The Story Behind Two Super Mario Bros. 2 Games

in gaming •  3 years ago  (edited)



Released in 1985, Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo's NES has to be considered one of the most, if not the most, well known videogame of all time. I'm sure we have people here on Steemit whose first videogame experience it was to play Super Mario Bros. Myself included.

The original Super Mario Bros. is the best-selling game in the Mario franchise with 40.24 million copies sold. And that's excluding Game Boy Advance and Virtual Console sales.

After a reception like that, a sequel was a no-brainer. And we did receive Super Mario Bros 2. in 1988, but what if I told you that there were actually two Super Mario Bros. 2 games? And you may have not even heard of the first one.

And why was the Super Mario Bros. 2 you actually have played so different from the first game?

The Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2


After the success of Super Mario Bros. Nintendo started working on a sequel, which was released in Japan in 1986. This is not the same Super Mario Bros 2. that the western world got in 1988.

The story of the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 starts with the game Vs. Super Mario Bros. an arcade game that used the same engine as the original Super Mario Bros. The game would feature redesigned and more difficult levels compared to the first game. The development team had such a great time designing these harder levels and then playing them that they decided that these levels should be featured in an official Mario sequel.

So, the development of the Japanese Super Mario Bros 2. started.


A number of the Vs. Super Mario Bros. levels were reused in Super Mario Bros. 2, but the game also had completely new levels, made exclusively for the game. The game engine is identical to its predecessor, with the visual style and music being exactly the same.

One big difference, however, is that the player could choose to play as either Mario or Luigi, and unlike in the first game, the two brothers had unique play styles; Luigi could jump higher than Mario, but was a bit harder to control, whereas Mario couldn't jump as high as Luigi, but his controls were more solid.

In pretty much every Mario game since, Luigi has been given the ability to jump higher than Mario, and it started with he Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2. A nice bit of trivia there.


The other big difference was the fact that the game was so hard it was inhumane.

I've never played the original Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, but the game was later remade for the SNES's Super Mario Allstars collection as "the Lost Levels". The Lost Levels has been slightly modified from the original to be a bit easier, but it still offers a great challenge for anyone looking for a difficult Mario experience. The Lost Levels is easily the most challenging Mario game I've ever played.

The game was a big success in Japan, which naturally lead to the team considering that they should send it to North America for play testing, to see if the game would be released in the western world, as well.

This is where the story gets a twist.

The Poison Mushroom of Death

Howard Phillips was the person responsible for testing and reviewing Super Mario Bros 2. He was surprised about receiving the game without warning. After all, it was the sequel to the most popular game of all time.

Howard was excited to test it out, but was immediately killed in the first level by a poison mushroom, designed to fool the player into thinking that it's a power up.

As Phillips continued to play, he grew more and more frustrated over the difficulty level and the leaps of faith that the game was constantly forcing him to take. Phillips was disappointed with the game, thinking that the difficulty level would be too much for American players.

Also, Nintendo of America wanted to showcase better graphics and other improvements, which is why Super Mario Bros. 2's similarity to the first game was a turn off.

The decision was made not to release the game in North America.

A request was made for a more accessible sequel. And a sequel to Mario was necessary, since at this time, Sega was pushing their own mascots, and Nintendo licensees were putting out their own franchises. As weird as it sounds now, Super Mario was in danger of fading into obscurity.

Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic


It's funny how a completely obscure game to the west, called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, would go on to change the entire Mario franchise forever.


Released in 1987 in Japan, Doki Doki Panic was a side scrolling platformer, like Mario, but instead of being based on jumping, Doki Doki Panic was built around picking things off the ground and using them as weapons.

The player would control four characters throughout the course of the game:

  • Imajin, the balanced character
  • Mama, who has the ability to jump higher and hover in the air for a little bit
  • Lina can also jump high, but is low in speed and strength.
  • Papa, the strongest of all the characters, who but struggles to jump that high

The four different characters offered the player an ability to be strategic about how he would approach each level.

The game was critically acclaimed and received some comparisons to Super Mario. It was innovative and fresh, and graphically it was huge lead forward from the original Super Mario Bros.

