My glorious frustration with Super Mario 2. And some thoughts on Super Mario 3.

As much fun as I had had with Super Mario Brothers in the late 80s, I think the true love affair between Mario and myself began with  Super Mario 3.

We were first introduced on the NES and it was love at first play.  The 1990s were still young and I was still ~sigh~ young at heart.  Super Mario 3 certainly had the cuteness factor – I mean, he looks like a raccoon (sorta) on the cover of the game! Squeeee!  Well, okay, it wasn’t really a “suit,” but the tail and ears were enough for me.

Super Mario Bros. 3 cover art © Nintendo (source)

But really, how could I turn down the chance to fly around levels? (And this was before I had developed my ungodly fear of having to “fly” in video games.  I’m still not all okay with gliding in Arkham City.)

Like many platformers, in SM3 you navigated Mario around a series of levels in several themed worlds – grass, desert, snow/ice, giants, sky; you get the idea. Like all Mario games, your goal was to defeat Bowser (and this time round his children) and save Princess Peach.  You had the familiar controls of jumping, stomping, and dashing, as well as flying and swimming.  In addition to being able to fly via the raccoon suit, there were other power suits, such as the frog suit that allowed for better swimming, and the tanooki suit (probably the closest Mario will ever get to being a furry, I’m guessing) that not only allowed for flying but also gave Mario the ability to turn, like any tanooki surely, into a statue.   There was also a suit that turned Mario into something like a Koopa, and I think he could throw hammers.  (Damn you terribly memory!)

See? Happy clouds and a raccoon suit make all the difference when trouncing upon your enemies. (source)

If you’ve never played this game, really, you must.  It’s very strong visually, has great game play, and it so totally super sweet – from the smiling clouds to the seemingly-never-unhappy-yet-always-slightly-annoying enemies that we all know and love.  The controls worked remarkably well, I remember, though they were never that precise — both flying and swimming were relatively easy.  After I beat the game, I couldn’t help but play over and over…and over again.

But then, just a few years later, we got our first Super Nintendo.  And what game came with it but Super Mario All Stars.  Do you know what a revelation this was to my gaming-numb mind??  I mean, this one single cartridge contained not one but four (FOUR!!) Mario games: Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario 2, Super Mario 3, and Super Mario: The Lost Levels.  And each had been tooled or re-tooled in glorious 16-bit color (SO PRETTY!).  All my Mario-driven dreams had finally (FINALLY!) come true.

Super Mario All Stars cover art © Nintendo (source)

Super Mario All Stars is the one where I finally beat my not-so-bad nemesis, Super Mario Brothers.  I also continually played Super Mario 3 until my eyes bled gold coins and raccoon suits.  However, it was also my first introduction to Super Mario 2.   Since I had never heard of it before, I gravitated right to it upon first play.

Super Mario Bros. 2 cover art © Nintendo (source)

I had never loved and hated a game more.  I became inexplicably drawn to its weird landscapes, its difficulty, and its Shy-Guys like some terrible mutant moth that’s only drawn to the flame of 151 on top of a shot.

Super Mario 2 was a game that I had to play and yet, in my heart of hearts, knew I could never finish.  The first bit of awesomeness about it was that you could choose your player.  No longer did only Mario and sometimes Luigi rule the worlds, but you could also play as Princess Peach and little Toad.  And yes, I first picked the princess because at least this time she wasn’t stuck in another friggin’ castle.

The mechanics of the game were similar but different.  Running and jumping were the same, but gone was stomping on enemies.  Instead, you had to throw vegetables at them that you “harvested” from the ground. Or occasional POW blocks appeared that when thrown would defeat a whole screen of enemies.  There was fruit to collect and hearts gave you life.  And each character, Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad had a unique special ability.  Peach, for instance, could “glide” with the help of her voluminous skirt.

The sucky thing about SM2 was that it was just soooo damn hard! (That’s what she said.)  I have bad depth perception, aiming, and timing, three key points that made for the most gloriously frustrating play ever and three key abilities that were necessary to excel in the game.  Every platform felt “slippery” or seemed just out of reach.  I couldn’t throw a rutabaga to save my life.  And I swear at some point the Shy Guys just mocked me.  Speaking of which, those Shy-Guys, well…fuck.  They were kinda cute and all in their odd Jawa-meets-Jason faces, and they are my favorite of all Mario enemies, but man, they seemed to be all over the place.  In too many places.  And in too many ways.

It was Mario, in the study, with a…turnip. A very deadly turnip. (source)

But despite all the reasons why I should have just stuck with SM3, I couldn’t not try to play SM2 over and over…and over again.  And like my experience with Super Mario Brothers, SM2 was not a controller-throwing game, but one I just had to keep trying for no good reason except that it existed. Plus, it was really nice to look at.  Being the middle child, its graphics were better than the original SM but not as complex as SM3, but it was still bright and shiny and different.

Super Mario 2 stands out as the black sheep of the Mario family, but that doesn’t make it any less of a Mario game.  It goes with saying that I never got anywhere near the end of the game, but those few levels that I did get through are still quite memorable and enough to make me want to try it again someday.  True, I might have a better chance of “retrieving” cherries from a Vegas slot machine, but that doesn’t mean it’ll never happen.

5 thoughts on “My glorious frustration with Super Mario 2. And some thoughts on Super Mario 3.”

  1. I have Super Mario All-Stars, but I never beat any of the games on it. I am horrible at old Mario games. I may never beat them. Ever ever. My favorite might be Super Mario 3, but I’m not exactly sure why. I liked playing Super Mario 2 a lot because it was different. But, it’s impossible. I once got it for the Game Boy Advance (I didn’t even know it was a game I already had; I should’ve done research first), and I managed to get farther in that version for some reason, but I eventually sold it because the sound effects were creepy. They added all these sounds for the characters, and it bugged me so much, I couldn’t stand it. I did get a whopping several dollars for it, which is nice.

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    1. I had no idea they made a version of All Stars for the GBA. I tried to sell back a few GBA games a couple years again and the Gamestop guy kinda just laughed at me. He gave me 50 cents for a Kingdom Hearts game and wouldn’t take the others.

      I’m pretty sure that I’d put my foot through the TV if I tried and of the old Mario games now. Frankly, they’re just plain difficult. In my case, my aged brain (and reflexes) just can’t handle the challenge now-a-days. It’s easier to shoot ones way through a level of monsters rather than try to coordinate jumping from one happy cloud to the next.

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  2. I enjoyed reading this; I remember the thrill of how purely different SM2 was from the original Mario game. I could never beat it myself, but I watched someone play the ending and remember being enraptured by the timing of throwing vegetables at Wart. And I also hated those Phantom guys who guarded keys. They freaked me out something fierce, the way they followed you… It was a different kind of game, which made it interesting. Even now it still stands out as slightly off from the other games in the franchise, but its influence upon later installments can still be seen.

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    1. It’s interesting that the SM creators took something of a risk so earlier in the series (though they probably didn’t know it was going to be a series back then). Like a lot of trilogies, the second installment usually veers away from the first, for better or worse, before returning to familiar territory in the 3rd installment. I’ve never seen the end of SM2 – your mention of timing makes me think that I’ll never see it without the help of the internet!

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