Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Super Mario World (SNES)

Developer:Nintendo|Release Date:1990 (JP)|Systems:SNES

Today on Super Adventures I'm taking a brief look at Super Mario World (AKA. Super Mario Bros. 4: Super Mario World in Japan). After this the numbering gets a bit crazy though, as you've got Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, which presumably counts as Super Mario Bros. 5, and then it jumps right up to Super Mario 64! No 'Bros.' for that game though, as Mario decided to go solo that time.

Every Nintendo console but the Wii has had a Mario (or Luigi) game as a launch title, and this is the game that was relied upon to kick off the era of the Super Famicom in November 1990. This and Mode 7 racing game F-Zero, but don't expect to see that on the site any time soon as I am astoundingly terrible at it.

Amazingly for a series with such highly regarded soundtracks, in Japan this was the first of the Super Mario games to have music on the title screen (though the Western version of Super Mario Bros. 2 does have a tune.) Even more amazingly... I don't really like it all that much. It's twee and grating and sounds like it belongs more in a nursery rhyme than a Mario game. Here have a youtube link, listen for yourself.

C'mon, where's the Caribbean beat? Where are the steel drums? Why's Dinosaur Land so dull? Here, have another youtube link to the world map music.

The game actually has some introduction text this time, explaining that we're in the strange land of Dinosaur Land looking for Princess Toadstool, as she's gotten herself kidnapped by Bowser again. This is something like the fourth time she's been captured in the series so far, counting The Lost Levels, and Bowser really needs to find himself a new hobby because this is just getting ridiculous now.

Well I'm not rescuing her! I'm on vacation, Luigi can do it for once. The game's giving a choice between two different paths here, but I'm on Yoshi's Island, standing in front of Yoshi's House, and I'm happy to stay right where I am for now. Yoshi and Mario have been friends since he was a baby, so I'm sure the guy won't mind if I drop by, maybe chill out on the couch with some beers and watch some Dinosaur Land TV.

Oh, he doesn't have a couch. He doesn't even have walls! Just a fire he leaves going even when he's out of the house. Not a smart plan when your house is made of trees.

Though there is a speaker bolted to the tree above my head, and I'm sure I remember being able to jump-punch these to get a pre-recorded message.

Oh for fuck's sake Bowser...

Fine, FINE! I'll go drop him into lava again, before he captures Luigi as well in his desperate and pathetic attempts to get my attention. Just once I want him to try to capture Donkey Kong instead, see how well that works out for him.

Okay, so I'm back on the Yoshi Island map having to choose between two flashing yellow circles. Seems that the left route leads to the world's largest pair of ladders, while right goes to a castle, and... oh shit, I've just realised that those green tower things are supposed to be hills aren't they? The hills have eyes! That's never a good thing.

Well to be honest I already know that left leads to a useful switch, so let's go right and see what happens if I don't flick it.


Now that's how you start off a platformer... with a forest level! No, I mean with a way to make the player feel awesome, while teaching an important lesson about shells and 1UPs at the same time. Could've done with someone yelling out ULTRA-COMBO though. Keep chasing that shell and you can get a few more 1UPs out of it too down the road, through I threw it way too fast to pull that off.

The jump from 8-bit to 16-bit hasn't really changed the gameplay much, it still plays a lot like Super Mario Bros. 3, but the graphics have been given a serious boost from the SNES's more powerful graphics hardware, with more colours and sprites on screen at once. The sound chip's noticeably more advanced as well, with enough channels to avoid part of the music disappearing for a second every time it makes a noise, and the game's finally using it to play something catchy: youtube link. The game even has a proper background now, though there's no multi-layer parallax scrolling going on back there.

Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
I miss the flickering though! Well, not really.

Super Mario Bros. 3 has so much flickering going on down the right hand edge of the screen that it feels like the poor NES is really straining to put all these graphics on screen. This leaves Super Mario World looking more polished by comparison... also a lot greener so far.

Hey, I've found Yoshi! Turns out he was transformed into an embryo, sealed inside a egg and hidden in a [?] block, which is such a typical Bowser thing to do. He loves using magic to turn things into power ups, it's why he does so much kidnapping I guess. Fortunately a saddle appeared on his back out of nowhere so now I can ride him into battle!

