In the last installment we explored the true origins of Super Mario Bros. 2 and the characters which Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool and Toad replaced when the game was refitted for the United States. This time, let’s take a look at some more indelible characters: the bad guys.
The following list delves into every enemy introduced in SMB2, many of whom remain mainstays in Mario lore to this day.
These robe-wearing, phantom-masked… guys are one of the most common enemies encountered in Super Mario Bros. 2. They come in red (they walk off ledges) and pink-robed (they don’t walk off ledges) varieties, similar to the green and red Koopa Troopas from Super Mario Bros. Later in the game some Shyguys also ride up on Mario atop ostrich mounts or mounted cannons, which is admittedly bad-ass.
Shyguys are found in myriad Mario games after SMB2, including the majority of Mario spin-off games (Mario Party, Mario Kart, Mario Tennis etc.). Of the enemies on this list they’re probably the most familiar and synonymous with the series to the average joe.
Bob-Ombs first appeared in SMB2 and have been in nearly every Mario game since; anthropomorphic bombs with eyes, arms and feet, they pace around or actively chase players before violently exploding, dealing damage to anyone within range of the blast.
On account of this Bob-Ombs can be lobbed like grenades and used not only to blow up enemies but items and stone pillars/walls as well, making them integral puzzle-solving components.
In one level they’re flown into battle like the payload of a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress by an Albatoss, a large red bird enemy; they also emerge from certain jars and later in the game, as a surprise hazard from beneath hoisted tufts of grass (with a much shorter fuse).
For some reason SMB2 is the only game where Bob-Ombs have arms. In subsequent appearances they are armless and commonly have a wind-up key attached to their backs.
Birdo is called Catherine in Japan, but according to the SMB2 instruction booklet: “He thinks he is a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He’d rather be called ‘birdetta.’”
Since we’re in the year 2020 now and not 1988, we can just go ahead and refer to Birdo however she prefers. Nintendo has either distanced or retconned itself from the original description they gave her in SMB2, so I guess that’s where we are.
Either way, Birdo became an indelible Mario villain with her introduction in SMB2 because she was such an interesting, uniquely designed and fun enemy to face. Players would have to time the eggs she shot from her snout to jump and land on them, grab them in mid-air and then hit her with them three times to defeat her.
Birdo had three color varieties in the game: Pink Birdo, who shot eggs from her mouth; Red Birdo, who shot eggs and fireballs; and Green Birdo, who shot fireballs. She appeared as a mini-boss at the end of most levels and guarded a crystal which opened the Mask Gate, a doorway to the next stage of the game.
Birdo is right up there in terms of notoriety with Shyguy. She’s been in a bunch of Mario games since SMB2, from Super Mario RPG to Mario Party Super Smash Bros. to Mario Golf.
Fun fact: The sound effect made when Birdo fires an egg from her mouth is identical to the noise made by Link when he uses the Fire Rod in The Legend of Zelda.
A living cactus from the deserts of Subcon. These cacti have some staying power: when one of their heads is knocked off, another one of its segments becomes the head.
Pokeys are pretty common villains in Mario games nowadays (and are either yellow or green in color), with appearances in Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy, the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series and nearly all of the spin-off Mario titles.
A Shyguy with a distinctive gas mask which, according to the Doki Doki Panic instruction booklet, “spit the bullets of evil dreams from their mouth.”
Snifits, like their Shyguy brethren, came in different colors: The red ones could fall off ledges and occasionally fired shots; the pink type were like the red except they didn’t fall off ledges; and the gray and green Snifits jumped up and down in one place firing bullets.
Marshmallow-colored, star-shaped demons wearing ninja suits. In early artwork Ninji are depicted with sharp red teeth and claws on their feet but the red teeth were later modified into the pair of buttons you’re probably more accustomed to now (below: a Ninji from Paper Mario: Color Splash).
Ninji come in two forms: one who charges players and then jumps as it draws close and another who jumps up and down in place.
Other than SMB2, Ninji only reappeared briefly in Super Mario World (where they’re called Mini-Ninjas and found in Bowser’s Castle) but they’ve been making a bit of a resurgence lately in the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series.
Shyguys who can fly and carry bidents for weapons.
Beezos are straight-up unnerving creatures with their veiny, insectile wings and their bidents. Who the hell carries a bident anyway? Beezos, that’s who. And Hades, Greek ruler of the underworld. Beezos are gods of the underworld, confirmed.
