Super Mario Bros. was a huge hit for Nintendo! Soon after release, Shigeru Miyamoto decided that the sequel would be developed for absolute masters of the original title. Super Mario Bros. 2 would be developed, and released, for the Famicom Disk System. Nintendo decided that this game was actually too hard for western audiences. We wouldn’t get it for quite a few years later. When we did get the Japanese Mario 2, it was dubbed the “Lost Levels” of the original game. The title the west got is a story for another day. Today, I’ll be honoring every version of what Japan got as Super Mario Bros. 2.

Super Mario Bros. 2 (Famicom Disk System, 1986)

The Lost Levels plays incredibly similar to the first game. You have the same three power-ups. Your moveset is still incredibly limited, and I feel the same clunkiness with the control. There is no two-player option, but you’re given the choice between Mario and Luigi before starting your adventure.

Mario plays exactly as he did in the original, but Luigi has some differences. He’s got slippery shoes and a floatier jump. Luigi feels like a ROM hack over an already too hard game. I found playing as him down-right infuriating. Out of most of my play-throughs, I only used him for one.

Super Mario Bros. 2 is notorious for being challenging. It is noted as “unfair” by many, but I still prefer it to the original game’s design. There are quite a few spots where jumps are too tight, or enemies too plenty, but they come separated by multiple worlds at the least. Super Mario Bros. 2 tries many more ideas than the original. It helps things feel a little less like a slog.

The game looks incredibly similar to the first. Mario, Luigi, and all of their enemies share the same sprites as before. There are a number of touch-ups in levels themselves. The ground always looks more detailed and the sky is often prettier. Princess Peach herself has even gotten a facelift. She looks more like an actual character this time. She’s a bit too out of proportion with everyone else though. It feels like it was a sprite made for The Legend of Zelda.

Super Mario Bros. 2 features five unlockable worlds. This is the beginning of the end. You can unlock a looping World 9 world if you beat the other eight without using a warp zone. It’s simple enough. To unlock the other four, you must beat the game eight times. That is sixty-four worlds. It’s two hundred and fifty-six levels. It took me over seven hours to simply UNLOCK World A. After completing World A you’ll go to B and eventually reach World D. These secret worlds weren’t at all worth the pain of unlocking them. I spent far too much time just wishing it could end and that I was done already. On top of that, they mostly reuse design from the other nine. You don’t get any special reward or even change in dialogue for rescuing Peach. DO NOT UNLOCK THEM IN THIS VERSION OF THE GAME.

Super Mario All-Stars (SNES, 1993)

Mario All-Stars is a wonderful remake that handles all four NES titles with care. All-Stars was the first to coin this game as “The Lost Levels.” All-Stars introduces smoother movement and a beautiful code of paint, but all of the improvements in the world can’t fix an experience as fundamentally flawed as Lost Levels. All-Stars heavily cuts the tedium. You only have to beat the game once to unlock the extra worlds.

All-Stars had the opportunity to fix what was broken, but it decided to leave it all alone. I think Lost Levels could’ve benefited greatly from redesigned levels. The best remakes take the original vision and fix what they didn’t expect to break. As amazing as the All-Stars package is, I still can’t recommend this game.

Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (GBC, 1999)

Super Mario Bros. Deluxe was the second extensive remake of Super Mario Bros., and I took an extensive look at it in my review. Super Mario Bros. Deluxe adds a challenge mode to the first game, unlockable pictures, and You vs. Boo. Deluxe is graphically based on the NES but offers smoother control than All-Stars. After collecting 300,000 points and beating the game, you unlock Super Mario Bros. for Super Players. It’s a complete remake of Lost Levels within Deluxe! For some reason, the last five worlds are inaccessible. That is definitely better than replaying the game eight times.

Super Mario Bros. Deluxe’s biggest flaw is the resolution. The game is screen-crunched so hard that it makes playing impossibly hard. Blind jumps are common, hammers will fly out of nowhere, and you better hope that a Goomba doesn’t just fall out of the sky. That’s just with the original! Super Mario Bros. for Super Players is downright unplayable! The Lost Levels already asked far too much of players, but Deluxe asks for it with hampered vision! If you’d genuinely want to play like this, you must hate yourself more than a chimp hates a gorilla slinging its own feces back at him!

Final Verdict

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels just isn’t an enjoyable experience. It’s the big dark spot on Miyamoto’s squeaky clean ledger. The best way to have fun with The Lost Levels is to ignore it. All-Stars contains the best version by a landslide. It’s a shame that Deluxe, once again, is held back by being a Gameboy game. If you don’t have All-Stars, Super Mario Bros. 2 is a part of the Japanese NSO service. You can play it simply by creating a Japanese Nintendo account. You won’t need two subscriptions.