Super Mario World
Before you read
I am very familiar with Super Mario World, so this review is seen through the eyes of someone who has played through it multiple times (although the last time was 10 years ago). From what I can remember though, this is the first time I’ve actually gone through the most difficult levels from the Star Road. I’m also exclusively taking a look at the SNES version this time as I don’t own the GBA version, and the differences are too minimal to actually bother with them.
Here’s some music for you to listen to while reading the review:
From one great game to the next, Super Mario World is another game I’m very nostalgic for and that I place very high on my favourite Super Mario games list. Yup, that’s the review, thank you for reading! But joking aside, this is the first time I’m able to look at it from a more objective viewpoint having played all the prequels right before this one. And hey, while I’ve beaten the game multiple times, I’ve never actually 100% completed it so that’s something that I can now get off my backlog! So how accurate is my opinion on Super Mario World that’s from 10 years ago? Let’s find out!
History and trivia
With a new console on the horizon, the most logical step for Nintendo was to continue on with their most successful franchises from the NES. The development team initially ported Super Mario Bros. 3 to the SNES to get an idea of how the new hardware worked and quickly noticed that they could use this new opportunity to create something they desired from the franchise. While Yoshi has been an idea since the very original, the SNES finally allowed the team to bring that character to life alongside other ideas that were planned. That said though, Shigeru Miyamoto also admits that while this is his favourite game, they also rushed it so it would be able to become a SNES launch title. The reasoning behind this decision was the ongoing console war with Sega, who also had a very cool mascot that was about to make his debut. A rushed game will be forever bad as they say, especially when we look at this specific competitor’s games, but fortunately it didn’t hinder the overall quality of Super Mario World as it is considered amongst the best games ever made by many. And for your random trivia for today which actually enforces that last statement: The game has sold a total of 20 million units, which means that this entry alone already makes up for 5% of all SNES games sold… ever! This is of course helped by it being a pack-in title with the SNES, but it’s still crazy to think on a console that has more than 700 games, not even counting the Japanese-exclusive games.
The next logical evolution
Super Mario World is a surprisingly ”tame” title. What I mean by that is that they mostly looked at the predecessors, and improved on it without taking too many risks. After all, in Japan this instalment even got the subtitle ”Super Mario Bros. 4”. The overworld has returned, there are some new power-ups and the level design is excellent. But let’s take this one step at a time before I lose track of what I was talking about.
Let’s start with the overworld. This was an idea introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 and one that I was very fond of, bearing some OCD problems. Unlike that game however, levels are infinitely replayable and the world feels more connected. It’s less of a world-to-world design, and instead one big interconnected world you can freely move around in once you’ve beaten the levels that would otherwise halt your progression. Stages now have alternate exits as well, allowing you to skip multiple levels or even parts of the world like the predecessors did. The star road is a replacement for the warp pipes- or whistles, and also functions as a sort-of hub area to move around the world faster. If you play your cards right, you can go from the second world to the last level in almost no time. I do find it weird that you can only travel to the last level though; to get to other places, you need to actually beat the level on that side of the map which kind of ruins the purpose of this hidden secret in my opinion. It’s a very noticeable difference about this overworld compared to the last as while it might look big, it’s still a straight line of levels with the only branching paths being alternate exits, and there’s no connection between areas either. It’s not like you can take a pipe from the first world to world 4 for example, or create a bridge that connects areas to each other differently from the main path. There are also no overworld events anymore which is a real shame. Don’t get me wrong: I do really like this overworld, but it’s not perfect.
The themes of the levels are also not as expansive or unique as they were in Super Mario Bros. 3, but the game does make up for it with excellent level design. Thank the lord that checkpoints are back as well! The levels are this time less focussed on stage-unique hazards, and instead on just good platforming fun. What makes these levels in particular fun to go through however, is that quite a lot of them have alternative exits marked by a red flashing dot on the overworld. This gives the player more incentive to explore- and replay stages aside from just looking for a shortcut or a few 1-ups. Some secrets in particular are very hard to find, thus making it more fun to explore every little crook and nanny. Exploration is yet again encouraged through the usage of Switch Palaces, which activates blocks in all levels that were previously see-through. This will make later levels easier to go through as they can block enemies or create paths over bottomless pits, and they are completely skippable if you prefer a harder challenge. This game also introduced Ghost Houses, which are more puzzle-based stages with a ”scary” aesthetic. Just walking right won’t get you to the exit, and you need some clever usage of the switch that transforms coins into blocks and vice versa to proceed. For many people, they were the best new stage designs introduced in Super Mario World, and I’m no exception.
Need some help Mario?