Besides the enhanced SMB2 re-releases (Super Mario All-Stars, Super Mario Advance), Beezos haven’t appeared in any other Mario game apart from Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
Bug-eyed, black-feathered, puckish-looking, crows who swoop down on Mario and crew on magic carpets.
If you timed it right you could chuck Pidgit off and ride out on the carpet for a while on your own.
Surely Mario had no reason to be antagonistic towards a spiky, blue hedgehog, right?
Well, not for about five more years anyways.
Snifit isn’t the only strange villain with a fetish mask in SMB2. Meet Plague doctor mask-wearing, little bat/vulture hybrid, Tweeter.
Even though they have wings, Tweeters are incapable of flight; instead they flap around and hop towards players.
Much like a cobra emerging from a snake charmer’s basket, Cobrats can be found hiding in jars and beneath the sand in SMB2. They spit bullets just like Snifits and according to the instruction manual, “often appear in the [dreams] of Toad.”
TIL Toad has ophidophobia. Poor little guy. Don’t worry though, Toad; there are few things more satisfying than launching a Cobrat into a group of other Cobrats and knocking them all down candlepin style, so we got you.
Remember those ostrich mounts I mentioned Shy Guys riding up on Mario with earlier? Ostros.
These black and white feathered, long-legged birds “serve as a means of transportation in the world of dreams,” according to the instruction manual. Which makes sense, considering they’ve got some wheels. If I’m not mistaken, they’re the fastest moving enemies in the game that you can actually jump on top of and ride. Yes, you can actually hop on top of a Shyguy-mounted Ostro, hoist the Shyguy above your head and toss him to his death — then commandeer his former mount like some 8-bit dreamworld parody of an old Western movie.
A basketball-sized ladybug who crawls up and down vines. Although they can be picked up like other enemies, it’s often more useful to just hop on top of them and hitch a ride, as they move faster whenever Mario and crew get closer.
Speaking of which, Trouter was another enemy that is better used as a platform in SMB2; they can be used as stepping stones over large bodies of water but if a player stays on them too long and gets carried back into the water it results in death.
Flashing, spherical enemies found underground or inside buildings that emanate an electrical current. Mario and crew can’t touch them, so you have to hit them with a thrown object.
Created by Wart, Pansers are another belligerent plant-creature like Pokey. They come in red (stays in one spot and spits three fireballs in an arc at the player), grey (spits fireballs directly above it) and pink (similar to red but has the added ability to stalk after the hero) varieties.
Although Pansers are a fire flower, it’s unknown if they have any relation lorewise to the Fire Flowers used by Mario as power-ups.
Sinister snowmen creatures that chase after players in the icy-themed World 4 of Subcon. Mario and crew can often jump over these guys, as they have poor traction and can slip and tumble off the ice-covered platforms where they’re encountered.
Flying birds who toss Bob-Ombs onto players from high above. Albatosses are one of the few enemies who can’t be picked up and thrown but they are necessary to hitch a ride on in two specific levels to access otherwise unreachable areas.
Phanto is one scary mother—–.
This ornamental, two-toned mask lays dormant in rooms where there are keys. Dormant until you pick up said key, that is. The second you do Phanto stirs to life and relentlessly pursues you through time and space. That’s not even an exaggeration. In most side-scrolling, platform games if you run off screen into another area the enemy will stay where it belongs, tethered to its point of origin. Not Phanto. Phanto will chase you through walls and platforms. Through rooms. Through game screens. Even through Subspace, an alternate dimension in Subcon which players can access ephemerally by use of potions. Phanto will be in this alternate dimension too, waiting to take his damn key back.
For the majority of my childhood (and adult life) I thought Phanto couldn’t be killed. It can, but only through the rare combination of a Stop Watch and an Invincibility Star. Even then it’s only temporary. A new Phanto (or maybe it’s just the same one rejuvenated) will be ready to resume the chase as soon as the player moves to another room carrying the key.
Like I said, Phanto is one scary mother—-.
Now, over thirty years later, I don’t fear Phanto quite as much. Not because it is any less frightening. Or because I’m now a grown ass man but because I’ve come to admire his remarkable work ethic. Talk about Wart getting his money’s worth. If anyone in the 8 bits (the name of Wart’s evil forces) deserves a raise or at the very least some sort of employee appreciation, it’s Phanto.
Which brings us to the major members of the 8 bits, the bosses of SMB2.
