Super Mario Bros. 2 – Wait, that’s not a Mario game!


This is not my first time playing Super Mario Bros. 2, but this is actually the first time ever I’ve beaten it! I am very much aware of this game being a reskin of the Japanese-exclusive game Yume Koujou Doki Doki Panic, but my review will treat this as the game we’ve initially gotten: the sequel to the original Super Mario Bros. I have played both the NES- and SNES versions to completion back-to-back for comparison sake, but noticed very few mention-worthy differences so this review will just be about the core game in general. There is also a Gameboy Advance version which I do own, but from what I’ve gathered the changes there are also pretty minimal and I didn’t really feel like playing through the game a third time. In the future, I might make a whole post on the Advanced series in general, but for now I won’t mention that version in this review. Before creating this review, I have beaten every single level of the game.

After playing through all three versions of Super Mario Bros., I could finally focus on my real goal for revisiting the original tetralogy of Super Mario games. Indeed: Super Mario Bros. 2 was my main objective as I have never once beaten this game in my life. Strange isn’t it? I have owned the Super Mario All-Stars Pack since I was a tiny Neppy, but it was the only Super Mario game that I had not beaten. I don’t really remember the reason for it; possibly because I couldn’t focus on one single-player game for too long, or because it was vastly different from any Super Mario game that was released at the time. But now I’m older, hopefully a bit wiser and also more experienced with video games so today, let’s take a fair look at Super Mario Bros. 2!

What do you mean “this is a Super Mario game”???

You’re probably all familiar with the story behind Super Mario Bros. 2 but if not, here’s a short refresher. Right after the successful release of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo immediately began work on the sequel which mas mostly the same game as the original but with a slightly different engine and hellish level design. Also no, I have not beaten this game and I currently have no intention to do so. I’m weak, I know. Back on topic; Nintendo of America also thought this game was a bit too difficult for the English market and decided not to release it over here–at least, not until the Super Mario All-Stars Pack–and instead grabbed the Japanese-exclusive Yume Koujou Doki Doki Panic and adjusted it just enough to make it a Super Mario game. This is the version the westerners have gotten that we know as Super Mario Bros. 2, which was initially never a Super Mario game to begin with. How ironic is it then that this decision by Nintendo of America also had a good amount of impact on the franchise? Many enemies that were introduced in this game like Shy Guys and Birdo eventually found their way into the mainline games, though mostly in spin-off games. This game is by no means as important as the American prequel- and sequel to this game, but Japan eventually got this game as well (renamed as Super Mario Bros. USA) and now it even is an unlockable skin in the Nintendo Switch game Super Mario Maker 2! Even though Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is the official sequel to the original game, many people like to refer to Super Mario Bros. 2 now as the true sequel and that is quite the interesting story.

That didn’t answer my question though

What question? Oh, if this is a Super Mario game? When compared to the first game no; the gameplay and setting is completely different, but technically Super Mario Bros. is different from the original Mario Bros. so at that point there wasn’t really something that defined a Super Mario game. It wasn’t uncommon for second games to be experimental either as The Legend of Zelda II and Castlevania II have shown us. Super Mario Bros. 2 is still a platforming game, though more emphasis has been placed on combat. After all, the game’s main defining feature is the ability to grab literally anything you come across and use it as ammunition. What better way to kill a Shy Guy than with another Shy Guy am I right? Digging, picking up objects or enemies; About half of the game revolves around this ability. Occasionally you also need a key to open a door, and that’s where the stuff of nightmares comes in. Yeah I’m not going to lie, Phanto scared the hell out of me when I was young, and it might very well be one of the reasons why I never beat it at that age. The stages aren’t horizontal planes anymore which is a big improvement, and can occasionally feature hidden secrets through the usage of Subspace. The first game had warp pipes to go to later worlds, and Super Mario Bros. 2 also has that but just a bit more clever. Subspace is also where you can find life bar increasements and coins to spend on gambling for extra lives in a day where gambling in video games weren’t considered a massive sin. God I miss these days… Enemies have also been improved by a good margin, and especially the bosses are now a joy to fight. Every level features a boss at the end and while all the non-final-level-of-a-world bosses are just Birdo, they change the arena- and Birdo’s abilities around enough to make them not feel like a chore or pathetically easy. Overall it’s a massive improvement over the original Super Mario Bros. if you ask me.

