Approximate Release Date: August 23, 1991
Of the five Super Nintendo launch games, Super Mario World holds up the best.
That’s not a controversial statement. Mario games are always fantastic. But what makes Super Mario World so impressive is its restraint. If you look at the other launch games – F-Zero, Gradius III, Pilotwings, and SimCity – you’ll see games which are reaching too far. F-Zero and Pilotwings rely on the whiz-bang technical spectacle of Mode 7 to mask the fact the games aren’t that great. Gradius III suffers from horrendous slowdown when too many baddies are on the screen. SimCity is much better than a PC-to-console port in the early ’90s has any right to be, but it still feels constrained by the limits of the then-cutting-edge SNES.
Super Mario World is simply a natural evolution from the NES games. It’s refined when its peers are promising but rough. It has close to 100 stages, including some devilish hidden levels which unlock some cosmetic changes to the game when completed. The game even looks and sounds wonderful to this day. And the one major gameplay addition resulted in one of Nintendo’s most iconic characters.
Everybody loves Yoshi, Mario’s dinosaur pal. When Mario jumps on Yoshi’s back, you feel more powerful at the cost of some maneuverability. Yoshi can eat most enemies and some projectiles with his tongue and provides damage mitigation by absorbing hits for Mario. It provides new ways to deal with obstacles or enemies in meaningful ways that don’t exist in earlier Mario games.
The game isn’t perfect, though. The cape is fun to use but is very similar Super Mario Bros. 3’s raccoon tail, which also granted the ability to do a spin attack, fly after a running start, and slow down Mario’s fall speed. Many levels in Super Mario World can be skipped over entirely with clever use of the cape or a Yoshi, but you can’t fly over the tremendously dull boss battles. Here’s my strategy guide for the boss battles: jump on them. Done!
Still, what keeps me coming back to Super Mario World is difficult to articulate. The game just feels good and modern in a way that a game almost a quarter-century old shouldn’t. It holds up. Play it if you haven’t, and play it again if you have before.
Tomorrow: Would you like to play a game with The Chessmaster?