Absolutely no one should be surprised to find out this game made the cut. Still, significantly less than half the lists I’ve received included the game, so apparently not everyone thinks this is a game worthy of being considered one everyone should play at least once.
At best, it’s my 3rd favourite Mario game, but I sure as hell think it deserves a spot on the list, and at least in the top 50. It’s a really…GOOD game. It’s lots of fun, mostly. It does a lot of things WELL. However, I don’t quite know what it is exactly, but it just feels like a step back after Super Mario Bros. 3. But it’s not all bad. I even think it does some things better, so I’ll start with that.
While Super Mario Bros. 3 did have some options when it came to choosing different paths to complete a world, it didn’t offer much. You still had to beat pretty much all of the levels, so if you hit one that was giving you a lot of trouble, you were pretty much screwed. You were going to have to play until you beat it. This means that for those of us who played SMB3 as little kids, we often took day-, week-, or even month-long breaks from the game because we’d spent an equal amount of time trying to beat one damn level. Playing World 1 over and over just to get to the one level that keeps kicking your ass in World 3 can get a little tiring, not matter how fun those first levels are. With SMW, there are so many ways to get to Bowser’s castle that if a particular level defiantly stands in your way, you can easily backtrack and work on a different path for a while. If that isn’t an option or all the paths are giving you problems, you can always good look for more paths and secrets, since every level represented by a red dot offers two ways to beat it and opens two paths, not to mention that most ghost houses also offer this. The game gives you a lot of options, which is nice.
The addition of Yoshi and the Cape Feather are just amazing. While Raccoon Mario was a lot of fun, the way the levels were designed in SMB3 didn’t really take full advantage of what it offered. SMW on the other hand forces you to use the Cape Feather and Yoshi abilities to access hidden areas and find secret exits. They weren’t just things that allowed you to beat levels more easily. It’s a nice touch that I found myself particularly appreciating as I played through the game and finding all of the 96 exits.
Finally, the ability to save your game, which should’ve been in SMB3, and the abundance of extra lives made for a much less frustrating experience. SMB3 is a tough game. SMW has some tough levels as well, but when you can backtrack to a previous level, collect a power-up, quit the level, enter it again, collect a second power-up, quit again, and then return to the difficult level, it makes an enormous difference. Finding level with a star and tonnes of enemies, like Forest of Illusion 1, also means you should never witness the Game Over screen.
Honestly, there’s only one thing the game does wrong. It might seem like a minor issue, but it’s enough for me to put it behind SMB3. When I play SMW, it almost feels like I’m playing a Mario game’s levels in random order. None of the worlds feel like distinct worlds. It doesn’t make any of them bad levels, but as a whole, the worlds are less memorable. They don’t make me feel like I’m visiting a distinct, magical world the way Desert Land, Giant Land, and Sky Land did. On the topic of the vague concept of “magic,” the power-ups in SMB3, and particularly their scarcity, were “more magical.” The cape is fun, but you can basically play SMW while having it the whole time. The Tanooki Suit, P-Wing, Frog Suit, Hammer Suit, and Kuribo’s Shoe are cool and the fact that you practically never get some of them makes the experience of getting them so much more special.
Both of these things, the non-worldness of the worlds (which is particularly egregious when the word “world” is in the game’s title) and the ubiquity of the Cape Feather combined with the nonexistence of any other power-up not found in the first SMB game, just makes the game feel less “magical.” It makes the game feel less special, less “super.” It’s the least Super of the first four Super Mario games (I’m excluding the Japanese SMB2 here).
Ultimately, you folks put Super Mario World in the 4th spot, about 30 spots higher than where I would’ve put it, but pretty much were I expected it would end up. It’s a classic. I’m baffled by the fact that it wasn’t on everyone’s list.