Since his epic debut in 1981 against a homicidal ape, Mario has had appearances in over one hundred video games across eighteen consoles. However, none are as iconic as his first three starring roles on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Here, we were introduced to the big-bellied, fire-shooting, princess-saving plumber. Some would call the three “super” games a trilogy, while some others would consider Super Mario Brothers 2 a remake.
In Super Mario Brothers 2, we are reintroduced to the heroic mustachioed maniac as well as his brother, his leading lady, and a shorty named Toad. It was a real departure from the original, leading us to think that that first game was merely a stepping-stone or a teaser for what was to really come in the future. Like most gamers, I was excited beyond words at the brand new cast of villains, the unique way of attacking, and the super jump.
Just a short couple of years later, we get the release of the third installment that felt more like a sequel to the first. The audience was divided. Some fans wanted to continue kicking shells for 1ups and turning into a raccoon. Others were awfully angry, demanding to know what happened to the turnips and the hovering princess - we have to save her again?
In a lot of ways, Super Mario Brothers 2 is far superior to its successor. The second game does a lot more to shake-up the Mario Bros. formula; when you start comparing Bros. 2 and Bros. 3, the second game has more teeth.
15 Bombing Bricks Like A Boss
In the three years between the first and second installment of NES’s Mario games, bombs had really become a fan favorite thanks to games such as The Legend of Zelda and Mighty Bomb Jack. Miyamoto would be a fool to not capitalize on this for the plumber’s adventures. Nintendo had the unique idea of placing their bombs underground, paving the way for the bomb flowers found later in Ocarina of Time.
In Super Mario Bros. 2, bombs aren’t just a novelty but a necessity to destroy walls that bar your path from progressing further. In some cases, you find yourself holding the bomb only to release it just before going off in your hands — nerve racking, but fun nonetheless. In the third installment, there are bombs but only in the form of kamikaze little psychopaths named Bob. A disappointing omission from Super Mario Bros. 3.
14 Bowser Is Scary, But Warts Are Gross
The first two Mario games are notorious for their repetitive bosses. The original Donkey Kong, followed by Bowser over and over again wouldn't pass for the first numeric sequel in the series.
After battling through the eclectic mix of bosses in Super Mario Bros. 2, which included a giant crab and a huge ball of fire, you might still expect to come face-to-face with King Koopa (who always finds himself standing on top of a fire). To your immense surprise, you find yourself face-to-face with a slimy, smirking, frog-like creature in a Hugh Hefner robe. Sadly, in the next game we are not only forced to fight Bowser yet again, but all his bratty kids too.
13 The Brothers, The Princess, Or The Toad?
Super Mario Bros. 2 said the hell with convention and gave us four character options to choose from. These characters didn’t just look different, but each had their own strengths. Toad was squirrely with the highest speed, Luigi was a lanky high-jumper, the princess could float, and Mario was a well-rounded character.
The player select was revolutionary at the time. The more you played, the more obvious the differences between each character became. Figuring out which characters were best for which levels added a massive layer of replay value. When Super Mario Bros. 3 came along, we thought they would re-implement this since it was such a welcomed addition to the platforming genre, but instead, they went with costumes. Costumes are fun, but when it comes down to it, we’d all prefer multiple characters.
12 Precarious: A Tale Of Vines & Chains
Originally, vines were rather simplistic inside the Super Mario universe. At the outset, all you had to do was push up until you were in coin heaven. This evolved rather quickly in three short years, and you found yourself climbing vines higher and higher, struggling not to let your finger shift to the left or the right. One slip and your back down to earth, shaking your fist to the clouds.
Climbing became vastly scarier when paired with a myriad of obstacles, like spikes, Bob-bombs, and fire-spitting flowers. Swinging could be anxiety-inducing, but it was a blast all the same. Sadly, Super Mario Bros. 3 nixed the frightening chains and gave us vines only to lead us to power-ups and gold coins.
11 Doggy-Paddling Is No Fun Whatsoever
In the first installment, Mario splashed down into the first underwater level named 2-2 and then again in 7-2. In these two levels you must doggy-paddle your way passed squid (also known as bloopers), fish, and pits. When you’re playing for long enough, you begin questioning why Mario can hold his breath for so long.
Super Mario Bros. 2 added an element of realism to the series by eliminating water levels as well as adding in waterfalls that you must climb by way of drifting logs. Water also shot out of whales’ blowholes which can damage you if the trajectory is wrong — these added an extra layer of whimsey to the water stages. However, in Super Mario Bros. 3 we are once again returned to the doggy-paddle-style gameplay with all its oddities.
10 The Yellow Wasteland We Call… The Desert
In the first Super Mario Bros. game, levels were limited to land, sea, sky, and dungeon. Luckily, in Super Mario Bros. 2 we were introduced to a new theme: the desert. The beauty of this addition wasn’t just the sand under your feet and pyramids in the background, but every element was represented. As you traversed the quicksand filled levels, you found yourself battling spitting cobras, walking over skeletal remains, and digging for buried treasure.
Super Mario Bros. 3 would have to deal with angry mob if they didn’t include a desert world, but they did phone it in; they even had a frowning sun. They brought back the quicksand, but nobody could call it quick since it’s enough to make a turtle chuckle. The only redeeming quality in the third episode is the sandstorm, but with a little practice, it’s not much of an issue.
9 Come On! Daddy Needs A New POW Block!
Bonus levels started out small in the beginning of the Mario universe, like merely riding a straightened pearl necklace while jumping for riches. As a true sign of maturity, Super Mario Bros. 2 introduced the slot machine bonus game which was the only use for the coins you’ve collected. There was no way to cheat at this game, making it feel like a “reel” game of chance.