Since the original Super Mario Bros 2. got rejected by Nintendo of America, Doki Doki Panic gave the people at Nintendo of Japan an idea: what if they would send Doki Doki Panic to America, and asked them if replacing the main characters with Mario characters would make the American gamers happy.

The answer by Nintendo of America was a resounding yes.

The Western Super Mario Bros. 2


1988 saw the North American and European release of the altered Doki Doki Panic, now with Mario characters, which would become what we in the west know as Super Mario Bros. 2.

The game is virtually identical with Doki Doki Panic, only with Mario characters. Imajin is now Mario, Mama became Luigi, Lina would be Princess Toadstool and Papa was made to be Toad. Like I mentioned earlier, Luigi's high jumping ability would be a staple in the Mario series, and it was the case with this version of Super Mario Bros. 2, as well.

In addition to Luigi's jump mechanics, several characters from Doki Doki Panic would also become part of the Mario universe. These included, but were not limited to Shy Guys, Birdos, Pokeys and Bob-ombs. Especially Shy Guys would become instantly recognizable in the Mario world, so it's funny to think that they were originally created for an entirely different gaming franchise. But such is the world of videogames sometimes.

Super Mario Bros. 2 received a warm welcome from the North American and European gaming community, even though there were people wondering why the game was so different than the original Super Mario game.

And why on earth is Mario holding a carrot in the game cover.

Western players were of course unaware of the story behind Doki Doki Panic, until several years later. The confusion was made stronger by the fact that Super Mario Bros. 3 was again closer to the first game than the second game. So, the second game really stood out as a weird stepchild. Luckily, this didn't stop people from enjoying the game, and it is a really fun game.

There were some slight alterations from Doki Doki Panic, such as one changed boss that was deemed a bit too difficult, a run mechanic similar to that of the first Mario game, and a shrinking mechanic that would trigger when the character only had one life left. It was also a bit more polished than the original Doki Doki Panic with some better animations, etc.

But generally the game was Doki Doki Panic with Mario characters.

It's extremely difficult to get one's hands on Doki Doki Panic, but Super Mario Bros. 2 has been re-released several times for different systems. It remains as a fond memory and part of the Mario universe, even if the story behind it is not something you would expect.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down gaming history lane. I really enjoy doing pieces like this, so I hope people enjoy reading them as well. I don't expect this to be super popular, but this was so much fun to make that it was like a vacation.

Do you have memories of Super Mario Bros. 2? Have you played the original Super Mario sequel/Lost Levels? Let me know.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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Of course, it is good to remember that Doki Doki Panic started its life as a Mario game during development.

In other words, it went from being a Mario game to not being a Mario game back to being a Mario game.

Yes, this actually should have been brought up better in the text. But you're right. It really is a unique life cycle for the game, hah.

Good for you to point this out.

Love this. It also explains why the western version of SM2 that I played on the Super Nintendo made no sense compared to the original game. The whole vegetable mechanic made no sense to me at all and now I understand why.

Heh, brings back fond childhood memories of playing with my dad, a big Mario fan. He liked it, but every 15 minutes he'd go "This is a good game and all, but.. it's so weird."

He really never got over the fact that it was so strange compared to first one.

He loved the Lost Levels game found in Super Mario Allstars, though, so, eventhough he was unaware of it at the time, he got to enjoy Super Mario 2 in the end. :p

Nostalgia is a particular kind of pleasure:)

This is mindblowing. I've always felt Super Mario 2 was a crazy experiment from the developers as it is very different from all other Super Mario games, but now I see it all clearly.

I always hated SM 2 but my wife loves it, but she loves all old Mario games. I should put her play Lost Levels some day and see if she can handle it ;)

nice :))

Very cool!

The best memory is probably the cheat warps.


This is an amazing article. Thank you!!!
This is one of my favorite games ever. It struck me as such a weird game as a child and I loved it. Now living in Japan and knowing the backstory this article is doubly satisfying! Resteeming. Cheers, mate, and keep up the great posts!

Thanks a lot for the re-Steem! It's always the casually put together articles that people end up liking, hah. Glad you enjoyed it.

Very informative, well written article. Learn something new every day!