Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins is the oldest video game I own. Well, not exactly. When I say that, I mean that out of all the games in my vast collection, I’ve had this cartridge the longest; its faded and torn label proudly displays its rich history. Yes, this Game Boy game is one of the cornerstones of my youth and my history in video games. Everyone has those particular games.
But don’t let the tiny size of the cartridge or platform of Super Mario Land 2 fool you– this game is a huge adventure. It was released in 1992 as Mario’s second Game Boy title. The game brought back familiar shades of the Mario series that its predecessor, Super Mario Land, had oddly discarded. We no longer had the miniscule sprites and offbeat power-ups; this was pure Mario worthy of its console brethren.
Super Mario Land 2 is a simple tale that started a large legacy. Mario apparently had taken residence in a place called Mario Land, where he lived in a castle prior to the events of the first Game Boy game. While Mario was away in Sarasaland saving Princess Daisy, the evil Wario took over Mario’s castle and cast a spell over the land, so now Mario must seek the titular six golden coins hidden in the world to regain entry to his castle and defeat Wario. The Mario canon has always been all over the place, so I won’t really question the validity of this inconsistent story.
What I find very interesting about Super Mario Land 2 is that it’s Mario’s only adventure that is entirely self-serving. Peach is nowhere to be found in this game, and Mario is only on this quest to defeat Wario and take back his own castle. I guess a nice guy like Mario deserves to live a good life, and he doesn’t like it when that gets ruined. He actually has some sort of motivation besides saving a princess or the world. Mario isn’t usually known for being a character with any real drive or personality, but I find the idea quite fascinating.
But the villain of Super Mario Land 2 is what caused its greatest legacy: Wario. Everyone’s favourite rotund and yellow-hatted man debuted here, starring in his one and only role of principal bad guy. Nintendo decided to take this character and expand upon the Mario universe with the Wario games, so he later became an adventurer, pirate, entrepreneur, game developer, and hero– and it’s all because he took over Mario’s castle that one time. In fact, Wario has more personality in his mustache than Mario has in his entire body of work.
But yes, Super Mario Land 2 is a great Mario platformer. It had the luxury of being able to wait through the releases of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. The developers seemed to study the strengths of those games and apply them to the Game Boy. But interestingly enough, Shigeru Miyamoto didn’t handle Super Mario Land 2— it was Hiroji Kiyotake who designed the game and created Wario.
Overall, the game feels like a scaled down Super Mario World. It’s got the world map, spin jump, and optional paths. The game introduced a new Mario power-up, the Carrot, which gave birth to Rabbit Mario, a high-flying form that was a primitive foundation for the Wing Cap of Super Mario 64. Now, Mario games were never particularly easy, but they weren’t known to be crushing; but this game takes everything away from players who lost all their lives by reclaiming each of the Golden Coins found so far upon a Game Over. Ouch.
In another interesting twist– one that has barely been reused in any Mario game since– the player is able to tackle the game’s six worlds in any order they desire. Sure, some worlds are easier than others, but the joy of freedom like this was rare in games of the time, especially a Game Boy title. Well, besides Mega Man.
Mario Land 2‘s worlds show great imagination. There’s the beehive found in the Tree Zone. There’s a place called Macro Zone, where even the smallest ants can be fierce predators. There is even a tough star maze found in Space Zone, high above the stars, foreshadowing to later Mario adventures beyond this galaxy. The music up there is great, too. All of these environments really showed off what the Game Boy could do, and the machine’s library was only getting started in 1992. And you could save your progress! Imagine that!
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins ended up being the last original Mario sidescroller we would see until the release of New Super Mario Bros. in 2006. This gave us 14 years to hang around with this game, to explore its every corner. I certainly did, and at the age of 11 I even attempted to pen my own strategy guide for Super Mario Land 2. It’s my oldest cartridge, and my favorite Game Boy game. I still play it from time to time, each time a different way. Super Mario Land 2 is worth pulling out again, even for Wario.