You can’t talk about SMB2 without mentioning the Japanese Mario 2 and Doki Doki Panic. After the initial smash success of Super Mario Bros, a sequel was bound to follow. In Japan, the sequel was near-identical to the original, but the difficulty was ramped up considerably, and often in unfair ways. This version first hit the rest of the world in the Super Mario All Stars collection on the SNES, titled ‘Lost Levels’.
Nintendo figured the American audience would reject the difficulty and demand something bigger and better, like a stuffed crust pizza!
Doki Doki Panic didn’t start as a Mario game, but it was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto. He envisioned a vertical platformer, using enemies and other objects to progress. Elements of this are still in the final product, when using ladybugs to climb sky-high vines, or digging your way to the depths of a sand pit.
Miyamoto however, decided this core mechanic was not enough fun to build a game around, and they eventually turned the engine into Mario‘s USA sequel.
The multiple characters, verticality, and digging of items all made the transition. In fact, footage of the original game is remarkably similar, but lacking the Nintendo polish we’ve come to expect.
Mario 2 may be considered a black sheep, but it still controls extremely well, and feels similar to Mario 3 and World in many ways.
The visuals were a big upgrade from the first game, painting a fantastical world for the player to explore. It was also the first Mario to let the player scroll the screen to the left. The lack of time limit and emphasis on exploration and secrets made for a much different experience, echoing shades of Mario 64.
The Mario franchise to me, is all about great controls, a fun atmosphere, and interesting ideas. Recent entries haven’t been able to raise the bar as substantially as the trail-blazing earlier titles, and SMB 2 deserves recognition for its unique concepts.
Some may say it isn’t a true Mario, but if it jumps like one, and is made by Miyamoto himself, then I’d consider it a member of their family they should be very proud of.