken over by a dastardly fiend called Wart. Playable characters include (all accessible from the beginning, one per stage) Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and Toad, the lovable mushroom retainer (aka super douche) that directs us to other castles in the original SMB. Ahem. Guess who’s in another castle now, bitch? That’s right. Aw, suck it.

Thank yourself, super douche. Into the fray you go. Yes, this is a screen shot from the original SMB, nobody panic.


Flash forward to Subcon. Fish balancing? Okay! Wtf.

There’s always one character who benefits from the overall experience per stage better than the others, but only experimentation will lend truths there. My favorite, hands down, is Princess Toadstool. She is slow as molasses when it comes to picking enemies and plants alike up, but gurrl can float with that dress of hers for like 3 seconds of hang time. This instantly makes her a beast. Luigi jumps pretty damn high (higher than all the others) but he flutter kicks and is remarkably hard to control while in the air. Toad is the fastest at pretty much everything while our brave plumber and poster boy, Mario, is simply Wolverine-on-every-team, well rounded to a fault but pretty boring to control, honestly. Been there, plunged that. Nothing “Super” to see here, thanks.

Picture 12

Stage doesn’t work out with your hero of choice? Pick someone else the next go-round. Who’s a boring plumber? This guy.


I woke up like this. With the Princess, if you time it right, you can jump with an item, float and launch objects at enemies. You can even pick up and lob enemies at each other. Bow down, bitches.

I remember being genuinely surprised that the game I had first played through as a 7 year-old, though wildly different from any other Mario Bros. game I’d seen previously, wasn’t a Miyamoto original. However, I was quick to pick up on the beautiful truth that the piecemeal collaborative effort manages to pepper a surprisingly surreal, sometimes alarming world with everything from mushrooms to rolling fire tanks branded with an ‘M’ called Auto-Bombs. Yes, you read that correctly. I will now allow my lovely assistant Toad to help me fully demonstrate the many forms of crazy that appear throughout this ambitious title.

That’s right, folks. A Shy Guy riding an Auto-Bomb. … … Moving right along…

When does this beautiful spectacle happen in an 8-bit game? Whales!!! THAR SHE BLOWS!!!

No all-night snowball stands? Dicks.

Alright, Triclyde. First I’m gonna hit you with this mushroom block, then you’re getting that Pidget in the face. Faces. Shut up. All of you.

Clearly, this is going to end well.

“It’s a rocket ship! It’s a rocket ship!” Yes, that is a “Death to Smoochy” quote (RIP,Robin). Unfortunately no, there is no Space-themed area, clearly we just travel by rocket ship because we can.

The very first thing I was truly excited about in this game was the complete lack of a time limit. I could spend the afternoon in one stage if I so wished. The concept was mind-blowing but did lead to what I term NES O.C.D., where I made up entirely new games within the game (INCEPTION) like using Ninjis for target practice then leaving the area and returning for more. These were the adventures of a 7 year-old with only a handful of NES games, a whole lot of time on her hands after her homework was done and a title that finally supported that concept! It had been a stellar investment of $20 with a half-off coupon at Toys-R-Us!

Aw. Cross-Stitch Ninji (does not appear in-game, unfortunately).

Stages are also separated by a slot machine based game of chance to win lives. Sniffits (the Shy Guys with bullet muzzles strapped to their faces), Turnips, and Starmen earn you a 1-Up with three matching Slot pulls but if you’re like me… you go straight for the Cherries that earn you a 5-Up if you hit three of them. Cherries are also the badasses of the Slot because if you land even one Cherry in the first Slot, you earn a 1-Up regardless of what else you get.

Womp, womp.

In many of the stages, there is a special little heart attack called “Phanto.” He guards keys that belong to the very evident locks attached to smiley faced doors throughout stages and dungeons. Doki Doki Panic (back to the prototype title) actually translates into Heart Pounding Panic and for this I think Phanto is probably solely responsible. Not since chasing the school bus as a child have I felt such a sense of urgency to get from one destination to another with a cumbersome object in tow. The ghosts in Pac Man for Atari have nothing on this dude except that they are a gang and are edible when blue.

When you pick up this key here…

Phanto springs to life, death diving at you until you either a)drop the key, b)die, thus dropping the key or c)get to the door. Run, Toad, run!!!

It should be mentioned that I felt like a mastermind when I decided as an exasperated 7 year-old to drop the damn key and rest for a moment; this stops the Phanto onslaught until you pick the key back up. While it’s out of your grasp, Phanto takes a holiday; it doesn’t touch you or take the key back. All this being said, I hate these things SO much. They’re right up there with Dementors in my book. Merciless assholes.

Worlds vary from arid deserts to sparse cities in the cloudy skies and endless indoor mazes, all in the quest to arrive at Wart’s castle, which is absolutely no joke or disappointment. It’s not like at the end of  Ocarina of Time where you’re like, “now this is a castle” then it’s like two minutes long and you think “I coulda had a V-8.” Oh, no. Wart’s castle is a sprawling fortress that is so epic and large, there are only 2 stages in World 7. I’m not about to spoil it for you with interiors (after all, the game is only 26 years-old) but I thought it was utterly thrilling during my first play-through. I remember it vividly, too. Conveyor belts, chain ropes, Hawkmouth finally snapping and coming for my head, organs pumping out vegetables. It was the best of times.

This…? THIS is the place?! Fuuuuck. Of course it is. Right. Remember me fondly. Tell the other mushroom retainers of my glory.


Approximately 7-2 Worlds into the game. “Aw, buddy. What happened to us?”

Have there been games as revolutionary as this one developed since its time? Why, sure. Tons. Is this one quirky, fun, and ambitiously bizarre because it can be? Absolutely. For a title that appears to have been some sort of happy accident, Super Mario Bros. 2 is a surreal peek into the kind of dreams and nightly adventures any of us might have after consuming a pizza with a full ‘shroom assortment on it. Even still, this game somehow manages to achieve and maintain a wondrous level of surprise, eerie thrill and variety throughout. I find, this convinces me to consider it not only the stuff that another man’s nightmares are made out of – literally – but also dreamily timeless.


Written by Nerd Bacon

Nerd Bacon


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