Review: Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we take a look at the third game in the Super Mario series, Super Mario Bros. 2. This side scrolling adventure game took a dramatic turn from the first in the NES series, so we decided to take a look and see if this iteration in the original NES trilogy is worth playing.

If you’ve played the previous iteration of this series, you’ll notice that this game bares little resemblance to the first in the trilogy. It was released in 1988, 5 years after the hugely successful Super Mario Bros. game. The interesting part was that this game was originally developed as a game that had nothing to do with Super Mario, but rather, involved four playable characters tasked with rescuing two children in a dream world. Originally, this game as called Doki Doki Panic complete with it’s own storyline. For the North American version, some of the artwork was tweaked, the plot was changed (rather crudely), and Super Mario characters were superimposed over the original characters. More on that can be seen here.

In this version, the storyline goes that a door was opened and a whole world was opened up with a distant cry for help. That’s, well, the storyline.

You start off with selecting on of the four playable characters. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I chose Princess Toadstool for her ability to float in the air for short periods of time.

When you enter the first level, you start off by falling from a door onto the top of a grassy mountain-like thing. Unlike the previous version of Super Mario Bros, jumping on enemies doesn’t kill them – ever. Instead, you can simply stand on them. When you tap “B”, you can pick up the enemy and carry them on top of your head. If you throw the enemy, they’ll bounce along the ground and go back to wandering around. However, if you manage to throw them into another enemy, they’ll collide and fall off of the screen. If you defeat enough enemies, a heart will start to float up from the bottom of the screen. These hearts can replenish your health.

Throughout the different levels, you’ll also notice various plants that are growing randomly in the ground. Sometimes, they are just roots. Other times, they can be a turnip. Regardless, you can use them to throw at enemies. This will have the same effect as you throwing an enemy at them. The great part about it is that if you manage to connect the throw with multiple enemies, you’ll clear them all off of the screen.

Sometimes, you’ll find a magic potion hidden amongst these plants. If you do, throw it when you are around a bunch of plants. Throwing it while not moving will cause you to drop it right in front of you, but moving will cause you to throw it farther. When it hits the ground, a magic door will appear. Going in this door will lead you to a sort of night time version of the level. In this part, you can pull up plants. Most of these plants will reveal coins. The more coins you collect, the more chances you have at gaining free lives at the bonus chance portion at the end of each level. More on that later.

What’s also found in these night time versions are also mushrooms. If you lift up these mushrooms, you’ll increase your health capacity to a maximum of four hit points. These mushrooms are only sparsely placed throughout the night time level, so finding the right part of the level to open up a magic door can be critical.

In addition to that, you can drop these magic potions near pipes. If you find the right pipe (very few actually work in the game) behind the magic potion, you’ll enter a warp zone that allows you to skip several levels.

Be warned, you have a very limited time in the night version of the level before getting kicked back to the day version again. Re-entering the door merely allows you to go back to the daytime level faster, so really, there’s little reason to enter back through the door.

Sometimes, plants reveal bombs. These can be useful for blasting through breakable walls. Another item of interest is, strangely, the rocket ship. Yes, pulling up certain plants will reveal an entire rocket ship that will transport you from one part of a level to another (it makes sense in a way that this game takes place in a dream I suppose).

Another thing you can collect are cherries. If you collect 5 cherries, you’ll have a star gradually float up from the bottom of the screen. Getting this star will grant you temporary invulnerability (for as long as the changed music plays and your character is flashing, you are invulnerable from damage you can take from enemies).

At the end of each level is typically a boss. Often, it’s just Birdo which shoots eggs at you. Pick up these eggs as they fly through the sky and hit Birdo three times to send him flying off the screen. Birdo will drop this blue shiny sphere in the process. Pick up the sphere to cause a giant raven head to open it’s mouth up. Let the bird eat you to complete the level (like I said, this game does take place in an apparently weird dream).

When you complete a level, you’ll get what is called a “Bonus chance”. The bonus chance is basically like a slot machine. Line up certain images to earn free lives. Not all winning combinations have the same image in all three slots (cherries can be like wild cards).

After the bonus chance, you’ll have a chance to re-select the character you want to play. The downside to this is the fact that your life capacity will revert back to 2 again. I’m not really sure if I’m a big fan of this element as it makes little sense to me, but that’s how this game works.

Sometimes, you’ll encounter a locked door in your travels. As you might expect, you’ll need to find the key. These keys are often found inside pipes you travel down. While the key seems like a straightforward thing to pick up, be warned that a mask will suddenly be freed. This mask will fly around and attack you so long as you have the key. Dropping the key will cause the mask to simply fly away again until you pick the key back up again. Unlocking the door with the key will cause the key to disappear (and will stop the mask from harassing you as well, whew!).

Graphically, this game is a huge step up from it’s predecessor. Compared to other games made at the time of this release, I would say that this game arguably has very good graphics. The game does have it’s slowdowns whenever there is a lot happening on the screen, but that’s really my only complaint.

The audio was also really well done. The sound effects were impressive considering the hardware that the game had to work with. The music was good as well. The music didn’t blow my mind, but it was quite well done overall. I particularly like the underground music, personally. It really did a particularly good job at setting the mood.

Overall, this game really departed from the previous Mario Game. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that, but the game itself was decent enough in spite of it. I found that this game stayed fresh from beginning to end, but that may be because I used the warps to get through the game faster. Still, I had no problem playing this game multiple times, so, this game is worth another play through in the end.


Furthest point in game: Beat the game as Princess Toadstool.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 82%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top