Released on: August 23 1991
Available Platforms: Super Nintendo, Game Boy Advance (remake), Wii (Virtual Console), Wii U (Virtual Console), Nintendo 3DS (Virtual Console), Nintendo Switch (with Nintendo Online Subscription)
Price: Free (on Nintendo Switch with Nintendo Online Subscription)
Video games have been an essential part of my life ever since I was a child. I would watch a funny character on the television, jumping on enemies, and try to get to the goal post. Little did I know it was my mom playing a game. She handed me the controller one faithful day and told me to hit buttons. The character moved when I hit buttons, which blew my mind. Ever since then, I picked up a deep appreciation for video games and the people who make them. Today, I am taking a critical look at the game that started it all: Super Mario World, a game I revisit time and again twenty-five years later. Is Super Mario World as good as I remember?
Oh no! Bowser has kidnapped Princess Toadstool (known today as Peach). What’s more, he also imprisoned all of Yoshi’s kin inside his castles and fortresses! It’s up to our hero, Mario (and his trusty brother Luigi) to save the day! While most of us have heard this story before (the hero saves the princess from the dragon,) it does a decent job of setting the player off on their journey.
How is it possible that a twenty-nine-year-old game looks and sounds this gorgeous even to this day? Every world in Super Mario World has its own theme and visual style that make each stage pop. The music is iconic, with tracks that implanted themselves into my brain and never left since I first heard them.
To call Super Mario World’s gameplay timeless would be an understatement. For those who’ve played a Mario game before, they will get the gist of how Super Mario World handles, in fact, on the surface, the game controls very much like other Mario games. The player moves to the right to get to the end, while also jumping on enemies, collecting coins and getting power-ups. If we dig deeper into Super Mario World’s gameplay, we start to notice a slew of incredibly helpful nuances. For instance, Super Mario Bros. 3 was the game that introduced the ability to carry items, but Super Mario World takes this one step further and allows the player to kick the object upwards. Super Mario World is the game that introduces the spin jump, a more powerful, but less ascendant jump at first glance, but through experimentation, the player will realize that they can spin jump on most enemies that would typically hurt them. Of course, who could forget Mario’s trusty dinosaur companion Yoshi? Yoshi is incredibly valuable, as he can eat enemies that Mario usually can’t defeat like Pokeys. Yoshi can also jump on usually harmful enemies (doing so is akin to spin jumping on them,) but he can even walk on Munchers, an invulnerable enemy that hurts Mario regardless of where he touches it. There are also different color Yoshis. When Yoshi holds a turtle shell in his mouth, he gains special powers depending on the color of the shell and itself. Red makes Yoshi spit out fireballs, blue makes him fly, and yellow causes the ground when he lands. There are so many subtle tricks in Super Mario World that I still learn new things about it even to this day.
Super Mario World rewards the bold and curious by having a myriad of secrets hidden across its many stages. Within the first world, the game teaches the player that there are multiple paths to take. The player can either go left to unlock the Yellow Block Palace, or progress normally by going to the right. Within the second world, the stage has a red glowy dot representing the level instead of yellow. The red dot indicates that there are multiple exits within the level, which will unlock a secret path that the player might not suspect. These secret paths are satisfying to find, since they either, open a shortcut, reveal a very helpful block palace, or lead the player to the challenging Star Road.
Star Road is an interesting section of Super Mario World. To reach it, the player has to find the secret exit to certain stages. Every stage in Star Road has multiple exits and a different color Yoshi in each Star Road stage. To reveal the path to the other stages of Star Road, the player has to find the secret exits. One level has an exit that leads to the hardest stages in the game. These stages are no joke. While nowhere near as tricky as some Super Mario Maker 2 levels, compared to other stages in Super Mario World, these are tough. Star Road is optional, but completing it will unlock an easter egg that I will not spoil here. I find the inclusion of Star Road to be a brilliant one, as those who want an extra level of challenge can truly test their skills here, and those who simply want to play through the regular stages can completely ignore Star Road if they wish.
Now that I think about it, even if the player ignores Star Road, it still leaves them with a ton of stages to play. With the design philosophy of the world, players can go down the regular path, find a shortcut to Bowser’s castle, or try to find every secret the game has to offer. Finding and clearing every stage of Super Mario World is more complicated than it looks since there are so many.
Usually, I would list a few things I don’t like about a game at this point. The only thing I can think of in regards to Super Mario World is its story. Indeed, Mario games are usually not known for their deep story, with the majority of them being “Princess Peach has been kidnapped, go save her,” but for those looking for an engaging plot, Super Mario World lacks in this regard.
I had to think hard about what to critique about Super Mario World, as I genuinely feel the game is a masterpiece. Timeless visuals, iconic music, and gameplay simple enough for newcomers, but profound enough for veterans to master, Super Mario World is a game I can easily recommend to anybody.