Nintendo realized that gamers love bonus games, so they gave us even more in Super Mario Bros. 3. In addition to the “pick a chest” game for power-ups, they also threw a couple more games at us: a memory card game and a face match game. The memory game is where they went too far because sometimes you’d go an hour without playing and find yourself yelling “I don’t remember!” The slots ruined part 3’s mini-games, I’m afraid.
8 One Hit Wonder
The Health system for just about every platformer at the time simple. Once you powered up, you could take a hit before becoming weak, and then one more before getting knocked out. Super Mario Bros. 2 introduced something found in a few other more difficult games, which was the health bar. This column of red jewels started at two, but could be increased to four after some hard work. A large amount of health was extremely helpful in the later levels where you’re surrounded by kamikaze bombs, spikes, and shooting shy guys.
Going into the third game, we were sure they were going to give us a health meter but instead gave us a run meter. It was upsetting that when it came to health, they had gone back to the drawing board and shreds costumes after a single hit, which was a real bummer.
7 Secrets And Mysteries
When the gaming world was in only 8-bits, an adventure either revolved around keys or nothing at all. It was refreshing when we first came upon a locked door in Super Mario Bros. 2. You find yourself turning back and looking for keys down pipes that resemble Ming vases. It was exciting. Something as simple as tugging on a root could yield a key. Even more exciting, were the chases with the sinister mask.
The predatory key masters were a great addition to the series, and we were devastated to see them excluded from part 3. The flying masks made you anxious and paranoid, but we would have liked to see them again.
6 Ninja’s, Hydra’s, and Ninja’s... Oh My.
The origin story of Mario was filled with enemies both fictional and based on real creatures. There were Goombas (whatever they’re supposed to be) and angry turtles called Koopas that could sometimes fly. As great as these guys were, Super Mario Bros. 2 felt the need to introduce a completely new cast of evil characters and it paid off wonderfully.
You wouldn’t call the enemies in part 2 creepy, but they weren’t exactly cute either; a subtle darkness lied in every character. The bosses were unique in their own right, from a bomb-throwing mouse to a three-headed, fire-breathing hydra. Sadly, in Super Mario Bros. 3 they brought back all the usual suspects from the first with a few additions that just felt like lesser bad guys making us miss some of our favorite from the previous adventure.
5 Item Variety Goes A Long Way
Super Mario Bros. 3 saw the series return to rudementary power-ups. Sure they gave useful powers, but Super Mario Bros. 2 really tied items to the game's hidden chambers. We already mentioned keys, but potions added another wrinkle to Super Mario Bros. 2. Rewind three years and you’ll remember the mushrooms and flowers you get from slamming your head into a metal box with a question mark painted on it. In the remake, you must find a vial of potion, throw it in just the right spot and a door would appear; a door leading to a dark realm with coins and mushrooms.
This was a wonderful addition to the power-up system that was simple but incredibly satisfying when you placed the potion in just the right spot. Fans of the series up to this point were hoping and praying for something similar to this in the third game; maybe a hidden world filled with demons. However, we gave the creators too much credit, and the dark realm still lies in our hearts waiting to appear once again.
4 Did You Just Spit An Egg At Me?
One of the most wonderful elements of the Super Mario Bros. 2 is also one of the most repetitive: Birdo. In the skill-testing sequel to Super Mario Bros., we are introduced to a gender-confused, egg-spitting avian-named Birdo. Birdo are found at the end of three out of four levels in the game with increasing difficulty each time. Defeating the angry bird is as simple as hopping aboard a flying egg, grabbing it, and throwing it back at him until he is slain.
If anyone was going to make a return in the next game, we were sure it’d be Birdo, and we were all wrong. Instead, at the end of a level in Super Mario Bros. 3, we would play a game of match-3 roulette, and it leaves a hole in our hearts. But you can always play as Birdo in Mario Kart.
3 Air Travel Sure Has Changed
In the beginning, the only time Mario could set foot on the sky was by climbing a mile-long piranha vine, collecting riches, then jumping back down to Earth. In the second version, there was no magical plant to take you to the heavens but instead a sadistic game of Jack and the beanstalk where you must climb a maze of vines with avoiding murderous ladybugs. Super Mario Bros. 3 simplified this by lazily giving the chubby plumber the gift of flight with a raccoon or “Tanooki” suit.
Super Mario Bros. 2 really spoiled us by challenging us to climb to the skies, risking a tremendous fall, and then taking it away in 3. Super Mario Bros. 3 removed all the mystery, and let us conquer the sky in seconds.
2 Tropes Make A Series Stale
The novelty of discovering a flower that magically gives a plumber the power to shoot fire from his fingertips had overstayed its welcome by the end of the first game. Luckily, they realized this proactively before making Super Mario Bros. 2 and decided not to include it in the second adventure making this installment feel more mature and realistic.
Unfortunately, this by the third game in the series, Super Mario Bros. was already scraping the bottom of the barrel. We would have liked to see the series continue to grow and evolve, but sadly it was already finding itself stuck in its own tropes by the third game in the franchise.
1 I’ll Jump On You AND Throw You!
All through the Mario franchise, jumping and flattening your enemies has been the way to defeat them — unless they have spikes. But, in Super Mario Bros. 2 you have to not only hop on your enemies, but also pick them up and throw them at another villain (or find a piece of fruit to fight with). This is the cornerstone of one of the best Mario games in the history of the series.
After the release of Super Mario Bros. 3, we realized that the “lift and throw” skill in the second game was not the series evolving, but just a momentary pleasure. In Super Mario Bros. 3 you could toss shells, and in Super Mario 64 you could throw boxes, but never turnips. Being able to pick-up, carry, and throw would return in later games, but never a centerpiece like in Super Mario Bros. 2 and that’s why it has wrecked the third game in nearly every way.