SUPER MARIO WORLD (1990) – NINTENDO
Super Mario World is a timeless classic. I thought I’d just throw that out there right now. Bundled in with the SNES, it represented everything that was good about the new 16-bit era of console gaming, and continued the trend of Shigeru Miyamoto for designing gems of gaming (having of course already given the world Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3). It also helped Nintendo strike a vital first blow in the 16 bit war with Sega (although Sonic The Hedgehog’s release in 1991 was a considerable counter-punch), and so it certainly warrants our attention even today.
The Mario series has always been one for a simple, uncomplicated story; Super Mario World continued that trend. After saving the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach take a vacation in Dinosaur Land. However Peach gets kidnapped by Bowser’s forces (sigh), and you as Mario have to travel the world, collect coins, defeat enemies & bosses, before you kick Bowser up the arse and save her Peachness once again. And that’s it. True to fashion it’s a linear approach to story telling; you have your objective and you go to it.
The gameplay however is a tweak from what had gone before in the series. The core basics are still here; the world is made up of an overworld map by where you can enter various levels, which are filled with coins to collect, enemies to stomp and powerups, such as the classic Super Mushroom and Invincibility Star. However, in this game Mario has a few more tricks up his sleeve. He can now perform a spinning jump, obtain a feather which gives him a cape that allows gliding through the air, and most importantly Mario can open up eggs on certain stages and release his new pal: Yoshi the dinosaur. Yoshi can jump, swallow enemies and spit them out, and can get his supercharged friends to help Mario at various points. Yoshi has gone on to become one of the most famous gaming characters in his own right, and it was a clever inclusion on Miyamoto’s behalf. This game is also crammed full of secrets. The standard route to Bowser’s castle is pretty time consuming within itself; there are seven worlds with several levels in them, but by exiting certain levels through different ways you can find new bonus routes with extra lives and pickups, and even a bonus world in the sky. It’s a great game to explore, and having it for free with the console sweetens the deal. And quite simply to sum it up, as a platformer Super Mario World is flawless in design; nothing feels tacked on, the levels are just the right length (still operating within a time limit of 300 seconds) and offer a suitable degree of challenge. It is playability incarnate.
The other thing that you may have noticed playing this on the SNES was the burst of colour that met your eyes. With far more capability for colour and sound than the Mega Drive, Super Mario World represented a genuine improvement in the visual stakes. The cartoonish element allows all sorts of colour to be used and more detailed sprites to be created (Miyamoto had wanted a Yoshi-like creature since the original game, but only with the SNES did they have the ability to include it), and seeing the game in motion is excellent. I have no doubt that people playing the SNES at its release would have been eager with anticipation for what sort of graphics future titles would be able to produce.
And utilising the enhanced sound capabilities of the SNES was Koji Kondo, the genius composer behind Mario and Zelda. I find it funny that most of the tunes in Super Mario World are all based around one basic theme, with differentiations depending on which world you are playing in. The tunes, while perhaps not as instantly memorable as they were in Super Mario Bros, still have a catchy upbeat rhythm, and it’s the small touches that are in place that impress me. The addition of bongo drums to the tune when you ride Yoshi, and the speeding up of the tracks with 100 seconds left to go. Its fantastic stuff.
To conclude then, Super Mario World was the perfect game to bundle with the SNES. It had the Mario appeal to get gamers from the NES along, and the sharpness of the gameplay, added to the impressive audio and graphics, no doubt helped to sell the SNES and help it achieve the success that it did. There are still hot debates amongst Mario fans to this day as to whether Super Mario World is the best game in the series; and if that isn’t some kind of tribute to its quality then I don’t know what is. Essential to play.