Thursday, March 10, 2022

Super Mario Land 2 (Game Boy, 1992)

It's March 10, you know what that means. It's MARIO DAY. Time to look at the Game Boy's second and last mainline Mario game. How much can graphics improve in two years?

I hear Mario carries both a red and blue bandana in his pockets, because he has earned respect from both coasts.

This is one of those games that got coverage in two different issues. The first one (seen here) is a brief overview/preview while the second, which was after the game launched, has more in-depth coverage.

I've got both of 'em. This first one is cool enough, showing us a world map. I love world maps. While it isn't as appealing as Super Mario World's world map, it has more appealing individual levels on it.

Instead of a cape or raccoon tail, this game's flight capability comes from rabbit ears. Unfortunately, it's the worst flight power yet, as you can't actually fly with it and it's pretty much only good for hovering via rapid button-presses.

So basically the raccoon tail without the best part. The cape obviously blows both of them away, so when it comes down to it, cape > raccoon > rabbit ears. I'll say this for the rabbit ears, they let you clear a lot of otherwise-tough jumps with little effort and actually trivialize a few of the game's stages.

Another world map, only this time with in-game graphics. Each world in this game is very distinct in theme and they all have 2 to 4 levels. I remember reading this as a kid and being intrigued by it, though not as intrigued as I was by the console Marioes. Where are the koopalings, I asked. Instead, we have to liberate Mario Castle from this new guy, Wario.

This was the third video game I owned (after Kirby's Dream Land and Metroid II) so I remember seeing this screen firsthand pretty vividly. After all, Kirby was really just a stand-in because Mario wasn't available. What I didn't anticipate was that I'd end up liking that game more than this one.

More nostalgia, as the file select consists of pipes, and a bomb block you can hit to delete a file.

The second NP issue that covers the game gets a lot more in-depth. We've got yet another world map, and they go over the first level of the game.

Here's Goomba...and it looks WAY better than in the previous 'Land game. This intro level was always my favorite level in the game because it's the most generic Mario level. That's right, I wanted generic Mario levels as a kid, since I didn't have a console. All the other levels have weird gimmicks, while this one is just standard Super Mario Bros fare.

They figured out how to program koopa shells for this one, so they no longer blow up when you jump on them. Can pick up the shells and throw them and everything.

Fireballs also make a much-needed return, so no more superballs. It's worth noting that this game uses the 3-hit scheme of Super Mario Bros 3 rather than the 2-hit scheme of Super Mario Bros 1, Super Mario Land 1, and Super Mario World. In other words, if you have fireball or rabbit powers, you can take 3 hits before you lose a life. I definitely prefer going back to large Mario when hit, rather than going all the way back to small Mario.


Finish a level and you get various minigames, like this crane game where you can get lives or powerups. Having end-level minigames is a bit of a staple of these two 'Land games.

The first level is done, but I believe you can go back to it and replay it any time. I think I did that a lot as a kid because, like I said, it was the only normal Bros-like level.

Now the gimmick levels commence. Though this is a lot of why people remember the game fondly, each world has a very distinct theme and they're all fun. NP does a good job making the bosses appealing, as usual. I mean, one of them is a giant rat and they still make it look like an appealing fight.

Tree Zone is the first one they cover, so that's up first. It's probably the easiest world, so it's a good choice. Then again, all of the worlds in this game are pretty easy. They couldn't really change up the difficulty much due to the "stage select" nature of the game, so you don't really see a difficulty ascension until the last level which spikes way up.

Tree Zone is all like, tree-themed levels. Here I battle a mole with a drill-nose, the devil's hands have been busy.

I remember this world pretty un-fondly because the levels are full of this sap that slows you WAY down when you land in it. It's tough to jump out of, which makes you an easy target for foes. As a kid I struggled with game mechanics like this.

The game expects you to have rabbit ears for some of these sections when it replaces the floor with spikes. This isn't Gargoyle's Quest, what are you doing game?

Turns out the Tree Zone has a hidden level that I had NO IDEA existed back in the day. There are a bunch of other hidden levels that I didn't know about, too. They're all fairly short and generic, which means they're exactly what I wanted as a kid: Standard Mario levels.

Surprised I didn't know about most of these, but I didn't exactly pour over this game the way I did with Kirby's Dream Land and Metroid 2 before it. By this point I was mainly waiting for the SNES and Wario Land so this game was just sort of a Christmastime stopgap. I remember not being super enthused by it for a few reasons, which is surprising because it was the first Mario game I owned. Super Mario World captured my attention way more a few months later.

