This game is the original Dark Souls.

Fuck this game.

I love it.

And that pretty much sums up my feelings on Super Mario World. See you next time!
Well, maybe I should write a little more. My brother and I have begun a “video game book club” wherein we play old NES or SNES games – available through Switch Online – and check in with each other every so often and see how good/bad they are. After playing FFVII Remake and then taking a bit of a break from gaming, I needed something simpler like this to ease me back in. I would soon discover that simple did not necessarily mean easy… at least not for me.

For context, I grew up in a Sega/Playstation house. We had access to nintendo consoles through friends and family but my experiences were always in bits and pieces. I never played a full nintendo game until the Wii era. My brother, being older, had a little more exposure than I did, but still limited. So we thought it would be fun to go back and play a bunch of the classics that we never got to in our youth. We began with Super Mario World for SNES.

My first impressions were how damn well the look of it holds up, and how great the controls feel. The colour pallet, art and music so cheerfully tug on my nostalgia that I sometimes like to just let the game idle on the map while I’m doing things around the house.

The controls feel good and clean and simple. The jumping and air controls are tight. There’s a little bit of sliding when you stop running, but just enough that it makes sense for Mario’s momentum. In fact, I think the beauty of the controls comes down to the great grasp of momentum.

When I said Mario is the original Dark Souls, I was maybe making a bit of a stretch. But there were similarities I noticed:

  • I’m shit at both games. Though obviously not DS’s levels of difficulty, I still had a more difficult time than I would have expected. Thank god for “save state” on the Switch (I know, what a casual) because there were a couple levels/bosses that, as a first-timer, nearly made me Hulk Smash my controller.
  • There are patterns to learn. When I was struggling with a level, I would eventually learn that I had to slow down and learn exactly what moves to make when. If I was observant and thought it through, I could figure it out. Then, just like Dark Souls, I’d sometimes get frustrated again, lose patience, throw caution to the wind, race through, and die again. Noice.
  • When I die, it’s fair and it’s my fault. A combination of the other two points, along with the great controls. If I goof it, it’s probably on me.

I realise you might say that those three comparisons could be made with many other games and you’d be right, but…. Super Mario World is the game I choose to make them with. So there.

I love the level design in SMW. Always something fun, always building upon itself and surprising you. The ghost houses in particular are standouts. A really cool take on level design, especially for the time in platformers: never just a left-to-right affair, each one is a puzzle in and of itself. I like the multitude of secret exits throughout the game and now that I know what to look for, I’m excited to go back and find more. I’ve already found one entrance to the star world and I have faith I can track them all down. Not to mention finding all those pound blocks!

The addition of Yoshi was a cool feature and added even more upgrade possibilities along with the regular fire flowers, stars, etc. With Yoshi’s tongue you can swallow koopas and gain a variety of powers determined by their shell colour. I’d argue, though, that with all the upgrades Mario himself can obtain, it almost felt like overkill for Yoshi to be able to get his whole own set of upgrades too.

I’m glad I have the opportunity to play this classic and I’m having a really fun time so far! Though relatively straight forward, I can’t argue with the tight mechanics, great level design and cheery world. Super Mario World is a lesson in how simplicity and a clear vision can create wonderful games.