Super Mario Bros. 2 by Jon Irwin
In perhaps the most famous switcheroo in all of game history, the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was declared “too hard” by Nintendo of America and replaced with a Mario-ified port of the Famicom hit, Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic. The new game (dubbed Super Mario USA in Japan) was a huge success for its four playable characters, improved graphics, immersive levels, and catchy music, and eventually became the 3rd bestselling game for the NES.
And yet. Because of its strange new villains, its wild gameplay, and its mysterious touches, SMB2 has for years been regarded as the Odd Mario Out, even as it has seen popular updates on the Super NES and Game Boy Advance. Irwin’s Mario is not a simple retelling of a 25-year-old story, but instead an examination of the game with fresh eyes: both as a product of its time and as a welcome change from the larger Super Mario franchise. Along the way he searches for clues, pulling up a few vegetables of his own. What he finds is not at all what he expected.
Jon Irwin has published essays in Alimentum, Billboard Magazine, Down East, GamePro, Lumina, and Kill Screen, where he is a contributing writer. In 2009 he received the PEN New England Discovery Award in Nonfiction. He lives near Atlanta but roots for Detroit.
"Super Mario Bros. 2 shines a much-needed light on a game whose significance has rarely felt fully understood ... This is required reading for game historians." - Nintendo Life
"Super Mario Bros. 2 is an extensive critique that explores the history, production ecology, and player experiences of that game. ... All of these things, impossibly, flow together. ... Super Mario Bros. 2 is an excellent example of the Boss Fight Books model of game criticism." - Paste
"A good Mario game is always about the secrets, about the warp zones, trick quicksand and Yoshi waiting atop the castle. Moments both humorous and poignant characterize this surprisingly human account… but I’ll leave you to discover them yourself." - Entropy
"A fascinating account of a moment in gaming’s past that most of us don’t know nearly about." - Cliqist
"There is a joy to this game - and to Irwin's writing about it - that feels very rare ... It's everything I hoped this series would be." - The Next Best Book Blog
Interview and Excerpt: Geek Dad