Out of all the Super Mario games that are memorable to me, it’s pretty much all the Mario games before the Gamecube era with Super Mario Sunshine. Everything from Super Mario 64 and before it have made a much longer lasting impact than any of the more recent games have made, not to say the Galaxy games aren’t good, that the Wii U Mario games aren’t good, but they just don’t have the same staying power that the NES and SNES games have had and that’s not just because they’re older and have had more time to create nostalgic value with me. They’re just better overall games that will stand the test of time better.
Out of all the older games, it was really tough to pick which of those games I’d give the Spotlight treatment to first, but in the end, I picked the one that I actually owned and played on a consistent basis, Super Mario World for the SNES. I never owned an NES so any time I had with the older games was at a friend’s place. I also never owned Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES, so that wasn’t ever an option for me either. So with me also never owning Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, the first SNES classic Mario had nothing but time with me to make an everlasting impression on me as a kid.
I still have fond memories of World 1 with Yoshi’s Island. probably one of my favourite Mario worlds of all time. Even today, it’s still a joy to play through. Other worlds like the Donut Plains, Forest of Illusion and the insane concept of Star World to me as a kid was crazy. A world that I could access through secrets (imagine how blown away I was when I discovered Special World as well!) in various levels, which in turn would sometimes offer secondary paths to the end of the world with new levels, all of the Star World/Special World related stuff blew my mind as a kid. When you’re so used to seeing ahead of time the levels you went to and that was it, the idea of secret paths to finish levels and whole secret worlds was crazy to me.
There was also a ton of cool new content in the games, specifically though with the introduction of Yoshi. Being so used to just vanilla Super Mario with power-ups, the idea of another character in the game that can stack on top of what Mario is running at that point was so cool to me as a kid. Being able to eat enemies, spit some of the Koopa shells out, the red ones becoming a fire breath attack, it was so refreshing and cool to have something else to do in these games, as if the secret levels and the many switches you could activate over the course of the game weren’t enough.
And then there’s the Ghost House levels, Nintendo’s trolls to players and possibly some of the most fun levels the Mario games have ever offered. They were just so different from your normal, average Mario level, there was a bit of a maze-like design to the levels and chalk full of secrets, whether it was pathways, switches, hidden areas, all that jazz. Also the times where there were a ton of Boos and Giant Boos lurking around make the levels even more frantic, the number of times I died from falling or jumping into Boos were quite high.
The castles/fortresses were also really cool, in particular the boss battles, I really enjoyed them especially with the little bit of complexity they had with the ones on the rotating platform where you had to knock them into the lava. A lot of bosses were always “hit them three times and it’s over” but this time it could’ve been a ton of hits before you’d finally win the fight. And the final boss with Bowser is also tremendous…and I sucked at it as a kid. Like really badly. Like…20+ lives in a save file and having to reboot the file several times before I finally beat him. Yeah…
The game has a special place in my heart in terms of nostalgia in video games, just like the NES Super Mario games. But for me (and with a slight bias with it being a game I owned) Super Mario World for the SNES is the game of the series that stands out the most as an overall masterpiece, a legendary game. It took what already made the series great, added Yoshi into the mix which changed the game a ton and then introduced more secrets, more cool level designs and boss fights, it was just a badass game!
Fuckin’ Ghost Houses though, man…I hated those as a kid.