(GBA / Game Boy Advance)

Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island (GBA / Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Drawing you in

Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island joined a Nintendo tradition of re-releasing classic titles for a new audience. Bringing an iconic Super Nintendo platformer to the Game Boy Advance seemed perfectly apt, with the handheld more than capable of 16-bit standard visuals. The question remains, is this port worth playing today?

There’s no need to skip to the conclusion for the answer because here it is: yes. A read-through of our Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island review confirms that this is, arguably, one of the finest platformers ever created. Our focus in this review is to remind you of the basics and, ultimately, determine whether the GBA version — available to 3DS Ambassadors — matches up to the original.

For those experiencing Yoshi’s Island for the first time, this title is a significant diversion away from the standard Super Mario World series template. The controllable character is Yoshi, who first appeared as a cute side-kick in Super Mario World, while the storyline involves helping Baby Mario to rescue the kidnapped Baby Luigi. If there is ever a doomed attempt at a Mario timeline, this would most certainly come first.

Playing as Yoshi leads to an entirely different gameplay experience, with the move set and level design bringing this to the fore. Yoshi moves quickly, building up to a dash automatically while his two main actions are to jump and swallow enemies. Holding the jump button makes Yoshi flutter jump, the extra time hovering in the air particularly useful when attempting difficult or precise leaps. After swallowing enemies, meanwhile, Yoshi can either spit them out or turn them into eggs. It’s possible to throw these eggs, with two aiming methods available depending on whether you require accuracy or speed.

The controls reiterate the point that this is a very different kind of platformer to Mario's starring roles. That’s certainly no bad thing, with this title in many ways catering more to gamers with an instinct to explore, discover and experiment. There's no time limit in each level, and there are hidden items and rooms liberally scattered throughout each stage. These aren’t entirely optional, either, with the collection of flowers, red coins and stars determining an end of level score. Good scores will bring extra lives, while perfect scores in each level unlock additional stages.

This focus on collecting, as well as moving to the end-goal, adds as much replay value and depth as any gamer should need in a platformer. Even with a goal of simply beating each stage, the lengthy levels mean that Yoshi’s Island’s credits aren’t seen without a genuine commitment. It’s the length of the levels, in fact, combined with superior and imaginative design, which truly shines. There are boss encounters in each of the six worlds to shake things up, as well as clouds that drug Yoshi and make the entire world disorientating: wonderful ideas are found everywhere. Beyond the core levels, there are unlockable objects such as a magnifying glass to identify red coins, which are indispensable for completionists. It’s a simple fact that beating this title with 100% completion will require great skill, creativity, persistence and time.

For gamers with less experience, or perhaps without enough free time to pursue this lofty goal, this title still has a lot to offer in bite-sized gaming sessions. For one thing, it generously provides plenty of lives and it’s actually fairly hard to die. When Yoshi is hit by an enemy, Baby Mario becomes detached and floats in a bubble: stars collected – up to a maximum or 30 – begin to drain away, and Yoshi must touch the bubble before the counter reaches zero. This can lead to tense, challenging moments in pursuit of an escaping Baby Mario, but also means that instant deaths are a rare occurrence. As expected, falling into a pit or onto spikes will cause a lost life, but level checkpoints ease the frustration.

The game itself is excellent, but we already knew that on the Super Nintendo. In terms of the fidelity of this port, it’s almost perfect. The gorgeous colouring book graphic style looks terrific, even by modern day standards, and the catchy soundtrack is as delightful as ever, with an N64-era Yoshi voice added for good measure. There are a few elements of this port that aren’t quite up to the standards of the original, however.

The transition to a handheld screen, for example, appears to have slightly lowered the screen visibility. At times the screen can feel a little restrictive, with the viewpoint of the surrounding environment showing less than it should, resulting in some instances where upcoming dangers and pits are more of a surprise than in the original. There’s also the occasional drop in frame rate when there is too much on screen: not excessive by any means, but it does happen. These are, in truth, niggling complaints that are easily overshadowed by the quality of the title.

