Saturday, December 25, 2021

Super Mario World (Super NES, 1991)

Closing out the year with wholesome Super Mario World posts. Hard to believe I've never covered this. I haven't covered Super Mario Bros 3 either, but we'll get to that eventually. It's been hotly debated which of the two games is the better one, and that isn't a debate I'm ready to wade into. Instead I'll be getting into various memories of the game and my experiences with both playing it and reading about it.

Playing this on the Super Mario All Stars + World pack which might be the best single value compilation ever put together on the SNES. Probably in the Top 5 compilations of all time overall, right behind things like Metroid Prime Trilogy (remaster it already) and the Mass Effect Trilogy.

They could have just ported these games onto a cart as-is and called it a day (like the recent 3D All-Stars does) and it still would have been great, but instead they went ahead and added all kinds of enhancements that they totally didn't need to go through the trouble of doing.

Enough about All-Stars though because this post is about World, technically the first game on the SNES. That multi-colored font still gets me nostalgic.

And speaking of nostalgic, here we've got one of THE most exciting early issues of Nintendo Power. This was during the timeframe when the covers tended to have a lot of colors. This is the ACTUAL issue I was reading back then. You can see the library sticker on it. I got this from the library around when it came out and read it cover-to-cover, then later bought it from the library along with a few others when they sold their stock of old Nintendo Powers.

This issue is something I got specifically to read about this game. Keep in mind, I didn't have any video game system yet at this time, and had played various NES Marioes at people's houses. The SNES was much more uncommon than the NES and no one I knew had one yet.

This part was particularly intriguing because I loved the power-up system of the Marioes, as simple as it was, and they added a new flight powerup (that works much better than the old one).

Here's a section that inspired a ton of grade-school doodling and level-designing. These enemies are so appealing. No wonder I spent like 3 straight days playing Mario Maker when it finally was a thing.

I remember the first time I read this issue, was at a relative's house and all the adults were off talking, so I got this out and studied it. At the time the game felt like this huge world, and it still sort of does.

Finally getting to the game itself. While I read about it around the time that Nintendo Power covered it, I didn't actually play the game until June 1994. Got a SNES as a graduation present for school, but couldn't play it until after the school year ended. I believe I got it about two weeks before the school year ended, so those two weeks were torture. I got to play Super Mario World for one evening when I first got it, though, and most of my nostalgic memories of it are from that one evening.

I've always wondered about that one green apple on the side there. This is the only time it appears in the entire game. What does it do, if anything? Could it be cut content of some sort?

They start you out simple, with Yoshi's Island. That's right, THIS is Yoshi's Island. It bears a resemblance to the one from the actual game Yoshi's Island, with a big mountain. Canonically however, it probably isn't the same place.

The very first level is weirdly difficult, with giant bullets, aggressive koopas, and Rexes that shrug off one hit. The first level is also completely optional, at least for the moment, since it also gives you the choice of going to level 2 right off the bat.

I really liked these Rex things as a kid reading Nintendo Power. They're almost like evil Yoshis, and sometimes they breathe fire. Maybe this is where the idea of Boshi got started.

Beat level 1 (optional as it is) and you get the first of four Switch Palaces that, when finished, creates blocks in the rest of the game world. Usually these blocks cover pits, making the game a little easier. Sometimes they're just lurking around, and they contain powerup mushrooms. This was a REALLY cool idea and I wish it'd be used again in a Mario game.

I also liked this animation where all of the blocks fly off to populate the world. This also gives you an early glimpse of the wider continent. Having studied Nintendo Power, I already knew what to expect out of the game in advance.

Stage 2 is much easier than stage 1, and not optional. I always go for the 1-Up layup at the beginning by throwing a shell.

This is also where you find Yoshi. Forget the cape, YOSHI is the most iconic powerup to emerge from this game.

"He's not a powerup, he's a noble steed" says my past self when reached for comment.

