With over half a billion units sold, the Mario franchise is easily the most popular video game series to date. Originating in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong, the character that would later go on to evolve into the plumber Mario was actually an unnamed carpenter who fought to rescue his girlfriend from the eponymous giant ape, and this damsel in distress scenario set the stage for the franchise to come. With the 1985 game Super Mario Bros., the franchise really began to come into its own.
These earlier Mario games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System helped redefine the capabilities of video gaming, and have continued to entertain players even decades after their release. While 1985's Super Mario Bros. revolutionized the franchise, and Super Mario Bros. 3 is widely considered one of the greatest Mario games of all time, we can't forget about the second installment of the series, which has a distinct style and a fascinating origin story all of its own.
So even if you've uncovered many of the shortcuts and Easter eggs in the near 30 years since Super Mario Bros. 2 was released, you may not know the entire story behind this Nintendo classic.
Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Super Mario Bros. 2.
15 It’s actually the third Super Mario Bros. game
After the massive success of the original 1985 Super Mario Bros. — which held the title of best-selling game of all time for three decades — development on a follow-up game began almost immediately. However, with series creator Shigeru Miyamoto preoccupied with making The Legend of Zelda, Takashi Tezuka, who worked as an assistant director on the previous game, was promoted to director for the sequel.
The result was a similar looking game with increased difficulty, as Tezuka believed many Eastern players had totally mastered the gameplay of the original. However, the game was deemed way too hard for American audiences and, for fear that it wouldn’t sell as well as the original, the game wouldn’t see a release until 1993’s Super Mario All-Stars collection for the Super Nintendo, where it was released under the sub-title The Lost Levels.
14 It’s not a Super Mario Bros. game at all!
Since releasing the original Super Mario Bros. 2 was out of the question from a sales standpoint, Nintendo was scrambling to produce a follow-up game to their most successful release to date. After a vertical scrolling idea was abandoned, it was decided that the Japanese-only game, Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, would be rebranded and retrofitted to become Super Mario. Bros 2 for American audiences.
The original game contained four playable characters named Imajin, Mama, Lina, and Papa, and each level would have to be beaten by each character before the player was allowed to proceed. Of course, these characters became Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool and Toad, and the gameplay was changed so only one character would have to complete each level.
Since many concepts from the original Super Mario Bros. were already present in Doki Doki Panic -- including warp zones, Starmen, and a similar soundtrack -- re-branding the game was not as difficult as one would think, and Super Mario Bros. 2 was released in North America on October 9th, 1988.
13 The whole game is a dream
While the Super Mario Bros. games may seem like they all have rather straight-forward storylines, the writers at Nintendo have proven time and time again that there’s often a lot going on in their games if you manage to look beneath the surface.
For instance, it was long theorized that Super Mario Bros. 3 was simply a stage play, as the game begins with a curtain opening and most levels end with the player exiting stage left. This theory was later confirmed by series creator Shigeru Miyamoto in 2015 in an interview posted on the Nintendo UK Twitter page.
But in the case of Super Mario Bros. 2, the entire game takes place in the mysterious land of Subcon -- a play on the word “subconscious.” While the game’s opening makes it seem as though Mario’s dream world has come to life, if you actually sit through the end credits of the game, you’ll see Mario dreaming of his victory over Wart, hinting that the character has been asleep the entire time.
12 It’s the only Super Mario Bros. game without Bowser…
King Bowser Koopa is not only the most popular Mario villain of all time, he’s arguably the most popular video game villain of all time, period.
The antagonist first appeared in the original 1985 Super Mario Bros. game as the fire-breathing captor of Princess Peach, and he has appeared in over 60 video games to date. But while King Koopa popped up in the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2, he didn’t make it into the American version.
You may think that this was simply because the game was adapted from Doki Doki Panic, but the game developers did go through the trouble of swapping out other bosses, as they did by replacing the third Mouser boss with the newly created Clawgrip.
Therefore, it’s more likely that Bowser did not appear as the final boss because Princess Peach was turned into a playable character, and so couldn't be kidnapped by Bowser in typical Mario fashion.
11 … But the only game to feature Wart
Without the King of the Koopas giving the Mario Brothers a run for their money, a new primary antagonist made his debut in Super Mario Bros. 2.
