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Super Mario World Review Rewind

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On 11/03/2021 at 11:45 AM by Jamie Alston

A whole new world.

If you enjoy 2D Mario platformers and somehow still haven’t played this yet, what are you waiting for?

Witnessing the leap from the NES to the new 16-bit Super Nintendo in 1991 was downright magical. The console had an eye-catching futuristic design (in the eyes of my six-year-old self anyway), and the hardware produced higher-quality graphics and sound that delivered an experience impossible for the previous generation. And what better title to lead the charge than Super Mario World? I remember seeing the game for the first time at a graduation party for a friend going to middle school. We all huddled around her TV, taking turns playing the game. As soon as that giant Banzai Bill streaked across the screen, I was hooked.

The game takes place in Dinosaur Land, where Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach (or Toadstool if you’re feeling fancy) take a much-need vacation. In a surprise to absolutely no one, the princess gets kidnapped by Bowser, who plans to take over Dinosaur Land. His Koopalings are back from their defeat in Mario’s previous adventure, and they’re guarding those helpless Yoshi eggs to ensure that our heroic plumbers never save the day. Mario and Luigi must pass through seven distant castles, defeat the Koopalings, and reach Bowser to save the princess.

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Mario and crew made quite an entrance when they returned for their latest adventure on Nintendo’s shiny new console.  Mario and Luigi had new moves, including the spin jump- useful for breaking special bricks that sometimes lead to otherwise inaccessible areas of a level. The brothers can also glide in the air thanks to the new Cape Feather ability.

The most prominent new character to stem from this game was the friendly dinosaur Yoshi. In short, he’s a reptilian garbage disposal that can eat nearly anything in his path, can effortlessly traverse all manner of dangerous terrain (except boiling lava), and has an insatiable appetite for Bowser’s lackeys. I’m willing to bet that those Koopalings thank the good lord that Yoshi can’t go inside castles. They wouldn’t stand a chance otherwise.

There are also unique variations of Yoshi you can discover in later portions of the game. Each type has its innate ability that actives after snagging a turtle shell. No matter which one you ride, they’re all fun to discover.

As far as power-ups go, you have your usual Mushroom, Fire Flower, and Starman along for the ride. In addition to flying, the Cape Feather can also be used to pluck enemies into oblivion and hit “?” boxes placed at ground level. The other new ability is the rather odd Power Balloon, which causes Mario/Luigi to inflate and float around for a short time.

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Certain features from Super Mario Bros. 3 made a return but in a more sophisticated manner. The most outstanding example is the world map being used for navigating between the areas. Each time you complete a new level, a path is progressively carved on the map, leading to the next challenge. Also, Mario still has a slot for holding extra power-ups, but he can only carry one at a time. The good thing about it is that you can use these items while playing through the levels instead of having to wait until you’re on the map again.

The game touts a total of 96 levels split between seven areas (nine if we’re counting Star Road and the Special Zone). And naturally, traveling through these worlds wouldn’t be much fun without a colorful cast of underlings to battle. Fortunately, Super Mario World has plenty in that department! Standing between you and Princess Peach is a cornucopia of new foes like the ghastly Eeries, tricky Magikoopas, thunderous Sumo Brothers, Chargin’ Chucks, and many more hazards.

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Of course, fan-favorite characters like Koopa Troopas, Goombas, Piranha Plants, and other familiar faces are in good plenty as well. But even these enemies have been updated with new attack patterns. For instance, instead of every Piranha Plant merely being confined inside pipes, some are bold enough to jump out, hoping for a bite of Mario or Luigi. In addition, when riding with Yoshi, the Koopa shells can serve multiple purposes depending on which color shell he consumes.

The visual presentation in Super Mario World does not disappoint. The bright, vibrant colors are the order of the day, as is the case with every Mario game prior. The graphical capabilities of the Super NES were shown off pretty well here, with the screen blurring into tiny pixels each time you start a level or enter a pipe. The game had some of the most creatively designed worlds of its time.

The attention to detail in the sound design is pretty impressive. If you hop on Yoshi, the music suddenly gets a percussive layer to accompany it. When entering an underground area, the sounds of jumping or kicking a shell echo as one would expect in real life. And I always got a kick out of the little drum roll that plays after completing a level. It feels like Mario entered a talent show or something.

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I’m hard-pressed to find any glaring shortcomings worth mentioning (not just because I’m a Mario fan- honest). However, there is one thing I never noticed until my recent playthrough. Any power-ups or extra lives you snagged aren’t accounted for when saving your progress. So each time you pick up where you left off, you have to start as little Mario/Luigi with the default stock of lives. On the upside, this flaw is rendered benign if you’re playing on the Switch (via online subscription) or SNES Classic Edition- both of which feature save state functionality. 

In short, Super Mario World was good back then, and it’s still a solid platformer that anyone can pick up and play here in the present. The graphical detail and audio presentation felt like a true leap forward from the aging 8-bit days. And that was just a mere glimpse of good things yet to come.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Cary Woodham

11/05/2021 at 06:12 AM

Super Mario World is my favorite Mario 2-D platformer.  Yes I even like it better than SMB3.  Although sometimes I flip flop and say that Yoshi's Island is my favorite Mario 2-D platformer.  It's one of the few Mario games I've completed to 100%.  All 96 exits and everything!  And unlike a lot of other early console launch games, Super Mario World has aged very well.

I only have two very minor problems with Mario World.  One, the power-ups aren't as creative as they were in SMB3.  However, they are more versatile.  The other problem is one I didn't noticed until I started playing Super Mario Maker.  And that's the level design in Mario World isn't very distinct, and backdrops can be pretty much interchangable to give a level a new setting.  But again, just real minor problems.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

11/09/2021 at 10:41 AM

For me, Yoshi's Island wins favorite platformer on the SNES, but only due to its hand-drawn visual style. But truth be told, I still haven't beaten the game. It's been a very long time since I've made an honest attempt to play through to the end. I remember it got difficult to a point where I couldn't seem to progress forward. Can't remember if I kept dying or maybe just got hung up on a level design I couldn't solve.

But I do want to start fresh and attempt to beat Yoshi's Island at least once.

Cary Woodham

11/10/2021 at 08:18 PM

Yoshi's Island is a pretty challenging game towards the end!


11/07/2021 at 06:43 AM

I prefer the tighter design and power-ups of SMB3 myself. That game was hard to beat even with better hardware. SMW was unparalleled in terms of SNES platformers though. The only area DK Country had it beat in was the graphics, and that's subjective in itself. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

11/09/2021 at 10:44 AM

Agreed. When it wasn't until many years after SMW that it dawned on me that the game didn't have quite as many interesting power-ups as SMB3. But I still really enjoy both games regardless of their differences.

I also love me some Donkey Kong Country (and DKC2)!


11/11/2021 at 05:58 PM

I thought flying around in a yellow cape was cool. Superhero iconography with the primary colors and such.

I think SMB3 map was the more sophisticated one though, with the encounters on the map, alternate paths through each map screen, bonus screens, mini-games. It was a game within a game, while the SMW map was just a place to travel from node to node, although the map graphics were charming.

The castles, while repetitive visually, were the coolest in the series imo.

All in all, one of the best pack-in games of all time.

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