Super Mario Bros 2: The Doki Doki Tragedy

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
-Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

When Shakespeare wrote the above he could not have foreseen Nintendo’s unholy ability to sell video games at any creative cost.

Would Shakespeare have known that if I wanted a mushroom i could no longer jump and smack a brick? Would he have imagined that I’d have to uproot a plant to find a potion? Would he have dreamed that I’d have to take that potion and throw it down to get a door? Could he have predicted that I needed to step through the door to enter an inverted world? All of that just for a mushroom? No, he god damn didn’t know any of those things but if he did I’d bet he’d write an legendary tragedy about it.

But since Shakespeare regrettably isn’t around to run a website, here’s my shot at it.

As Wired outlined in “The Secret History of Super Mario Bros. 2” and which was well known before if not as fully chronicled, Super Mario Bros. 2 was not originally a Mario vehicle. Originally it was a Japanese vertical (top-scrolling?) platformer called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic.

Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (now commonly referred to simply as Doki Doki Panic) translates to “Dream Factory: Heart-Pound Panic” That name is pure Japanese amazingness. I strongly encourage Hollywood to select the exact same name for the next Freddy Krueger movie.

Take a look at the heart-pounding panic in action:

Look halfway familiar? It's the case artwork for Doki Doki Panic. Source:

In 1987, Nintendo deemed the Japanese Super Mario Bros 2 (later known as the Lost Levels) too difficult and similar to the original Super Mario Bros. That lead Nintendo to cancel its U.S. release look for a new “Mario 2.”   That’s when they honed in on Doki Doki Panic. Nintendo knew Doki Doki Panic wouldn’t sell well in Western markets with the original characters so they swapped out the original protaganists with Mario (worst character), Luigi (best character), Princess (i don’t care what you say, Luigi is better) and Toad (quick and powerful but no Luigi.)

How close is Doki Doki Panic to the game we know in the U.S as Super Mario Bros 2?  Well, if I colored the left side of the above photo you wouldn’t be able to tell the damn difference.  I’d also make that weird mask thing the guy in the turban throws into a turtle shell…f*ck it, i’m going to color it…

Spot on Super Mario Bros 2!

Now, I genuinely love Super Mario Bros. 2 because of the fantastic and inventive gameplay.  But let’s be honest,  this game is a creative bastard.

If Nintendo hadn’t swapped in Mario characters for the original goofballs where would the Nintendo universe be right now?

  • Would Shy Guy be cutting killer serves in Mario Tennis?
  • Would we have walking explosives threatening Mario’s life in Super Mario Galaxy?
  • Would Birdo be crushing home runs in Mario Baseball?

No, and the Mushroom Kingdom would be a better place.  Why? Because with the exception of Shy Guy (an admittedly cute little dude) Mario 2’s bad guys have one thing in common: they suck hard.  In the pursuit of more yen, Nintendo decided to force a bunch of goofballs and miscreants on us fine Americans.

The giant “frog king” (whose actual name i won’t even honor to Google research) was so terrible he didn’t make it into another game again.  That’s right, he’s less memorable than Birdo, a character who was clearly made up in less than 15 seconds: a dinosaur/bird that, according to the NES manual, “is a man who believes that he is a girl.”  Then post-Super Mario Bros 2 Nintendo changed Birdo to a girl and then a man and then to a who f*cking gives a damn.  And I feel confident, if not positive, that those damn Pianta characters in Super Mario Sunshine who have trees coming out of their heads wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for the creative lunacy made acceptable by Super Mario Bros. 2.

And perhaps the most damning change of all, without Nintendo’s decision to completely bogart the Doki Doki characters, Luigi would  still be the same height as Mario.  This reality is a more depressing dystopia than when Biff Tannen ruled Hill Valley in Back to the Future: Part II.

The Mushroom Kingdom post Mario 2

To finally answer Shakespeare’s question, there’s a god damn good reason we call a rose a rose.  Because if we didn’t do that we’d always be confused and people would take advantage of us.  People would start calling pieces of feces “roses” and Japanese gaming companies would start renaming a gamce called Doki Doki Panic to  Super Mario Bros 2.  So put a cork in it Shakespeare and stop giving Nintendo sales tactics.   Call a damn rose a rose and don’t rename a character really named “Imagin” to “Mario (who, as a quick reminder, is the worst character in the game.)

Finally, I leave you with footage from Doki Doki Panic before it was sullied by the Mushroom Kingdom.

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