Super NES Classic Reviews Game by Game #1: Super Mario World

Join us as we review every Super NES Classic game. First up: Possibly the greatest Mario of them all.

Review by Nadia Oxford, .

Join us as we review all the games on the SNES Classic Mini Edition in chronological order!

Whenever a new console lets Nintendo tap into additional processing power, it traditionally funnels those extra resources into its games' mechanics. First, it does what it can to realize long-held dreams for its series, e.g. "We've always wanted to make Mario ride a dinosaur, so now that we have the means to make him do so, Mario's going to ride a damn dinosaur." Once that's done, Nintendo uses whatever's left to gussy up a game's graphics and sound.

That's likely the reason why Super Mario World for the SNES isn't a very fancy-looking game, but its depth is unmatched by other action titles. That's something I noticed as far back as the early '90s, when my friends were gushing over Sonic the Hedgehog's sky-high "Cool!" factor and Mario World was dragged through the mud in commercials for the Sega Genesis.

"That's not right!" I said. "Yeah, Mario World is slower than Sonic, but that's because Mario World is about exploration and careful movements. It's a game that rewards players who wander off the path. Sonic's more about raw platforming and speed."

Yeah, Sonic has speed and style, but Mario World has half-naked Koopa Troopas in undershirts.

Unfortunately, my classmates were too riled up by the 16-bit Console Wars to heed my wisdom. I wasn't executed or exiled, but a Sega fan once lobbed a block of wood at me in Wood Shop, and I guess that kind of sucked.

Ah, but the magic of hindsight lets me smile back on those days. I was right. I was totally right. Better still, Super Mario World is a gem of a game, and I did the right thing by standing up for it. Now if only I'd funneled that quasi-religious fervor into ending world hunger or something useful.

Given the critical and commercial success of Super Mario Bros 3 for the NES, few people would've begrudged Nintendo for re-visiting the Mushroom Kingdom with a brighter color palette. But Super Mario World takes us far away from familiar fields and guides us to Dinosaur Land, a prehistoric realm inhabited by "dinosaurs" whose bizarre biology is more suggestive of dragons and other fantasy creatures.

Do not write a school report on Mario World's winged Rex for your dinosaur unit. You will fail.

Nintendo's decision to make Mario World so different from its predecessor is ultimately the right one. Mario World feels less rigid than Mario 3. Its map offers more opportunities for exploration, its levels are longer, and there's a host of new challenges to contend with. Though even I must admit it was initially a little off-putting to observe how differently Mario World looked and played next to Mario 3. "Capes?" I said. "What, Nintendo, are you too cool for raccoon tails now?"

But when I played Mario World for the first time, I quickly learned Nintendo wasn't trying to alter its past image; it just had a whole bunch of new ideas it wanted to try out. In addition to levels that ask you to adhere to the classic Mario ruleset (move from left to right and avoid enemies and pits until you reach the end goal), you need to tackle new and tricky terrain like Ghost Houses. These haunted mansions are brimming with illusions and secrets – not to mention restless souls capable of killing Mario with a touch. Unlike Mario 3, not all ghosts in Mario World are stymied by a stare. Survival requires some fancy footwork.

The colossal Banzai Bill is one of the first foes you meet in Mario World. Welcome to 16-bits, babycakes.

Luckily, Mario has a new move set and power-ups to help him survive his "vacation" in Dinosaur Land. The SNES controller has six action buttons compared to the NES's simple "A" and "B," and Nintendo puts the extra inputs to work by giving Mario two different flavors of jumping. The "B" jump is Mario's trusty vanilla leap that lets him clear tall buildings and stomp weak enemies like Goombas and Koopas, but it's the new spinning "A" jump that will get you out of a jam time and time again. The "A" jump can dispatch enemies that would otherwise survive a normal stomp, it can break bricks underneath Mario's feet, and skilled players can even use it to bounce off spiked enemies who'd otherwise puncture the soles of Mario's boots.

