When most people think of Super Mario Bros. 2 they think of the game with vegetables and Shy Guys and Wart and Birdo, but not many of them think of the real Super Mario Bros. 2 or Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, as it has come to be known in recent times, even though that’s the true sequel.
I think some people look at it and see that it is visually very similar to its prequel and then lose interest, thinking that it is going to be a rehash, but, actually, I think they’re very different games. The first game, though tricky sometimes, never really feels unfair – you’re introduced to concepts in the earlier levels, you become familiar with them and then you’re prepared for the later levels. The difficulty is gradually introduced.
In this game, the difficulty is there from the start and you’re not given time to prepare. You think you’re getting the usual Super Mushroom power-up at the beginning of the first level, but it’s actually a dangerous Poison Mushroom. As the game goes on, there are Warp Zones which actually send you back to earlier levels instead of forward to later ones. There are invisible blocks which don’t give you a reward when you hit them, but which are positioned to make you fall into a bottomless pit. It’s the kind of video game difficulty which I find quite funny – the level design is working against you.
Having said that, due to the fact that the levels are never too long and that you have infinite lives and continues, I don’t think the difficulty ever becomes frustrating. You are also given the option as playing as Luigi, which means you get extra-high jumps – this is a cool first for the series and is another way that difficulty is combated (though he does have less traction.)
As the game goes on, things actually start to get quite trippy. You get squids swimming through the air. You get land enemies walking around under the water. A blue Bowser randomly shows up. You’ve got levels which look like they’re on land where you can swim and all kind of crazy things you don’t expect from Super Mario Bros. and that’s something I really appreciate. I feel like the game’s prequel can be a bit bland, to be honest, but this game really kept me on my toes.
So if you’re after some atypical, retro Mario fun, then this may be the game for you. I think it’s very underrated.