Appearing as Mamu in 1987’s Doki Doki Panic, this evil frog was renamed Wart for the American rebranding of the original game despite the character largely inhabits the same role, which is that of the most mischievous villain able to inhabit the dream world.
Wart is the leader the 8 bits, which comprises all of the common enemies and bosses throughout the game, and his objective is to use his stolen dream machine to conquer the world of Subcon.
Little is known about Wart other than that he has a disdain for vegetables (which the player later uses to defeat him with) and that he is practical enough to wait patiently between evil schemes. This character could make a long-awaited return in a future installment, though he has yet to appear in any other Mario game since Super Mario Bros. 2.
10 Parallels With The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
While Wart has yet to appear in another Mario game, the character did pop up in the 1993 game The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening going under the name of Mamu — the character’s original name from Doki Doki Panic. However, Mamu actually takes on the role of an ally in Link’s Awakening, performing a song known as “Frog’s Song of the Soul”, which Link later plays on his Ocarina to awaken a number of sleeping and dead characters.
Since both series were created by Shigeru Miyamoto, there are plenty of elements that have overlapped between Mario and Zelda, including Link’s Recorder showing up in Super Mario Bros. 3 as the Warp Whistle, accompanied by the same musical effect. Additionally, both games are revealed to take place within a dream world, with Super Mario Bros. 2 set in Subcon, and Link’s Awakening set in Koholint Island, which is dreamed up by the Wind Fish.
9 The game inspired a spin-off cartoon series
After the massive success of both Super Mario Bros. games in the United States, a kids' cartoon was inevitable. Therefore, the Super Mario Bros. Super Show! was released in 1989, consisting of 65 episodes that aired between September 4th and December 1st of 1989 (though every Friday episode of the show actually featured a Legend of Zelda storyline).
The mixed live-action/animation series heavily borrowed from Super Mario Bros. 2 -- although the primary antagonist was reverted back to Bowser as opposed to Wart -- and many episodes would parody other famous TV shows and folk stories, inspiring episodes such as “Koopenstien” and “Butch Mario & the Luigi Kid.”
While this may sound promising, much like the 1993 live-action film, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! was largely a disappointment, proving that some video game franchises are much better played rather than watched.
8 You only have to beat 2 final bosses to finish the game
While the Warp Whistles became a relatively well-known cheat to use in Super Mario Bros. 3, the ability to skip levels in the second installment was slightly harder to uncover, making for a much more difficult playthrough. However, if you unearth all the games secrets, you can actually beat Super Mario Bros. 2 by only facing off against two of the game's final bosses.
While you’ll still have to square off against plenty of mini Birdo bosses, there are hidden warp zones in levels 1-3 and 4-2 that can immediately transport the player to Worlds 4 and 6, respectively. From there, you’ll have to play the game straight through, which means you only have to defeat the second Tryclyde at the end of World 6, as well as Wart himself at the end of World 7.
Considering how much time many of us slaved over Super Mario Bros. 2 as kids, it’s almost unfathomable to think that a speed run of the game can actually be completed in well under 10 minutes today.
7 The end credits are wrought with mistakes
You would think that the end credits would be one of the easiest parts of the game to design, and, for many players throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, the credits at the end of the game were the only way to figure out the names of the various enemies and other characters featured throughout the game. However, that didn’t stop the makers of Super Mario Bros. 2 from missing a number of errors in the end credits… twice!
The new character of Birdo (referred to as Catherine in the Japanese games) had its name swapped with Ostro in the final credits leading to some confusion, especially since the gender of Birdo is already ambiguous with the character being described in the instruction manual as a male who “thinks he is a girl” and that he would “rather be called ‘birdetta.’” Not to mention that Clawgrip was misspelled as “Clawglip,” and Hoopstar was referred to as “Hopster.”
Yet, somehow these mistakes weren’t even corrected before the 1993 release of Super Mario All-Stars.
