The first game for the Super Famicom and still a classic to this day; Super Mario World is well regarded and considered the best Mario game ever by many folks. We're going to explore this game in pretty good detail, let's begin!
welcome to dino land
A simple beginning to an epic game.

After the incredible success of the Super Mario Bros series on the Famicom, launching the Super Famicom in 1990 with Super Mario Bros 4 was a no brainer, and that's exactly what Nintendo did with Super Mario World. Dropping the "Bros" moniker in Europe and America, it was still officially named Super Mario World: Super Mario Bros. 4 over in Japan. Selling over 20 million copies (largely thanks to being a pack-in for a very popular console), it's one of the most successful games of all time. It topped out at #24 on the all time top sellers list of video games and outsold Super Mario Bros 3 by 2.6 million copies.

Shigeru Miyamoto
Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario and many more wonderful things

Shigeru Miyamoto has stated Super Mario World is his favorite Mario game. It took him and a team of 15 people three years to create it, and it shows. On the surface Super Mario World looks and plays very much like Super Mario Bros 3. But the differences are in the details, of which there are many in Super Mario World. The game houses a plethora of secrets, new enemies and game play mechanics. There's a certain love and passion in this game that few others can match, but sometimes you need to dig a bit to find it.

Super Famicom cart of Super Mario World
Super Mario World Super Famicom cartridge

the basics

After saving the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Bros 3, Mario, Luigi and Peach head to Dinosaur Island for a little vacation. It's not long after that Peach goes missing, and Luigi and Mario meet a strange dinosaur named Yoshi who tells them of bad happenings in the land. Bowser is imprisoning the Yoshies and is trying to conquer the land, and surely has something to do with Peach's disappearance. Mario is yet again summoned to save the day.

Super Mario World is a very standard Mario platformer. It's up to Mario to work his way through the levels, stomping enemies and gathering coins and items.

Standard Mario gameplay we all know and love

Much like Super Mario Bros 3, there is an overworld map showing the world of Dinosaur Land.

overworld map
Starting out in Dinosaur Land
Except unlike the previous game, this overworld map is more lush and inviting. It looks more like an actual world with secrets to explore, where as Mario 3's overworld map looks more like a boardgame.

Super Mario World in many ways is a simpler game than its predecessor. I like Super Mario Bros 3 a lot (and miss some of its cool features), but in the end I do feel that Super Mario World is the better game. It has more personality, and more importantly, better platforming, which at the end of the day is what a Mario game is all about.


Mario games have lots of different items and power ups, and Super Mario World is no exception. All the suits that were introduced in Super Mario Bros 3 are gone, instead we simply have the standard mushroom, fire flower and a new feather. Not to mention Yoshi. The decrease in power ups can be seen as a negative, but both the feather and Yoshi are used very creatively and prove to be defining elements of the game.

super mario bros 3 suits
Awesome suits and shoe thing of SMB3, we miss you...
Throughout the game, the player never really needs any power up to proceed, but they are essential in either discovering secrets, or accessing certain parts of the game quicker. The power ups give nice variety to the casual player, but give the hardcore something interesting to work with.

Finding Secrets

Here is a good example of using the cape to access secret stuff. Notice the game gives no indication anything is up above, but it doesn't take long for players to start exploring the skies of most levels. Persistent players are often rewarded

Using the cape to get to the secret exit in Donut Plains Ghost House

Either the cape or some form of Yoshi are usually needed to find secrets, as we'll talk about more later on in the secrets section.

Item Breakdown

Let's take a closer look at some of the items available in the game


There is a little music player hanging out at the bottom of the window. It includes six tracks from various parts of the game.
Koji Kondo, composer of Mario music
Koji Kondo has composed many well known tunes for Nintendo games

We can't talk about Super Mario World without considering its music. The Super Famicom was a flying leap forward in audio quality from its predecessors and most of its competition. The Sega Megadrive and NEC PC Engine both launched before it, and in both cases more attention was paid to improving the graphics and overall power of the system, and sound capabilities were only modestly improved over previous generation consoles. Of the 16 bit generation, only SNK's Neo Geo could really complete with the Super Famicom in this department. letting the world know of this rich sound was an important task left to Super Mario World and its composer, Koji Kondo, at which they greatly succeeded.

Koji Kondo

Koji Kondo shares a similar footing to Shigeru Miyamoto in making the Nintendo universe memorable. He composed all the music for the Super Mario Bros games, as well as the music for Legend of Zelda, Punch Out!, Star Fox and many more. Mr. Kondo did not disappoint us with his music for Super Mario World, which is whimsical, fun, and simply a joy to listen to. The underground theme is one of my all time favorite video game tracks.

Tied Together

The four main background tunes (the first four in the music player) all share a common theme and melody. Each one being a slight variation on this melody. This common thread is pretty subtly done, it takes a while to start noticing it. It's a nice detail and helps make the music and game world more cohesive.