The story of the game is that King Koopa has kidnapped Princess Toadstool again (obviously) but also several Yoshi eggs, the inhabitants of Dinosaur Land. How convenient is it then that a random Yoshi can help you out? Introduced in this game is our favourite companion that none of us has dumped to get to a particular secret exit, T. Yoshisaur Munchakoopas! I did not make that name up. Yoshi is, for a lack of better terms, a power-up that in itself also has power-ups. There are fewer power-ups than the last game, but Yoshi does compensate for that. He can not only use his tongue to gobble up enemies but also coloured shells that give him fire breath, flight or… stomping powers. You do you Yoshi. But the best part is that he functions as an extra hit and is reclaimable unless he runs into a bottomless pit. For whatever reason, Super Mario World forces you from a 3rd-stage power-up back to mini Mario upon a hit, so having a free hit that you can possibly regain with ease is a lifesaver. To compensate for this weird decision of going back to first-stage Mario, you can now hold on to another power-up that you can use- or switch between within a level. I do miss the inventory from Super Mario Bros. 3, but I do feel this is a good alternative due to how exploratorive the stages are. If I have an underwater stage for example, I know the Cape Feather is going to be mostly useless so I can switch to the Fire Flower instantly. Oh right the Cape Feather, I should talk about that! Replacing the Tanooki Leaf is the Cape Feather, which gives Mario a cape and turns him into Superman. This is one of Mario’s more broken abilities ever as it allows him to fly… pretty much forever. Why look at the great stage design when you can literally fly over the entire stage am I right? And if you get hit while flying you actually don’t lose the power-up and just lose the momentum you were having. And it can also get rid of enemies by attacking, even some that you could not defeat by simply stomping on them or using the Fire Flower. This power-up is a little bit too good for its own sake that it even makes the Fire Flower less relevant but oh well, it’s fun to mess around with regardless.
Now you’re playing with power… Super power!
Super Mario World feels extremely smooth to control, definitely the best Mario has gotten at this point. That’s not to discredit the NES games, but the SNES was just more powerful and could display more frames and animations. It’s like comparing fishes with dolphins; they’re both cool, but dolphins are evolved fish. Momentum feels good as always, but Mario also has a few new tricks up his sleeve. He can now grab blocks- and shells and throw them upwards as well instead of just in front of him, which is even required during some parts of the game. The spin jump allows him to break blocks underneath him, and for some reason makes him invulnerable to multiple hazards including saws. I have no idea how his legs don’t get torn to shreds but hey, video game logic. If you’re familiar with rom hacks–in particular Kaizo Mario–, then you probably know that the spin jump is their drugs for level design. It’s not used in the original game that much though, but I still appreciate the ability being there. Riding Yoshi also feels very smooth, almost like nothing has changed despite you being on the back of a dinosaur. But the controls and animations of Mario aren’t the only things that have changed. Level backgrounds have more depth, and there’s a charming cutscene after beating every castle where Mario destroys said castle in the most random ways possible. It’s simple things like these that makes it feel like the game has evolved so much from its predecessors, even if it has more-or-less remained close to what Super Mario Bros. 3 was achieving.
I might have sounded a bit critical throughout the review and believe me, that is only because I’ve played Super Mario Bros. 3 in advance. This game is still one of, if not my favourite Super Mario game ever due to how much it means to me. The controls especially are spot-on, and that’s one of the most important parts of a game for me. Mario controls very smoothly, and added mechanics such as the spin jump have only improved how fun it is to control him. The controls are further complimented by the excellent level design whenever you’re not using the broken Cape Feather to fly over the entire stage. I might have liked the variety in level design and the overworld events from its prequel more, but I still enjoy going through this overworld because of how many alternate exits there are in the interconnected world. Oh, and this game has Yoshi. Everyone loves Yoshi. Super Mario World is, and will always be one of the first recommendations I give whenever people ask me for a good retro 2D platformer, and that opinion has not changed at all 10 years after I”e last played it.
I’m glad I was able to end the Super Mario marathon on a high note. Of course I already knew this beforehand, but I’ve never played the first four games back-to-back. This was a very worthwhile and interesting revisit, and it was a good decision of me to do so. Admittedly, I don’t like playing multiple games from the same franchise consecutively so I will probably leave the 2D Mario games alone now for a while, though I do have one more surprise article coming up for the Super Mario marathon! Stay tuned, it’s coming soon!
Games to play if you like Super Mario World
- Donkey Kong Country – If you asked me what another good SNES platformer game would be that is somewhat similar to Super Mario World, my first answer would be Donkey Kong Country. Plays really well, has an overworld… that’s kind of where the comparisons end but hey, very good game!
- Bloo Kid 2 – ooh, obscure recommendation time! Yet again not something that is directly comparable to Super Mario World, but it’s a fun 2D platformer regardless.
- Sonic the Hedgehog – …Yeah I have no reason for recommending this really other than it being a fun platformer but hey, this is what Nintendo was afraid of in the ’90s! Might as well check out what make them scared right ;)?
Question of the Review
What game are you most nostalgic for? And is it a game you have played when you were younger, or one that you’ve discovered later on in your life?