There's definitely a lot more to read this time around, with actual tutorial boxes along the way. Thankfully they're all avoidable if you're not in the mood to be interrupted.

Riding Yoshi doesn't change the basic platforming all that much, but it does let me crush turtles outright, or eat them and spit out of their shells. And all with a grin. He's a friendly dinosaur by nature, but kidnap his friends and trap him in an egg and you'll see his nasty side.

I also grabbed a Yoshi coin, which are like regular coins except rubbish because they don't spin. Though if I get five on the same level I get a 1UP, as opposed to regular coins which have 1/20th of the value, but can be held onto between levels. You know I've travelled the Mushroom Kingdom, Subcon, Sarasaland and Dinosaur Land now, and I still haven't found one shop to spend this cash I'm stashing. Probably explains why everyone else just leaves the money floating where it is.

Man, even in slow motion I still can't figure out if Mario hits Yoshi on the head to signal him to use the tongue attack. It definitely seems like it, but you can see that Yoshi actually gets ready to strike a split second before Mario's hand goes down.

Yoshi was actually thought up as a sidekick for one of the NES sequels, but technical limitations forced him to wait until the Super Nintendo to make his debut. Here's another Yoshi fact I didn't realise until now: the music gets an extra layer of drums when you're riding him. Can't believe it's taken me this long to notice.

Pipes and underground bonus areas confirmed, like there was any doubt. Flying bricks though, that's a new one. They'll stick wings on anything these days.

Took me a second to figure out how to get high enough to reach these, before I remembered that I can dismount my dinosaur mid-jump to get the extra height. Don't worry, I'm never going to use this during a tricky jump to save myself and let Yoshi fall to his death... promise.

Oh, I should mention that I super-sized Mario by crossing the mid-level checkpoint, which are making their glorious return in this after skipping Super Mario Bros. 3 entirely. Super Mushrooms are still available for a quick growth spurt of course, which is a bit weird because we're not in the Mushroom Kingdom this time, but whatever.

So this means that I've got two more sprites for my massive sheet of Marios. He's looking pretty decent here, but personally I prefer the Mario sprites that turned up in the All-Stars remakes a few years later. I mean his reds are closer to being magenta here!

See, grab a fire flower and turn him into Fire Mario and he becomes a proper mushroom red, like the shells are. He also gets an orange tan, which is a bit weird. These sprites are from the same stage by the way, there's no palette weirdness going on here.

Well the coin transforming P blocks from Mario 3 are present and... HEY, what the fuck dude? Why is there an American Footballer here in Dinosaur Land, and what's he got against me? Most enemies I've faced in the Mario games are neutralised in a single hit or not at all (well, once you've gotten the wings off them at least) but this guy's different, it seems that he's got hit points.

I can't stick around jumping on him over and over though, I've got a fleeing Yoshi to recover!

Oh... well he's gone then.

Also I totally forgot how the level exit works in this game! The trick is to cross the ribbon when its at its highest, to get the maximum number of stars. When you collect enough stars you get... uh, sorry I've forgotten that too. To be fair it's been years since I last played this game; I can't be expected to remember every trivial detail about every insignificant SNES platformer.

At least I remember that a flashing red circle indicates that a level has a hidden exit to find, so I know not to waste my time looking for secret stages yet.


Red turtles are spicier then huh? Look at Yoshi's face afterwards, he's just eaten someone, boots and all, and he really couldn't care less. Him and Mario really are made for each other.

Aww! Fucked it up at the very last jump.

See, I didn't abandon my dinosaur to save myself, and I'm sure having Fire Mario's fat ass follow him down and crush his battered bones at the bottom was a much better outcome for him. I got far enough to reach the mid-level checkpoint though, so I won't have to replay it all (not that the stage is all that long).

Hang on, there's lots of dotted block outlines here. Damn, if I'd gone gone left on the world map earlier and turned that switch on, these would've all been actual solid blocks and I would've been perfectly safe!

Okay, time to go and sort that out now I think. Don't worry, my mid-level checkpoint will still work when I get back.


Shit, that's a big bullet! Someone's got some serious anti-plumber artillery set up here for some reason. The guns aren't set up to defend against the dinosaurs, as the bullets just whiz right past their heads. But hey at least I've finally found some dinosaurs on my tour of Dinosaur Land!

