Game Review

Super Mario Bros. 2 Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Sweet dreams are made of these

By now we all know the story of Super Mario Bros. 2: concerns about the Japanese sequel to the original Super Mario Bros. kept it from release in North America and Europe. Different reasons have been given over time, from the game being too difficult to it simply not demonstrating enough creativity to keep gamers interested, but the end result is that the Western world received a Mario sequel that was actually a retooled version of the Japan-only title Doki Doki Panic. The Japanese sequel eventually saw release as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels — and that concludes your history lesson for the day.

With that interesting path to release out of the way we're free to concentrate on the game itself, and we're happy to do so, because it holds up brilliantly.

Super Mario platformers are famous for certain conventions: stomping enemies, hitting blocks to obtain items or reveal secrets, collecting 100 coins for an extra life, battling Bowser, rescuing Peach, and so on. Super Mario Bros. 2, however, features none of these things. For that reason, among others, it stands out as a significant outlier in the natural evolution of the series.

This is something that may turn gamers off, but we hope it doesn't. The world of Subcon might obey very different rules than the Mushroom Kingdom, but the adventure it holds is no less fun.

You don't kill enemies, for instance, by stomping them or roasting them with fireballs. Instead, you can stand on them — without taking damage — and pick them up with a press of the B button. You can then carry them around and throw them at other enemies, knocking them both cold. It's a significant departure, but it's one that leads to some interesting strategies, and it also sets up inventive set pieces — such as the digging puzzles, where enemies follow you down through the sand — that couldn't have been done in the other games.

Pressing B also allows you to pick vegetables to throw at enemies. This might not sound very exciting, but in 1988 it was a concept so promising that the game's box art consisted of nothing more than Mario with a beet in his hand. When's the last time you bought a game that advertised itself with a picture of the main character holding a vegetable?

You can also pull other things from the ground, such as bombs or potions. The potion, when thrown, creates a door that you can pass through in order to pull coins out of the ground and, hopefully, find a mushroom that will give you another hit point.

These represent a further departure from the other Mario platformers, as there's a level of foreknowledge you'll need in order to find all of the mushrooms. Early on you can simply drop the potion immediately and collect your reward, but later on you'll have to carry it to a very specific location somewhere else before dropping it. If you place the door in the wrong place, the mushroom is gone for good. That's a far cry from simply waiting for the next ? Block to come along!

This also contributes more to the unique strategising of Super Mario Bros. 2. Using some of the potions correctly actually represents a kind of logic puzzle. For instance, you may know that the mushroom will appear beneath those bombable blocks, but you don't get bombs after passing through the door. This means you'll need to bomb it ahead of time, which means finding and placing the bomb before finding the potion you need. It's not something you're going to know right out of the gate, but it's a reason to keep playing and experimenting. Of course the restore points on the 3DS version make finding the mushrooms a bit easier — simply set one before tossing the potion — but anyone attempting to seek them out the old-fashioned way has quite a job ahead.

Perhaps the biggest deviation from the rest of the series is the character select screen. Before every level you're able to choose your hero. Mario, as always, is the balanced option. Luigi can jump the highest. Toad can pick things up the fastest. And Peach can use her dress to hover if you hold down A. It would have been nice to have areas where one character shines more significantly than the others, but there's very little in the game that's inaccessible to everyone, meaning you're likely to just gravitate toward the character you enjoy using the most.

Worlds are three levels long, with interesting boss fights dotted throughout. A limited number of continues will help you along, but if you run out it's right back to the start of the game for you. And since Super Mario Bros. 2 offers far more of a challenge than its cutesy exterior belies, you may be playing through that first level a lot.

This is a game we hope more people discover soon. Its unique approach is worth experiencing for itself, but its fantastic graphics have aged wonderfully, with the characters looking crisp and cartoony — and while its soundtrack is limited, it's absolutely on par with the best music from any game in the series. It's a fun and memorable adventure, and it's worth playing just to be chased around by the key-guarding Phanto, which is still one of Super Mario's spookiest experiences. Your morning commute just got creepier.


Super Mario Bros. 2 is mainly remembered for the things it does differently from the other Mario platformers, but taken on its own merits it's a fantastic game. Its colourful, cartoonish graphics hold up brilliantly, the soundtrack is unforgettable and the four playable characters and hidden goodies make for a varied experience every time you play. It's a great deal of fun and is far more challenging than its reputation suggests, and it's a title we're always glad to see more gamers discover.