A Yoshi Touch

A nice touch to most of the background music in Super Mario World involves riding on Yoshi. Whenever Mario is riding atop Yoshi, bongo drums get added to the music. You can hear the bongos in the second verse of the first four music tracks in the player down below.

Steel Drums

The above ground theme prominently features a steel drum. This instrument has gone on to be a common theme in Mario music, especially in Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube and in beach themed tracks in the various Mario Karts. I can't help but think of Mario whenever I hear a steel drum being played.

The Classic Super Mario Bros Theme

It's in the game, but boy is it buried. To hear it, you'll need to unlock the Special map in the middle of Star Road. Once you're up there, the background music contains the classic theme. You need to wait a bit though, there is a pretty long intro. To hear it now, just pick the "special map" song from the music player down below.


Taking place in Dinosaur Land means Super Mario World contains a large variety of new and interesting enemies. Most of the old classics returned (although goombas are a bit different), and there are many new faces to get to know too.

Koopa Troopas

Koopa from the first Super Mario Bros
Good ol' Koopa has really come into his own in the Mario universe. This wasn't always the case, in the NES games the koopa troopa was just a standard enemy who didn't really stand out much from all the other enemies in the game. With Super Mario World, Koopa really began to gain a personality and some depth.

koopa in Mario Kart 8
Koopa in the just released Mario Kart 8 (2014)

The creators were sure to let the player know right away that koopas are badass in the game. The very first thing Mario encounters at the beginning of the game is a Koopa sliding down a hill coming after him. A nice added touch that clues the player in that they are about to embark on a really neat game.

The first koopa Mario encounters in the game, already letting him know they mean business

Koopas in Super Mario World do so many different cool things, they warranted their own callout section ...


Yellow levels have no secret exits, where as red ones have a secret exit and thus two exits in total
In order to beat the game, the player needs to work their way through a minimum of 35 levels. In total there are 73 levels for the completist to find and master. But really, when talking about completing Super Mario World, the unit of measure is exits. Each level has either 1 or 2 exits, and the overworld map denotes that with either a yellow or red dot.

An exit will either be the standard goal pole, or a keyhole which denotes a secret exit.

Mario finds an early keyhole exit in Donut Plains 1

Sometimes secret exits are also goal poles, like this exit in Cheese Bridge Area

Yoshi gets sent to his doom just so Mario can push on. What a jerk.

The game awards you with a gold star for finding all 96 exits
There are 96 exits throughout the game, and fully beating the game means finding them all. The save file for the game keeps track of how many exits you've found so far. Once you get all 96 exits, a star is added to your save file.

Soda Lake
One thing I find interesting about Super Mario World is the levels tend to focus very tightly on one theme. For example Soda Lake is a level made up entirely of Torpedo Teds. I'm not sure if this was a stylistic or technical choice, as later Mario platformers tend to add much more variety within levels.

Exploring the Many Levels

But Super Mario World is definitely not lacking variety when looking across the various levels. Dinosaur Land offers all kinds of different places to explore.

ghost houses

Eeries: a new ghost type
Although Boos first showed up in Super Mario Bros 3, it wasn't until Super Mario World that they had a proper home. Originally called haunted houses, ghost houses have gone on to be a staple in the Mario universe.

Ghost houses are where Super Mario World becomes more puzzlish and exploration oriented. Secret exits are common in ghost houses, and even finding the normal exit is usually not straightforward. P-Blocks are commonly used in ghost houses to reveal secret doors.

A P-Block leading to a secret door

The ghost houses in Super Mario World are certainly simpler than in later games. Figuring them out usually doesn't take too much effort. Although the final ghost house in Bowser Valley has one of the most cleverly hidden exits in the entire game

A neat combination of P-Blocks and coin snakes in the final ghost house of the game

An interesting secret in Donut Secret Ghost House is the Big Boo Boss. He is found guarding the house's secret exit. He's not very difficult to beat like all the bosses in the game, but he is a fun little bonus.

The Big Boo Boss

The Sunken Ghost Ship

The sunken ghost ship on the overworld map
The sunken ghost ship on the map
The path to Bowser's Valley leads through a sunken ghost ship. Which is an interesting nod to the airships of Super Mario Bros 3. It's not exactly a ghost house, but the second section of the level prominently features Boos and Eeries.
Mario navigates through the Boos of the sunken ghost ship


Shigefumi Hino
Shigefumi Hino, lead artist for Super Mario World and creator of Yoshi
Shigefumi Hino joined Nintendo just as Super Mario Bros 3 was wrapping up. His first assignment was lead artist on Super Mario World. He was responsible for most of the art and design in the game, and thus he has the honor of having invented Yoshi. Hino went on to do the design and artwork for Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island as well as Yoshi's Story on the Nintendo 64. So he has definitely had a strong hand in shaping Yoshi and his world. More recently Hino has been the lead designer behind the Pikmin series.

Yoshis Island screenshot
Yoshi as he appears in Super Mario World's fantastic sequel Yoshi's Island
Miyamoto always wanted Mario to be able to ride a dinosaur in the Mario games, but Nintendo didn't feel it was technically possible until the Super Famicom.