Hang on, is that a little red wing I see sticking out of his back? Crap, they're just dragons aren't they? Regular boring bipedal dragons in boots!

Oops, in the earlier games I'd gotten used to landing on the edge of these pipes without being hit by the piranha plant, but I misjudged my landing.

Still, at least it gives me a chance to talk about how the power ups work in this. Unlike in Super Mario Bros. 3, getting hit in a fully powered up form in this will always turn me back to regular tiny Mario. But I can store a spare power up in that box at the top of the screen for when I need it. It actually falls right out of the interface into the game world, which is the first time I can remember seeing that happen in game since the extra life heads in Superfrog.

Also the game takes advantage of the SNES controller's extra buttons to give Mario a brand new spin attack, useful for destroying blocks beneath him. Spin attacks with Fire Mario are powered up to throw out fireballs as well, and... I'm going to have to destroy the other block to get down this pipe aren't I?


There, I've reached the Yellow Switch Palace and hit the giant switch. I'm sure there was a good reason why all those dragons with all that artillery outside were trying to stop me from getting in here and hitting the big yellow button with a warning sign on it, but whatever... not my problem!

There's the biggest improvement Mario World brings to the series: SAVE GAMES! I can actually quit and stop playing now. Though it doesn't save my power ups, coins, score or lives count, annoyingly. Fortunately, unlike in Super Mario Bros. 3, I can return to (most) earlier stages and replay them to stock up on extra lives and powers.

Time for me to head back down to that stage I dropped Yoshi down a pit on earlier and see if my yellow block safety net has appeared.


Man, even with yellow switch blocks covering almost all of the pit I still managed to screw that up! See, this right here is why I've never gotten past World 4 in Super Mario Bros.

I'm just glad Luigi wasn't around to see that. He only really makes an appearance in two player, and even then the two brothers alternate between levels instead of co-opping a stage simultaneously. I guess they'd had a bit of a falling out at this point.

Speaking of Luigi, the younger Mario brother goes through a most peculiar physical transformation between different releases of Super Mario World. In the original version of the game, he's a palette swap of Mario and absolutely identical to him in every regard. In Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World on the other hand (in the middle) he's started to resemble his Super Mario Bros. 2 sprite a bit more and is noticeably taller and skinnier than his brother.

Then there's Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2, which is what the game's called on the Game Boy Advance. This doesn't have a two player mode, but Luigi went and invited himself along anyway, so there's an option to choose your character before each stage. This Luigi has a different sprite, brighter colours, floatier jumps and a voice.


I've reached the enemy fortress at last, and those idiots even opened the door for me.

Wow, that has to be the first time in these games that I've see Mario punching a turtle directly instead of punching the ground beneath him; he's getting tougher as they go on. 6 years from here in Super Mario 64 he started punching enemies on the ground too. 12 years after that he was be able to take on Solid Snake, Samus Aran and Bowser in a fist fight, simultaneously.

Then just one year later he was able to punch a huge boulder aside while standing inside a volcano to get to Wesker and... wait, I'm thinking of Resident Evil 5 there aren't I? Sorry, I'm always getting Mario and Chris Redfield mixed up.

Holy shit! That was a mean trick by those Koopas, sticking those floating coins there to encourage me to run forward into the trap. I instinctively trust coins to lead me down the best path, so I'm really vulnerable to simple trickery. And giant wooden stamps, obviously.

I thought that dude threw his own head at me for a second there.

Seems that the bosses in this are Bowser's kids from Super Mario Bros. 3 again, except now they're immune to being jumped on! Well this one was anyway. Still not immune to being dropped in lava though! Shame I didn't bring a fire flower with me, I could've ended this much faster.

Mario isn't taking any chances this time though. He attached explosives to the structural weakpoints and brought the whole fortress down! Guess I won't be replaying that stage then.

With the fortress down I've finished Yoshi's Island and now I'm free to move on to the next world: Donut Land. Huh, there's a place called Donut Land... inside Dinosaur Land?


Awesome, I've finally found this game's equivalent to the Racoon Mario leaf! When Mario gets one of these magic feathers in his hands he can take to the skies, just like Dumbo! Though Mario flies through the power of a magic cape rather than growing massively oversized ears, which I'm personally grateful for. They made the right call there.

