When Super Mario Bros. 2 was being released, I was still pretty young — not yet even quite ten years old. And while I am blessed enough to remember things from that period with a certain vivid and vibrant accuracy (but often still have to stop and think about what I set out to do not two minutes ago), some things I remember are almost embarrassing to admit.

So what better way to hide my shame than by putting such things right out in the open for all to behold? (Maybe I need to rethink this plan…)

But in all seriousness, my still-maturing mind was seriously hyped for this game, which was the first game I can ever really remember having any hype around its upcoming release — this, and its younger sibling, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, which I also happily claim as another favorite of mine, though I was much more hyped for “Mario Madness.”

As a kid, I was on the lookout for anything and everything that would make this game even better, cooler. That included a number of items that I discovered through Nintendo Power would appear, though my rationalization behind them making the game cool was, well, less than rational.

In addition to familiar Power-Ups like the Mushroom and Starman, and all the neat new stuff, there was stuff that was kind of in the middle. Stuff I readily recognized, but not from Mario games.

SMAS-Art-SMB2-MagicalPotionSMAS-Art-SMB2-CherrySMAS-Art-SMB2-BombSMAS-Art-SMB2-SmallHeartSMAS-Art-SMB2-KeySMAS-Art-SMB2-StopWatch

In my young mind, the items you see above were sort of carryovers from other games I held in high regard, or knew were held in high regard. For instance, the cherries? Pac-Man had cherries! That meant cherries you could collect were awesome, and if they were in Super Mario Bros. 2, that had to make them even more awesome, right?

But the vast majority of it was most readily identifiable to me from The Legend of Zelda. The Magic Potion? Well, it served a different purpose here, but it looked enough like the life-restoring Red Potion to count. It was even bubbly!

The rest, however, followed more closely in the footsteps of their respective counterparts from Link’s inventory: Bombs to blow up walls, keys to open locked doors (albeit with a haunting mask hot on your heels), hearts to refill your life meter (which was extended by Mario’s then-equivalent of a Heart Container, the Mushroom — another link to Link!), and a personal favorite, the Stop Watch (or “Magical Clock”, if you’re traveling in Hyrule). Mario’s version had a more limited period in which it was active, but just the same, it handily froze enemies in their tracks. And, like Zelda‘s, it would scarcely be seen ever again, save for the occasional spin-offs, re-releases, and the like.

Yeah. I’ll freely admit, while I thought they were awesome — and to be fair, they are — my mind wasn’t quite ready to process just why they were awesome, and why throwing them into a Mario game didn’t necessarily make them more awesome (even though they did make Super Mario Bros. 2 more awesome than if they weren’t there).

There was also one other thing I recognized as a major part of The Legend of Zelda that I saw come to Super Mario Bros. 2 that was a very cool addition: The ability to continue (as well as “retry”). Certainly, Super Mario Bros. had this ability as well, but while it was unlimited in use compared to the two granted by the sequel, the fact that you had to input a simple code in order to do so kept it from feeling “above board,” you might say. But here, it was baked right in, presented to you as a legit option upon your failure to complete the game. What’s more, it’s become a staple of the series ever since.

I imagine if others saw this sort of thing as I did, they’d think it amounts to blatant thievery. To me, it was just no sense in letting a good idea go to waste — and in some cases, even improving on them. Pac-Man’s cherries could only give extra points, while Mario’s led to invincibility. Link’s keys could open doors, but Mario’s could clobber foes (well before Sora ever thought to do the same, at that).

In the end, though, inspired or not, they did come together to make Super Mario Bros. 2 just that little bit cooler. And in that way, even if not quite as I’d envisioned, they definitely helped the game live up to the hype.

The Super Mario Bros. 2 Project mission statement and index.

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.

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