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 will not be 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 aberration 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 is a staff writer at Kill Screen and winner of the PEN New England Discovery Award in Nonfiction. His essays and journalism have appeared in publications such as Billboard, GamePro, and Monkeybicycle. He received an MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College. He lives and teaches in Boston.