Super Mario World is the fourth installment of the beloved Super Mario Brothers franchise. It was the pack in title for the Super Nintendo at some point and its protagonist Mario continues to be the strongest mascot for video games in general. For the uninitiated, the Super Mario Brothers games have always been fun 2D platformers where the objective level to level is to make it to the finish line. While the plot is never the focus, it still remains simple, Princess Toadstool has been capture and you as Mario with your brother Luigi if there’s a second player must save her.
This game will always be at the top of the heap in terms of quick, fun 2D platformers. There are new challenges around every corner. The blocks in the game offer all sorts of diversity. Question mark blocks have always contained goodies like coins or power ups, but there are now flip blocks that let you spin jump to destroy them, but if you jump up from under them, it spins them to let you go through them until they stop spinning.
New to the series are cape feathers that open up a lot more gameplay elements than the racoon tail ever did. With the feathers you can fly, glide and even dive bomb to make the ground shake. Its tougher to use than the racoon tail, because once you’re in the air, you start to glide down, so to gain height you need to push forward so you’ll dive and then push back again so you swoop back up again. You can also swing your cape around to attack taller enemies.
The biggest addition is Yoshi, the dinosaur that hatches out that you can ride. He is a real game changer. You can still run and jump with him, but he can lash out his tongue to eat enemies! This was mind blowing in the original game. Eating different colors of koopa shells give them temporary powers until they inevitably digest them. Red shells let Yoshi spray three fireballs, blue shells grant Yoshi wings and yellow shells will let him pound the ground with each landing. Its such a nice way to diversify gameplay.
Power ups that have been staples of the series return with this game. There are super mushrooms to get big, fire flowers to throw fireballs at enemies and star men to become invincible and just plow through enemies. A nice touch to fire is that when a fireball takes out an enemy, it turns into a coin, thus rewarding you.
The world itself seems to be a prehistoric place and Yoshi isn’t the only dinosaur on the island. A lot of the foes are giant reptiles as well. Rex from Super Mario Land requires two bops on the head to defeat him. others will breath fire. There is a large new cast of creatures to hop on, but the classic enemies are here as well. Koopas still have shells, but this time if you knock them out of their shell, they can hop into an empty one. Goombas are no longer stomped flat, but instead you can carry them when they’re upside-down. All of these tweaks really add to the fun.
Even if the SNES controller has four face buttons and two shoulder buttons, the game really boils down to just three.: run, jump and spin jump. The L and R control the camera if you need to look further out. Spin jump is to drill down through certain box and destroy enemies that in normal circumstances would only turn into projectiles to carry. Jumping on an enemy will either stomp it to death or stun it, but its the spin jump that will eliminate most enemies.
You’ll find it makes the best use of carrying and throwing in the Mario series. Holding the run button lets you pick up several things like shells and purple blocks, but you can launch them up or forward. There is an excellent use of keys that force you to carry them to a lock. The key holes grow large and turn into an alternate exit for a level. Carrying an item prevents you from flying with the cape feather.
Outside of the platforming is a great big wide world that’s all interconnected. You start out on Yoshi’s island, but then the game opens up to reveal the world. Pipes take you to different locales on the map and you can even take sneak peaks of different realms and find plenty of different routes. The map will change as you complete levels and there are all sorts of little details that make the game feel alive.
The world itself is broken into lands with each having its own theme. Vanilla dome is an subterranean world, the chocolate desert, the forest of illusion are just some of the places you’ll explore. Each of these lands has several levels with at least one ghost house, water level and castle.
These three things change the feel of levels outside of changing their gimmick. The ghost houses are dark, wooden and full of boo ghosts. Castles take away most blocks in favor of challenge. They also have a boss battle at the end. Swimming has been around since the original Super Mario Brothers, its this change in gameplay that still makes the franchise a step up above the majority of platform games. You can now float while holding an item, which is a nice change of pace. The floating lets you control your movement with the directional pad instead of having to tap the jump button for each stroke.
In terms of bosses, the koopa kids are back. Instead of airships, this time its only mere castles. For the most part, each koopa kid is a unique boss fight. These fights are diverse, such as fighting Lemmy on a tilting platform that forces you to bounce him off the lowest end. There are plenty of mini boss fights too. Ghost houses have big boos that take three hits with blocks to defeat. Reznor mini bosses can be found in some of the fortresses. They’re triceratops that ride a Ferris wheel while the ground starts collapsing into lava.
There are a lot of tropes from previous games, such as collecting one hundred coins earns you an extra life, but you’ll find most levels have five dragon coins. Collecting five in one stage will grant you an extra life as well. You can even get extra lives from sending a koopa shell into enough foes that you’ll score one. When you collect one hundred stars by touching the finish line rather than passing through it, you’re rewarded with a new way to get lives. There are even a few test your luck bonus stages in pipes. The game is ripe with lives, but if you ever find yourself running low, its easy to get to new levels and you can travel back to replay old levels with ease.
The visuals are bright and rich colors. Bold greens, deep blues and even the browns look good for being brown. There’s no shortage of color and it really shows off the diverse color pallet of the Super Nintendo. In previous games, the colors looked a little flat and dull, but that was the limitation. Well now there is no limit to how good everything looks.
As for the music, its a vast array of memorable and catchy songs. Everything from the happy and sublime during levels and after finishing them to the spooky and haunting ghost house and castle tunes.
To hasten the game, there is a star world that now replaces a warp zone. This star world is a hub between a lot of the different lands. Getting through the levels requires a lot of skill and certain other things to be unlocked. There are four colored blocks in the game that when you visit their switch palace, you can change the blocks from hollow outlines into solid lines. This unlocks new places, new secrets and new ways to get places. Beyond the star world is the special world full of extra challenging levels for anyone tough enough to face them.
Super Mario World, and all of its characters and enemies will continue to be beloved for generations to come. Even if the game is a decade old, its still worth playing to this day.