It wasn't until Yoshi's Island in 1996 that Yoshi's character and back story really unfolded. Here he gained his now distinct floaty jump and his ability to throw eggs at enemies. The Yoshi's Island series has gone on to two sequels, one being Yoshi's New island which just came out for the 3DS.

Yoshi has succeeded in winning everyone's hearts, and has been a staple character in the Nintendo universe ever since.

yoshi in Mario Kart 8
Yoshi in the just released Mario Kart 8 (2014)

birds at Yoshi's house
The four birds atop Yoshi's house represent each color Yoshi
But even in his simpler form in Super Mario World, Yoshi is much more than just a diversion or added spice, he really changes how the game is played and what Mario can access. Some secrets in the game are obtainable either with the cape or a flying Yoshi. This interesting dynamic plays back and forth throughout the game, with the cape usually easier to obtain, but a flying Yoshi easier to control.


In standard Mario fashion, Bowser is the ultimate bad guy in Super Mario World. Also making an appearance are the Koopalings, who first debuted in Super Mario Bros 3. They are back in Super Mario World largely filling the same role: serving as the bosses of the various castles found throughout Dinosaur Land.

Mario takes on Wendy, the most interesting Koopaling boss in the game
Mario destroys Morton Koopa's castle after having destroyed Morton Koopa

If I had any complaint against Super Mario World, it would be the bosses. They are just too easy and often a little bland. But to be fair, this is often the case in Mario games. Mario platformers are more about exploring and platforming, not taking on nasty boss battles. Even still, no boss in Super Mario World presents any kind of challenge, even Bowser himself. At least Bowser could have been a bit tougher.

Bowser's, er, somewhat dramatic entrance

Bowser works his way through three phases as you fight him. Miyamoto has always been fond of the number three when it comes to bosses. He has said if you can hit a boss three times, then the player has learned enough to consider the boss conquered. As expected, Bowser's defeat leads to Peach's rescue

thank you from the princess
Luigi gets snubbed ... again

and the game is concluded ...

The Yoshies are saved, and everyone rejoices


But beating the game is not the real joy of Super Mario World. Finding all the secrets is.

Super Mario World is loaded with secrets, and they are well crafted. The secrets always operate within the constraints of the game, and never overly fool the player. Hints of things to come can be seen on the very first level

yellow box missing in level one

Soon after that you discover the first yellow switch palace, and immediately the game plants the notion of secrets in the player's mind

Mario solidifies all yellow blocks throughout Dinosaur Land

Upon returning to the level, the blocks are now present

yellow block present in level one

Switch palaces are one major flavor of secret, and the other flavor is keys and keyholes. They go hand in hand, as unlocking certain color switches usually leads to keyholes. Although more advanced players can often find ways to access these areas without activating the switches.

Having found the red switch, the red blocks appear to help Mario to a keyhole

Unlocked keyholes lead to secret exits from levels, sending Mario on all new paths and entire worlds to explore.

Star World

Star World
Star World map
Five secret exits in levels lead Mario to Star World. Star World is where a lot of the flavor and style of Super Mario World come from: teleportation, baby Yoshies, different colored Yoshies and ultimately Special World. Yet Star World is completely optional. Star World entrances need to be found on the main map. Upon arriving at Star World, Mario can only access one level. Leaving the normal exit for that level doesn't unlock anything (except an additional exit counted for the player), instead Mario must find the secret exit to the level to progress to the next Star World level. None of the secret exits are hard to find though. Once Mario unlocks additional levels in Star World, he can use Star World to teleport to different places in the main map, a handy way to get around.

Special World

Special World
Special World map
Once the player has unlocked the final Star World level and all of the switch palaces, they can then access Special World from the final Star World level. More experienced players can access this level without all switches activated through clever cape maneuvering.
Mario heading into Special World

Autumn overworld map
The Autumn themed overworld
Special World contains 8 more levels for Mario to work through, and they are the most difficult and experimental in the game. Although even still, with a feather in hand they usually aren't all that difficult. I do find Tubular to be a tough one regardless, and consider it the hardest level in the game. Once Mario beats all 8 Special World levels, he is awarded with an Autumn themed overworld map.

Autumn Enemies

In addition to the Autumn overworld map, four enemies get a new look. They just look different, no gameplay changes come with this bonus
mask koopa
becomes Mask Koopa
para koopa
Para Koopa
para mask koopa
becomes Para Mask Koopa
flying piranha plant
Piranha Plant
pumpkin plant
becomes Pumpkin Plant
bullet bill
Bullet Bill
pidgit bill
becomes Pidgit Bill


And with that we're going to wrap up this exploration of Super Mario World. We hope you enjoyed reading it and had a nice burst of nostalgia.

Thank You!

Before going I want to thank Timby over at Mario Mayhem for letting me use his music files. Also thanks to Bryan for his input, and my wife Sarah for putting up with the creation of this monster. I also want to thank GitHub for hosting this monster :)

good bye

See you next time!