While your initial reaction to Mario having two kinds of jump might understandably be "Who needs it? Why can't Nintendo keep things simple?", Mario World does an excellent job tutoring players on Mario's new skills. One of the earliest levels in the game features a pipe that can only be accessed if a powered-up Mario uses his new spin-jump to clear a path. When you enter the pipe, you find a Dragon Coin as a reward (every level has five Dragon Coins, and collecting them all nets you a 1UP). Alternatively, you can skip the pipe altogether and keep going across the surface of the level. You rarely encounter a moment in the game when using the spin-jump is mandatory.

In fact, much of Mario World's appeal lies in the fact it can be as straightforward or as complex as you want it to be. Like most Mario games, it's possible to finish the games in mere minutes if you employ warps – or, in this case, travel along the "Star Road" that acts as a tesseract between the game's worlds. But to even access the Star Road, you need to sample a taste of the myriad secrets Mario World has on-hand. Levels marked with a yellow dot contain one exit, but Ghost Houses and levels marked with a red dot have two or more exits. Alternate exits open new pathways, new levels, and the aforementioned Star Road. Will you make a beeline for Bowser in ten moves or less? Or will you dig up all 96 exits and uncover the secrets they offer? It's up to you.

Despite the unfamiliar scenery, plenty of Mario's old foes have immigrated to Dinosaur Land.

If you're intent on uncovering every corner of Dinosaur Land (which is the right thing to do), you're going to want to enlist the help of Mario's dinosaur pal, Yoshi. Yoshi can grab-and-gulp foes with his tongue, and the enemies he can't digest are spit back out as fire or projectiles. One hit sends him running, but Yoshi eggs are plentiful – and explorers can even find rare differently-colored baby Yoshis with innate powers.

Yoshi is a big part of what makes Mario World a special game. Sure, Mario can get the job done on his own, but cavalry is always cooler than foot soldiers. Moreover, Yoshi can step on hazardous terrain, and riding him lets Mario take a hit from an enemy without losing his power-up (or his life). You can also vault off his back to get a little extra height during a jump. This is especially handy when you're – ahem – in danger of falling into a pit.

Yoshi is your friend. Do not dump Yoshi down a cliff. Unless you really, really have to.

That said, Mario's scaly buddy is also the source of one of Mario World's few shortcomings: Finding regular power-ups doesn't feel as rewarding as it does in older, Yoshi-free Mario games. The Fire Flower, once the pinnacle of power-ups, is a joke in Mario World. Whereas the Fire Flower makes Mario an ironic underwater fire-king in Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3, Yoshi's versatility renders it flaccid.

Again, though – Mario Word is loath to make you do anything. You don't have to trigger the Switch Palaces that bridge some gaps and make the game easier. You don't have to use Yoshi; you can just leave him bouncing on top of the Question Block you found him in for all of eternity, if that's your preference. You don't have to seek out the Star Road, or find every secret exit, or conquer every mini-fortress, or push every Koopa Kid off their roost.

No, you don't have to do any of that, but you probably will. Super Mario World is a game that knows you're going to start off with a nibble, and it's ready to serve you when you inevitably decide to tuck in for the full meal.

Also, it's still better than any of Sonic the Hedgehog games for the Sega Genesis.

"But Nadia, earlier you said the Sonic games and the Mario games are totally different—"



Is Super Mario World the best Mario game ever? Civilizations will go to war before we have a definitive answer, but for now, we can safely classify it as one of the best platforming games ever made.

5 /5

Super NES Classic Reviews Game by Game #1: Super Mario World Nadia Oxford Join us as we review every Super NES Classic game. First up: Possibly the greatest Mario of them all. 2017-07-07T13:00:00-04:00 5 5

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Comments 37

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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #1 SIGGYZtar A year ago
    It's been over a quarter century since it came out, and I find it to be one of the best looking and best playing video games. Miyamoto and co. put a helluva lot of work into this game, and it really shows.

    I can't believe George Clinton did that song, but work is work.
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  • Avatar for PlatypusPlatoon #2 PlatypusPlatoon A year ago
    Though I adored both games as a kid, I was a Super Mario 3 guy all the way. It was the first video game that truly and wholly knocked me off my feet - with its whimsical, well-realized theme worlds, its creative power ups (you can fly!!), the memorable cast of Koopa Kid characters, and its impeccable platforming precision. This was, for me, the best game of all time, bar none.

