The Mario game that never made its way to America until the SNES Super Mario Bros. All Stars, Super Mario Bros. – The Lost Levels is the true sequel to the Famicom original and is every bit the definition of 8-bit hard.
Released in June 1986 in Japan for the Famicom Disk System, Super Mario Bros. 2, as it is known in Japan, featured poisonous mushrooms, wind weather effects, impossible jumps, hidden blocks that would block your jump, and all manner of cheap gameplay mechanics designed to frustrate a player’s progress. In a word, it wasn’t as much fun as the first game, and that’s why it never made it to the United States until the SNES remake years later.
Instead Japan decided to reshape the Famicom game Doki Doki Panic into Super Mario Bros. 2, released in Japan as Super Mario Bros. 2 USA. Remaking the sprites from the licensed Fuji TV project Doki Doki Panic, Super Mario Bros. 2 USA introduced players to Toad, Princess, and a taller, leaner Luigi.
But the true sequel, the one too difficult for the world to handle, largely hews to the formula of Super Mario Bros. If you’ve ever wondered why Super Mario Bros. 2 USA is so radically different from the first game, this is why. In some ways the tradition established by the pixel switch out with Super Mario Bros. 2 USA helped establish the current franchise practice of innovating on the core gameplay when contrasted with the previous entry.
The original Super Mario Bros. 2 was beelined for production after the blockbuster success of the premier game but, unlike that game, actually eliminated the 2-player option and made Luigi a different, selectable character for the first time. Traits that gamers are now familiar with as concerns Luigi, such as a higher jump and a more a slippery jaunt, were established in this game.
Featuring 32 levels across 8 worlds, the game was absolutely massive but it was truly for the pros only. Unlike the first game’s inviting presentation and gentle difficulty curve, the second game threw all of that moderation out of the window and seemingly punished the player for daring to engage.
There is one prominent example that critics often gripe about with regard to Super Mario Bros. 2 – the backwards level warps. You read that correctly: Super Mario Bros. 2 introduced the concept of hidden warps that would send the player back to levels already completed or skipped over. Talk about a punishing game!
Don’t let these detractions make you underestimate the importance of the original Super Mario Bros. 2 for the history of the franchise. The game wasn’t poorly received by all quarters and, in fact, skilled players of the original Famicom title loved Super Mario Bros. – The Lost Levels’ intense difficulty.
Today it enjoys a vibrant life in the speedrunning scene and is considered the inspiration behind the fan-made Kaizo Mario games, iterations that emphasize impossible levels of difficulty and absurd level design.