Haven't found any donuts yet though.

They've taken my P gauge from Mario 3 away, but I still need to hit full speed before take off, and I can't fly for long. There's a way to glide for a bit with the cape, but I can't remember how yet. I'll work on it.


This is what I like to find in a pipe! There's no Super Mario Bros. 3 Toad Houses in the game to give me bonuses this time, but areas like this make up for it.


There you go, I figured out how to glide! I dive down for a bit to build up speed, then pull back up again. I can't keep doing this forever, but I can grab a few coins before I drop.

I still miss Raccoon Mario though. Mario looks daft here in his cape without bothering to change into a full superhero outfit, like an 8 year old who just watched a Superman movie for the first time and is running around with a gold blanket tucked into his neck. Then again with that hat and at this res, Superhero Mario would probably end up looking like a flabby M. Bison with a moustache, so perhaps it's better this way.


Here's a part of Donut Plains 1 I missed entirely on my first time visit. It's not always this easy to get the key over to the lock, though to be fair it wasn't all that easy for me to fly up here in the first place while under constant baseball assault by one of those dudes in the football helmets. Would've been easier if I'd visited the Green Switch Palace and turned those dotted outlines into blocks to run up here with, but I don't even know where that is yet.

Wow, Donut Land is shaped like a circle, I finally get the name!

And there you go, using the key in a red circle level opened up the alternate exit. And this secret stage is a red circle level too! Secrets within secrets...

...and within that secret a pretty massive secret. Not that anyone playing this nowadays is unaware about this place, but it's basically the warp zone for Super Mario World, giving you quick access to any land you've already visited in the game (and the last boss). But only if you can find the secret exits within each level.

Also it gives access to blue flying Yoshis, which is cool.


Man, what is up with the scale of that house? Even as gigantic double-sized Super Mario he's only just on eye level with the door handles.

This place is almost certainly full of Boo ghosts, so I need to remember that they only move when I'm not looking at them (cause they're shy).

Uh... all that's in here is a P switch inside a [?] block, and no bricks or coins to switch with it. Well, and a door at the end. I guess I'll carry the P out with me and hope I find something to use it on in the next room.

The door took me to the exact same room, except with a vine in the block instead of a P switch! I guess I solved a puzzle, or something? Anyway I'm using this to climb to freedom!

Thankfully the vines aren't even slightly awkward to climb up, with very little chance of slipping off. I wouldn't have even thought twice about this before playing Super Mario Bros. 2 a fortnight ago, now I've learned to be grateful for what I've got here.

Well I accidentally took a bite out of Donut Land somehow by completing the Donut Ghost House, but that's okay because a bridge miraculously materialised to let me cross to the next stage!

I'm getting close to the Donut fortress now and I'll probably turn the game off there, but I've got a couple more stages to go through first.


I finally got enough collected enough stars from crossing the level exit ribbons to get the bonus game! This is kind of an advanced version of the 'stop the three strips at the right time to form an image of a power up' game from Super Mario 3, except with more depth. Or maybe width. Anyway there's 8 blocks to stop this time, and an octuplet of 1UPs await a player who does a much better job of it than I just did.

In the earlier games something like this would be a big deal, but I had 22 1UPs already without playing particularly well or finding all the secrets, and I can go to an easy stage and grind for them if I'm ever running low.


I took damage for jumping up next to a spike? What is this, Zool? Shame I couldn't bring Yoshi with me to take some of the hurt, but he refuses to come inside castles.

This is a much more vertical level than you'd tend to find in Super Mario Bros. 3, which had proper 8 directional scrolling but mostly used it to make levels a bit taller. You can see here that Mario World handles scrolling in an interesting way that you don't find in a lot of games. The screen only scrolls upwards with my character after I've landed on something higher than me, and even that much is rare on most levels, which stick to just horizontal scrolling until they absolutely have to move the camera vertically. Play something like Aladdin or a Sonic game on the other hand and the camera will follow you up with almost every jump.


Wow, different boss fight? I was honestly expecting to be on that tilting island in the lava again. One thing that hasn't changed is that I lost all my power ups getting here by making stupid mistakes along the way, so this likely won't go that well for me. Man it's times like this that I wish I was good at boss fights.

