Playing with Power: Super Mario Bros. 2
June 26, 2019
Anyone looking through the games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System would notice there’s something odd about some sequels released for many long-running series people are familiar with.
In 2018, the video games industry posted $43 billion in sales and of the top 10 best selling games of the year, “Marvel’s Spider-Man” was the only game that wasn’t either a sequel or reboot of a previous game. The top five best sellers were western outlaw sim “Red Dead Redemption 2,” followed by military shooter “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4,” sports sims “NBA 2K19” and “Madden NFL 19,” with Nintendo’s brawler “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” rounding out that list. Sequels are big business in video games because of the built-in fan base many of these games have, as well as the familiarity they bring. This wasn’t always the case though.
More than 30 years ago, the business wasn’t generating nearly that much money and a lot of companies didn’t know what to do with game sequels.
Some games, like Capcom’s “Megaman” series, quickly figured out the formula of making small tweaks to what was done in earlier games kept people interested in their products. Other companies experimented more. Nintendo’s “Legend of Zelda II” changed the game’s perspective from a top-down view to a side view, similar to how “Super Mario Bros.” is displayed. The second “Castlevania” game moved away from Dracula’s castle and into an open area that allowed for exploration. Of many early game sequels, the biggest departures can likely be found in “Super Mario Bros. 2.” Mario and his friends no longer dealt with enemies by stomping on them, they picked up vegetables and other enemies to throw at them. Mushrooms were no longer hidden in blocks, but in specific places only accessible through doors created by magic potions.
It was weird and people could easily mistake it for being a different game all together. That’s because it actually was.
The Japanese “Super Mario Bros. 2” was much closer to the first game than the game U.S. gamers know as “Super Mario Bros. 2.” It was also much more devious. There were poison mushrooms that would kill Mario if he picked them up and many of the stages required almost perfect timing and jumping arcs to pass through.
A game tester at Nintendo of America determined the game was too difficult and frustrating for North American audiences. This put the company in a predicament as a sequel to “Super Mario Bros.” was practically guaranteed to be a hit.
Around this time, Nintendo released a game in Japan called “Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic” that was made by many of the same people who worked on the Mario games. While the game featured elements from Arabian fantasy, the game did borrow Mario’s jumping. Because of this, Nintendo decided to replace the game’s characters with Mario characters and added other Mario elements to the game, then released it in North America as a sequel to “Super Mario Bros.”
As expected, the game sold well. While the vegetable-throwing action and magic potion doors were never revisited, some aspects of the game did make their way into other Mario games.
Some enemies, like the mask-wearing Shy Guys and walking bombs called Bob-ombs, made appearances in future games.
Eventually, Japanese players would play the game, which was retitled “Super Mario USA,” while North American players would get the Japanese sequel when Nintendo released “Super Mario Bros. All Stars” on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, calling the game “Super Mario Bros .: The Lost Levels.”
Video game sequels are big business and usually follow a very dedicated formula. For a short time early in the history of video games, sequels were a lot less defined and led to unique and sometimes bizarre games.