Late To The Party: New Super Mario Bros. 2


As I’ve continued catching up with the New Super Mario Bros. series and made inquiries about them, I sense the general opinion is the console iterations are better-received than the handheld ones. I can see why, but after finishing New Super Mario Bros. 2 I could argue that I enjoyed it as much as New Super Maro Bros. Wii, if for different reasons.

The main issue seems to be that the portable games are noticeably easier than the console ones. The first New Super Mario Bros. on the original DS is actually the first 2D Mario platformer I ever completed, which says something about my skill with the games. I died a ridiculous number of times in NSMBWii. NSMB2 on the other hand has its emphasis on encouraging players to collect a ton of coins, which evaporates the significance of the lives system by the time you make it out of World 1. I also generally found myself dying rarely in NSMB2, but I don’t think the whole difference in quality with these games lies solely in their difficulty.

In retrospect, the levels in original NSMB probably aren’t as cleverly or cleanly designed as in the later games or especially the classic Mario games. I may need to look back at it, but I remember the new powerups not adding a whole lot and the game overall relying more abilities it borrows from Super Mario 64 than on clever level design. It’s as if Nintendo was still getting warmed up while designing that game because it hadn’t made a 2D Mario in 14 years (I don’t know how similar Yoshi’s Island and Wario Land are). NSMBWii on the other hand has new powerups that add meaningful new fun along with cleverly complex level design. NSMB2 goes back to relying on the tried-and-true fire flower and squirrel suit, but I found its level design really smart and most importantly, fun, even if it isn’t super hard.

NSMB2 is half-way to being a Kirby platformer in that sense — a pretty chill experience that manages to have fun level design without killing you a bunch. Like those games, NSMB2 also puts a lot of its difficulty in extras like the special coins which ultimately unlock a whole secret world.

The overall criticism I’ve sensed from people about the whole NSMB series is it doesn’t contribute as much newness to Mario platforming as the NES and Super NES games did, and I agree. I’ve talked about how the previous ones I played don’t have progression or world map dynamics as interesting as what you see in Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. NSMB2 is predictably no exception, as you just walk from world map to world map while occasionally seeking different paths, secret shortcuts, and choosing to spend special coins on bonus levels. It’s a far cry from the adventure-game-style exploration of World or the tabletop game that was SMB3’s map. It would be nice if Nintendo tried to do something to really push the classic Mario world map system to the next level. The NSMB games introduce a few new tricks here and there in individual levels, but overall they’re just good exercises in the old design template of Mario.


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