Super Mario World taught me the cruel, harsh reality of the videogame world.
That may seem like an odd statement for a game that, by and large, I have immensely fond memories of. But it’s true. The transition of Nintendo’s efforts from the NES to its successor, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), established the current generational paradigm of videogame systems, where every 5-6 years it’s understood that a console maker will replace their hardware with a new edition that is faster, more powerful, and home to all of the hottest games from that point forward.
This is common sense today. Last year, I bought my Nintendo Wii understanding that in about five years Nintendo will be releasing a new system to replace it. Not only that, but today backwards compatibility is a key feature (well…except the new PS3 that was just released), so I’m still able to play my older games on the Wii, especially with the help of the Virtual Console download service.
But back in 1991, the NES was my first gaming system and I had no idea that it could be replaced and that I wouldn’t be able to play the newest titles in my favourite game franchises. I learned this lesson when I heard that Super Mario Bros. 4, which would later be renamed to Super Mario World, was only going to be playable on the new SNES.
I cried myself to sleep that night (no joke). I even wrote a letter to Nintendo voicing my discontent over the fact that a devoted Mario fan like me couldn’t play the new Mario game. I’m betting that somebody at Nintendo had a good laugh when they read it; I vaguely recall receiving some kind of written response, one that did little to appease my discontent.
So this was the bottom line: if I wanted to play the graphically-enhanced, super-awesome-looking Super Mario World, I needed an SNES. Given that I was only nine years old and possessed limited disposable income, acquiring one at over $200 Cdn. proved a challenge. It had only been two years since I had gotten my NES for Christmas, and while that’s an eternity in kid years, my parents didn’t exactly see it that way. So the subtle hints began, followed by pleading and near-begging.
Thankfully, my parents knew better than to stand in the way of Mario bliss (that, or perhaps they understood how technology works better than I did). That year, all of my birthday money – plus a good deal of saved-up allowance money – went toward a brand-spanking new Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which mercifully came with Super Mario World in tow (in fact, it would be the last major home console to launch with a pack-in game until WiiSports came bundled with the Wii last year).
There’s a big debate among gaming nerds as to which is the better game: Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. The best comparison that I can come up with would be the debate between the two realistically-drawn 3-D Zelda games, Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, in which the latter plays like a prettier, upgraded version of the former but loses something intangible in the process. Maybe it’s just that SMW was far less innovative than SMB3 – with the exception of secret exits and paths, it really didn’t add much to the formula that its predecessor established.
But having said that, I think I invested infinitely more gameplay time into SMW than I did SMB3. The simple reason for this is that it included a save feature; the real reason, though, was that it was a game that encouraged exploration, that rewarded finding every secret that one possibly could. There’s a reason why, downloading it from the virtual console over 15 years later that I was able to quickly complete the game to the full 96*. I guess when you’ve devoted so much time to a game, what’s a few more hours for shits and giggles?
Watch: Super Mario World speed run in 12 minutes (yeah, it’s tool assisted, but still cool to watch)