Super Mario World – My First Game

When I think back to my first console, it was technically the NES. I have vague memories of watching my mom play through Super Mario Bros 3 and that one video game adaptation of the board game Othello, developed by HAL Laboratory before their name became synonymous with Kirby and Super Smash Bros. I was barely speaking full sentences at that point, however, and that old console bit the dust by the time I was old enough to be trusted with a controller. That’s why I’ve always considered the SNES to be my first proper exposure to video games. It’s the one that provided me with some of my favorite gaming experiences and strongest childhood memories. Super Mario RPG, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Castlevania IV – This console had everything I could’ve asked for, and it still has a plethora of hidden gems that I’ve yet to dig into.

Perhaps it’s a bit boring to make Super Mario World the centerpiece of this article when there are arguably way more interesting games to write about on the SNES. You’re right! This game has been analyzed and picked apart to death at this point and there’s not much left to uncover. There’s a wide array of communities surrounding this game that could tell you all of the ins and outs better than I ever could, from speedrunners to rom hackers and everything in between. What I can do, however, is talk about this game from my own perspective. And hey, that’s why exists in the first place!

So yeah, Super Mario World is great (scorching hot take, I know). It’s been my favorite 2D entry for as long as I can remember with Super Mario All-Stars being a close second (that includes the Lost Levels, I’m sorry I can’t change who I am). It was the perfect entry point, not just into Mario games, but gaming as a whole. Thanks to this game I was introduced to a wide array of concepts and ideas that made the medium a lot more approachable at a young age. Where do I even begin?

Well, one thing that really stuck with me even as my tastes shifted was this game’s penchant for secrets. All the different routes, secret exits, and special levels are so fun to uncover and it’s one of the few games I go out of my way to hit 100% completion with. I’m pretty sure this game is partially responsible for why I like metroidvanias so much. Of course Super Mario World is decidedly not a metroidvania, but I definitely found myself smacking every suspicious-looking wall I came across when playing Symphony of the Night for the first time. If SMW did anything that has persisted in my brain to this day, it’s my incessant need to see if there’s anything hiding behind the main drag. Stumbling into Star World for the first time blew my fucking mind, and don’t even get me started on the Special Zone. That sense of discovery is unlike anything and I really cherish that feeling to this day. The best part is they’re still kinda doing that with Mario! Super Mario 3D World has an excessive amount of post-game levels to test your skills in, and Super Mario Odyssey nostalgia-baits the shit out of you with a return to Super Mario 64’s Mushroom Kingdom. And I love it.

It also helps that Super Mario World is just a damn good platformer with a lot of memorable levels and plenty of personality to go along with them. I especially like the Forest of Illusion zone with its woodsy aesthetic and music that sounds (to paraphrase DJ Khaled) mysterious. The game in general has amazing art direction which is about what you would expect from Nintendo during the 16-bit era when they were nearly incapable of missing. You can almost feel the floorboards creaking underneath you in the various ghost houses you come across, and the underwater levels are a whole vibe of their own. This game really makes you feel like Mario.

Mechanically, this game is…well, it’s really good. I don’t really know what else to say here. Maintaining momentum and mastering the levels to get through them as quickly as possible is incredibly fun and equally as rewarding as taking your time to hunt down all of the secrets. The addition of the cape is an absolute game changer; a little wonky, sure, but there’s nothing quite like getting into the flow of rocking the d-pad back and forth, trying to keep yourself in the air without plummeting yourself into the ground (or a bottomless pit). I also really love the inclusion of Yoshi and all of the different things they’re capable of. Eating different colored shells can yield various abilities like flight or spitting fire, you can use them as an extra jump (sorry), you can take an extra hit (SORRY), and riding one even adds bongos to the stage music (sorry?). It’s good shit, and yet another layer of depth to a game brimming with ideas.

Even better, Super Mario World has a life well beyond the base game thanks to a plethora of romhacks. In particular, I’m absolutely fascinated by the Kaizo Mario community and the catharsis of watching someone speedrun one of these nightmare games. For the uninitiated, Kaizo Mario World is a trilogy of romhacks created by T. Takemoto. These games became notorious for their extreme difficulty and unhinged level design tropes, like placing hidden blocks where the player is likely to jump and cheap deaths waiting around every corner (usually right before the goal post for an added dash of salt). 

Long story short, “kaizo” (which translates to “reorganize,” “restructure,” or “reconstruct”) would go on to become synonymous with incredibly difficult Mario romhacks and an entire community and various games of increasing insanity would spawn around this idea. One of my personal favorite videos is MitchFlowerPower’s SGDQ run of Grand Poo World 2; it’s become something of a yearly watch for me because of how masterful of a run it is. I also love that the game’s creator, BarbarousKing,  is there to explain his process for designing this masochistic set of levels. I even found myself attempting to play through it, though I just barely made it to the first checkpoint of the first level within…three or so hours. I retired early.

I suppose I could rattle off a bunch of other things I like about Super Mario World in that game reviewery sort of way, but I think I’ll just leave it here. I love this game to death and it’s been a constant source of joy for me throughout my life. I have so many fond memories of playing co-op with my mom (I always insisted on being Luigi) and working together to unlock all the secret levels. It’s also the first game I ever saw from beginning to end. It’s a special little game, and even though my tastes have changed drastically over the years, I can always come back to this one knowing full well that I’ll have a great time.

Stray thoughts:

  • Thanks again for being patient with me as I go through my regularly scheduled writer’s block. I’m not gonna say I’ve conquered it, but I’m definitely trying to write a little bit everyday to keep the juices flowing. I have ideas floating around in my head that I’m excited to write about so hopefully there won’t be anymore large gaps between posts!
  • Clearly I did not take the time to grab my own screenshots this time around lmao so I hope the official art I grabbed suffices!

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