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User Comments (37)



Expa0 said:

A very underrated Mario game, probably my 2nd favorite 2d mario after World.



Einherjar said:

Although the GBA remake was better in all ways, i still enjoyed the NES original. Ill probably never understand all the hate towards it.



ricklongo said:

This is at least a 9 in my book. Amazing game, and super innovative for its time.



Funbunz said:

When I was a kid, I found this game almost too difficult. Now I'm older (and out of practice) and this game is still pretty difficult. I got All Stars on the Wii, but I might still buy this. I always preferred the NES version.



NintyMan said:

I only played the All-Stars and GBA versions until I got the original on the Wii VC, so I may consider getting the original on the 3DS.

I've been playing SMB2 on All-Stars lately, and I have to admit that the game has grown on me a lot more than it used to. I like its uniqueness, its playable characters, its music, and its levels. It makes me wish there was a proper sequel or at least Wart and his cronies could come back in some way.



retro_player_22 said:

People always seem to get the history wrong with this game (not saying Nintendolife is wrong). Originally this Super Mario Bros. 2 was suppose to be a true sequel to the original. It's prototype had the Mario characters already in the game, it's just that at the last moment TV Tokyo came along and want to put four of their characters as the main star over the main Mario cast so this became Doki Doki Panic in Japan. The original Lost Levels known as Super Mario Bros. 2 for Super Player was suppose to be an expansion of extra harder levels for the original game but it was left out of the original SMB due to limitation. When it's time to make a sequel for NA, this one was the legit one. Lost Levels eventually became what it was suppose to be when Nintendo released Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for GBC.



AndyBurner said:

I have it for nes and i think i still have all-stars for snes... But I still want to buy it for 3DS lol... Give me mario 3 and its a done deal..



Windy said:

Im not real crazy about the virtual Console. Ive played most of these games if not all of them. I would rather see these games made into 3d classics. Im starting to think Nintendo really isn't interested in 3d Classics anymore. Hopefully Sega will pick up the ball and run with it.



unrandomsam said:

The original Famicom Disk System of Super Mario Bros 2 has stood the test of time for me much better than almost anything else. I wish the made a game like that after every easy one.

Don't like the All Stars version of it because it uses some of the physics of Super Mario Bros 3 and it is made much easier. Doing a level once you can do by luck but you cannot use luck on the original because you need more than you will ever get you have to do it right.



unrandomsam said:

(At least with Mario anyway you have to do it at full speed try and do it slow and you either fall in to a pit or get overwhelmed by enemies . With Luigi it is easier if you want to play it slow but that is no fun.)

I think I would prefer this if it wasn't released as Super Mario Bros. Just with its original Japanese title and content.



WiiLovePeace said:

Another copied review but that doesn't matter too much since it's the same game & all. I would've bought this on Wii U (or 3DS eShop) if it was the Super Mario All-Stars version of SMB2. I already have the disc on Wii but playing it on Wii U GamePad or 3DS screen would've been nice. Oh well.



Darknyht said:

I've always preferred SMB3 out of the original NES games, but this one has always been special because it introduced me to my favorite character, Luigi. I still remember using Princess Peach to get past the ice world because she could float.

Ever since this game, I have plugged in two controllers and killed off player One so that the real star could take the stage.



Windy said:

I would love to see some PCEngine/TurboGrafx stuff make it to the Virtual Console. Bonk made into a 3D classic would also be awesome but probably very unlikely



Yoshi3DS said:

this, alongside lylatwars, was my favourite game as a kid! i really hope wart returns in a future game, he was terrifying (yes, im talking to you 3d world)



bahooney said:

Come on, guys, you seriously /just/ reviewed this. Update the Wii U listing and save your resources.



GN0LAUM said:

This game oozes creativity. I would love to see Nintendo mine more of that type of creative content for future games.



Tasuki said:

@WiiLovePeace: I think what @bahooney means is they just reviewed this game for the Wii U VC so just put that its also available on 3DS on the Wii U review rather than write up another review.

Still my second favorite Mario title on the NES. I remember spending a whole summer when I was a kid with a friend going back and forth each others houses to play this game until we finished it.



