Super Mario Bros. 2 (Western Version)

Review Date: April 2, 2021

Release Date: October 3, 1988

Platform: NES

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Linear Platformer

Anecdotes: This game came out early on in my sixth grade school year, and we had it by the end of the calendar year. In January and February of 1989, I could not wait to get home and play it each day. This made “social studies” class even more excruciating than usual. At 2:35 every day, as I sat in the room freezing because the ancient heating system barely worked, my teacher would be yapping about the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and I would listen to him just enough to be ready if he called on me, but really, I was thinking about how I can beat Clawgrip. While he would be talking about someplace where every town is named Alexandria that no 11 year old would ever care about, I was trying to figure out if Luigi’s jumping ability could find a shortcut. (Spoiler: Yes, 4-3.) I was just waiting for that final bell to ring and I walked home in 30 seconds, dropped the bag, and fired up SMB2. I had until sunset (about 5:10 in early February) to play, as our rules were that homework was to be done as soon as the sun went down.

I’m going to skip the story of why there are two vastly different versions of SMB2. The story can be found many other places. While I consider Japan’s version the “real” Super Mario 2, this version is the better one.

Description: SMB2 is a linear game that sends players across 20 levels in a dream world, like chapters in a book. Levels must be completed in order, except if a player finds one of the four pipes hidden throughout Subcon that allow whole worlds to be skipped. At the start of each level, players can choose from four characters: Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Toadstool. Mario is just average at everything. Luigi has excellent jumping height, which can be useful in spots, but he’s kind of floaty. Toad can pull up plants quickly, but his jump is terrible. Speedrunners seem to like him, but I don’t. Toadstool (yeah, I know it’s Peach, but I prefer Toadstool) can float and hover, meaning she can jump for distance. Any character works, but there are no restrictions on how often a character can be chosen.

For my screenshot run, I used Princess Toadstool exclusively. Mario and Luigi get plenty of time to shine and Toad doesn’t really fit my playstyle.

One of the reasons I picked Toadstool was that she can clear gaps like the one on the left (World 3-2) and skip the annoying wall bombing puzzle below. Of course, I walked right into Ostro, though, so I lost a life.


-Doki Doki Panic already had the Starman for Super Mario Bros. and when the game was reskinned into Super Mario 2, a lot more Super Mario elements were added. I especially like how the POW blocks were brought over from Mario Bros. While gamers tended to forget Mario Bros. or didn’t know about it to begin with, it’s nice to see it have some influence on later games.

Bye bye. My Shyguys die.

-Having four different characters, all with different strengths, is a major plus. The speed runners like Toad because he runs and pulls up plants quickly. Luigi is great for reaching high places. Toadstool’s float ability is practically game breaking. Mario can give players an experience similar to the first game.

Toadstool floated across the gap on the left, allowing her to skip most of World 4-3.


-Because it’s a reskin, NONE of the enemies appear from SMB. Players will not find any Goombas, Koopa Troopas, or Bloopers anywhere in the game. Stomping is also removed.

-I can’t stand the health system. Each level starts the player off with 2 HP. No problem there. Most levels have two mushrooms hidden in them, which adds a unit to the health bar. The problem is that those upgrades are all taken away at the end of each level. This makes many of them pointless to try and find. Players will hunt around for a mushroom that will allow one extra hit against Birdo, then it’s taken away.

This is Sub-Space, a mirror image area where mushrooms are found. They DO NOT scroll at all and time in them is limited.

-I have to point out some graphics issues. First, World 3-1 has gaps in between the clouds and the water. One would think that this kind of thing would have been polished up before release. Second, in a nod to the first game, the player character shrinks when he or she has only one unit of health left. Graphically, though, this doesn’t work. While SMB had Mario and Luigi with both small and large forms, they were full bodies and look good. Here, the small forms just look like the characters’ legs were cut off. It’s looks terrible, and they would have been better off dropping the idea if they couldn’t do it correctly.

I’m sure there was a way they could have covered those gaps up.

More Screenshots:

While in Sub-Space, pulling up a plant yields a coin. Each coin allows a shot at this slot machine. Too bad I didn’t actually stop on that cherry.
“Well, you don’t know what we can find, why don’t you come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride?” (Note: Those are song lyrics from Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride, NOT my own words.)
Can I just say I love the word BOMB right on the screen? It reminds me of Batman.
She’s digging her own hole now. This game is very deep.
Say hello to Birdo. Birdo is everywhere in this game.
I find this Key/Phanto dynamic interesting. Any time Toadstool holds a key, Phanto comes after her. As soon as she puts it down, Phanto backs off.
It’s a Bob-Omb! The Albatross carrying it works just like the “dropper” enemies in Castlevania and Rygar.
Character Select Screen
I found a turtle shell! Adios to that Ninji over there.
Naturally, Toadstool pulls up some grass and there’s a rocket underneath. It’s going to fly right through that ice, I assume?
This is fun, too. The game in 4-3 actually requires players to ride on Birdo’s huevo to continue. Then, keep going right. After the first door, Toadstool can jump float across the gap and go right to…
…Fryguy, SMB2’s mitosis boss. It’s the basic figure 8 pattern. Take advantage of the wraparound ability.
World 5-1 has a waterfall that has to be crossed by jumping on Trouters. Or Toadstool can just skip it and float across it all.
Oh, Clawgrip. It’s the boss of World 5. 5-3 gave me more trouble than any stage in the game, both now and when I was a kid.
What a nice shortcut.
I’m just going to hide from Triclyde using this wall I built.
And now I’m getting attacked by the exit door.
The final boss is Wart. It’s easy. Grab a vegetable and avoid the bubbles. Then get behind Wart and toss the vegetable at him when he opens his mouth. By the way, why does Wart have vegetable shooters in his lair if he hates vegetables so much?
I know I only used Toadstool, but there are only 20 stages in the game. How did that number hit 21?
THIS set off a lot of confusion. The names got mixed up.

Final Opinion: SMB2 is a great game. Between getting to choose a character to play as every level and the fair platforming elements, I would recommend this game for both children and adults. Unfortunately, the limited continues, graphics flaws, and resetting life meter every stage drops this game from being an A.

Grade: B

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