Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. After Super Mario Bros. hit it big, Nintendo of America knew they needed a sequel out immediately, but thought that the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 was too hard for western audiences. So Nintendo reskinned Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, a game designed in collaboration with Fuji TV to celebrate the Yume Kōjō ’87 festival, to feature Mario characters. Funnily enough, this wasn’t the only Mario collaboration Nintendo and Fuji would produce together. They also produced All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros., an official ROM Hack of Super Mario Bros. based on a famous Japanese talk show, which I reviewed a bit ago.
Super Mario Bros. 2 is an incredibly different game from the original. There’s no Bowser, and his army is barely relevant. Instead, you’re fighting against the evil frog Wart to save the residents of Subcon. Between every level, you get the choice between the four playable characters. Mario is the average all-arounder he’s always cursed to be. Just like the Lost Levels, Luigi has a high jump but extremely slippery physics. Toad, who is now blue for some reason, can run extremely fast but can’t jump well. Princess Peach is by far the slowest, but she has a float that makes the game much easier.
Instead of going around to collect power-ups and stomp on enemies heads, the cast will be plucking turnips and throwing enemies into each other. I honestly can’t imagine how hard this departure must’ve been for the west back when they first received it. Mario and Zelda got sequels, but they were completely different! I can imagine a few angry Christmas kids. At least Zelda 2 was supposed to be a Zelda game. With the absence of Bowser, you’ll fight entirely new enemies and many original bosses. Some of the franchise’s most iconic characters appeared here. The Bob-Omb’s, Shyguy, and Birdo hail from this odd title. I wish more would’ve made the jump with them.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES, 1988)
Super Mario Bros. 2 was all the west knew until the Super Nintendo era. I couldn’t find much about fan reaction back then, but apparently, it reviewed well. Super Mario Bros 2. is such an odd game to me. It’s surprisingly big and compact for an NES title, but I just couldn’t enjoy the controls themselves. It felt like there were two types of characters. Someone with superglue on their feet and someone who lubricated their feet to walk on ice.
The game doesn’t look the greatest today. To cram so many characters into one title, there’s a lot of reused sprites and corners cut. I understand that NES limitations require games to employ a flicker to have a reasonable amount of sprites on screen, but I ran into it too much. It felt like I ran into significant slow-down at every corner. At times, it just became boring to play the game.
Super Mario Bros 2. is a longshot from awful. It has a ton of incredibly innovative ideas crammed into some of history’s most restrictive hardware. A lot of potential came out of this game. Nintendo even took quite a bit from it for future entries. I don’t think the NES is the optimal way to experience this game.
Super Mario All-Stars (SNES, 1993)
The Super Mario All-Stars collection has become renowned for its beautiful remakes of Mario’s original adventures. If any game needed a graphical face-lift, it was Super Mario Bros. 2. All-Stars fixes just about every problem I had with the original. Sprites jumped quite a bit in quality, and music went from pretty bad to amazing!
The All-Stars version of Super Mario Bros. 2 is my perfect idea of a remaster. While preserving the original vision, every possible improvement should be made. As a remake, I think the game falls pretty flat. There are no additions here, but it certainly is miles better than the NES original.
Super Mario Advance (GBA, 2001)
When the Gameboy Advance launched, Nintendo needed Mario right there alongside it! What was a batter way of showcasing the new power of their upgraded handheld than remixing and mastering one of the plumber’s classic adventures? They landed on Super Mario Bros. 2, for some reason, and based the title off of the All-Stars port. The game suffers no screen-crunch or control differences. To account for the lack of a backlight on the GBA, how did they get away with this for so long, the game’s colors are brightened a lot. To the point where they just hurt to look at on anything but an original GBA.
The port adds a new opening and sprinkles red coins, carrots, and Yoshi eggs throughout to collect, but otherwise remains the same. I’m glad to see some quality of life improvements, such as the ability to save at any level, but the controls of the GBA itself put a significant damper on the experience. Super Mario Bros. 2 is just too slippery for such an imprecise controller.
Super Mario Advance puts up a hard fight, but Super Mario All-Stars has remained the definitive experience. I was hoping that the Mario Advance series wouldn’t fall into the trappings that Super Mario Bros. Deluxe did, but instead, they offer very similar downsides. The NES original is available on the Nintendo Switch Online service, but you’ll have to hunt down a copy of All-Stars on the SNES or Wii.