Release Date: November 20, 1990
ESRB Rating: Everyone
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Shigeru Miyamoto revealed the Super Mario Brothers franchise. It’s true, Mario had appeared in games before, most notably as “Jumpman” in 1981’s Donkey Kong, however it was 1985’s Super Mario Brothers that rocketed the titular plumber into video game super-stardom. Since then, Mario has been featured in scores of games across over a dozen different platforms and has become not only iconic of the Nintendo brand, but arguably the most recognizable face of the hobby itself. In honor of this mascot of mascots, I thought it appropriate to review one of the classic games that made the Mario franchise what it is. So I dusted off the old SNES and took another look at a favorite of mine, Super Mario World.
Super Mario World was originally released as a pack-in title for the North American launch of the Super Nintendo console in August of 1991. I remember playing my copy heavily when I got my hands on the console a year later, but I probably haven’t so much as looked at it in 15 years. I turned the console on, and I was instantly reminded of how much this game impressed me at the time. Little flourishes like the bongo drums added to the soundtrack when you jump onto Yoshi show the care Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka took in the production and direction of Mario’s first steps into the 16-bit era. Sure, everything’s a bit dated now, but this game still has charm to spare.
There’s not much of a story to be had here, but that seems to be on par with most Mario titles. I mean, the franchise follows the exploits of two Italian plumbers from New York that find a portal to another world hidden in the sewers below the city. A world filled with people with mushrooms for heads, birds with turtle shells and diabolical sentient dinosaurs. Oh, and there’s a princess in peril who also happens to be the only normal looking person this side of the green pipe. Hollywood would laugh you out of town with a plotline like that, even if you had some triple-A talent like John Leguizamo playing one of the brothers. So yeah, the narrative is kind of thrown out the window here. Luckily Mario has always been about solid, fun gameplay, and Super Mario World delivers.
In fact, I had forgotten how deep the gameplay in Super Mario World is, and how challenging. It’s been quite some time since the Super Nintendo had made an appearance in my house and there was much I had to relearn. Solutions to the puzzling Ghost House stages and the POW palaces. Revisiting stages you’ve already beaten to find alternate paths. I was a quarter of the way through the game before I remembered that Yoshi receives different powers depending on the color of the Koopa shell he has in his mouth. At the time, these seemed like big steps forward in platform gaming to me, and innovations like these are what cemented Mario’s place in my mind as the premier 2D platformer of the day. Two and a half decades later, I feel Super Mario World still stands as a testament to how Nintendo took platforming beyond just running and jumping and set a new standard for the 16-bit era.