Fortunately I don't have to beat him before I can save and turn it off, as that ghost house I beat earlier also ends with an option to save and takes zero effort to run through. So I always have the option to turn the game off for a bit and come back when I'm less frustrated. The Super Mario Advance 2 version on the other hand lets players save whenever they feel like, on the world map, during levels, whenever; as it's on the Game Boy Advance, and people like to be able to turn them off in a hurry. You can't continue from the point you saved inside a level, but you do get to keep all the stuff you collected (it even lets you keep your lives!)

I did it, I got the bastard! I beat the second easiest boss in the game! Three hits and he was out, spinning away to his eternal rest with some SNES sprite rotation trickery. I think that's a good place for me to save and quit.


The poor Super Nintendo... it continued to receive new games for almost a decade and is still regarded as being one of the greatest consoles ever released, and yet it arguably got its very best platformer on day one and was never able to do better. Personally I think I prefer Donkey Kong Country 2 and Super Metroid's a definite contender, but man Nintendo absolutely nailed this game.

Hang on I've just thought of a problem with it: the soundtrack is a step down from Super Mario Bros. 3. Kind of a subjective one that though, and forgiveable considering that SMB3's music is better than everything.

Like the other games it's pretty much a straightforward obstacle course for the most part, keeping the vertical scrolling to a minimum to let you focus on overcoming the problems on screen. There are a certain amount of objects to collect each stage, but that's optional and the reward is so trivial that they're just there as a challenge for those who want it: a reason to replay levels. That's the big difference between this and the earlier games really: they made you replay levels by limiting your lives and forcing you to get good or learn the secrets, this encourages you to replay levels by giving you things to collect and secret levels to unlock. More carrot, less stick.

One valid complaint is that it's too easy, or at least far easier than the earlier games (though the levels are nowhere near as much of a pushover as the ones in Super Mario Land). Personally I'm glad the jump arcs are more forgiving now and I love being able to return to earlier stages to collect extra lives and power-ups, but for anyone with a bit of patience this is a game you're eventually going to beat. The earlier Marios are a legitimate challenge and it's very possible an average player will never see the end of them, but this one is something you can chip away at over time. In fact I doubt even the secret extra-difficult special stages are as tough as late game SMB3.

Ask me if I give a shit though! This is a Super Mario Bros. made for me, with the same great platforming taste but less frustration.


Congratulations, by reading this you have won a fantastic opportunity to leave a comment of your own underneath! Maybe you've played the game yourself and want to dispute everything I've just written, maybe you want to use it as an excuse to talk about the genre in general, or perhaps you've got things you'd like to say about my website. Either way the message box stands ready to receive your wisdom, opinions and wit.

Next time: One last Mario game for you, before I move on to something different.


  1. Great "review" as usual, shame you didn't say anything about the pirate port for the NES, it proved that Miyamoto was wrong(About Yoshi on the NES, that is)!

    1. I hadn't even heard of it until now! It seems to make a pretty airtight case that Yoshi can work just fine on a NES, though it also shows how right Miyamoto was about everything else (like the physics). What they achieved is impressive for sure, but it's not all that much fun to play.

  2. Just once I want him to try to capture Donkey Kong instead, see how well that works out for him.

    I would love to see that game.

    Here's another Yoshi fact I didn't realise until now: the music gets an extra layer of drums when you're riding him. Can't believe it's taken me this long to notice.

    I didn't realise this until many years later but all the different level music in Super Mario World is the same tune played at different speeds. To this day I can't tell if that's lazy or clever or both.

    1. Well the composer only really reuses the melody, the songs all sound pretty different otherwise, so personally I'm filing it under 'clever'. If only because he managed to get away with it without making everyone sick of hearing the tune by the end.

  3. Also, I love this game. I consider it and Sonic 2 to be almost perfect.

  4. Judging by the preview mugshot, the next game is the one where all those mushrooms Mario has done along the years will finally hit home.

    1. It's actually a giant robotic statue of himself he's constructed in his back yard, filled with LEGO bricks and with a crotch door for easy access. So yeah I think drugs were probably involved at some point.


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