This was a Nintendo game very similar to Super Mario Brothers. It had the same graphics, the same basic layout (4 levels per world, 8 worlds in the game (sorta), etc.) But it was much harder. It was supposed to be the sequel to Super Mario Brothers, but was only released as Super Mario Brothers 2 in Japan. In America, we got a mutated version of Doki Doki Panic, since they supposedly thought that (according to other writeups) The Lost Levels were too hard for Americans. They can get it as part of Super Mario All-Stars, though.

Anyway, this game differs from the original SMB in the following ways:

I only played this game when it came out with Super Mario All-Stars. In that version of it, you could start over at the beginning of the last level you made it to, which made the game much easier.

World 8-4 is much like 8-4 of the original Super Mario Brothers. You have to go through a series of rooms, and in each one choose the correct pipe to go on to the next one. In this one, however, there are more lava pits, paranha plants, flying fish, and tricky jumps. It also features one of those places where you have to go on the right side of certain blocks before the area will stop looping.

After you beat World 8, there is a world 9, which is just completely screwy (underwater cloud guys and flagpoles, orange castle in level 3 with sky background, etc), but extremely easy to get through. I don't know what's up with this world. It's just completely random (note: Actually, I think this was just a bug in my savegame or something. I haven't been able to get back to world 9 again). Then there are 4 more worlds: A-D. When I played them, they didn't seem much harder than the rest of the game. It seemed to me as if the level designer had a few more ideas he wanted to implement and so made a few more worlds to use them. There's nothing too spectacular, though, and the last level isn't nearly as hard as 8-4.

The writeup above references Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Level's World 9, which can be reached after completing World 8. The author alludes to the possibility of the ninth level being a bug, as he was only able to access it once. It is not a bug. There is a very specific way to get to World 9, and even the slightest deviation from this method will send the player straight from World 8-4 to the lettered worlds.

Don't warp. Ever. Not even once.

The game was programmed so as not to allow any player who warped at any point throughout the course of the game to reach World 9. (There are backwards warp zones in SMB: TLL. They count as regular warp zones as far as World 9 is concerned.) By doing so, Nintendo had attempted to create a feat that only hardcore or elite gamers dared attempt. In other words, it was not for the lazy.

Nintendo Power magazine held a World 9 contest in 1996. Gamers could, upon reaching World 9 by virtue of not having warped throughout the rest of the game, take a photo of their accomplishment and send it in to the magazine. Their prize was a commemmorative badge, suitable for sewing onto whatever fabric the winners saw fit.

The entire allure of World 9 is that players have to persevere through the entire game before they get to see it. As TOGoS says above, it's filled with anomalies within the SMB world. Various elements associated with the games' overworld, underground, water and castle levels are intermixed. Bowser appears not in World 9-4, but in 9-3. He is also fought out in the open and not in a castle. Because it bears so little similarity to the rest of the SMB universe, World 9 is often referred to as Fantasy World, which was its name in the original release.

The original Super Mario Brothers 2 included a text introduction between Worlds 8 and 9. Thus, its status as a special level that had been reached by doing something special (beating the game without warping) was clear. When the text was removed for the Super Nintendo rerelease in 1993, many gamers began to confuse it for a bug when they were able to reach it occasionally but not always.

While the official purpose of World 9 remains unclear, one can surmise that the programmers were interested in rewarding players who made it through the entire game without warping with something neat. It also became a rallying point for hardcore gamers; reaching World 9 was something of a badge of honour (hence the badge in the Nintendo Power contest).

On a more general note, Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels is widely considered to be much, much easier than the original Japanese release of Super Mario Brothers 2. Even though the rereleased 1993 version was much harder than Super Mario Brothers, the original contained a variety of elements that didn't make it into the rerelease. Among these are, as noted above, the fact that the player had to start at the beginning of a given level if he or she lost a life. Power-ups were also easier to find, and the poison mushrooms were more clearly defined, leading to less confusion with regular mushrooms.

When the game was rereleased in Japan for the Famicom Mini in 2004, World 9 was not included. It was included in the Game Boy Advance rerelease, however.

Resources: Super_Mario_Bros.:_The_Lost_Levels
Nintendo Power magazine

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