In this series of articles we'll write about one Mario game every day for 30 days, each representing a different year as part of our Super Mario 30th Anniversary celebrations.
In our 1990 entry we covered Super Mario Bros. 3, so rapidly moving onto Super Mario World is an indication of how localisation delays and the eventual step into 16-bit caused a bit of Mario congestion in the early '90s. We're determining our years predominantly on North American release dates, after all, and it's worth noting that Nintendo was already relatively tardy in joining the 16-bit era with the Super NES - not that it did much harm to its prospects, ultimately.
While Super Mario Bros. 3 pushed the NES to its limits and incorporated a special chip in the cartridge, Super Mario World provided a generational leap that had been long awaited at the time. Perhaps generational leaps are losing some of their wow factor in the modern day, but the progression from NES to SNES was significant from a technological standpoint, and Nintendo pushed its new system to transform the look and feel of its leading franchise.
Particularly striking was the new graphics engine, with chunkier, more colourful sprites that were quite a step up from its immediate predecessor; a fun fact is that Super Mario World was subtitled as Super Mario Bros. 4 in Japan, so it was a direct sequel of sorts. The generational switch changed up all aspects of the presentation in distinct ways, with even the soundtrack utilising the new hardware's capabilities.
With that buzz as a SNES launch title came further innovations. The extra buttons on the controller - eight buttons instead of the four on NES (including Start and Select) - brought transformations to the gameplay, with a spin move joining jumping and dashing. Beyond that, of course, an iconic new character was born.
Super Mario World brought us Yoshi or, to be precise - T. Yoshisaur Munchakoopas. According to our poll when that little snippet was revealed the T in the name is "the greatest mystery of our times" - we're sad the Nintendo Life community didn't vote in big numbers for Thierry, though Tupac was a popular choice.
That bit of lore stated that Yoshi is a dinosaur, which was one in the eye to, erm, Nintendo, which once told us off for calling the cute little green companion a dinosaur - "Yoshi is a Yoshi", we were told. In any case, a companion for Mario to ride around and then cruelly ditch into a pit when necessary had been on Shigeru Miyamoto's wishlist since the NES days. The power of the SNES made it possible, and Yoshi shook up gameplay with his varied abilities and went on to become a treasured member of the Mario family - the sequel to this title was all about the side-kick, after all.
Super Mario World, no doubt helped a great deal by being a launch title and therefore being an ever-present for a whole generation, would out-sell Super Mario Bros. 3, though arguably didn't have quite the same impact in popular culture. Nevertheless, it's regarded by plenty as the finest Mario game of all, and its litany of secret exits, collectibles and extra levels make it a dream for completionists and 100% speedrun experts.
It's a hugely accomplished game, and should also be credited for its own boundless creativity. Dinosaur Land serves up some memorable settings, while clever and puzzling levels are accompanied by some terrific items such as the cape. 1990 and 1991 brought two of the very best titles in Mario gaming, and Super Mario World benefited from a development team on top form and technology that allowed it to produce some terrific ideas.
In any battle for the crown of 'best Mario game', this one is always in the running for the top prize, and it'll likely be a hugely popular template in Super Mario Maker, too.