I know, I know. You young bucks are probably sitting there thinking "Dustin, of course Super Mario World is your favorite game. I can tell from the gray hair in your beard that it was probably the only game that existed when you were a kid."
First of all. Rude.
Second, I'm only twenty-nine.
Third, I'll have you know the gray in my beard makes me look wise...
All joking aside, it is kind of cliche to say to say that your favorite game is an early Mario title. Ask my dad what his favorite videogame is and he'll probably tell you King's Quest VI because it was the last videogame he played and was the best thing he had played up to that point. My dad stopped gaming shortly after King's Quest VI, but I, on the other hand, didn't follow in his footsteps in this regard and continued gaming up to the current day, and nothing has come close to comparing to the feeling I get every time I play Super Mario World.
One of the oldest (and silliest) arguments in the gaming community is whether Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World is the superior game. While SMB3 is without question an all-time classic, to me, there's no debate--Super Mario World wins the battle, hands down. The reason I think so is because it took everything that was great about SMB3, cranked it to 11, and made it bigger and better.
Bigger and better enemies (I nearly pooped my jeans the first time I encountered Banzai Bill), bigger levels, more secrets, better level variety, a greater challenge, and even though they scaled back the amount of new suits, I prefer the cape to the raccoon tail/Tanooki suit. Lastly, let us not forget the greatest addition to the game: Yoshi.
That bipedal dinosaur companion became one of the most cherished characters in the franchise. Between Yoshi and the cape, I felt like I could literally go anywhere and do anything, no challenge was too great. With Yoshi next to me--or rather, under me--I no longer feared treading into uncharted territory. I now laughed at the Valley of Bowser; no amount of lightning crashes could deter me from seeing my mission of saving the princess to the very end.
I have a handful of games that I wind up replaying every year. Games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Resident Evil 4, and Metal Gear Solid, but there's never a time in my life where I don't have an active game going on my SMW cartridge. I'm basically in a constant state of playing Super Mario World.
There's no such thing as a perfect game. Gaming is a subjective medium, and everyone is going to have their own opinions on every game they play. It's the reason I don't consider Devil May Cry 2 to be a bad game, despite constant community outcry to the contrary. A lot of it is circumstantial, too. I received DMC2 as a Christmas gift from my brother, and it was the first DMC game I played. So, considering I had no history with the series, and that it didn't cost me any money, it's somewhat easier to understand my feelings toward the game. So where am I going with this? Well, I'm basically just trying to say that there's no such thing as a perfect game, but to me, Super Mario World is as close as we're ever going to get, and I don't think it's because of circumstances or a case where it was the right game at the right time.
A few paragraphs ago I rattled off reasons why I preferred SMW to its predecessor, and now I'd like to take a few moments just to break them down a little bit.
I mentioned Banzai Bill when talking about enemies, which is what happens when you take a Bullet Bill and crank it up to 11 (see what I'm saying), and then you have enemies like Torpedo Ted that only appear in one level--a level you can only access by discovering a secret and committing an act of betrayal. You have the varying colors of Koopa Troopas which give Yoshi different powers and attacks depending on which one he swallows. And let's not forget just how great the final battle was with Bowser riding in his clown-face copter...stomper...thing. Whatever it is, it's awesome. Also, Blargg.
The levels were much larger than anything we had seen in a Mario game up to this point, which is why this game threw in the addition of mid-level checkpoints. Not only did these checkpoints save your progress should you happen to die, but they also gave you a much needed boost from Mario to Super Mario if you needed it. Gone was the hoarding inventory system of SMB3, and in was the ability to carry an additional item into the level with you.
There are 96 exits in this game. Not 96 levels, but 96 exits. Any time you came upon a new level and it was colored red instead of yellow, that was your signal that there was a secret exit. And some levels didn't give you the luxury of knowing there was a secret going in, like the ghost house in Donut Plains, or the secret exit you needed to discover to find your way out of the Forest of Illusion, or to find Star Road.
Speaking of the levels, let's talk about the variety within each world. Unlike SMB3, where you had 6-10 similar levels in a row, here you may have an underground level, followed by a ghost house, followed by an ice world, you never knew what was coming next, but you knew it would be different and exciting. Instead of navigating your way across an airship, here you went after the Koopa Kids in traditional castles, but each castle was unique and added a different challenge, whereas each airship was similarly laid out.
Did I say challenge? Yes, I would say that this game is challenging, but what I really mean is screw the Star Road Special World. While there were definitely other levels in the game that offered a great deal of trouble to a six year old Dustin Thomas, Star Road Special was where Nintendo took off the kiddie gloves and started punching me in the face with their bare fists.
But then, when it's all said and done, after you've left Yoshi's Island, made your way past the Donut Plains, traversed the Vanilla Dome, crossed the Butter Bridge, solved the Forest of Illusion, chomped your way through Chocolate Island, braved your way out of the Sunken Ghost Ship, brute forced your way through the Valley of Bowser, you hit your mortal enemy with that final Mechakoopa, and you see the very person who made all of your struggles worth the prices you've paid, worth the sacrificing of friends, worth the struggles of Star Road. You lay your eyes on your fair maiden, Princess Toadstool.
She kisses you, and you blush both in the game and in real life (because you're six year old Dustin, remember). Time to sit back and reflect on your journey. But wait, there's no time for that, the final treat is still to come!
Without question, this game has the greatest ending credit sequence in history. You get to meet all the enemies you've encountered, as well as listening to one of the greatest pieces of gaming music ever made. I love the ending theme song of Super Mario World so much that when I got married, I kissed my lovely bride, and we left the sanctuary while this song played. Let us enjoy it together.
Is it boring to say Super Mario World is my all-time favorite game? Maybe a little, at least according to some people. It's not that I didn't branch out, I've been playing videogames for a quarter of a century now, and I've run the gamut of genres, but Super Mario World is where my heart lies. I'm completely open to a new game coming out and just completely blowing my mind and usurping the throne away from the portly plumber, it just hasn't happened yet.
Thanks for reading.