A giant, three-headed, Lernaean hydra inspired version of Cobrat who can spit fireballs. According to the instruction manual he was recruited by Wart on account of his “cunning brain and offensive capabilities which are three times normal strength.”
He’s the boss of World 2 and World 6 and can only be defeated by hitting him with three Mushroom Blocks, stackable items which are resistant to his fire.
Another fire spitting boss is Fryguy; a ball of flame given sentience by Wart, he guards a tall fortress located within the wintry World 4 in Subcon.
Much like Tryclyde, Fryguy must be defeated with three Mushroom Block hits. When this happens, Fryguy enters his second phase and splits into four Small Fry Guys, which players must also extinguish.
Mouser is just a cool villain, plain and simple. He’s an anthropomorphic mouse who wears sunglasses and pink gloves and boots which match the pink of his ears, suggesting he’s the waviest individual in all of Subcon.
If his impressive swag wasn’t enough, how about his weapon of choice? Lit-fuse bombs.
This sadistic rat bastard wants to blow you the f— up, not scratch or bite you and give you the bubonic plague or wax philosophical with four adolescent mutant reptiles like you might normally expect from an enormous, upright rodent.
The only thing about Mouser that’s a little disappointing is that his Japanese name, Don Churuge, is far superior. Don is the Spanish word for “sir” and also the Japanese onomatopoeia for a booming sound. Churuge comes from chu, a rat squeaking sound. Sure, Mouser isn’t bad — but Don Churuge (AKA Sir Booming Explosion Rat Squeak) is both the pinnacle of onomatopoeia and far more illustrious and befitting of a sly, bomb-tossing mouse.
You encounter Mouser three times in SMB2 different color variants, once in World 1-3 (gray with pink ears), World 3-3 (gray with green ears) and finally in World 5-3 (white with red ears). To defeat Mouser you had to throw his bombs back in such a way that they detonated on him; it was trickier than it looked, considering Mouser scuttle-stepped on the platform from which he threw the bombs the entire time — meaning you had to time a throw perfectly in sequence with his erratic scurrying. The white version in Doki Doki Panic took seven hits to defeat, which might be part of the reason it was replaced by the following boss for Western audiences…
The replacement for cream-white Mouser in the States was Clawgrip, a giant crustacean boss who hurled boulders. These boulders had to be caught on the rebound and thrown back at Clawgrip five times to defeat him.
Thirty-year-old spoiler alert: those eagle-headed gates attached to the wall at the end of every level which Mario and crew must crawl through to progress?
One of them comes alive at the end of the game like Phanto and chases after you. Kind of makes you look at all those previous Mask Gates a little bit differently though, doesn’t it?
And finally we come to Wart (Mamu in Japan), leader of the 8 bits and “creator of all the monsters in the World of Dreams and the source of all its evil!” according to the Super Mario Bros. 2 Inside Out strategy guide.
Much like Bowser, apparently King Wart is reptilian (amphibian-hybrid?) royalty. Or self-appointed royalty anyway. Only instead of a giant turtle, Wart is a giant green frog with a white belly, clawed toes and feet and sharp teeth.
Mario and friends confront him in the Dream Factory, where they must catch vegetables expelled from the Dream Machine and make him eat six of them to defeat him.
Wart attacks by spitting out “nightmare” bubbles at players. If a thrown vegetable hits one of Wart’s bubbles it is destroyed, so players have to time their throws carefully.
Fun fact: Wart makes an appearance in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening under his Japanese name, Mamu. In Link’s Awakening he lives in a pond under the Signpost Maze on Koholint Island. Much like Subcon, Koholint Island is a dreamworld; here Mamu isn’t an antagonist, however. He actually assists Link by teaching him the “Frog’s Song of the Soul” on his ocarina for the price of 300 rupees. After teaching Link the song, Mamu disappears, presumably to use the rupees to fund the invasion of some other dreamworld.
On that note, Shyguy makes an appearance in Link’s Awakening too. In the original instruction manual for the game they’re referred to as Mask-Mimics. They don’t attack Link directly but do as their name implies and mimic Link’s moves in reverse. Link can’t defeat them through conventional sword strikes to the face because their mask deflects his attacks. (These armored masks might’ve come in handy against Mario and friends’ thrown vegetables in SMB2.)
Up next: Changes made between Doki Doki Panic and Super Mario Bros. 2.