Super Mario Bros. 2

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North American box art.

Super Mario Bros. 2 is an action platformer for the NES developed and published by Nintendo. This game is not the real Super Mario Bros. 2, which was released in Japan in 1986, but wasn't released in America because Nintendo assumed the game would be too difficult for American players. Instead, Nintendo took their 1987 Famicom Disk System game, Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, and changed some of the graphics around to make it a Mario game, publishing it in 1988

I don't remember when I first played Super Mario Bros. 2, probably around 1990, but I do remember not liking it very much. I found the new game world to be too different from the original. No goombas or koopas, no brick breaking or fire flowers, and you can't even stomp enemies? However, after I became more refined in my video game appreciation, I discovered that it's actually a very well-made game, and it's grown on me a lot. It took me over 25 years from the point I first played it until I beat it fairly on 2017-11-18.


I own the American release, and have beaten it without warping.


  • Overall: 6/10
  • Best Version: NES


  • The game is very creative. It has many elements that I had never seen before until the release of this game.
  • The graphics are well-drawn and animated, especially the cartoonish enemy sprites which are adorable.
  • The level design is great: warps, secret passages, and jumps that benefit the slower high-jumping characters. I especially like the idea of riding an enemy across a large chasm.
  • The music is quite enjoyable. Koji Kondo's use of the DPCM channel for drums is quite nice.
  • The game is a good challenge. It becomes pretty damn hard near the end, but not unfair.
  • Allowing players to choose between various player characters, each with their own abilities, was a cool idea.


  • Player control isn't as good as it could be. Jumping feels sluggish and not as controllable as you would want, even using Mario and Toad.
  • It's far too easy to slip off vines/chains/ladders by not pressing up or down perfectly, and this leads to a lot of frustrating falls.
  • For American players, the game has nothing to do with the Super Mario franchise. Nintendo tried to add some continuity by making the entire game a dream of Mario's, but that's lame. I hate it when companies force an unrelated game into an existing series for a quick buck.
  • Too much of the level design relies on memorization. There are many sections where death is pretty much a guarantee until you figure out where to jump and land. You also need to memorize which plants to uproot, where to throw potions, etc.
  • It's possible to die jumping down a screen right over a vine/chain/ladder, which is stupid.


  • Nothing.

Box Art




Game Design

This is my running commentary on the game design broken out by level.