Yoshi is Yoshi, everyone knows how this guy rolls. I always liked that he can breathe fire with a red shell. What I like even MORE is the way the music transforms while you're on Yoshi.

Here's Iggy's Castle. I remember being surprised that I'd even made it this far on night 1, because I expected this game to whoop me the same way the NES ones had consistently done. However practice from those, plus studying the Nintendo Power in question, gave me a definite leg-up on this by the time 1994 rolled around.

Often forgotten in the story of this game is that the Koopalings are actually holding Yoshis hostage. Not THE Yoshi, but other Yoshis. Like Toad, HE IS MANY.

THIS part did stump me (no pun intended) for a bit on night 1. You've got these giant stumps crashing down on you, and failure to respond correctly (usually by ducking in a pit) can get you trapped on the left corner by the auto-scrolling.

Man, all these years later and this red door STILL gets me ready for some foightin'.

Iggy himself can be a real PITA, even now. Sometimes the fight is over in two seconds, sometimes he is way too resistant to being knocked off the platform.

Unleashing fireballs when his back is to the lava is the best way to end the fight extremely quickly.

On night 1 I won this fight very fast (somehow, may have been luck) and it was a huge moment.

Wait, Yoshi's friend is "still trapped in an egg"? You mean they just haven't hatched? This is weird, let's move on.

KOOPALING SPOTLIGHT: You can tell Iggy Koopa is demented because he has googly eyes. Man, these Koopalings are awesome.

I'm following along with the Nintendo Power coverage while I play this. Note how they show you hidden levels on the map, without actually mentioning most of them, what they are, or how to get to them. It builds intrigue.

Donut Plains is where you finally start getting cape feathers. I distinctly remember taking a break for dinner right here on that night one of Mario World madness. Dinner was some sort of stir-fry BBQ beef and it was very good. I've never finished dinner as fast as I did that one time, because I had to get back to this and play as much as possible in that one evening. Two weeks until the next session felt like two months back then.

The cape is Super Mario World's big powerup, and it makes you wait until World 2 for it. This is an incredibly fun tool, but now in retrospect I feel like it lets you skip a lot of the game once you're good at using it. Many levels can just be flown-over from the start.

Cool people trip the end-of-level goal from way above them. There's no jumping over the flagpole in this game. Though weirdly enough, you CAN go under the goals.

What's that up there? A keyhole...with the key right next to it! The first secret exit in the game is actually pretty easy to find, even by accident.

This time, I did something I definitely didn't do back then, and went straight for the secret exit instead of the normal one.

Back then I didn't even know there WERE secret exits, outside of what Nintendo Power clued me in on with the maps.

This allows me to skip the annoying Donut Plains 2, a cave level. Instead, I get the first water level in the game.

Water levels in this game are pretty chill. Hard to believe that only 3 years separated these visuals from Donkey Kong Country's water levels.

Found another secret exit! I'm going fully unorthodox on this run.

Ghost houses are among the cooler new additions in World compared to previous Mario games. They have a style of their own and tend to rely on illusions and mazes for their gameplay rather than dexterity challenges.

BIG BOO. One of the most appealing (and underutilized) Mario villains. He actually shows up as a boss in this game...a hard-to-find one.

Boo Circles, plus regular Boos stalking you, make for a LETHAL COMBINATION.

One of the harder to find secret exits is in this area here. It leads me to...

...a Donut secret area that overlooks the Valley of Bowser, the Mordor of the game. Man, this area is so intriguing, with multiple fortresses. Getting a glimpse of destiny early here.

The difficulty ramps up in these secret areas, because by the time you find them you should be pretty well-acclimated to the game controls.

That bizarre detour puts us right near Morton's Castle, skipping the west side ("Wess-syde!") of Donut Plains.

The last level of Donut Plains is a bit of a nightmare if you haven't mastered jumping yet, with rail carts and switches to hit.

Another trick you can do with the cape: Spin-jump next to ? blocks in the end-of-level minigame and it basically hacks the minigame to give you a win on every single block, resulting in lots of 1-Ups.

