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Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) artwork

Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) review


"Viewed as a sequel, SMB2 is a victory because the experience is as fresh and imaginative as it is challenging and exciting. Viewed as a repackaging, it's still a win because it's a stellar platformer with or without Mario and company."



Super Mario Bros. 2 sounds like an elaborate lie. Imagine trying to explain it to a Super Mario Bros. fan prior to release:

Naw, man, it's way different from the first one. Jumping on enemies doesn't kill them. You hit 'B' to pick them up, then throw them at other enemies. Question mark boxes? Fireflowers? Goombas? Pipes? No, you throw birds and vegetables at ninjas and cannon-faced creatures, ride on magic carpets, slide down giant vases, fight pink monsters that spit eggs, and try to dodge evil masks after stealing hidden keys. What? Yes, I've played the first game! I am not a poser, I'm telling you the second game is way different!

Everything about this repackaged Yume Koujou: Doki Doki Panic sounds like a bad sequel. Nintendo changed many of the basic concepts, created a whole new army of baddies and bosses, new environments, a different soundtrack, and left us almost nothing that would strike a chord of recognition. And it worked!

SMB2 wants two things: it wants to be tinkered with, and it wants to kill you.

Each level is just itching for an explorer to chart its unknown depths. Not every stage is a straightforward run as in the previous title. You'll open doors leading to mazes, shattered rock walls with bombs to access secret territories, climb bean stalks and chains while avoiding giant ladybugs, and search illogically large rooms inside vases--all in the hopes of discovering the path to the finish line. SMB2 also rewards the intrepid explorer with health power ups, warp zones, coins for a bonus slot game at the end of every level, and cherries to summon the legendary star man.

Each character showcases different talents that work wonderfully for different levels and occasions. However, first time players will not know which characters to pick for certain stages. It's as though SMB2 wants you to engage in trial and error, fail and then come back and try again with a different character. Princess Peach works great in levels with broad gaps, what with her ability to float for an extended period. However, she's worthless when it comes to desert levels that require you to dig in the sand. That's where Toad and his superior strength comes in handy.

Death is a bummer, but discovery trumps frustration. The more you play, the more you discover, the more you learn, the more you improve, the better SMB2 gets. The elaborate stages rife with both exploration and imagination keep you coming back, so challenge and inevitable death don't leave a stale taste in your mouth as in most platformers.

Make no mistake, though: SMB2 will shear your head from your shoulders without a second thought or an iota of pity. Sliding on tiny precarious icy platforms over pitfalls while killer animate snowballs surround you, tossing bombs with little space to dodge the explosion, searching elaborate maze levels filled with traps, leaping over impossibly long pitfalls... You could call this title Mario Gaiden or Mariovania with the dozens of ways it can end your life.

SMB2 still carries the Mario flag, only in a different fashion. Sure, you don't grow after munching a mushroom, or kick a Koopa's shell into hapless Goombas. Super Mario Bros. was definitely a creative title, even surreal when you think about it. Is Super Mario Bros. 2 any less creative or surreal? The previous title also contained stellar platforming scenarios, many of which became standards that other games had to live up to. SMB2 did much the same, even expanding said scenarios further, upping the challenge factor. SMB2 isn't a reiteration of the previous title with a few small expansions--that would be the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, aka Lost Levels. Viewed as a sequel, SMB2 is a victory because the experience is as fresh and imaginative as it is challenging and exciting. Viewed as a repackaging, it's still a win because it's a stellar platformer with or without Mario and company.

Rating: 8/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (November 14, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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overdrive posted November 15, 2011:

This is possibly my favorite SMB game. Not the best SMB, but my personal favorite.

I really never thought it was hard, but that was because I somehow mastered the timing for the 1-UP slot machine at the end of each level and could get 2-UPs and 5-UPs at will (weird for me, as I usually suck at things like that in games). I guess it's hard for too many games to be hard when you have 50 extra lives on tap. Which I tended to be pushing after 3-1 because that's the one with the ledge with about 10 plants. Use Toad, drop both of the level's potions there and wind up with a slot machine bonanza at the end.

I guess I did struggle with the game initially, but I mainly remember how easy things got when I had lives to burn and didn't care about dying a time or two experimenting with different tactics to get through the more difficult areas. Or in the case of that one level in the sixth world, just skipping it by doing the "constantly jump under the pyramid or whatever" trick where you basically bypass about everything.

I need to play that game again, but now that I KNOW my timing on the slot machines is gone, it likely will be a lot tougher and I'll be eating these words.
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honestgamer posted November 15, 2011:

Eating those words, overdrive, like Wart eating veggies! SMB2 is one of the more difficult ones in the series for a lot of gamers, certainly harder than the first one. Getting through Wart's castle is quite the challenge. I tended to warp through most of the game whenever I beat it.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted November 16, 2011:

I always regarded SMB2 as pretty brutal. The only version I actually finished was on GBA, thanks to saves.
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qxz posted November 17, 2011:

Joe, did you ever play Super Mario Bros. 2 on the SNES via Super Mario All-Stars compilation? That version had saves as well.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted November 18, 2011:

Yeah, never got completely into All-Stars version though. I didn't have time when I finally picked it up.
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overdrive posted November 18, 2011:

I often wonder if they switched up the slot machine timing for the All-Stars port. I rented that once a number of years ago and struggled to get 1-UPs that way, but wasn't sure if the timing was different or if I'd just lost my skill because it'd been a few years since I'd played the original NES version.
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zippdementia posted November 21, 2011:

Now I feel proud! I did actually beat the original NES version, without saves. And I did it without warps, too! Quite the slog fest!

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