Level Notes
1-1 The designers wisely introduce the player to pretty much every game element in 1-1. There are also two shortcuts: a high-jumping character can use a tweeter so skip the cave, or, by jumping the pit in the cave and using bombs, you can skip the vine segment altogether and show up on the far side of Birdo. Really great level design.
1-2 There is a lot more to take in with 2-2; several more new game elements and enemies are introduced. Stealing Pidgit's magic carpet is a great idea, and Phanto is one of my favorite enemies to hate. Again, a high-jumping character can use a Ninja to jump up to the next level and skip the cave, or avoid the ground all together by jumping from the magic carpet to the second level.
1-3 Another great introduction. Players are taught that mushrooms aren't always near potions, and you'll often be expected to carry keys a long distance. Mouser is a great first boss. Not too difficult, but by no means easy. I like the brickwork in his lair.
2-1 Again, several new enemies and game play elements. I love the dead-eyes of the Cobrat. The quicksand, is a nice touch, and so is watching a Shyguy sink in it. Having to dig your way through the sand in the pyramid while Shyguys fall on you was also a clever design. Birdo has become a bit scarier with pits on either side.
2-2 The mushroom in the first room is well designed. The tall cactus near the end of the overworld is a nice trap. Weak jumpers have to use a crouch jump while also holding a bomb; a great anxiety inducer, and we see our first fiery Birdo.
2-3 More non-linear level design. The first mushroom is to the left of the starting ladder, and the room that's out of reach requires using a Beezo as a platform. Moving Phanto's key to the top of the dirt pit is hard work since it doesn't throw as expected here. Triclyde is a formidable foe.
3-1 Another secret; falling in the larger waterfall pit, which might happen accidentally, actually takes you to a cave where you can stock up on coins. There is also a nice aggravating spot where you have to steal Pidgit's magic carpet and quickly rise to a vine before it disappears. One more short cut requires a leap of faith to the left after climbing the vine to skip the Pansers. This fiery Birdo is harder still.
3-2 This stage makes clever use of a 2-level map on a single screen and I enjoy when the ending is teased at the beginning. It also has a particularly devious section where you have to use bombs to break through walls, but it requires having to take them a fair distance in order to do so. Luigi can jump one gap and skip a small section, but the Princess can span two and miss the harder bombing section.
3-3 The is the first maze level which requires a fair amount of back-tracking before you figure out the correct order. You often climb up a section only to find a platform too high to reach. I like that the designers put a Phanto at the top, tipping you off that you will need to get the key to proceed. There are a couple new enemies introduced, as well as the Shyguy spawners. Seeing Mouser again as a boss may seem like a let down, but like Birdo, he's become more powerful.
4-1 It's nice to see a whole new set of terrain and enemies this far into the game. The Flurry is an adorable enemy, and I love how their feet jiggle as they slide along the ice. This level also introduces the hilarious rocket pulled from the ground gag. Interestingly, rather than a Birdo for a boss, a complex set of enemies and tricky jumps is used, which changes things up.
4-2 Sliding around the Beezos is a nice way to incorporate the ice, and the whales are very creative. Lots of tricky jumps and maneuvering on ice makes this level pretty gripping. I also enjoy having to use an Autobomb to get over the spikes.
4-3 Having to ride Birdo's egg across a massive ravine was a clever idea, and the raining Flurrys is a nice use of their sliding abilities. I don't quite understand the purpose of the pit behind the Hawkmouth though. If you're confident you can beat Fryguy with only 3 hit points, the Princess can skip most of the level by jumping across the gap at the bottom of the two towers. Fryguy is another wonderful boss. You think you've got him and then he splits into unpredictable mini-Fryguys!
5-1 This is where the game really starts to become treacherous. This level has a lot of precision jumping (made easier by Luigi or the Princess), as well as a difficult-to-reach mushroom. Mercifully, it has a 1-up that isn't too difficult to reach. To top it off, the level ends with the ashen Birdo who only shoots fire!
5-2 More difficult jumps, hidden Bob-ombs, and a hard to reach mushroom. This level also has an annoying fall into a spiked pit where you have to memorize the fall, a cheap shot at the player. For the boss, while it doesn't seem like the Trouter would interfere much, it really does, and it's a nice addition.
5-3 Another hard stage to end this world! The unrelenting Bob-ombs being dropped from the Albatrosses create a little bit of difficulty at the beginning. A minor shortcut can be found by sliding over the Shyguy spawner inside the tree. The walking Pansers can be pretty nasty and is a nice improvement over the previous ones. Clawgrip is a nice new inventive boss.
6-1 This feels like a respite for me; a fairly easy level after the horrors of world 6. Most of this level is like 2-1, except for the walking Panser and the potion sinking in the quicksand kind of threw me off. The only real difficulty comes from the pot maze at the end, but once you memorize it, it's not a problem. They even give you a 1-up in case you botch it.
6-2 The difficulty is back with a vengeance! Riding the Albatrosses always gives me jitters. Being forced to back-track to reach the high-flying bird was a good idea, but forcing you to have to backtrack after getting the mushroom is rather cruel. Requiring some good acrobatics with the wall of Albatrosses after the mushroom is a nice addition of the difficulty, and topping it off with the relentless green Birdo is a nice way to end it. I like that they're still coming up with creative changes for Birdo.
6-3 Great use of quicksand here. Luigi can skip almost the entire level by riding Pokey back and hopping the wall, but it does leave you one hit point fewer at the end. The Bob-omb section would have been better if you couldn't just run past it. The wall-bombing area is quite tedious, requiring several tries to find out how to get the mushroom. I like that they finally added a complex vine puzzle, and the Hoopsters and Snifits make it a pretty tough section (especially with the poor controls causing inadvertent slipping). The close-quarters Birdo is nothing compared to the heavily active Tryclyde.
7-1 It's nice that the mushrooms are awarded early and easily, because this level requires some pretty difficult maneuvering. Again, you have to ride an Albatross over some pits and obstacles. The cloud floors area is particularly nasty, but by making good use of the cherries, you can get the star at just the right time to avoid taking a hit from the pink Shyguy at the bottom. If you don't get the star, you can still get past by ducking and taking a hit (you'll end up riding him instead). The gray Birdo is kind of old hat at this point.
7-2 This castle is a huge maze with a lot of difficult sections. I usually don't like big mazes, but they're forgivable when they're saved for the end level. This level makes good use of conveyors, spawners, and multi-level design. The Sparks are really highlighted, and using them in 1-block areas makes a interesting barrier. I really love how Birdo was re-purposed to hold they key rather than a crystal in this stage. Using Hawkmouth as a mini-boss near the end was a great twist. The first time I faced Wart, I was using a Game Genie code which gave me infinite lives, and I found him to be practically impossible. But really, it was the infinite lives that prevented me from taking the time to learn his pattern. When I later played him without infinite lives, I was much more careful, and found him to be a much more reasonable boss. While the story is contrived, the ending is really nice. It's surprising to see full-screen animation in an NES game.