Mario's Lost Levels

Posted by Steven Collier on Mar. 8th, 2016

Has anyone ever told you that the game you knew as Super Mario Bros 2 wasn't actually a Mario game at all? Have you heard that the actual Japanese sequel to Super Mario Bros. was never released on the NES? Well, it's all true. And today, DKOldies is going to tell you all about the Mario game you never played.

There was a Mario Game Never Released for the NES

Super Mario Bros. 2

There was a sequel to Super Mario Bros, that was never released in America. The reason it wasn't ported to the states is because it was incredibly similar to the original Super Mario Bros. There weren't many changes. There were no new enemies. No new characters. It was pretty much just a series of new, insanely challenging levels that used all the same assets as the first game. The only new element was that it was the first game where Luigi handled differently than Mario: jumping higher, but having less traction while running. Its sameness and extreme difficulty made Nintendo of America fear it would not appeal to Western players. So, they instead ported over a game called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic.

The Game You Played Originally Never had Mario in It!

Doki Doki Panic

Doki Doki Panic was a game that was created as a collaboration between Nintendo and Fuji TV to promote an event called Yume Kojō '87, or translated: Dream Factory '87. Dream Factory '87 was essentially just an event where Fuji TV announced its new programming lineup. But, because Fuji was such a massive corporate power at the time, the whole thing got way out of hand. It expanded into a massive, all-day event, with live-performances broadcast from multiple cities. The mega-broadcast was hyped up for months, and quickly became a national phenomenon. The way Fuji was publicizing Dream Factory, you'd swear they were hosting the Olympics. It even had its own mascot: Imajin.


Imajin was some kind of child-genie who appeared in all of Fuji TV’s promotional materials. And when Dream Factory ‘87 became such a popular promotion that a tie-in video game was commissioned, he was the obvious choice for its star. Imajin would go on to be one of four playable characters in Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic. The game was a about a royal Arabian family, seeking to free its two youngest members from a magical storybook, in which they’d been trapped.

You Never Got to Play the Official Mario 2!

Mario 2 characters

Now, here's the kicker: despite its strange origins, the game was genuinely good. Shockingly good, in fact. It sold a ton of copies in Japan and went on to be an instant classic. Unsurprisingly however, Nintendo of America didn't really think that a game that was essentially based on Japanese Sweeps Week would really take off in the West. So they decided to retool it a little. It was a minor tweak, but it made a world of difference. What they did was replace the sprites of Imajin and friends with established Mario characters, and market it as the sequel to Super Mario Bros. The rest should have been history. But, recent interviews with Nintendo employees have added a new wrinkle to this incident.

There Was a Mario Game Never Released in Japan?

Newer animation Mario characters

You see, a lot of people have long wondered how Nintendo was able to churn out such a polished product for what should have been a total rush job. Dream Factory '87 was part of a fad that sprung up so quickly, there should not have been enough time to make a classic video game around it. And, the stunning truth is they didn't!

Nintendo had long been toying with prototypes for their next Mario sequel. One was designed to feature levels that could scroll vertically as well as horizontally. This was an amazing technical feat at the time. However, Nintendo eventually decided that while great, the game felt too different from the Mario formula and were trying to think of a new angle for it, when Fuji commissioned them to make Dream Factory  '87.

You Got a Better Mario Sequel Than Japan!

Super Mario Bros. 2

To recap: Super Mario Bros 2 was a localization of a Japanese game that never made it to the States. But, that game was itself originally designed to be a Super Mario Bros sequel. So, by making Dream Factory '87 a Mario game, Nintendo of America unintentionally brought the game back to its intended form. Interestingly, Nintendo seems to prefer the American version. It was digitally remastered as a launch title for the GameBoy Advance, this time with the Mario cast officially at the helm. And enemies which debuted in the game like Shy Guys, Pokeys, &  Birdo have become mainstays of the Mario franchise.

Meanwhile, Japan's version of Super Mario Bros. 2: the actual, official sequel has been allowed to fade into obscurity. Considering that it brought little new to the table, aside from hellishly difficult level design, it would seem that Nintendo is more than willing to leave it be. So in an insanely roundabout way, your childhood had the better Mario sequel than Japan, and even Nintendo admits it.

Super Mario Bros. 2 cover art

Buy Super Mario Bros. 2 - For the NES

There's Still a Way to Play the "Lost" Game, Too!

If you're still feeling sore that you never got to play the super-hard mode of Mario Bros, there's good news. The Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 did eventually see an American release. It was relabeled as Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels and included as one of the games on Super Mario All Stars for the SNES. So, if you want to push your Mario skills to the absolute limit, it's available! Just not on the NES.

Super Mario All Stars

Buy Super Mario All Stars - For the SNES

And now you know the whole story. Are you surprised? Or did you feel Super Mario Bros. 2 always seem more than a little different from the other two games in the series? What are your memories of Mario's vegetable lobbing adventure's in dream-land? As always, I'd love to chat with you in the comments.

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