This GBA edition also includes a copy of the original Mario Bros. arcade game, which serves as a fun diversion. For those enjoying Yoshi’s Island as part of the 3DS Ambassador Programme, however, multiplayer functionality isn’t available, making this dated arcade port lose some of its appeal.


Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island is an almost impeccable port of one of the finest platform titles of all time. It’s easy to recommend due to its terrific level design, vibrant visuals and impressive level of content. It also offers a distinct variation in the Super Mario series, an entirely different kind of gameplay experience owed to the unique characteristics of Yoshi himself. The only minor issues are a result of the porting process, meaning that the experience isn’t quite as perfect as on Super Nintendo. It’s mighty close, however, and a memorable handheld platformer that should be experienced by all fans of Mario’s loveable sidekick.

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User Comments (63)



Wheels2050 said:

I've got Yoshi's Island on the SNES, and to this day it remains one of the best, most polished game experiences I've had in my 20-odd years of gaming.

You 3DS ambassadors who haven't experienced Yoshi's Island are a lucky bunch - you're in for a treat!



Link79 said:

This is almost better in a way than the Snes version.
It's got a whole extra set of bonus stages too not found on snes.
I recently cleared the whole thing 100%. It was exausting but I made it through.



Ducutzu said:

I also own the SNES cartridge for the game, and this looks almost identical. In my opinion, this game looks better than its DS version, in which some backgrounds were removed.



Gameday said:

i member playing this in a store like Sears or something was on it for awhile lol people were watching. Oh the golden days ;p was pretty fun so im not surprised about it score in the least.



Rensch said:

Is it ever coming to VC? For now I'm glad I got the GBA cartridge.



chewytapeworm said:

The best of the ambassador games, replaying this was a huge nostalgia trip for me. It's taking me forever though, as I always end up playing the original Mario Bros game before actually getting to Yoshi's Island, and I LOVE the original Mario Bros. If the co-op version worked with another 3ds, I probably wouldn't have even touched Yoshi's Island

@Rensch Don't think so, else they'd have released it by now. Was my biggest VC gripe, that.



Mk_II said:

it is and will probably always remain my favourite Miyamoto platformer



Corbs said:

It's not Super Mario World, but it's right up there with it. Great port too. Awesome review Thomas!



Bass_X0 said:

I always thought that Yoshi's Island was superior to Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3



TKOWL said:

I'd personally give it a 10, but Yoshi's obnoxious voice acting they added in the port and the less-quality soundtrack knocks it down by a point



Jfilesguy said:

Wha? Why this no get 10?
Eh, I'll deal with it, and the screen sise, wile not game breaking, makes me wish I had a working SNES.



6ch6ris6 said:

this game is really good. but i dont really like it that much, because i hate to watch out for this stupid baby -.-



NintyMan said:

I admit, but when I first played this on the 3DS, I thought it looked too blurry. However, as I played it more later, I got used to it and now it's just as fun to play as it was on the GBA and the SNES.

Yoshi's Island is a fun, creative platformer that is so colorful and clever that it does a fine job of being as good as the mainstream Mario platformers. The music is cheerful unless you're in a castle or boss fight when it gets tense. The final boss battle is one of the most memorable ever and the credits music is so heartwarming that it makes you want to weep. Not to mention that those monkeys in the jungle world are some of the biggest jerks on Yoshi's Island.



Kirk said:

The SNES original is a 10 easily but I can see how this version only deserves a 9 with some of it's issues.



Gavin_Rozee said:

I've had it since it launched on GBA, and also the Ambassador version. I've always thought it was an okay game but never understood all the praise it gets. It's one of my least favourite Mario platformers. That doesn't mean I think it's a bad game though. I'd give it a 7.



Sam_Loser2 said:

I never played the original so I don't really get it when people say it's better because I absolutely loved this one! I got a perfect score on every level on the original cart, and look forward to repeating the feat with the ambassador program. I also think it's worth mentioning that this one includes 6 levels the original didn't.



joevox316 said:

My sister had the original for the SNES. Much like her copy of Uniracers, she would occasionally grant me the boon of playing it haha I remember thinking it was neat then, and love the fact that I got it for free for my 3DS now.
@Sam_Loser2 It's possible it's nostalgia. For me, nothing can beat my memories of playing it on a TV in the 90s when I was a kid. It's just different on a tiny screen.
@Gavin_Rozee You're problem might be thinking of it as a Mario platformer instead of a Yoshi platformer.