Man, Game Boy sure had a lot of Land games.

Next up is a honeycomb level. Needs some DKC2 honeycomb level music.

Brokinton's cousins show up here and they're benevolent clouds that help out by being platforms. Which means Brokinton was just the rogue of the family, long-since disavowed because of his terrorist activities.

The first real boss (if you choose this world first) is a bird that flies back and forth in a U pattern and can be defeated in 3 hits. That's pretty normal for this game, all of the bosses besides the final boss can be beaten in 3 hits. This means the boss fights are extremely quick.

Win and you get one of the titular six golden coins, needed to unlock the door of Mario Castle (now Wario Castle).

Over here is a random level for no real reason, doesn't serve any purpose or connect to anything.

It's another fairly generic level, but it's an autoscroller. It seems like this game had a bunch of generic levels that all got thrown in as side levels or secret levels, plus the intro level. It's like they had a bunch of rejected level designs and wanted to include them anyway.

Next is Macro Zone, a giant house where everything is big.

All I remember about this place from back in the day was that you fight ants and I didn't like it. They're just minding their own business, you monster!

Inside the house are giant books. There really isn't much else to this world.

Next boss is a giant rat that pops out of pipes and runs back and forth across the room. 3 jumps or a bunch of fireballs take it out quick, as the easy boss procession continues.

I just beat Elden Ring, by comparison these boss fights hold your hand as much as a red rover competition.

One thing that jumped out at me as a kid was the trio of pig bosses, because each one is inside of a house and each house is made of different parts.

Mario Zone is a giant Mario statue. Wait, if this island is owned by Mario (considering he has a castle in the middle of it), does this mean he had a giant statue of himself built? What is he, a dictator?

The Mario Zone levels feel more like Mega Man levels and are full of mechanical traps and platforming.

There's even a steep vertical fall loaded with spikes, which definitely feels like an early Game Boy Mega Man.

Bullet Bill appears here and actually looks like its console self, unlike the previous 'Land. The visuals have improved SO MUCH in a couple years.

The final level contains lego platforms and more blade traps. Are we sure this isn't Metal Man's stage?

The pigs reside in increasingly-sturdy houses, and attack by bouncing around the room. This is probably the hardest boss in the game outside of the final boss. It's like the Ornstein and Smough of Mario Land.

Turtle Zone is kinda interesting because it's underwater. You've got the standard underwater level, a submarine interior, and then the inside of a whale.

The first level is full of sharks but it's pretty much a normal Mario water level. Unfortunately it's the only such level in the game.

The submarine contains Dry Bone Fish and very un-Mario-like spike traps that zip down from the ceiling. Seriously, is this a Mega Man game?

There's a secret level that goes off of the submarine and brings you back to the above world. I think this was the only secret level I actually found as a kid, because I remember this one.

It's another generic land level. Really curious what the deal was with all these secret levels and how they came to be in development.

The inside of the whale contains more spike traps before a boss showdown with...

...this octopus boss. Octopuses are cool, but unfortunately they get portrayed as game villains a lot, especially in games from the 90's.

It's worth noting that the bosses are at the end of the final stage in their world, rather than them having their own spot on the map. So if you lose you have to replay a bunch of the last stage.

Here are the final pages, complete with Wario looking nefarious. Who knew this guy would turn out to be a huge deal and star in tons of his own games? This is his genesis, right here.

The Genesis of Wario.

Pumpkin Zone appealed to me a lot as a kid because of how this map looks, and also the idea of ghost houses in a Game Boy game. Unfortunately only the last level is really a ghost house.

This zone is crawling with these walking masks with knives sticking out of them. The devil's hands have been busy.

Boos finally appear here and it's good to see them make it into a Game Boy game.

Another secret level, and it looks like there's a SECOND secret level as well.

Again, a generic overworld level. I almost wish they would have taken all these secret levels and put them together into an additional world. Maybe had the intro level be an intro world. It just feels like a bit of a waste to have them all hidden away like this, serving little purpose.

The final level is a ghost house and it's definitely the most memorable thing from this world. When you don't have a SNES or Super Mario World this is about as close as you can get.

The other secret level is actually fairly challenging. It might be the only secret level that is. One of the reasons these secret levels don't make much sense is that all of them feel "intro difficulty" despite requiring some effort to reach. If one did compile them into a world, I'd say this one would be a good candidate for last of the bunch.

