I have felt inspired to look back at classic Mario games thanks to getting hooked on Super Mario Galaxy 2 (don’t worry…I will review that once I have fully completed it). Having reviewed Super Mario Bros. 3, it is time to discuss my thoughts on another game, which turns twenty (in Japan, anyway) this year. I am talking about Super Mario World, which was Mario’s first Super NES adventure and which has been regarded as a true classic. I tend to agree, as it is filled with memorable moments, great power up items, plenty of challenges, and lovable characters. Today, let us take a look back at this masterpiece.
It all starts with Mario, Luigi, and Princess Toadstool (not yet called Peach in North America) deciding to take a vacation in Dinosaur World. Soon after they arrive, though, the princess vanishes without a trace. While searching for her, the brothers come across an egg, which soon hatches to reveal a friendly dinosaur named Yoshi. He explains that he had been trapped inside the egg while trying to rescue his friends, who had been kidnapped by nasty turtles. Realizing that this must be the work of Bowser, and that he must have kidnapped the princess yet again, Mario and Luigi set off to save the day once more. Not much of a tale, but then again, Mario games do not need an epic story to be great. Also, the idea of a vacation gone wrong would pop up again years later in the vastly inferior Super Mario Sunshine.
As with earlier Mario games, this one takes our hero through a variety of stages spanning nine worlds. Mario must travel through plains, caves, forests, and other locales, dealing with enemies and traps along the way. Naturally, he can collect coins to gain extra lives, and hit checkpoints to continue from the midway point should he lose a life. In addition to normal stages, Mario can enter Switch Palaces to hit the switches that will make colored blocks appear. These blocks are useful for bridging gaps, and some of them even have items in them. Some worlds also contain a Ghost House, where Mario must try to find the way out while dealing with scary ghosts who pop up at practically every turn. The sheer variety found in all of the levels make for some classic platform action fun.
Mario can use power up items to help him out throughout the adventure. While there are fewer items here than there were in Super Mario Bros. 3, the items themselves are nothing short of being very useful. The mushroom helps Mario grow big, while the fire flower grants him the ability to shoot fire at many of his foes. Then there is the feather, which gives Mario a cape and enables him to fly. While flying can be a bit tough to get used to, mastering it allows you to fly over dangers and discover new secrets. Other items include stars that make you temporarily invulnerable and switches that turn blocks into coins and vice versa.
Early in the adventure, Mario can get acquainted with Yoshi, who made his debut here and who would be featured in many other Mario games, as well as some games of his own. Yoshi can use his long tongue to eat enemies, most of which he swallows instantly, but a few can be spit out. He can also stomp on enemies that Mario cannot jump on, and use Koopa shells to breathe fire, fly, and stomp the ground extra hard. However, Yoshi is not invincible, and will run off when touched by an enemy. If this happens, you will need to catch him before he falls off the screen. He can be carried over between stages, but there are some levels-namely the Ghost Houses, fortresses, and castles-that he cannot enter. Still, having Yoshi around adds to the game’s overall enjoyment, and his cute appeal has helped to make him a fan favorite.
Each world ends with a castle, which is filled with lots of traps and obstacles. Should Mario survive these dangers, he will find himself fighting one of Bowser’s seven Koopalings (Bowser Jr. did not exist at this time). This time, the Koopaling battles involve such things as staying on a rocking platform without falling into the lava and hitting the Koopaling who uses two decoys to try and fool you. If you defeat these trouble-making brats, you will rescue one of Yoshi’s friends and watch a cut scene in which Mario devises hilarious methods of destroying the castle. Some worlds also have a fortress, which is similar to the castle levels except that you face fire-breathing Reznors at the end. Knock them off their platforms while avoiding the lava down below, and you will be victorious. Ordinarily, you are unable to re-enter castles or fortresses once you have beat them, but pressing L and R simultaneously will enable you to do just that.
A lot of other features were introduced here that would be carried over to later games. For the first time, players could save their progress after completing some stages, so they no longer needed to worry about beating the entire game in one sitting. Stages could be replayed in order to grab items or extra lives, or just for fun. Enemies such as The Big Boo, Blargg, Magikoopa, and Mecha Koopa would also reappear in later games. There were even extra worlds that were not necessary to enter if one wanted to simply defeat Bowser, but which presented really tough challenges that only true Mario masters could overcome. Thus Super Mario World, like Super Mario Bros. 3, is another game that seems to have served as the blueprint for future Mario games.
Another new feature was the inclusion of secret exits. By finding these, Mario could unlock new stages that would otherwise not appear or alternate routes to existing levels. Usually, our hero needed to collect a key and find a keyhole where he could use it. Doing so would automatically end the stage and unveil something new on the world map. Sometimes, instead of using a key, Mario would have to take a different route to a new goal in order to find the secret exit. There are 96 goals in all, and players still keep coming back to try and find them all.
What’s not to love about Mario’s first 16-bit adventure? It is filled with fun and challenging levels, useful power up items, a helpful sidekick in the form of Yoshi, and hours of nonstop excitement. On the then-new console, the graphics became brighter and better than before, and the music, which sounded a bit more realistic than the NES could handle, was filled with memorable tunes, many of which would show up in other games. A nice touch was having an extra drum beat added to a tune whenever Mario was riding Yoshi, a technique that would resurface in other games. If there is one complaint, it is that you can only save after clearing certain stages, though you can revisit most of those levels and finish them again later. Overall, though, this game is about as close to perfection as a game can get, and is a true classic through and through.
Just because a game is nearly two decades old does not mean it is any less fun than it was when it first came out, and Super Mario World is proof of that. To this day, it has kept players coming back to relive Mario’s adventures on Dinosaur World and the many obstacles he encountered on the way. The game was later ported to the Game Boy Advance with new features, while the original version has been available on the Wii Shop Channel for quite a while. If for whatever reason you have never played this classic, I recommend that you do so as soon as you can. It is a wonderful classic, and one of Mario’s greatest adventures ever.