THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO VIDEO GAMES PART 3: SUPER MARIO WORLD

SUPER MARIO WORLD

Some games age badly. We know this, and interestingly, it seems to be those that overreach themselves when they’re released. Any game that started by selling itself on cutting-edge graphics and new technology tend to be those that are hardest to go back to, as the graphics and tech soon become the norm, then the old, and then the comparatively awful. I suspect this is one of several reasons that World Of Warcraft has lasted as long as it has.

Games with a cartooney aesthetic tend to age quite well, because what looks chirpy and fun at one point still looks chirpy and fun ten years later. Or, to put it more precisely, twenty-five years later, and now I feel really old, because this game and myself aren’t aged too far apart and it’s still doing better than I am when it comes to the ageing process.

Super Mario World, then. Originally for the SNES as a launch title, the classic platforming pioneer found more love from the public than an unregistered assault rifle does from a republican redneck, and the weird thing is that this hasn’t changed. The thing is just gorgeous in its every aspect, it really is the apex of what a 2-D platformer could be. Bright and colourful, endlessly imaginative, with a memorable eight-bit music score that will have you humming along with it long after it’s over, and a bizarre amount of exploration for something that was having to make do without the luxury of a z-axis. Sure, you could ride bareback on that big-nosed dinosaur to the regular exit, if you’re boring and square. All the really hip cats take the flying cape express up to that pipe and on to Star Road. Wait, you don’t know Star Road? Or Special World? Or any of the other dozens of beautifully designed levels that remain hidden long after you’ve completed the game, making it endlessly replayable? Well, guess you’ve got something to occupy your time from now until doomsday.

I realise now it was a little unfair of me to say that games that push the technological boundaries of the time tend to age poorly. Let me be clear, it’s bad news for those that only rely on their swanky graphics and physics engines. Super Mario World was pushing the boundaries of the SNES as far as it could at at the time, and Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario himself, was making as much use of the expanded memory as possible. Yoshi, so iconic to the series for being that loyal and steadfast steed that you would drop like a hot potato if you thought you weren’t going to make that jump, would have been in earlier games if not for the limitations of consoles at the time. But the creation of the SNES allowed Miyamoto to add all the ideas he’d never had room for, and you can see it in the way it plays. Big, bold, beautiful. It could only have been more progressive if it had been marching down a gay pride parade.

Mario as a franchise now comes across as dry and dessicated, all the interesting parts removed to keep it safe and risk-free, meaning other platformers and most games in general have long since surpassed it. But Super Mario World is a joyful reminder of when that fat little plumber earned those stars he’s so famous for, back when he was king and nobody would dare dethrone him. If Nintendo can make a game half as revolutionary and charming as that now, I dare say he could reign again.

Like jumping around 2-D worlds like there’s a jetpack up your arse? Why not give Rayman Legends or Battleblock Theatre a try?

TOMORROW: SANDBOXES AND SUPERHEROES

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