Right before the boss, we find a bunch of formaldehyde jars. One of them contains the brain of Abby Normel.

The boss is a teleporting witch. 3 hits and she's cooked, so the fight is pretty much over before she can even do anything. But not to worry, the game's one challenging level is still to come!

Space Zone is reached by going through this...Hippo level?

The Hippo level has Mario inside of a bubble that lets you bounce freely in the air like it's zero gravity. I'm guessing this is to prepare the player for the Space Zone. Still, the Hippo seems so...random. Most of this game seems incredibly random. And that spiked thing is a Kirby's Dream Land refugee!

Space Zone only has two levels, but I gotta say they're good levels.

The first one is actually pretty mundane, just a normal level where you can jump much higher than usual. Also there are pig-cannons firing projectiles at you, something something devil's hands.

There's a secret level here that I definitely didn't know about, where a star collides with the moon and NOW HE'S PISSED.

The secret level is different from all the other secret levels in that it isn't generic and follows the actual theme of the world it's found in. Not sure why this wasn't just included in the world normally because it desperately could have used a third stage.

The last stage has killer music, probably the most memorable thing about this entire game. This one has no gravity at all so you're free to space-jump around like Samus. The main obstacle is that this level is full of angry stars.

Not sure why they're so angry, or why there are also puffer fish floating around in space.

The boss here is TATANGA from the first 'Land. What's he doing here in space? Who knows. I like when sequels bring back the villain of the previous game as a subordinate of the new Big Bad. He's also the most challenging of the six zone bosses by a good margin, and took me a few tries as a kid, but he's hampered by still only taking 3 hits.

With all six coins gathered, IT'S TIME

Mario Castle Wario Castle is a single level and could have benefitted from being broken into two levels. It's the longest and most difficult level in the game by a mile, like it isn't even close, and I suspect a lot of players ran into a wall here.

Giant fire-spitting pirahna plants are found here. I LOVED these things as a kid and would doodle them in notebooks.

Yeah, this post really is just a trip down memory lane.

The castle also contains lava pits. In a way it's the only fire-related level in the game, kinda like how Mario Sunshine is laid out.

At the end you fight a bunch of spherical face minibosses. This is why I think the level should have been split up. You fight a bunch of these guys in a row, and it's a bit much. Especially when you have to fight two at once in the last couple of rooms. Lose to the final boss and you're doing all of this over again. So basically it's great that the game finally has some challenge, but it's so out of nowhere and the game hasn't prepared you for it.

Here's Wario, though the main threat is that disco ball on the ceiling. It moves around and occasionally drops right on Mario's head, and it's by far the most-likely thing to take out the player here.

Wario has three forms and takes NINE HITS. First form, he dashes back and forth and occasionally jumps/stomps. Second form, he's got bunny ears and jump-hovers around before trying to stomp at random. At least that disco ball is gone after form 1.

Form 3, he throws giant fireballs. This is easily his worst form because these things move FAST.

After hitting him nine times, he reverts to Small Wario and we see his true form. No word on if he was arrested for commandeering Mario's home, because as far as I can tell he just ran off and got away with it. Mario is like Mega Man, way too forgiving.

THE MAESTRO has done it again. This isn't my favorite game but it's still impressive for its time.

Final thoughts on this game? It's remarkable how much they were able to do on the Game Boy in 1992, and it has a lot of clever ideas. However I think I might still prefer the original 'Land for being more...Mario-like, I guess? This one feels more like it goes off in all kinds of weird directions. However, people who played it back in the day fondly remember it. It was my third game but it's definitely the one I wasn't as into compared to the first two. And then a couple months later Wario Land blew it away.

Lastly, here's the Space Zone's final stage theme, and the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this game.


  1. Being able to replay levels is key.

    Game Boy, the land of... Land.

    Macro Zone reminds me of the Chip and Dale games.

    Kinda surprised to see that mask with a knife sticking out in a Mario game.

    That spiked thing really is from Kirby! What's going on here!

    A friend actually just recently showed me this space level with the music, it's really cool.

  2. Neat review. I'd like to point out that you cannot replay the intro stage.

    It's interesting how Nintendo Power neglected to mention most of the secret levels.

    Personally I found Wario's second phase to be the hardest. It's especially annoying by the fact that you can't adjust your jump trajectory when he slams into the ground.

    Another thing I noticed: In one of the Nintendo Power screenshots, it shows the third pipe in the slot machine cave costing 90 coins, rather than the 200 coins it costs in the game. Interesting.