Super Mario World, subtitled Super Mario Bros. 4 in Japan, was the launch title for Nintendo's 16-bit console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and as such, was serious business. It came packaged with every SNES bought at the time, so just about every SNES owner got to experience the grandiose world of Mario, in all its 16-bit wonder. This game is the sequel to the most excellent and amazing Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES. That's a lot to live up to, you know. Some say Super Mario World has successfully surpassed its predecessor, while others insist the NES classic reigns supreme. The debate for which game is the absolute best in the 2-D Mario series will go on for eons without resolution, I'm afraid. I'm not here to talk about Super Mario Bros. 3, though. I'm here to discuss Super Mario World, and how it also became an instant classic for the ages, forever to be remembered by scholars all over the world. This is history, folks. I can only hope that you were a part of it, in one way or another. If you were unfortunate enough to not have been there, then read on. In fact, read on anyway, because I'd like it if someone read this review.
As per usual, you star the titular Italian plumber, Mario, as he ventures forth into the dangerous perils of his world. What is his adventure all about? Why, to save Princess Toadstool! I bet you weren't expecting that one. The capture of the lovely princess apparently took place while Mario, Luigi, and Toadstool were on a vacation in a prehistoric land known as Dinosaur Land. I'm not sure why those three thought it was a good idea to vacation in such a spot, but alright. Along the way, the plumbers encounter a green dinosaur by the name of Yoshi, who tells the brothers a tale of woe and offers to help them out. For some reason, in addition to the princess, Yoshi's dinosaur buddies were also kidnapped. Not so shockingly, Bowser is the culprit mastermind behind this nefarious plot. The King of Koopas is joined by the same Koopa Kids from Super Mario Bros. 3, and this time they lay wait in castles instead of soaring the skies in airships. I guess it just wasn't in their budget to go with airships again.
It's business as usual, right? Well, Mario does have a few new tricks up his sleeve. The first and by far most useful new move is the spin jump, which is sometimes referred to as the tornado jump. Whatever you prefer to call it, this is a nifty technique that allows Mario to safely bounce off of some spiked enemies and to drill through breakable blocks, though the latter of which can only be done when Mario is big. Another neat thing you can do is run up certain walls, and even jump off of them, kind of like Sonic. Also, Luigi may or may not accompany you on your quest, depending on whether you plug in a second controller. Like the original Super Mario Bros. and unlike Super Mario Bros. 2, Luigi controls exactly like his brother, being nothing more than a mere palette swap. The two player mode functions much like it did in Super Mario Bros 3; it's really just you and a friend taking turns at attempting to complete levels, so you can emulate the same effect by passing a single controller around. Share Mario's awesome new moves with a friend.
Mario has access to the typical Mushroom and Fireflower power-ups that he's always had since the beginning of the series. The Mushroom increases his size and enables him to take an extra hit from a baddie without dying, and the Fireflower does the same plus lets him shoot fireballs. As for new power-ups, the most significant addition is the Cape Feather. It's similar to the Tanooki Leaf from Super Mario Bros. 3, but with improvements. The improvements are pretty drastic, as you no longer need to repeatedly tap the jump button in order to slow your descent; simply holding the button down will do that for you. The Cape, like the Tanooki Tail, can do a melee attack which harms enemies. Unlike the Tanooki Tail, however, the Cape's flip attack can defeat some foes you normally can't hurt with regular ol' Mario, making it far more useful. And, yes, caped Mario can take to the skies and fly around like a super hero. The flight mechanics in this game are more complex than in Super Mario Bros. 3, though, so it'll take some practice to get used to it. Beyond that, there are other power-ups and items you can find along the way, like a power-up that temporarily transforms Mario into a balloon, switches that turn blocks into coins and vice versa, springs Mario can carry around or bounce off of, and the Power Star that has been granting Mario invincibility since the 1980s. The power-ups in this game rock.
Yoshi is a big, new feature brought on by Super Mario World. He's hidden throughout different stages as a sort of power-up that Mario can utilize. In other words, Mario can now ride a dinosaur. I imagine this is every child's dream, and it makes Mario's world even more surreal. Yoshi's main ability is his gluttonous appetite. That is, he can put enemies in his mouth, swallow them, or spit them out using his long tongue. There's a bit of depth to that, as consuming different enemies can alter Yoshi's capabilities. For example, chewing on a blue shell will make Yoshi temporarily sprout wings, eating a red shell allows him to launch a barrage of fireballs, and sucking on a yellow shell makes him heavy enough to pound even the toughest of foes. If you think the resourcefulness of this dinosaur stops there, then you'd be wrong: he also acts as an extra hit for Mario. Yoshi doesn't like being hit, though, so he'll freak out and run away whenever that happens. The cool thing is, you can regain Yoshi if you manage to jump back onto him in time. A nice touch is how the music in the game changes its instrumentation slightly whenever you're riding the green dino. All in all, Yoshi is an incredible partner and adds a unique flavor to the game.
Where this game truly shines is the level design, plain and simple. Every level is lovingly crafted with ideas you'll rarely see twice, and that's quite a feat, given the game's extraordinary length. It shows that the game designers behind this one were naturally imaginative people with an overflowing surplus of good ideas. I think some examples are in order. There are one, maybe two levels in the entire game to feature dolphins that you ride across bodies of water on. There is exactly one sunken ship level. There is one level with unique Boo enemies that transform into blocks when you face towards them. There is, get this, one level that changes depending on how fast you complete it. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. You could tell that the developers weren't going for a "one idea per world" concept, and instead were simply going with the flow. I like that, and I suspect you'll like it, too.
Another colossal thing this game has going for it is the interconnected overworld map. Where Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced the concept of simplistic world maps for each world, Super Mario World decides to take that concept even further. This is done by way of discretely hidden keys and elusive keyholes. If you bring these keys to their respective keyholes, then you'll unlock an alternate path on the world map, leading to a new level. Completing this level will lead to another level, and before you know it, you're having excellent fun. There's an absolute ton of levels to uncover, with snaking paths that wrap around and lead to countless discoveries. If you were a killjoy, then you could skip past nearly everything the game has to offer and defeat Bowser in around fourteen levels. Where's the fun in that, though? This is, by far, one of the best features of Super Mario World, as it gives the game a slightly nonlinear feel.
Super Mario World is one of the best games in the Mario series, one of the best games on the SNES console, and one of the best games in general. It's a legendary classic that will be forever remembered and never forgotten. It's got genius design, incredible depth, excellent length, fire breathing dinosaurs, sunken ships, and capes. What more can you ask for in a game? In the unlikely event that you haven't played this game, then you should definitely restore my faith in humanity by playing it right now. In the likely event that you have played this game before, then play it again. I can wait.
Check out my website for more reviews!