Super Mario Bros 2 Phanto
Phanto still wakes me up at night when I open my door with a key…

Four different characters, four times the fun

Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t force you to play as only Mario, and this is quite neat! You can also play as Luigi, a random Toad and Princess Peach Toadstool and they aren’t just character skins either. Every character has their own abilities, with Mario being… just Mario, but Luigi can flutter jump and Princess Toadstool can hover for a short amount of time. The best part is that you can choose who to play at the start of each level or after every game-over. The game is perfectly beatable with each individual character, but some characters are better in certain situations than others and it’s great the game allows you to give yourself full control over it. And the characters are balanced fairly well too; Luigi and the Princess make platforming a bit easier, but it takes longer for them to pick up items. I never really felt I was in need of platforming help that often as like I said, the game is more combat-oriented where actual platforming isn’t that hard to do. Really, I had more trouble with actually surviving through the stages as health pick-ups are fairly rare. I wouldn’t call the game hard overall–especially if you’re lucky with gambling–, but enemies are a bit more clever and since you have to endure an entire stage with few health pick-ups, you might lose a life every now and then. It’s nothing to blame the game itself for though, as I feel the controls were pretty spot-on. I did sometimes have issues with climbing a rope or ladder and gauging the distance of my throws, but all characters control very well regardless. The stages were also designed very well in my opinion, with creative usage of enemies as platforms and just being fun to go through with very little annoyances. Special mention going to the jumping fish that function as platforms over a large gap (don’t ask me how), an enemy you can throw on spikes to safely get across them, and using birds or the flying carpet to travel big distances.

Super Mario Bros 2 character select

What version to play though??

Oh right. I did mention in the intro that I wasn’t going to take a look at every game independently, and I’m saying that because out of all the 16-bit versions of classic Super Mario games, this one is the most faithful to the original when it comes to gameplay. I mentioned Super Mario Bros. feeling a bit off in the All-Stars version, but I didn’t have that issue with Super Mario bros. 2. When it comes to what version to pick, it mostly comes down to one decision: do you prefer the game difficult or easy? In the 8-bit version, you only have 3 continues and after that, it’s back to the beginning of the game. The 16-bit version doesn’t have that ”issue” and allows you to save the game at any given point without having to worry about starting all over again. I haven’t played the Gameboy Advance version since I didn’t really want to play through the same game a third time, but the screen crunch in that version is not bad at all and it also has a few extras like collectable coins in stages. The only problem with that version is that your ears will get destroyed by the overly talkative characters (even the bosses have super awkward voices, what the actual ….?), but overall I don’t feel like there’s a best version of this game; any version will give you the excitement you’re looking for.

I’m glad to say that I’ve finally beaten Super Mario Bros. 2, as I can now conclude that it’s a pretty fun game overall even though I’ve never beaten it when I was younger. Despite not initially being intended as the sequel of the original Super Mario Bros., it’s a worthy follow-up with ideas that are still being used in the franchise today. Most of the game revolves around the grabbing mechanic which is unique to this game when it comes to the Super Mario franchise, and it works pretty well with the ability to destroy other enemies or fun bosses. They aren’t simple ”jump over Bowser, hit the axe” bosses anymore, and are definitely one of the high points of this game alongside overall good- and smart level design. Furthermore, there are a total of four different characters to choose from after every level- or game over, giving you full control over how you would like to play this game. As for what version to play; I feel both stand on equal grounds to each other, so it mostly comes down to how difficult you want it to be for yourself. Regardless of what version, I would definitely recommend this game to any fan of the Super Mario franchise who hasn’t played this game yet, or (retro) 2D platformer fans in general.


Nepiki's Rating

Overall rating

Game Score
Fun Score
  • The main bosses are diverse.
  • Four different characters that all play different from each other.
  • The level design feels pretty smart.
  • Health pick-ups are very rare.

I’m glad I finally went through the entire game. Younger Nep had a different outlook on the video game world, but ancient Nep is far more willing to give every game a chance, however different they may be. And hey, it paid off! I wouldn’t put this amongst my favourite Super Mario games personally, but I still had a really good time regardless. My apologies for not covering the Advanced version, but I didn’t feel like playing through the game a third time, and only playing a small bit of the game does not justify a comparison. This also goes for the next games in the marathon, although I will mention something specific for the next game!

I started off this review with a brief history lesson on how this game came to be, which I also did in my old reviews. Would you like to see it return, or are you fine with how the reviews currently are?

Does this genre interest you? If so, I have multiple other Platformer reviews ready for you!

About author


A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!

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Fairy Queen

I like Mario but I’m not so good at videogaming.