It’s pure coincidence that this post is the site’s 1000th; I couldn’t be happier to celebrate the milestone by talking about a game which is simultaneously one of my personal favourites of all time, and to blame for my gaming addiction. Ask any group of Nintendo fans what their favourite Mario game is and you can expect to get a range of answers. Some worship the original Super Mario Bros, but others adore the stellar follow up Super Mario Bros.3. 3D fans might go for Mario 64 but others might pick either of the more recent Mario Galaxy instalments. Some folks might go somewhere really odd, ask my parents and they’ll pick Super Mario Bros. 2 every time. As a child Super Mario Bros 2 was the instalment I was most exposed to, I remember referring to Birdo as ‘the eggy monster’ in my youth – a tradition my family carries on. For all the fond memories Super Mario Bros 2 isn’t my favourite, to me the SNES era Super Mario World will always be top dog.
While my parents adored Mario Bros 2. young five/six year old me couldn’t wrap his tiny head around it’s mechanics. Hurling vegetables, plucking eggs out the air and so on were actions beyond my young comprehension. That said nostalgia means I still find more enjoyability in Mario Bros 2 than most, and I still love the option to chance character. Overall though it was too much. We had Mario Bros 3 too; I remember playing a lot of that. Tanooki, frog and hammer bros suits – all I remember with great fondness. For as much as I loved Mario Bros 3 it was Super Mario World that truly captured by attention. Mario’s journey to the Dinosaur kingdom will always stand out as my favourite Mario game. It was the first game I determined to beat as a child. Which admittedly I failed at, I went back some years later to finish the job – I vaguely remember finding the forest of illusion too hard.
Super Mario Bros 3 was the entry that really built the foundation for the Mario series we know and love today. Sprawling world maps, unique power ups, Koopa kids and the ability to climb vines were all things that Super Mario Bros 3 brought to the table. SMB3 was when 2D Mario really cemented it’s feel after a really strange second outing. Even today New Super Mario Bros adheres to the formula Super Mario Bros 3 pioneered; Super Mario World was no different. Although it did have the honour of being the first instalment to take those rules and build upon them. The most obvious example of a feature Super Mario World added? That’d be the introduction of Yoshi, not just as a gameplay mechanic, but as a character. Before Super Mario World our world saving plumber had never thought to bind a species into servitude for personal gain, this was the start of something beautiful.
Yoshi’s meant the inclusion of a whole new roster of abilities that Mario had never had access to before. Riding atop Yoshi Mario was able to jump onto spiked creatures without harm, likely down to Yoshi’s fabulous, yet mysteriously acquired leather boots. Yoshi’s most iconic ability of course inhaling enemies and spitting out their remains as a form of weaponry. Swallowing different Koopa Troopas meant different benefits: green shells would be spat out as projectiles whilst red shells would turn into fireballs when spewed forth. As a kid I remember always wanting the red shells, spitting fire was too cool. Further to fire breathing Yoshi was a safety net for Mario. If Mario was struck whilst riding Yoshi the dinosaur would run off, but Mario would retain his current power level – no shrinking down to mini Mario. Whether or not it was worth running after the crazed loose Yoshi was totally dependant on the predicament.
Super Mario World exapnded on Mario’s most basic ability too – jumping. The portly plumber was now capable of not only his traditional leap but a powerful, yet flamboyant, twirling jump too. Performing a spinning jump allowed Mario to pulverise the enemies he landed on, two hit foes would be knocked in one strike. The new jump would also allow Mario to drill through destroyable blocks for the first time ever. On solid objects like already detached Koopa shells Mario would bounce off continuing his spin rather than kicking them off as he traditionally did.
I’d be completely amiss if I didn’t talk about Super Mario World’s greatest addition though. The cape power-up. Incredibly awesome, but fundamentally broken the cape power-up granted Mario the ability to glide. And fly temporarily. Or fly permanently for players who knew that they were doing. Mario was capable of really cool aerial acrobatics allowing Nintendo to hide secret level exits high up in clouds or other places that would be otherwise inaccessible. It made exploring the world map ever more interesting. Equally in many situations the cape could be used to simply fly over all obstacles. Double edged sword.
Super Mario World did much more than just those examples though. It was the first instalment to bring in the puzzle-like ghost houses which have long become a staple along with their shy ghost inhabitants: the Boo’s. Bowser for the first time ever took to the skies in his own personal clown-koopa car – which freaked me out when it’s face changed on low health as a child. Hidden block switches would permanently unlock new routes/ safety nets in previous levels when found. Entirely optional sections of the world map were added for the first time ever too, as well as bosses that guarded them – remember those flame spitting rhinos? Also completing a sneakily hidden’special world’ would change the world map completely and make all the regular enemies wear creepy Mario masks. It even introduced us to Charging Chuck!
In a series as popular and successful as Mario it’s easy for games to get lost. Even really great ones. Super Mario World I feel always gets lost in the shuffle. In my opinion the pinnacle of the Mario series, and genuinely a hot contender for top spot alongside Super Mario Bros 3. At the very least you have to respect the way it built on Super Mario Bros 3 adding just as much to the series continuity as it’s ground breaking predecessor. Long live the Dinosaur World!