I was asked back when I did the other Super Mario super sequel if I considered this game canonical. It was a good question, considering I no longer even consider my life canonical at this point and the term is thrown around like a Zach Rich blow up doll at a Stag Party. To consider the term means to invent a way to tell when a series is no longer its own series. It’s a little presumptuous at this point in the Super Mario franchise to say it’s jumped the shark, yes?
Usually, this idea comes from people who play the series in reverse. Like I did. Truth be told, as a 7-year-old, I had the same reaction every other young Mario player had when they fired this game up—an hour long “hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…?” This game was a great, big can of WTF sauce, ladled by a postpubescent Shigeru Miyamoto who clearly had not lost his virginity yet. Nothing about this game comes close to resembling the one that came before it. Mario had clearly gained some weight, which evidently got sucked from a comatose Luigi. Then Toad apparently grew some testes (something asexual fungi should not be able to do normally) and brought a levitating Princess Peach with him to join the Mario brothers as they got sucked into the Dream World to save the Subcons from Bowser Wart and fight his own unique army of wutdefucs with sickly vegetables, bombs, and the almighty POW block.
It probably makes more sense when you discover the worst kept Nintendo secret ever—this game was never designed to be a Mario game. You get it now? It was originally released in Jay-Pan as Doki Doki Panic! You can wiki it from there.
Anyway, my own personal experience with this game is pretty rich. To this day, I cannot play it without remembering how frustrated I was trying to jump on enemies and having it refuse to work. It took a year and a babysitter to show me how to do it right. A quick wiki search of my own reveals that I’m not the only one who felt slighted. Many Mario fans consider this the black sheep of the series. That’s a bunch of bullshit; we all know the REAL black sheep of the Mario series is MARIO BASEBALL. ScrewAttack even went so far as to say Mario 2 is the 9th worst Mario game ever.
The fact is, even as a bastardized, cloak-and-dagger switcheroo that takes an otherwise forgettable game that was born from crystals of Maui-Wowie still encrusted in the corners of Miyamoto’s bong and turns it into the Super Sequel to the Super Selling Super Videogame of all time, Super Mario Bros. 2 still delivers all across the board. The graphics are much more detailed and fun to look at. The enemies are richly bizarre and thoroughly entertaining to fight. The level designs are legendary and a great improvement over the static (though contextually simple, Jeddy) build of the original. Every level is very distinct and just packed full of great, freaky ideas that not only worked, but completely fucked the original way we used to design side-scrollers.
I mean, we could run a list of 10 ideas this game used to legendary effect.
… Well, why don’t we?
1. Searching for power-ups in mirror worlds with a limited number of ways to get in and check.
2. Running for your life from a crazed Djinn mask as you carry a key to your far destination.
3. Digging your way through a pyramid and avoiding enemies and Djinns.
4. The use of Pac-Man style level wrap.
5. Going inside Indian jars to discover either a warp zone or a warped area.
6. Plucking a fucking rocket ship out of the ice to fly up to a level where you ride a gun machine over spikes to make it safely through the stage.
7. Whales much?
8. Not killing Birdo in 4-3 so you can ride her egg across the river.
9. Level 7.
10. Princess Peach can fucking fly!
Oh, the list goes on. Runner up is the second-to-last boss where the level exit betrays you. This game is so richly deep, fun to play, and fundamentally improved over the original that it pretty much invents its own royal bloodline. Like if the adopted Prince was such a better King than his adoptive father that HIS bloodline is now the royal bloodline. Did you see the original Super Mario Bros. 2? It’s just a hardtype of Super Mario Bros. 1! You should be thankful!
Canon my red, shaven ass. This game paved the way for Mario to fully realize his potential. I’m giving this game the highest score I’ve ever scored anything on a 1-to-10 scale of scoring.