StarBoy91 said:

Good review, Thomas.
I always loved Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island more than Super Mario World, regardless of whether it was the SNES original or the GBA version. To me it's a very charming game with lots of personality, good intuitive gameplay, fun enemies and bosses to encounter, memorable and fun stage designs, and great visuals (yeah, the GBA version has a lighter color palette than the SNES game did, but it still looks good) and music (yeah, the GBA usually doesn't have high quality sound when it comes to ports of SNES games, but I feel Nintendo pulled it off quite decently here). I always have fun playing it, and I think it's really aged well. Hands down, my favorite 2D Mario and Yoshi game out there.



AbuJaffer said:

I didn't enjoy this game; as much as I expected.

The game's controls feel clunky, the level design feel... off (not Nintendo standards, especially coming off of Fusion and in comparison with other Mario games), and as a platformer enthusiast the platforming sections just didn't do well in my scrutinizing inspection of the game. Also, people's cries of "PLEEZ NINTY BRING DIZ GAIM INSTED IT BEST GAIM EVA!!11!" whenever I mentioned SMW rose my expectations really high, which made it so this game did nothing but disappoint, especially in comparison with SMW.



Kyloctopus said:

I love the DS one a little more. Probably because you can switch babies. To be honest, I play this game for Mario Bros, because it was my first GBA game I ever played. On SMA2.
@Abujafer. This game doesn't feel broken. It feels loose and unique. Although it is not the most hardcore Mario title at times.



k8sMum said:

we loved this one on the snes, except we'd play it with the sound turned way down to keep from having to hear that baby crying all the time. used to drive me mental!



LordJumpMad said:

IGN gave this a 10
but that was the year it came out...

I still have Yoshi Island for the GBA and it still stands as the best Yoshi game ever made.
I love this game, and I don't say that alot about a Nintendo game.
Now I'm happy to be able to play this on my 3DS and find all the easter eggs again.

The DS Yoshi lsland was awful, I'm glad you people can play yoshi lsland the right way.



ennan said:

Although the graphics of the snes version are better (for example the "touch fuzzy get dizzy" effect) I really appreciate having a portable version of one of my favourite games ever. It was the first ambassador game I chose to play and the first one I completed. I've loved this game for years. It's pretty much perfect.



alvieao said:

Yoshi’s Island was quite a departure from Super Mario World, but it’s still a charming platformer. The game has brilliant level design, as there’s much exploration in each stage regarding secrets. It’s also a challenge when collecting red coins, flowers and stars; getting a perfect score takes skill and patience. Well, that and avoiding the cries of Baby Mario. The GBA version of Yoshi’s Island still plays well, and the graphics and music are fantastic; there’s even bonus stages not seen in the SNES game. Like other Mario Advance games, Mario Bros. is included and there’s voice samples (Yoshi’s voice is taken from Yoshi’s Story. Ooh boy!). It’s a huge treat when Nintendo included this game in the 3DS Ambassador program; Yoshi’s Island remains a classic Nintendo masterpiece! Yoshi's Island DS isn't quite as great as the original, for I found the sequel more frustrating than fun.



Geonjaha said:

Seriously? You knocked a point off one of the greated games of all time just because of some minor porting issues? Dont be scared to give great games a 10, it just means more comparison is possible.

@9 No, its not Super Mario World - it's actually better.



Expa0 said:

I've always found this game rather overrated. 5,4 / 10 at most, a bit above average.



grumblebuzzz said:

Yoshi's Island DS wasn't awful, it just just a little too faithful to the source material. I really hope that a 3DS version developed by Nintendo makes its way into the world someday.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Great game! But SHOCKINGLY hard! Beating the levels isn't so tough...but 100%ing them? For such a cute game, it sure makes me curse a lot.