    That is... until I revisited both of them again, recently.

    Thanks to both of them being re-released multiple times across various platforms, I've now had the pleasure of re-experiencing them as fresh games, some 25 years later. And with that... my opinion has come around. Mario World is every bit as glorious as it was on Super Nintendo's launch - its personality shines through, all of its levels are beautifully and meticulously designed, and most important, the game is still fun, beginning to end. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of Mario 3 - the game is brutally hard for my old-man reflexes, and its short levels don't have the same impact anymore that Mario World's do.

    While it was a generation-defining game of its era, Mario 3 is still a relic of its time; Mario World transcends the 16-bit console wars, and is very much a classic that holds up even today.
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  • Avatar for zidanix #3 zidanix A year ago
    So, I can play SMW on my SNES, GBA, Wii, Wii U and 3DS yet I can't wait to play it on my Switch. Yup.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #4 NiceGuyNeon A year ago
    Best 2D platformer ever made? I think so.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #5 donkeyintheforest A year ago
    Oh noes a series of wonderfully written articles about awesome games on a system I'll likely never be able to find at retail.... I'm gonna try though!
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #6 TheWildCard A year ago
    I've never been as attached to World as I SMB 1 and 3 for some reason. Probably because I've never been as into lots of exploration in my platformers, although that observation about the fire flower being comparatively underwhelming is a good one. Still a great showpiece for the system, and the best launch game ever.
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  • Avatar for Mooglepies #7 Mooglepies A year ago
    I used to prefer SMW but with the benefit of hindsight I think I prefer SMB3.

    SMW did a great deal of good for the series and the wider industry by introducing multiple exits, but I feel it was a little too iterative outside of that, and SMB3 has the better platforming in my mind. Still a staggeringly good game though.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #8 Roto13 A year ago
    If Super Mario World came out for the first time now, the internet would gush about it for three months before complaining that it's just a rehash of Mario 3 somehow.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #9 Kat.Bailey A year ago
    @Roto13 That's what happened in 1991!
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #10 SuperShinobi A year ago
    It's true that there were complaints about World being too similar to the previous games and not "next-gen" enough. Sonic 1 & 2 on the other hand were truly next-gen looking games and they were also completely new kinds of platformers that had never been seen before. Sonic was revolutionary, whereas Mario World was evolutionary and a refinement of the previous games.

    But as always, I love both Sonic and Mario and both the Genesis and the SNES. I had both systems at the time and no desire to fight that particular console war then anymore than now. So credit where credit is due, Mario World is one of the great games of the 16-bit era, in pure gameplay terms probably even slightly better than the eminently playable and enjoyable Sonic. Mario World has more depth and secrets too.

    I generally like the more dazzling sights and sounds of Sonic better though and tend to revisit those games more often for that reason. Especially the Jap/Pal version of Sonic CD with its awesome soundtrack. You had to wait until Mario 64 and "Dire, dire docks" to hear anything technically or artistically comparable to Sonic CD.

    I'm not sure if World is my favorite Mario game. Maybe it's Mario 64 after all. It's either one of those without a doubt. Number 3 is Mario 3D Land with its wonderful true 3D visuals and gameplay.Edited July 2017 by SuperShinobi
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  • Avatar for nimzy #11 nimzy A year ago
    My favorite part about SMW was and still is the level design. In previous Mario games you (essentially) hold right on your directional pad and proceed to the end of the level. SMW introduces all kinds of new ways to traverse a level, and not only gives you new directions to finish it in but can even hide exits behind the one you chose. Finding the secrets is the most fun I've had playing a Mario game.

    Also a shout out to the SPECIAL levels: each one highlights a different mechanic that you must master to beat the level. The balloon level is intense!
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  • Avatar for sylvan #12 sylvan A year ago
    Haha! Callously leaping off of Yoshi's back and casting him into a pit of doom to save yourself on a poorly executed jump was Super Mario perfection. SMW is probably my favorite platformer of all time. It represents the SNES better than any other game.