WaveBoy said:

Nah, 2 deserves a 10. It beats the fancy pants off of everybodies NES favorite SMB3. Like GNOLAUM said, this game absolutely oozes creativity.
No other NES game has made my imagination soar like Doki Doki panic has, hopefully we will see a spiritual successor one day,even though SM3DWorld has already borrowed the 4 player element/including peach & toad with their iconic SMB2 abilities. They took a strong piece of the SMB.2 pie just for a generic looking 3D Land sequal. booo.



Meaty-cheeky said:

@WaveBoy @suzzopher I agree with you guys that we need a real squeal to Super Mario 2 (USA). If Nintendo did make a squeal to SM2 I would like it if they continued the high level of creativity and use high quality 2D spirits like in Wario Shake it and in Rayman Legends.

Super Mario 2 is my favorite platform game next to Donkey Kong Country.



Azikira said:

Gotta love original Transgender Ostro (Birdo)! You go, girl!... Guy... Thing!!



Giygas_95 said:

I picked this up a few minutes ago, and I'm glad I did. This is the first time I've played the NES version, and I find it more charming than the 16 bit remake on the SNES. I thought about getting this on Wii U VC, but I like NES games on the 3DS better so I'm glad I held out! Luigi's my favorite character.

SMB3 is a sure thing for the VC on 3DS! I'll get it as well when it releases.



WaveBoy said:

@Fast_45er @FaSup

Super Mario All-Stars completely stripped away every single distinct charm of the original 8-bit classics. it just reuses SMWorld's SFX and recycles the same 16-bit art direction. All-Stars was kind of cool growing up, but it's a weak alternative compared to the real thing. NES SMB2 is a masterpiece! I absolutely adore that game. It's what made me a gamer. In combination when SMB.Super Show aired on TV it was a match made in heaven. Going toe to toe with Mouser for the first time was just amazing. Best 2D mario bare none!



KAHN said:

meh. i appreciate nintendo trying something different, but this just isn't my cup of tea.



Giygas_95 said:

@WaveBoy Yeah, I really do like the distinct feel of the original! I obviously like this better than the first SMB and think it's fantastic, but of the NES trio, I'd say 3 is my favorite. It feels like a return to the roots of what had made the franchise so great, and it has some fantastic level design and iconic tunes to boot (not that SMB2 doesn't as well which it does)!

I never got to watch any of those Mario shows growing up though I wanted to. Now that I've seen some on You Tube I'm kinda glad I didn't, heh..., but I'm sure that's a fondly remembered part of your childhood.



Bass_X0 said:

Super Mario Bros. 2 is fun because its unique. Its differences to the first game make it stand out as being its own entity. I doubt the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 would have been so fondly remembered if it had been released in America instead of the version we did get.

I prefer the Super Mario All Stars version solely because of the 16-bit makeover. Super Mario Bros. 2 looks very lovely there.



jamiljamtheman said:

I first played this game when I had it on Game Boy Advance. LOL I was young and it never occurred to me that it was a sequel to the Mario game I had on my NES(that being the original SMB...the SMB/DuckHunt cart and later Dr. Mario were all I had on my NES). In fact, this, Mario 3, and Mario World I thought were Game Boy Advance games because that's how I played them xD I found out LATER that they were remakes of older games.



Aaronzord said:

My first video game ever. Still one of my favourites too...especially the soundtrack.

I already own this game four times (NES, GBA, Wii VC and the Wii Anniversary Collection), but I'll DEFINITELY be getting it on 3DS VC as soon as it shows up in the Euro store.



JuanitoShet said:

I spent many hours playing this as a toddler on the NES. I don't remember what happened to that NES or to this game cartridge (or any of the many that we owned at the time), but I definitely miss it, it's a great game.

I wouldn't mind getting this from the VC someday just to revisit this gem.



FabioSMASH said:

@Funbunz I hear ya. I never really could get into it. It's a tough one and the least "Mario-like" of the bunch (for obvious reasons).



grumblegrumble said:

One of my favorite NES games, a fantastic sequel! I remember people hating it at the time because of its lack of a "score" or "coin count" like other mario games, but once you get into this game and beat it, the last few scenes will blow your mind. wonderful game, and great characters! (FryGuy is my personal favorite.) 10/10 for me

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