Eventually I have to go back to Donut Plains 2 either way, because it has a secret exit that leads to...

...the second and by FAR best of the four switch palaces. Green blocks give you a cape feather when hit, and you can never get enough of those.

Next up is another ghost house. This is supposed to be the first one you do, if you don't take any unorthodox routes. It's memorable for the massive herd of ghosts visible onscreen, which was a way for the SNES to show off its new processing power.

It's possible to fly right up through the cloud of ghosts (the transparent ones, anyway) to reach this upper platform, leading to a secret exit, which gets you...

...the Top Secret Area. This isn't a level, it's a powerup hub, and the only one like it in the game. This was one of the last things I found in Super Mario World.

This room gives you Yoshi (or a 1-Up) and multiple fire flowers and capes. Can return to it over and over too. The only problem with it is that there isn't another one later in the game, so you always have to hoof it back to this one.

Alright, NOW we can take on Morton's Castle. It is home to the dastardly...Mini-Thwomp. I find these things worse than normal Thwomps because they move in an arc that's harder for my brain to parse out.

The main "gimmick" of this castle is that the walls are constantly shifting around, trying to crush you.

Morton Koopa is the next boss, and debatably easier than Iggy. He's one of the big "heavy hitter" Koopalings, though Roy and Ludwig kind of steal all of his heat in that department.

Morton's big move is that he can climb the walls and then crash down with a giant body-press attack. That's a major threat for people who don't hold down the run button all the time, because he crashes down too fast to avoid otherwise.

"Fear Me!" he says when hit, until...

...on the third hit he blows up like a balloon, like that one guy in Big Trouble in Little China.

KOOPALING SPOTLIGHT: I always used to wonder what the deal was with Morton Koopa Jr. Is there a Morton Koopa Sr.? Is Bowser not his dad? Would Morton Koopa Sr. show up in future games?

...I didn't realize at the time that it was just a play on Morton Downey Jr.

Vanilla Dome is where the game starts (on the normal path) to add some real difficulty. It scales up at a nice slow rate and the learning curve is just right overall, but here's where it starts to hit you a bit. I also like the overworld music on this map, for some reason:

Not sure what it is about this, always found it eerie and menacing in a Disney movie sort of way. Like something you'd find in Fantasia. Koji Kondo brings the thunder with a number of tracks in this game, so that isn't the last one I'm linking.

Vanilla Dome is, unsurprisingly, full of cave levels.

Plowing through everything with a power star is TIMELESS.

The real challenge of Vanilla least in 1994 on Night the ghost house. This was where I met my end on that fateful night of playing, and had to wait two weeks to try again. It's impressive that I got this far, since this is probably about a third of the way through the game.

The thing that defeated me? Not a Koopaling. Not Big Boo. Not even Chargin' Chuck. It was these green bubbles. I didn't know you could use the spin jump to bounce off of them, so instead I tried to dodge them with regular jumps and so on. It didn't work, and that was it. Pretty cool of my mom to let me keep playing this long on Night One. I think she let me go until I ran into a roadblock.

Little did I know the whole time that there's another cape short-cut in here that gets you to the exit without much fuss. I can't say this ghost house has ever given me trouble again the way it did that first time around.

Splitting this game into 3 parts, something I'll do with the baddest, raddest, and most influential action games. I should have done that with Metroid Dread instead of a single mammoth post. Dividing into episodes makes them easier to read (and write, for that matter). Next episode, more memories, more Nintendo Power, more thoughts on the game.



  1. You're wrong about the green berries (that's what they're called apparently). They do appear in the game but the only level they appear in is the last level of the Special Zone. As for what they do? You can find out when you get there.

  2. Hey, I have my original copy of that issue too! It's one of the two from that year I managed to save after all of these years.

    I've never really considered stage 1 the first either.

    Wow, the star turned you into Luigi for that shot.

    ...and it turned you into fireball Luigi in the other shot!

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