Super Mario Brothers was one of the most successful and important video games in video game history, one that would launch a multi-billion dollar franchise and mold Nintendo into a major player in the video game industry. Super Mario Brothers 2 was also very successful, but it was certainly an oddity among the Mario Brothers series. Instead of smashing bricks and stomping goombas, Mario (and a host of other characters) threw weaponized turnips and massacred new enemies called “shy guys”.
Instead of the main antagonist being King Koopa, Mario 2’s boss was a villainous toad named “Wart”. Mario 2 is especially strange because its sequel, Super Mario Brothers 3 continued the theme of the original Super Mario Brothers, as did the rest of the Mario franchise, for the most part. This always led to an interesting question which I pondered during my childhood; why was Mario 2 so different from the rest?
After the release of Super Mario Brothers in 1985, Nintendo decided that a sequel was needed to continue the success of the Mario franchise. In 1986 Shigeru Miyamoto, the original designer of Super Mario Brothers, along with designer Takashi Tazuka, created a new sequel. The sequel was essentially a collection of new levels to Super Mario Brothers, using the exact same engine, animation, and character sprites. There was one major difference between Super Mario Brothers and the sequel, the sequel is much, much harder. Some twists that tazuka added were things like poisoned mushrooms, wind gusts that can blow you to your death when jumping, and secret level warps that can actually set the player back farther in the game. Peashooter has played it before, and its gameplay can be best described as punishing. The sequel was released in Japan on the Famicom Disk System as Super Mario Brothers 2, and was very successful. However, when the game was tested by consultant Howard Phillips of Nintendo America for a possible release in the North America, he had one major problem. The game was too damn hard! Phillips stated that the game probably would not be popular among North American gamers and advised that Nintendo not release the game outside of Japan.
In 1987 Nintendo and Fuji Television Network released the game “Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panikku” (Dream Factory: Heartbeat Panic) in Japan for the Famicon Disk System. Doki Doki Panic added a new dimension to the classic sidescroller. First, it introduced vertical scrolling, where characters could jump or climb vertically into new environments and screens. Secondly, characters could pick up objects. In fact, the main way to kill enemies was by picking vegetables out of the ground and throwing them at enemies. Doki Doki Panic also featured four playable characters, each with different strengths and weaknesses, with the main character having balanced abilities. The setting of the game can be best described as “Arabian Mythical”, similar to Sinbad or Arabian Nights, and the theme was especially reflected in the characters; Imajin, Mama, Lina, and Papa.
With the successful introduction of Doki Doki Panic, Nintendo developers stumbled upon a interesting idea; why not use Doki Doki Panic as the basis for a Super Mario Brothers 2 release outside of Japan? Thus Doki Doki Panic was converted into a Mario game, replacing the characters Imajin, Mama, Lina, and Papa with the characters Mario, Luigi, Toadstool, and Princess Peach. Some minor changes to the graphics were made, as well as some changes to the layout of the levels, gameplay, and difficulty (The Mario game being less difficult than Doki Doki Panic), but for the most part, if you’ve played Super Mario Brothers 2, you’ve played Doki Doki Panic, and vice versa.
The new Super Mario Brothers 2 was released on July 10th, 1987, and would sell over ten million copies, the third highest selling game for the NES. It was later re-released on the Gameboy Advance handheld system and for the Wii U system in 2014. The original Japanese Famicom Super Mario Bros. 2 would be released as “Super Mario Brothers; The Lost Levels” in North America.