    I loved SMB 3, and I owned a Genesis long before I got my SNES but the first time I played SMW I knew it was someting special. I actually felt the same as Nadia at first. That the game was too far a departure from the previuos games and was just tacking on nonsense to make Mario seem new and different. Well, it wasn't nonsense but it was new and different. And completely f**king amazing!
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  • Avatar for swamped #13 swamped A year ago
    Can't lie, I'll always prefer SMW > SMB3 simply because it was the game I experienced first and most over the years. My opinion is never going to be unbiased; I think it's one of the best, and it's one I keep replaying. And since I've never 100% completed it, I keep finding out new things about it! Never knew the trick about yellow/red dots. Thanks Nadia!Edited July 2017 by swamped
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #14 WiIIyTheAntelope A year ago
    Super Mario World is probably the closest we'll ever see to 2d platformer perfection. Mario 3 was a fantastic game, but SMW tops it in pretty much every possible aspect.

    Kuribo's Boot is still the greatest power up to ever exist in the history of gaming though. SMW can't win em all.
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #15 Vonlenska A year ago
    brb, incoherent squealing in excitement until this series is done and I still can't find an SNES Classic and the squeals turn to sobs
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #16 SargeSmash A year ago
    Put me in the SMB3 camp. World is absolutely a great game, but I also have some quibbles with the physics, which feel just a touch too fidgety for my tastes. And the NSMB series has the opposite problem, with far too much momentum.

    Perhaps not the most popular sentiment, but I'm not sure SMW makes my top 10 for this set, but definitely resides just outside of it. And given how good the selection is on here, I don't think that's anything to sneeze at, especially considering this was a launch game!
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  • Avatar for presidentcamacho #17 presidentcamacho A year ago
    Great, now let's see the rest of this list through, as a) all of these games are well worth writing about and b), US Gamer is notorious for not finishing this sort of thing. Oh, and I agree that SMW > SMB3. The Sonic games aren't even worth discussing in the same paragraph.
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  • I owned both at launch. As a kid I tended to believe that everything newer was better (heeded on by Nintendo's message that I must keep consuming and buying ever-more new stuff because it's always better than what they sold me before) but in hindsight SMB3 better encapsulates what I think of as "Mario."

    Some gameplay elements, like the fence-climbing parts in dungeons, are clear "look at what this system can do" moments. And in soundtrack, this game turned a little too hard toward the cutesy in a way that Nintendo games would wear for better or worse, despite NOA Marketing's objections, as "kiddie gaming" for a while. And gameplay-wise, the cape is just too strong.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #19 VotesForCows A year ago
    Why is Yoshi so grumpy in the banner pic? The other two look like they're having a good time!
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #20 Roto13 A year ago
    @VotesForCows Because some racist just randomly showed up on his island and started riding the natives around.
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  • Avatar for metal_maniac #21 metal_maniac A year ago
    Getting a SNES and playing SMW was a true gaming revelation, and I loved every second I spent playing it.
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #22 DrCorndog A year ago
    Sonic 3 & Knuckles is as good as any game Mario has ever appeared in. We can all agree, though, that the 16-bit era was the best.
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  • Avatar for BulkSlash #23 BulkSlash A year ago
    Can I be controversial for a moment and say I think in SMW that Mario generally moves faster than Sonic? I think Sonic can hit higher top speeds when using hills to speed up but when both are running on a flat surface I think Mario moves more quickly, or at least he gets moving much more quickly.

