Super Mario World (SNES)

(Review archived from January 21, 2019)

I try to kick off each year with a bona-fide classic. For me this serves as a means of ‘level-setting the playing field’ in terms of any other games I play during the year, and as a reminder of what truly great games are capable of. It’s a tradition that grew out of an older one in which I’d play Legend of Zelda (NES) in its entirety every New Year’s Day. Last year got its start with Super Mario Bros. 3, so this year it only made sense to play Super Mario World.

For many a retro gamer, picking their favorite 2D Mario game often comes down to a choice between SMB3 and this one. Clearly they are both giants of platforming, but I fall into the latter camp, largely due to the technological improvements made possible with the SNES. SMB3 was a staggering achievement in terms of pushing the NES, but its layout still utilized a traditional level-based structure. Super Mario World feels like a fully realized and cohesive world. The fact that each individual level is laid out on one giant world map certainly helps in this regard. But the cohesiveness of this game doesn’t stop there. Every element in the game feels like it belongs to that world, from the astoundingly good music, to the ever-so-slightly washed out color scheme, to the cutesy-but-not-cloying enemy designs. Every element is meticulously designed as part of the experience, and nothing feels out of place.

Super Mario World is also where we were introduced to a certain dino-pal by the name of Yoshi. I’ll be honest here, I almost never make use of Yoshi to any great extent, save for a couple of levels that are more or less designed around his usage. As a result, I always have to re-familiarize myself with Yoshi’s mechanics, whereas Mario’s moveset comes as almost second nature. If I were to pick on any one particular element of Super Mario World, though, it’s that I sometimes wish the controls were as tight as they were in SMB3. Super Mario World has a certain ‘airy’, ‘drifty’ feeling to the controls which was a big departure from the pixel-precise platforming we were used to in NES Mario titles. It’s not that this is particularly detrimental to Super Mario World though. As I mentioned, it’s rather meticulously designed around these controls just as they are, so to change that would likely be to upset the carefully crafted balance of the game. All the same though, it sure is interesting to think about how a more precise control scheme would play out here.

Still and all, this is purely conjecture. Super Mario World is a masterwork that would serve as a corner stone in what is arguably the strongest first-year lineup of games for any console. From the outset, this game provided a clear mission statement of what was possible on the fledgling SNES, and of course built upon the impeccable legacy of Nintendo’s flagship character. It’s the combination of all of these elements that make Super Mario World an important landmark in gaming and one of the greatest platformers of all time.






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