The Games That Made Us Gamers: Super Mario World

“The Games That Made Us Gamers” is a series of special-edition retrospectives running throughout the week of this year’s Celebration of Games. The BnB team and fellow guest contributors are sharing their origin stories as they look back and remember the interactive experiences that turned them to the world of joysticks and keyboards.

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The Game That Started It All…

Adversity. The state, condition or instance of continued difficulty or bad fortune.  This is the word that my mind conjures up when I think of Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.  And this isn’t a bad thing.  In fact, this very aspect is what made this particular title the “game that made me”.  Super Mario World holds a magical quality, which, despite it not being my favourite game (or probably even in my top 10 for that matter), is the reason why I fell in love with gaming.  Although a journey in itself, this is the game that set me on the path to videogame adoration.

The gateway to gaming bliss.

Put on those rose-tinted glasses and think back to the early 1990s.  It was one fateful Christmas morning that my brother and I opened a rather large present containing a strange-looking device and a few now-classic titles.  Among them was Super Mario World.  For the first few weeks, my brother and I spent most of our time either battling the Foot Clan in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time or firing off red shells in Super Mario KartSuper Mario World was never a game that immediately caught my attention, which is strange given that it is a quality title.  Perhaps I was too young to realise this, but needless to say, when games were extortionately priced and pocket money couldn’t feasibly cover the cost, Super Mario World found its way into my SNES console more out of necessity than through choice.

Jumping for Joy

There’s a good possibility that said necessity was, in fact, fate or some other pre-determined force, because Super Mario World quickly grew on me.  What starts as a relatively simple game turns into a fairly tricky platformer by the time you’re facing King Bowser on the top of the castle.

There’s no denying that Super Mario World isn’t a revolutionary title – it is essentially Super Mario Bros. 3 Mk II with a lick of new paint and a dinosaur that Mario can ride.  Sure, it introduced a lot of new features, and built upon previous ones, but to call it groundbreaking would be an overstatement.  However, I had never experienced videogames before this time and so I had nothing to compare Super Mario World against.

Castles and fortresses presented a rather claustrophobic challenge.

I suppose Super Mario World was the first thing that truly highlighted the concept of failure for me.  When you’re a child, it’s not really a term you’re entirely familiar with, especially when life is free of the complications and stresses we now face in our adult lives.  But Super Mario World taught me about life and death (albeit in a rather subtle, cartoonish way) and that life sometimes isn’t fair (that, or I really needed to time my jumps better).  Super Mario World was the first game that did what I love about games: present me with a challenge.

It was key in shaping my gaming tastes.  Although there are plenty of games that I love to play for the story, I’ve always been the sort of gamer that much prefers a hefty amount of gameplay over subplots and cool characters.  Super Mario World was the perfect gameplay cocktail – it wasn’t an unfair mess like many of the games from the period, but it did require persistence and a bit of learning if you wanted to complete it.  The tricky levels, such as the Sunken Ghost Ship, are what prepared me for the relentless hardship of Halo: Combat Evolved on Legendary difficulty in years to come (a challenge which I relished).  The drive to beat every single level was still there in my attempt (with the help of a good friend) to obtain all forty-four entry passes in Konami’s Mystical Ninja 2 Starring Goemon.

We all play games for fun and enjoyment, but, ultimately, the purpose of playing most games is to win.  Super Mario World was the first game that made me think, “I have to beat this game, I have to win”.  There are many games in my collection that sit on the shelf unfinished and collecting dust.  But more often than not, this is down to the eventual boredom that rears its ugly head, insane or unfair difficulty, or another game coming along and stealing my attention.  So while the challenge that Super Mario World presented is a key factor in the beginning of my love relationship with videogames, there’s more to it than that.

The Next Level

Super Mario World’s varying stages of difficulty were accompanied by superb controls and fun gameplay that kept me playing level after level.  Was my playthrough fueled by the insatiable urge to rescue Princess Toadstool after she had been kidnapped at the beginning of Super Mario World’s gripping storyline? (Hint: it really wasn’t.) Of course not, and it’s very simple why even today I keep coming back to Super Mario World time and time again: it’s fun.

An impressive game world, even by today's standards.

Back in 1990, Nintendo delivered one of the most well-crafted pieces of software it has ever made.  Super Mario World was proof of a near-perfect videogame (even I’m baffled that it doesn’t feature in my top 10) and proved to me how much depth and enjoyment could be had with something that was dismissed by most as a waste of time.  Traveling through the Donut Plains and avoiding dinosaur-inspired enemies on Chocolate Island were memorable gaming experiences not only because they were among my first, but because they evoked so much personality and character.  Flawless level design, not to mention that rewarding feeling when stumbling upon a secret area, contributed a great deal towards hooking me on videogames for life.

It was hard to imagine back then that videogames would get much more sophisticated or fun, but amazingly enough, Super Mario World was only the beginning for me.  It secured my trust in an area of interest that had long been vilified and stigmatised by those that cannot understand it.  Essentially, it proved that videogames were anything but a waste of time.  With each game that followed, my skills were tested once more, and each time I successfully finished or won at a game I still had that great feeling of satisfaction in seeing a job well done.  Were it not for the adversity that I faced in Nintendo’s masterpiece from roughly twenty years ago, I doubt I’d be here writing about this right now.  It crafted my tastes, earned my interest and gave me the basis for doing what I love doing best: rising to a challenge.

Super Mario World is the game that not only made me a gamer, but the game that also helped me to learn a little bit more about myself.

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One Response to “The Games That Made Us Gamers: Super Mario World”
  1. Gregg B says:

    Excellent piece Martin, I too am a huge fan of Super Mario World, even after playing Super Mario Bros. 3 several years before! It’s a great, great title and up their with the finest platformers ever. I loved the instruction manual that came with SMW as well. Full of life and colour and, y’know, actual help and instructions.

    Not sure whether you saw it but I did a post on Jason ‘XOC’ Cox’s superb renditions of the entire Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3 soundtracks over at Tap some months ago. As a fan of SMW you really ought to check it out, you might just melt.

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