Super NES Mini Countdown: #05 | Super Mario World

Bros. before dinos? Not so much, I'm afraid.

Nintendo's Super NES Classic Edition mini-console arrives at the end of the month, and the Retronauts writing team has voted to rank the 20 classic games on the mini. Unlike last year's Classic NES Edition, the Super NES mini doesn't have a single dud on it, so think of this as a countdown from good to great. Moving into the top five, we start with the console's insanely great pack-in.

5. Super Mario World

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Platformer
Release date: Nov. 21, 1990 [JP] Aug. 13, 1991 [U.S.] April 11, 1992 [EU]

What makes Super Mario World a worthy inclusion?

It was the original pack-in

It doesn't make a lot of sense to create a perfect little miniature imitation of the Super NES but then not bother to include the game that millions of kids played the instant they got their consoles set up, right? Like, why would you even?

It's a critical evolutionary milestone for Mario

Super Mario World announced Mario's arrival in the world of 16-bit gaming a few obvious ways. It featured more impressive visuals, with flashy enemies (Banzai Bills that filled the screen!) and cool graphical effects (transparent ghosts). It contained enhanced sound effects. It gave Mario new, innate powers. But most of all, it introduced the ability to save and to move freely throughout the game world. Even Super Mario Bros. 3, for all its immensity, had to be completed in a single sitting. Super Mario World feels like a game you can really dig into and chew on across multiple sessions thanks to its addition of save points and critical milestones that both mark and affect your in-game progression. Future Mario games would draw on this step forward, building a greater emphasis on exploration and secrets into the franchise.

Seek and enjoy

One of the big ideas Super Mario World brought to the table was the addition of multiple exits in many levels. While every stage still had the usual goalpost to run after, in many cases you also can find a hidden goal that, once located, leads Mario to a secret level or opens up a new path on the overworld. This concept would evolve into Super Mario 64's multiple Star objectives per stage, which has become a fixture of 3D Mario games.

It developed right alongside the hardware

Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis Division development team began working on Super Mario World pretty much the moment they wrapped work on Super Mario Bros. 3 at the end of 1988. Over the course of the next two years, Super Mario World evolved alongside the system. As a result, it uses pretty much every technical gimmick in the console's bag of tricks, from Mode 7 chicanery to audio reverb. But here's the thing: Because it pretty much started as an 8-bit game and evolved as the Super NES did, its underlying design emphasis centers on solid, sensible play mechanics. Unlike a lot of early hardware showcase games, Super Mario World uses its effects subtly to enhance the action rather than using them to make a splash. It didn't impress as much as some other games at the time, but the upshot is that it holds up a lot better 25 years later.

It introduced Yoshi

Shigeru Miyamoto wanted Mario to be able to ride a dinosaur back in the original Super Mario Bros., but technical limitations prevented that from happening. 16-bit power finally made it possible… and a star was born. Nintendo didn't leave Yoshi's fame to chance, of course. He was starring in his own spinoffs within a year.

Interesting facts about Super Mario World


In Japan, Super Mario World was also presented as Super Mario Bros. 4 on its box art. That subtitle was initially included in prototypes of the U.S. version but eventually dropped, meaning that Japan has four numbered Super Mario Bros. games on the books whereas America only has three. Things balanced out eventually, though; Nintendo published Yoshi's Island as Super Mario World 2 in the U.S., but in Japan it was simply "Super Mario: Yossy Island."

Kuribos? Shoo!

Goombas are called "kuribo" in Japan, taken from the Japanese word for chestnut: Kuri. Of course, Goombas don't look anything like chestnuts; Shigeru Miyamoto has said he designed them to resemble mushrooms, as a way to create a sort of duality in the original Super Mario Bros. Super Mushrooms are helpful, while Goombas are harmful, but they both look a lot alike. Super Mario World is the one exception to the rule. The Goombas here actually do look like chestnuts, and they also take two stomps to defeat instead of one. Must be something in the water on Dinosaur Island.

You are a super player

Super Mario World features one of the coolest bonuses in any Mario game: The Star Road and Special Course. They're not technically required to complete the game, though mastering Star Road can make it a lot easier to get around and skip past different areas. The real point of the Special Course isn't about convenience, though; it's about style. If you can complete all eight Special stages — which is no small feat! — autumn descends on Dinosaur Island, and enemies adopt Mario disguises. Can you handle the cognitive dissonance of defeating yourself?

The short road

By making deft use of the Star Road and hidden exits, you can actually finish Super Mario World by completing a mere dozen stages (out of 96 exits total). Not only that, but the shortcut allows you to infiltrate Bowser's castle through the back entrance, where you face a lot less resistance than you encounter by entering the front door.

The boxer

Because Super Mario World shipped as the console's pack-in for the first couple years of its life in the U.S., Nintendo didn't initially produce a box for it. It was only after other pack-ins began to appear that Super Mario World became available as a standalone product. As a result, the boxed version of the game is disproportionately rare for a game that sold millions upon millions of units. The prices of complete-in-box Super NES software has spiraled into nonsense recently, but this is one case where the price actually matches what's available on the market.