This article is part of our Game of the Week Series. What’s that? Check out the Game of the Week post!
Now I can’t say definitively that this game is better then that game for every particular person. We all have our preferences, and it’s also the reason the writers at Piki Geek get into long discussions on rating systems to help readers decide that game is worth their time. In the end quantifying “fun” is a usually not worth it. However, taking a look at two similar games, you can see how different design decisions changed the experience, and made one game a classic while the other is merely fun. That’s why I think I can say Super Mario World was better than the New Super Mario Bros. sequels.
Aesthetics refer to the visual, art, and its beauty. The Mushroom Kingdom has been shown to be a crazy and varied land, but in Super Mario World we get a similar, but more centrally themed, world of Dinosaur Land.
While each area in Super Mario World has its own theme harkening back to the original Super Mario NES games, they are united by the prehistoric, lost world, dinosaur theme. We get unique enemies, most of which we do not get to see again in any other mario game that represent both the indigenous inhabitants of Dinosaur land the the Koopa invasion forces. And we the the first look at the Yoshis, as they are actually central to the plot. Yoshi provided a nice change up of play style to the regular Mario formula of jumping and using fireballs, and the color yoshi power-up provided some of the coolest abilities seen in mario games.
In contrast, the New Super mario games seem less NEW and more rehashes and nostalgia trips back to previous games. As a whole, the story has been done and redone that it seems the developers really don’t care about giving us a fresh take on the Mushroom Kingdom. Even zones that you can point to as new themes, like the swamps/poison themed levels, do not feel or sound as interesting as the Donut Plains, Vanilla Dome or the Forest of Illusion. The maps of the new games are also a bit too formulaic. All the maps tend to move from left to right, with few deviations and a hint now and again of a secret area. The map in Super Mario world was epic, dynamic, and full of revelations. Trying to discover all those alternative paths is one of the great innovations of the game. while New super mario games attempt to do something similar, they just miss the mark on giving that feeling of exploration.
The New Super Mario games do contain some interesting new power-ups for Mario. Mini-Mushrooms are fun, and the propeller was a brilliant way to give players flying abilities in a multiplayer setting where you want to keep everyone on the same screen. It is unfortunate that their design limitations make them about half as cool as the cape in Super Mario World. The cape’s abilities of flight put the emphasis on making large levels in which you could fly and explore. The added glide control gives those with skill the ability to do stunts and extend the flight time. These elements together give the feeling that they are soaring, that the traditional limits of level boundaries has been temporarily lifted.
As a general rule, games have been getting easier. We have quick saves, checkpoints, and a design philosophy that encourages people to see the whole game as opposed to one that encourages players to stick more quarters in the arcade machine. Super mario World shows the start of this shift, it saves your game and you can reach bowser in more than one way. But for those hardcore, expert players, there was Star Road and the Special Levels. While these were generally above my personal ability to complete, reaching and unlocking the levels felt like a special achievement. For a modern day equivalent of some of those challenges we now need to look to indie games like Super Meat Boy. We used to refer to games as being “Nintendo Hard” and the special levels are a great nod to those roots.
In the end, the New series is great fun, and does the job of bring back great gameplay from the series past, but if you really want a great Mario experience, you have to go back and play the originals, and Super Mario World is a great place to visit!