RevolverLink said:

Yoshi's Island shares a similar trait with most of the better Kirby games. Sure, you can just play to reach the goal and you'll have a blast doing it; but if you want to 100% every level, the game becomes a totally different animal.

A cruel, harsh, unfeeling animal.



Radixxs said:

I remember getting this game for my GBA when I was pretty young, and I was blown away. I loved this game. I loved Yoshi's Island DS as well. These games are better than any of the Super Mario 2D platformers IMO, and I can only hope another is developed for the 3DS/Wii U.



MetalMario said:

Absolutely love this game. I hope they make another sequel sometime in the future for 3DS.



CanisWolfred said:

Yeah, this was a pretty good one, and it's tougher than it looks, but gives you lots of lives early on so you don't have to worry about Game-overs until later in the game.



Doma said:

Same for me.. the first game i got for the system (when i was about 10) and lasted me for ages.

Amazing game, almost manages to top SMB3 as the best platformer ever made - SMB3>SMW2>SMW.



shonenjump86 said:

I had alot of of fun with this game on the GBA. Glad to have it on my 3DS. I could never really get into Yoshi Island DS though.



sinalefa said:

I haven't tried my Ambassador version but this game is awesome. The boss battles are particularly creative and fun. Think about it: Raphael the Raven's uses the Galaxy concept of circling a planet, back in 95!

The "Super Mario World 2" tag only drew unnecessary comparisons, as this game is really different and very good in its own right.



SomeBitTripFan said:

I just cant get into this game. It has great level design, charming visuals, and plenty of content. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!



potomas said:

It's a great game and all,but i think this is my least favourite nintendo platformer.



alLabouTandroiD said:

First thing's first: Amazing review, Thomas ! It's outstanding that you went into the details that much. Kudos, kudos, kudos !
Can't say much about the game yet since i never owned a copy so far. But from the few bits i played at supermarkets back in the day i have to say that this is one of the very best, if not the best oddball game ever made. Just looking at it is a pure joy. It's because of games like this that i love Nintendo so much. Thanks for making this an Ambassador game. I hope it will be available to every 3DS owner in the near future.



AutumnShantel said:

@SomeBitTripFan: I've done that with a couple games; I think everything about them is amazing and I just can't get into it. It's crazy! I don't think there's anything wrong with you.



Burning_Spear said:

I downloaded this because I'm a Mario Bros. fanatic and I was hoping the Mario Bros. game was the arcade version, which it is not. (Closer than the Wii VC version though, graphics aside.) But after I tried Yoshi's Island, Mario Kart 7, Zen Pinball and all my other games dropped off of the radar. This is an amazing game!



Henmii said:

A real shame that this never got released on Wii virtual console! Yoshi's island is one of the best sidescrolling platformers ever made!

And a pity that this version doesn't have the "Fuzzy" levels!



Henmii said:

I always heard they where removed because the gba couldn't handle the effect, but I watched a youtube movie and yes you are right: They have not removed them! Though the effect is better in the original Snes version!



Urbanhispanic said:

This was one of many SNES games that I played to death. It's worth beating it with the 100% rating because of the extra stuff you unlock (stages, mini games, different intro screen and music.)

For those of you who never played it before, please do it quickly.



Bubbab5 said:

@nintendo1999 you have the exact avatar as Armitirtle
Now back on topic I played this game about half the day every day it was.the coolwest game to me when I was 7 to 8 and even now I love it.



MachineLaw said:

I was playing Yoshi Island the other day on my SNES and I was just thinking how awesome it will look on a 3DS screen since there are sometimes objects like branches and leaves on the foreground that makes the game look even better.



UnseatingKDawg said:

I got this for GBA. Still have it today. And freaked when I saw it was coming to my 3DS, for free no less! Nintendo made a couple bad choices with the Ambassador games, but this was golden.



Koopatroopa64 said:

This games had possibly one of the biggest impacts a game has ever given to me. It remains as my second favorite game OF ALL TIME! My first being Loz Majora's Mask. The soundtrack in Yoshis Island was absolutly incredible and every time I play I get the warm childhood feeling I got o so many years ago.aaah glad to be back =)

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