    I also think the graphics in Mario World do deserve more credit. There's Mode 7 "sprite rotation" on the boss fights who also stretch and zoom when they die. Two of the bosses have Mode 7 platforms that rotate to create a sliding surface and of course Bowser smoothly zooms into and out of the screen. Then there's the alpha transparencies that allow the game to layer something semi-transparent over something else, a subtle but complicated effect. At the time these were all things that you would only see in the arcade and made Mario World extremely impressive.
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  • Avatar for VideoJocularPig #24 VideoJocularPig A year ago
    World > 3.
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  • Avatar for odaiba-memorial #25 odaiba-memorial A year ago
    Um, I think we all know that the best Mario game is Yoshi's Island. It is called Super Mario World 2, after all.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #26 riderkicker A year ago
    Super Mario All Stars + World - GOAT > Super Mario 3 > Super Mario World
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #27 Monkey-Tamer A year ago
    And it still lives on at SMW Central, which has an annual level design competition. Few games can boast a legacy like that.
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  • Avatar for TerryTrowbridge #28 TerryTrowbridge A year ago
    Feather > Tail
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #29 brionfoulke91 A year ago
    I still prefer Mario 3... and for that matter, Mario 64. But even so, this is an amazing game, for sure!
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  • Avatar for metalangel #30 metalangel A year ago
    Sonic is all about speed, Mario is about exploration? That smacks of having not played much Sonic... almost all of the levels have multiple routes, and some (like Marble Zone) are platforming masterpieces. I liked how Sonic mixed it up, with some areas allowing or even demanding speed, and others requiring a slow methodical approach, complete with traps if you did try to go too fast (like Spring Yard)

    As for Mario World... I don't know, I never got into it that much. I had a Genesis as a kid, so I only ever got to play it at friends' houses, and I had burned out on SMB3. I found the cape needlessly fiddly and annoying to control. I eventually did get my own copy, on the GBA, and have played all the way through it (including doing the Star Road stuff) and think it's a very good game, but not legendary.
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  • Avatar for Toelkki #31 Toelkki A year ago
    I've tried getting into this several times on VC, but failed. But maybe now that I've learned to enjoy New Super Mario Bros U (which I currently consider my favourite 2D Mario and close to being my favourite Mario game overall), I might be able to enjoy this game as well.
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  • Avatar for andrewmayes78 #32 andrewmayes78 A year ago
    @metalangel Yeah, people who say Sonic doesn't encourage exploration don't seem to actually be too familiar with Sonic's typical level structure. Whereas Mario games tend to be fairly linear with a few hidden areas intertwined here and there, Sonic is ironically a lot more open and "sandboxy." What would be instant-kill death pits in Mario simply drop you down to a slower path in a classic Sonic game.

    Yeah, Sonic games are about keeping momentum, but that also means the levels have to be more forgiving to accommodate for the many "second chances" high-speed gameplay requires.
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  • Avatar for mganai #33 mganai A year ago
    Didn't care as much for World's exploration, as it came at the expense of the intensity platforming exemplified by 3. The feather was broken, as it could vanquish anything within Mario's spinning range and slowed his fall to a breezy glide, which really trivialized most jumps. Also, Mario 3 had more variety in its level challenges and powerups (Kuribo's Shoe, Tanooki Mario, Hammer Bros. Mario).

    One could say the Special Stages were harder, but no game should compensate for putting any resistance to the player with a tougher post-game. I'll take Mario 3's more consistent yet still engaging challenge over World anyday.
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  • Avatar for chilon #34 chilon A year ago
    @mganai I agree, Mario 3 and even Mario 2 (JAP) are better games but Super Mario World is still a great game. Sentimentality biases me though :)
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  • Avatar for chilon #35 chilon A year ago
    @TerryTrowbridge No way Tanuki leaf is best, cuter and less overpowered flying mechanic + float.
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  • Avatar for chilon #36 chilon A year ago
    That was a really great article and Super Mario World is better than any Sonic! Super Mario 3 and 2 (Jap) are slightly better though... more challenging.
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  • Avatar for chilon #37 chilon A year ago
    @DrCorndog Sonic 3 + Knuckles may have better bosses but Mario games are better... the controllable acceleration mechanic offers more control over Mario's speed and jump arcs leading to greater depth. This allows the levels to ramp up the challenge to a greater degree whereas in sonic it's more about memorisation. The kind of crazy levels you see people make in Mario maker would never be possible in Sonic.
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  • Avatar for CarolineWebb #38 CarolineWebb A year ago
    Deleted October 2017 by CarolineWebb
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