6 Even the cover art is inaccurate!
The Mario Brothers are a couple of the most recognizable and distinct looking characters in all of video gaming. However, the characters actually underwent a bit of a makeover between the original 1985 game and Super Mario Bros. 2, trading in their red and green dungarees for blue pairs, which inevitably led to their shirts taking on the colors that are now synonymous with the characters. However, the Mario that appears on the box for Super Mario Bros. 2 still has the appearance of the character from the original game.
This is likely because the design was lifted straight from the Japanese and European box art of the first game, save for the fact that the image is flipped and the object in Mario’s hand is swapped out.
However, this wasn’t the first time that the box art didn’t match the game, as the character of Bowser also went through some dramatic changes between his appearance in the first game as compared to his appearance on the box art (as seen above).
5 It was one of the first games to have a playable female character
With a 2008 Gallup poll revealing that nearly half of all gamers in America are female, it’s no secret that video games are way behind when it comes to gender diversity. With the exception of characters like Lara Croft and Samus Aran, female characters are often reduced to solely being for sex appeal or playing the stereotypical role of damsel in distress — a concept which the Mario and Zelda franchises were originally built upon.
While Super Mario Bros. 2 wasn’t the first game to feature a playable female character, it was certainly one of the most widely played. This was likely a result of the game being an adapted from Doki Doki Panic, which actually contained two female playable characters.
While the original character of Mama was changed into Luigi, the female character of Lina was turned into Princess Peach, which also led to the franchise temporarily abandoning the concept that female characters are only good for being rescued.
4 The game’s prototype involved a “cash” reward
When you do finally beat Wart at the end of level 7-2, you enter an animation screen where the evil frog is being carried off by a group of Shy Guys while the four playable character celebrate his defeat. Here, you’re told just how many levels you beat using each character — a concept that didn’t appear in the original Doki Doki Panic because every level had to be complete by every character in order for the player to proceed, which was thankfully abandoned for the Mario adaptation.
However, one of the original ideas for this final screen was to actually award the player a “cash” reward based on how many times each player died. Of course, the fewer deaths, the more money the player would get.
Maybe this idea was abandoned because it was a bit on the morbid side, or maybe because earning a fake cash reward means little to players. But whatever the reason, the original tiles for the prototype can still be located within the original game.
3 It's the first game where Luigi is taller than Mario
First appearing in the 1983 arcade game Mario Bros., Luigi was original a palette swap of his twin brother, which allowed the game to have two players working side by side. Since then, Luigi has slowly come into his own, developing a distinct personality and an appearance that sets him apart from Mario, which ultimately began with Super Mario Bros. 2.
This 1988 game marks the first time that Luigi was made taller and given the ability to jump higher than his brother — a result of the character being adapted from Mama in Doki Doki Panic. The flutter kick was added to Super Mario Bros. 2 to better illustrate his jumping ability, and the character was also given lower traction than Mario — giving each character a pro and con.
Though these distinct traits were abandoned in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, they have gone on to reappear in many games since.
2 It’s the fourth highest-selling game on the NES
Though Super Mario Bros. 2 is currently ranked as the fourth highest-selling game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, at the time of its release, the game ranked third in sales, reaching 10 million units sold after its October 9, 1988 release date.
At that time, the only two games that had sold more copies were Duck Hunt, at 28,300,000 copies sold, and the original Super Mario Bros., which sold a whopping 40 million copies worldwide, making it one of the highest-selling games of all time.
The second installment was later eclipsed by its predecessor, Super Mario Bros. 3, which is widely considered the greatest Mario game of all time. The game was released in Japan in 1988 and North America in 1990, and went on to sell an impressive 18 million copies around the world.
1 The game is known as Super Mario USA in Japan
Because the game sold so well in North America, it was ultimately decided that Super Mario Bros. 2 would also be given a release in Japan, despite the fact that Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic was ostensibly the same game that had already been released in Japan on July 10 of 1987.
Just as the original Super Mario Bros. 2 was re-released to American audiences under the new name The Lost Levels, the American Super Mario Bros. 2 was rebranded as Super Mario USA for Japanese audiences and was released in 1982.
Since then, the game has seen its fair share of re-releases, and although Super Mario Bros. 2 may not be as beloved as the third installment or Super Mario World, it is still considered one of the best and more distinguished entries into the franchise.
So did we miss any interesting facts about Super Mario Bros. 2? Let us know!
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