The Oddity of the 6 Golden Coins

You may have owned this game, or knew someone that owned it and you wanted to play it so bad. I was one of those kids.

My cousin had this game, he played the crap out of it and I remember being transfixed with it. He’d sit there and I’d peer over his shoulder, watching him play for hours. When he finished the game, I asked if I could borrow it, he reluctantly said yes and handed it over. The next week I played and played and played until I’d beaten the game. I never did own it until it was released on the 3DS Virtual Console. I recently played the game in it’s entirety one Sunday afternoon and was transported back to those early days of my gaming youth. But the whole time I was playing, I noticed how odd and different it was ┬ácompared to all of Mario’s previous (and newer) outings. I’d never thought about it when I was a kid, looking back, and I didn’t care. But now? Oh man…what a strange game.

Super Mario Land 2: The 6 Golden Coins is a Game Boy game that came out in 1992/1993 and it’s a sequel to the original Super Mario Land that came out a few years earlier. Super Mario Land was such a strange way to portray Mario on his first handheld outing, with little to do with what we already knew about Mario. Some levels were in a submarine or an ancient Egyptian pyramid, then changed to something totally different. It still followed the Mario gameplay, you’d run and jump and do the normal platforming stuff but apart from that, it never truly felt like Mario. It’s not surprising to learn that Miyamoto wasn’t involved in the development in either game.

What makes Super Mario Land 2 so odd? It’s not your usual Mario game at all and there’s a lot that when I replayed it recently, made me scratch my head. That’s not to say I hate or dislike the game, I love it. But my problem with it is that it’s just so far away from what we know of Mario that it’s an anomaly in the Mario Universe.

So, what to begin with first? Why not start with the levels? Firsty, there’s no linearity in how you decide to go about beating the game. With 6 worlds (matching the 6 Golden Coins! Crazy right?) to choose from in no order, it feels a little like Super Mario World. But even still SMW had divergences from the main path, to keep things interesting. 6GC was strange in that there was an overworld and there were the 6 worlds inside, each with their own themes, enemies and more. You had one world where you were in a giant robotic Mario, then another on the goddamn moon! WITH MARIO IN A SPACE SUIT! Then you got a tree world, pumpkin zone, a turtle zone and then the macro zone where you became REALLY small.

The interesting thing with the levels too, is that in pretty much every one, a new concept or idea is brought into the fold, usually just for the one level. Maybe for one level there’s spinning gears? Or flying owls that help you traverse huge gaps? It’s the little things that kept surprising me in this game. Even when you end a level, if you can reach the bell, you get sent to a bonus level to get more hearts or even a power up in the form of a crane game or switch game.

Now the enemies, what was up with that? Mario has the standard fare, with Goombas, Koopas, Hammer Bros and the like, but this has skull dudes, witches, and ants. ANTS FOR GOD’S SAKE! WHAT MARIO GAME HAS ANTS AS AN ENEMY? WHAT WAS NINTENDO SMOKING? Each enemy fit into the theming of the zone too, so the ants only appeared in the Tree Zone and Macro Zone, whereas the spooky witches appeared in the Pumpkin Zone. It ┬ámakes sense in the zones that they’re in but in the grand scheme of Mario, it’s super weird.

The power ups aren’t odd at all, you got the mushroom like usual, the fire flower like usual, but then you got…a carrot? That gives you rabbit ears that make you float? What the hell? The carrot, as far as I know, has never appeared in any way shape or form in any other Mario game since. It adds to the oddity of the game. You could also get an abundance of 1-UP’s in the form of hearts, not the usual mushroom.

But for all that’s odd about this game and may have never been used again in any subsequent games, it did introduce one mainstay. Wario. We all know and love Wario now as a somewhat bumbling, money-grabbing and treasure-hoarding buffoon, but in this game he’s a crazed lunatic, hell bent of making sure Mario never gets back his castle (Mario has his own castle now?). I remember the first time playing the game and getting to Wario and he freaked the hell out of me, nothing like how he is today. It’s interesting that they kept Wario on, yet nothing else. Strange.

But this whole game is strange, in terms of Mario. I’m not sure if anyone else has played it, but if you haven’t played it, I suggest you do. It’s quirky, different and it stands out as the an oddity in the world of Mario. Have you played the game at all? Do you think it’s a weird game now than when you first played it? Share your thoughts below!

6 comments

  1. I think SML2 wasn’t nearly as odd as you’re making out. The carrot makes as much sense as the Leaf and Feather. I mean, how does a feather give you a cape? The feather is exclusive to SMW and, up until SM3DL, the leaf had only appeared in SMB3. In fact flight in Super Mario games had been acheived via a completely different item in all the games up until the recent return of the Leaf.

    The premise for SMB was that you were an Italian plumber in a mushroom fantasy land rescuing a princess from a spiky turtle monster. You grew when you touched mushrooms and got fire abilities from a flower.

    SMW gave us places like Donut Plains, Cookie Mountain and Chocolate Island. Mario gained the ability to ride on a dinosaur.

    All pretty crazy.

    SML2 was unique in that you could pick which zone you wanted to play which was in interesting idea. Warp zones were suddenly meaningless as all 6 zones HAD to be completed at some point to access the final boss. This seemed to serve two purposes. Given that it was a hand held title, if you got bored or stuck in one level, you could change and it removed shortcuts both of which made the game last longer which meant it was great for taking on journeys.

    While the other things you mentioned were odd, they weren’t any odder than anything Mario would normally face. Turtles? Walking mushrooms? Balls with teeth on chains? Just another odd day in the odd life of a Super Mario Brother.

    1. I think it’s odd not in the mario universe, but just how it went about a lot of things compared to the NES/SNES Marios. The console Marios all share the same sort of enemies and ideas. Levels up until SMB3, were you finish a level and go straight to the next. SMB3 and SMW for example ha the levels there and youd go through them as usual, but then have the secret levels to break it up a bit. SML2 had the whole overworld and you could freely choose where to go.

      I agree SMB is odd but SML2 is just odd in that theres a lot of things that just hadnt been seen or done and to a point not done again in the Mario Universe. Thats how I see it anyway.

      1. Yeah, I think the changes that were made were purely to make a better Mario game for handhelds. Something that could be enjoyed on both short and long journeys. Some of the enemies were weird, but then the same was true with Super Mario Land. Each NES game had new bad guys, it’s just that the SML2 ones didn’t really carry over into the series proper. Possibly because they just weren’t as interesting. SML2 was definitely different, I just think the differences were to do with it being a Gameboy game. As for the enemies or power ups? yeah, they were weird. But I remember thinking the exact same thing when I first played the other Super Mario games.

        Link’s Awakening also did a similar thing, changing a lot of core concepts possibly to make it work better as a handheld title too.

        1. I guess part of my problem is I’m looking at it as comparing handheld to console experiences, which I shouldn’t. Link’s Awakening is the perfect example of changing ideas and making it work for a handheld.

  2. jimuhsien · · Reply

    Always thought the bunny ears made as muxh sense as the racoon tail, flight wise.

  3. SML2 was my first Mario game. I thought it was the tits. but then again, I haven’t touched it in almost 20 years, it may have had some flaws I didn’t pick up on when I was 7, but would be obvious through my jaded, cynical (and short-sighted) adult eyes.

    two things I remember about it:
    the two stages (1 hippo & 1 space) where you can just float over every obstacle in the whole level.
    beating Wario for the first time & getting pretty excited to have finished it, only for the batteries in my gameboy to die & I missed the ending.

    I’ll always remember that as a great game though. Rabbit ears power up was rad.

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