Super Mario Bros. 2: What happened there?

Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels (Super Mario Bros. 2) is now the big 3-0! 

This June marks the 30th anniversary of the original Super Mario Bros. 2 Japanese release. However, it is more commonly known as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels over on the Western side of the hemisphere. But what exactly caused this to happen?

The year was 1986; Nintendo had already released 30+ video games in Japan, one of them being the classic Super Mario Bros. Riding the hype, Miyamoto & Tezuka’s team began working on a sequel right away. They drew inspiration from creating and modding levels from the original for their Vs. Super Mario Bros arcade game. Even though they had so much fun making and testing the challenging levels, they were aware new players probably wouldn’t enjoy it due to the difficulty. So, they marketed the sequel at gamers who had played the original thoroughly and slapped a sticker on the box art saying it was for “Super Players”.

Super Mario Bros. 2
Super Mario Bros. 2 (Source: Super Adventures in Gaming)

Jump over to the other side of the pond, Nintendo of America was beginning it’s nationwide launch of the Famicom, that’s the Nintendo Entertainment System for Westerners. This was being packaged with the original Super Mario Bros. which was pretty late considering Japan were already releasing their second Mario game. But this was an intentional delay due to the infamous video game crash of 1983. This cautious decision continued with the release of the Mario sequel; NoA didn’t want to give the impression that the Mario series was frustrating. They also didn’t want to risk it looking outdated by the time it would be converted and localised for the NES. With these worries in mind, NoA requested a more non-Japanese friendly Super Mario Bros. sequel.

Cue Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, the Mario-style platformer developed in association with Fuji Television to promote the event Yume Kōjō ’87. The prototype originally used vertical-scrolling mechanics, but Miyamoto suggested it should include side-scrolling to give it a more Mario feel. Some Mario elements were used in Doki Doki Panic before even being adapted for the American release, such as the POW blocks and Super Stars. Also sound clips for the coins and jumping were sampled from the first Super Mario Bros. instalment. So Doki Doki Panic was effectively already a Mario game which is probably why it was chosen to be moulded in to the Super Mario Bros. 2 western gamers know today. Elements from this version have been reused throughout the Mario series, from the individual character abilities, to enemies such as Shy Guys, Bob-ombs and Pokeys.

Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (FDS) | Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) (Source: Mario Mayhem)

This was an era where Europe received videos games much more later than America and Japan most of the time. Though fear not, fast forward to the early 90s, the Western version was released in Japan under the name Super Mario USA and the Japanese version was finally released to the rest of the world through Super Mario All-Stars under the name Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Albeit, it had a couple of tweaks such as a graphics upgrade, some levels were made easier and you could save any time. But I doubt the casual Mario player can complain about that.

So there you have it, an in depth look into why the Western hemisphere didn’t get their hands on Super Mario Bros. 2 right away. Do you agree with Nintendo of America’s decision? Do you find The Lost Levels significantly harder? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up Twitter!

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Normally just the ranter on the podcasts - decided to take the ranting into text form. Intermediate geek - you'll find me fawning over Pokémon, Zelda and Marvel mainly.

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