Super Mario Bros. 2 is one of my favorite video games, second only to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It’s one of the first games I ever played, it’s one of the games that made me fascinated with video games, and I still play it on a regular basis. I even love the GBA version. The problem is, by now I know every shortcut, secret, and surprise there is. SMB2 and I are old friends who know each other’s stories all too well.
So while I enjoy spending time with my old friend, I really, really wish I could play something new in the same vein. Unfortunately, there are no sequels to this game.
“WAIT A MINUTE, AARON! ARE YOU STUPID OR SOMETHING??”, I hear you saying. “OF COURSE THERE WAS A SEQUEL. It was called Super Mario Bros. 3. You might have heard of it. It was only one of the best-selling games of all time.” Yes, that’s true, but that’s not the point I’m making. Super Mario Bros. 3 was essentially a direct sequel to the original Super Mario Bros., whereas the American version of SMB2 was based on a Japanese game called Doki Doki Panic. As much as I love SMB and SMB3, it’s the DDP style of gameplay I really love, and it’s DDP that never received a proper sequel. So if you want a new game made in this style, you’re really out of luck. It hasn’t been touched since 1988.
Well, not by Nintendo, anyway.
The ROM-hacking community, however, has had a field day. I spent years avoiding ROMhacks, because when emulators first became popular, ROMhacking consisted of endless copies of Super Mario Bros. with the sprites changed into Transformers and penises. However, that was ROMhacking in the early 2000s. Today’s ROMhacking could be compared to a low-tech version of Super Mario Maker, a game that we LOVE in our house! So when I discovered this, I immediately looked up hacks of SMB2.
The first one I tried was Super Mario Bros. 2: 2nd Run. The author is named Recovery1. So far, I’m absolutely loving this game. I love how the levels are fresh and fun, but still pay homage to the original level design (including starting off 1-1 by dropping out of the door in the night sky, climbing a vine to a mountain area, having World 2 be a desert, etc.) Difficulty-wise, I’d say the game starts off at the equivalent of World 3 in the original game, and goes up from there. But honestly, what I love most about it is the fact that I DON’T know every twist and turn in the game. I don’t know what’s coming. Every new door and hill is an all-new adventure for me, and I haven’t experienced that since the 80s.
Are there flaws? I might nitpick on some level design issues, where the original game might have an edge, but I’ll chalk that up to individual taste. The only real issue that I’ve found so far is that the game tends to put a lot of enemies on the screen at once, which triggers slowdown at inopportune times. It’s not a deal breaker, it barely qualifies as an annoyance, but it’s there.
On the other hand, I like the fact that the combat has a completely new dynamic to it. 2nd Run utilizes a lot more of the weapons that were rare in the original game. When you pull up grass, you have a big chance of finding yourself holding a Bob-Omb or shell, and the veggies are comparatively scarce. This leads to trying to attack enemies all at once, rather than one at a time. And that’s FUN!
So how do you play this thing? Well, first you have to modify an existing ROM of SMB2 with the IPS file of the new game. This will generate a new ROM file. You can either play that on your computer with an emulator and a USB gamepad, or you can slap it on a flashcart and play it on a real NES.