I wasn’t originally going to talk about this so soon, for fear of possibly front-loading this series of articles with “bigger” stuff before I knew it. But then I realized that when talking about various specific aspects of Super Mario Bros. 2, I might wind up having to bring up how they appear in other media and merchandise outside of the game, so getting the broad strokes of one of those out of the way ahead of that would probably be beneficial.
Though the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Mario Bros. were released in 1985, it’s been said that the full brunt of “Nintendo Mania” didn’t really sweep the nation until around 1988 — an estimate that tracks well with my own personal experiences. And with Super Mario Bros. 2 being released to an eager public in late 1988, that means that the original game probably didn’t have a lot of time to itself in terms of licensed products.
Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of stuff marketed on the first game alone, but once the sequel came along, there was a lot more intermingling between the two “brands,” such as they were. Applause’s line of Super Mario Bros. figurines featured Luigi sporting his updated look, while one Mario has him carrying a giant turnip. Sometimes products would even use the Super Mario Bros. 2 logo instead of the original, but with the “2” removed to… I don’t know, unify the brand?
Suffice to say, when it came to licensed product, you were just as likely to see a Shy Guy as you were a Koopa Troopa — at least until Super Mario Bros. 3 came out.
That brings us to one of the biggest licensing deals of the day. At least, in the sense that of all the things to feature Mario and company outside of the video games themselves, this is probably the most remembered, for better or for worse: The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
The show featured two segments initially: A live-action portion starring Captain Lou Albano and Danny Wells as Mario and Luigi, which bookended an animated segment. On Fridays, this would be The Legend of Zelda, but for the other four weekdays, it was Super Mario Bros.
The cartoons were a true amalgamation of the two games — well, mostly. Music from both games was remixed by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy and used throughout, while enemies of all stripes would appear — Shy Guys and Koopa Troopas, Goombas and Tweeters, Snifits and Hammer Brothers, and so on. In fact, I think that when you include the mini-bosses (and perhaps even before), there was more Super Mario Bros. 2 representation than there was Super Mario Bros. One could argue that the fact that there were simply more enemies in the sequel was the factor, but then you consider that the likes of Buzzy Beetle never even made an appearance — and no, the Beetles do not count.
Of course, Super Mario Bros. 2 was still the most recent game and a hot release at the time the show aired, so that might have played a factor as well. That might be a part of why a family of Birdos were so prominent in the first episode, with Flurries getting more or less equal billing with Koopa Troopas as the main grunts. More prominently, though, were the three-headed snake Tryclyde and Mouser, who served as the right-hand rodent of quite possibly the biggest divergence from the games (besides all the silly pop-culture and mythology-inspired settings).
In The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, there was no Wart, nor any Subcon. Instead, the show’s creators loosely adopted the story of the first game, with the four heroes going from world to world in search of a way to free Princess Toadstool’s subjects from the magical spell that Bowser — er, “King Koopa” had placed them under. As such, almost all of the show’s baddies worked for him.
(Side note: Don’t believe anyone who tells you that he wasn’t called “Bowser” back then — he was always called that.)
King Koopa himself was a bit different from Bowser — enough so that despite the former being an interpretation of the latter, I generally prefer to refer to them by their individual names as given. Consistency wasn’t exactly a trait Nintendo displayed with his design until around Super Mario Bros. 3, at least in the west. As such, it’s said that the design of King Koopa was based on the pixel art of Bowser from the first game, which is somewhat believable if you look at this interpretation as well. In truth, he almost looks like a cross between Bowser and Wart, right down to wearing a crown atop his head — a trait exclusive to the dream world tyrant.
Incidentally, while King Koopa spouted a lot of hot air (and some amusing one-liners now and then), never once did he display his game counterpart’s signature flame breath, nor Wart’s flying bubbles.
As King Koopa chased Mario and friends from one world to the next (which was kind of odd, as they usually had him on the run at the end of an episode — often through a magic potion-generated door from Super Mario Bros. 2, no less), he would often adopt an alter-ego based on the typically pop culture-inspired theme of that world. And if his minions, including the “Koopa Pack” consisting of Mouser, Tryclyde, and a Koopa Troopa were there, they’d follow suit — or suits, as in the case of “Al Koopone” and his Crime Land caper in the episode “The Unzappables,” as seen above.
And that’s pretty much it for now. As this project goes on, I anticipate talking about more individual elements of Super Mario Bros. 2, and I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how they were portrayed in popular media at the time. And if I’m doing that, then it only makes sense to establish the foundation upon which that aspect is based.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.