It’s probably strange that one of my favorite Super Mario titles is Super Mario Bros 2 and not actually a real Mario title. This game, originally Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic probably never would have found a home in the US, or at least among a wide audience without the reskinning of characters and at the same time in Japan “the real” Super Mario Bros 2 might not have sold so well in the states as it added very little to the series and was excessively difficult. Like it or hate it Super Mario Bros 2 was a sturdy set-up for the continuously evolving Super Mario formula.
While still maintaining its 2D platforming Super Mario Bros 2 was likely the most drastically different game in the series. Every game has (for the most part) tried to evolve the series in one direction or another, but SMB2 completely changes the game. Mario is classically portrayed being able to jump on enemy heads, crushing them under boot, kicking them around. In this game jump on what not enough; it was picking up that mattered. Uprooting turnips or enemies to toss was the primary strategy used to fight ones way through a level. Bosses were also fought off in this manor, the now staple of Mario sports and racing games Birdo was only defeatable with the aid of eggs it launched from its mouth.
In the first game one could play as Mario, and if bringing along a friend it was possible to team up, taking turns across the levels. In SMB2 a player was given the choice to select one of four characters – Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad. Mario was well rounded. Luigi had his now classic high jump. Peach could float. Toad…I never really used. This choice was never really replicated in future titles. And that’s a shame because it brought a lot of uniqueness to the franchise, as well as finally allowing player one a turn with Luigi (or a girl! *gasp*)
For a game without much acclaim among the larger Mario fanbase it certainly gets little praise in this day. This is probably because it can easily be depicted as the bastard offspring of the Super Mario series, not a true Mario game, but it was still a great game starring Mario. It doesn’t play like any of the other 2D Marios out there, and I’m going to make a bold statement: Good! I love it because it is not like the other Mario titles. If I have played Super Mario Bros I have the skills to play SMB3, Super Mario World, and the two New Super Mario Bros. But if I want to shake things up and play something different while still experiencing the joy of Mario’s bizarre universe I play this game. And unlike The Lost Levels it started a trend in Mario games to give something new to the player every game – it didn’t raise the difficulty; it raised the bar.
Notice I said “Mario’s bizarre universe” and not the “bizarre universe of Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic.” This is not a bastard child in the Mario franchise; it is an adopted one. Since it became a Mario game it has added to the Mario cannon. Take Super Smash Bros for example, in this series Luigi has a higher jump than Mario and Peach floats and throws turnips. Toad has become a much more prominent character throughout the entirety of the franchise and Birdo has been accepted into the Mario sports game rosters.
For as much as I enjoy the Super Mario series of games, there is rarely I time when I feel like playing old ones again just for “the hell of it.” But there are some days when I am sitting back and decide “Hey! Super Mario Bros 2 sounds really fun right now” so I give it a little love. There’s a lot of joy to be had playing one of the most underappreciated Mario games out there and I’m glad for the experience.