On October 9th, 2018, Super Mario Bros. 2 will reach the big 3-0, three decades young.
Super Mario Bros. 2 was primed to hit store shelves as the phenomenon that was the Nintendo Entertainment System — or just “Nintendo” to most at the time — had escalated into a household name all across the United States. The Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt 2-in-1 Game Pak included with so many of the Action Sets sold further helped to cement that status, turning Mario into a cultural icon in the process.
But unlike today, where Nintendo is more often than not content to release a single “core” Mario title per platform and let spin-offs carry the brand through the rest of the generation, Nintendo of America wanted to strike while the iron was hot and get a sequel out to an ever-growing number of fans. However, there was one problem.
Nintendo of Japan had already made a sequel two years earlier, one that NoA’s resident Game Master and Fun Club President Howard Phillips felt was “unfairly difficult,” even beyond the level of challenge many Nintendo games of the era are known for. Rather than release a game that would potentially sell poorly and tarnish the “fun” brands Nintendo and Mario had built up, it was instead decided to convert another game — the Fuji TV licensed title Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (which, incidentally, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto had been more involved in developing) — into a new adventure for the plumbing protagonist and his pals.
Contrary to how some people feel about the game today in the context of the greater Mario franchise, the move worked. Nintendo did more than just swap out a few assets and call it a day, but significantly revised and polished Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic into a title worthy of being a flagship release for the company heading into the 1988 holiday season, as well as being the cover story for the inaugural issue of Nintendo Power magazine.
And not knowing nor really caring about how the game came to be, fans ate it up. Super Mario Bros. 2 rose in popularity to the top of Nintendo’s charts, as parents struggled through multi-state hunts and staking out retailers in the hopes of getting a copy:
Hm. You look at the release of the NES Classic Edition after watching that, and come to realize some things never change.
In any case, while Nintendo has yet to return to the setting and style of Super Mario Bros. 2, it’s nevertheless had a major impact on the franchise. In addition to being featured on par with Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 in comics, cartoons, and merchandise back in its heyday, many enemies, items, and elements have carried on into further games over the years. And speaking of the NES Classic Edition, it’s a common re-release whenever Nintendo rolls out a variety of their vintage titles — often coming ahead of or even supplanting its Japanese namesake, which did eventually see release in the west as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.
But will Nintendo ever return to Subcon and revive Wart for another go-round with his hated enemy? Upon being asked that very question in an interview with IGN, New Super Mario Bros. series director Takashi Tezuka said “Well, I’ll think about that, then, that’s good feedback.”
That was five years ago, just before the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U. Nintendo’s next 2D Mario release is an update of the latter, but as far as an all-new game goes? Despite the long wait, maybe there’s still hope.