Continuing on with my Super Mario series playthrough, I’m brought to the next installment in the series, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels. This title was originally released in Japan as Super Mario Bros 2 – For Super Players. And was the original sequel to SMB. The game was intended for players who had already mastered the first Super Mario title, and therefore was designed with a much higher degree of difficulty. And I mean, a MUCH higher degree.
This game is hardcore beyond all human reasoning. The premise is the same as the original Super Mario Bros, but with the added option of playing either Mario or Luigi in single-player mode. (Luigi has different jump physics, thus making the experience drastically different). The levels in this game are extremely difficult. Sometimes laughably-so. There are pits that span 1/4th of the entire stage and can only be crossed by bouncing off the backs of flying turtles. If that’s not bad enough, if actually you manage to make it across, you’re likely to find an arm of fireballs waiting for you on the other side.
Aside from heightened difficulty, there are also other changes present. For example, Luigi actually handles a bit different than Mario. He jumps a bit higher, but also seems a tad harder to control. One of more popular additions to the game is the introduction the poisonous mushroom (a trap disguised as a power-up). Touching it will damage Mario. So yes, if you’re playing as little Mario, coming in contact with this mushroom means instant death. Another dirty trick is the introduction of “super” trampolines. These things don’t just give Mario a boost, but rather will launch him completely off of the screen leaving the player to guess where he might land. It is sheer terror, but in a good way.
I played this game to completion back in 2003 and I said I would never do it again. But yesterday, for the sake of this review, I played through this title all the way to the end. And I managed to do so without warping! World 1-9 and A-D. If you’ve ever played this game, you’ll probably agree that that is quite a feat. Yes… I’m gloating. But darn it, I earned the right.
Originally, the game was rejected for release in the US by Nintendo of America due to high degree of difficulty. In fact, it didn’t see a western-release until the Super Mario All-Stars collection, many years later. That being said, the All-Stars version is actually EASIER than the original 8-bit release. In the original release, you must play through the game a total of EIGHT TIMES to unlock the secret “A-D” levels. In the re-release, playing through it once without warping is enough. The JP audience also had the slap-in-the-face of starting back on the first level of whichever world they were on if they had to use a “continue”. The updated version allows players continue on the same level in which they die. If you are a Mario fan, and you have the patience, I do recommend playing through this title at least once in your life. There’s a lot of cute Easter egg-type of content in the game if you have the willingness to play all the way through.
Other than the ramped-up difficulty and the new challenges listed above, it’s very similar to the original classic. After clearing this game, I felt like I could handle just about anything Nintendo could throw at me. Finishing this game is an accomplishment any player should be proud of.
For most casual gamers, The Lost Levels is probably a bit too “hardcore” to be enjoyable. But fans of the Mario series, it is a must have. Japanese gamers have a very different approach to things than we do in the west. For them, Super Mario 2 was supposed to be “the next level” and not “a new chapter”. With this in mind, I can appreciate what Nintendo set out to accomplish with this game. But knowing the American market, I can also understand their initial decision to create a different sequel for US players. (That game will be the subject of my next review.)
In closing, if you consider yourself to be a Super Mario master, this is the title will allow you to put your money where your mouth is. But for everyone else, try not to throw your controller at the television… You’ve been warned.
Version Reviewed: Mario 25th Anniversary All-Stars – Wii
Difficulty: Extreme – This game makes the original SMB look like a cake walk. I’m not exaggerating this one bit. As far as twitch/platformers go, this is probably the most difficult I have ever played. It’s downright maddening at times.
Story: The exact same plot as the original. But If you look at this game as simply a more challenging version of the same scenario, it’s easy to forgive the lack of a new story.
Originality: While this title really doesn’t bring anything original to the series, its intention was to be nothing more than a challenge for people who fancied themselves to be SMB experts. While many aspects of the game are the same, there are several new twists and tricks that will throw many veteran players off.
Soundtrack: Identical soundtrack to the first release, but classic tunes nonetheless.
Fun: This game is so difficult that after a certain point, playing it is almost a chore. Many points in the game make you ask yourself “Why am I doing this? This is not fun.” However, finally finishing the game, does seem to make it all worth it. Again, it is what it is, an extreme challenge.
Graphics: Both the 8-bit and 16-bit versions were pretty much state of the art at the time of release. The original NES version actually offers a slight improvement over the original SMB.
Playcontrol : The Wii version of the game suffers the same issues as many NES platformers do on the virtual console; sometimes the controls feel a bit laggy, or imprecise.
Downloadable Content: N/A
Mature Content: N/A
Value: These days, a copy of the original game can be bought on the Wii Virtual Console for $5. This is a more than fair price for this classic platformer. If you’re able to get your hands on the a copy of All-Stars Wii disc, you’ll be paying around $50 for the collection. This price is a little steep, but this disc is only available in limited quantities.
Overall score (1-100): 75 – This is a classic title and I do recommend it to any Mario fan. However, due to the extreme level of difficulty and the lack of any real innovation, I cannot rate it as high as the original SMB. This is not a title for a the casual player. Young children will more than likely be turned off by it. But if you’re wanting to prove to the world that you are a Mario master, than look no further.
Original System: Famicom (Japanese NES)
Available today on: Virtual Console, eShop, Switch Online (List updated as of Fall 2020)
Best Modern Experience: Switch Online (As of Fall 2020)
Other Reviews In This Series:
SMB – SMB Lost Levels – SMB 2 – SMB 3 – SM World – SM World 2– SM Land – SM Land 2 – SM Land 3 – Mario 64 – Mario Sunshine – New SMB – Galaxy – Galaxy 2 – New SMB Wii – Mario 3D Land – New SMB 2 – New SMB U – SMB 3D World – Super Mario Odyssey
Paper Mario – Thousand Year Door – Super Paper Mario – Sticker Star – Color Splash
Luigi’s Mansion – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Luigi’s Mansion 3
Super Princess Peach – Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker