There are no fewer than four Mario adventures that could easily be listed within the lexicon of the greatest games ever made, and Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System could very easily be considered the best of the best. Much the way that Super Mario Bros. for the NES signaled Nintendo's arrival in the home console market, Super Mario World helped define the 16-bit era, transforming the classic Mario formula into something bigger, brighter, and better. Now Super Mario World is on the Virtual Console for the standard SNES price of 800 Wii points ($8), and if you haven't experienced this game in the past, there's no time like the present to start.
Like the Mario games before it, Super Mario World is a side-scrolling platformer that follows the age-old formula of Mario hopping and bopping his way around a series of worlds to get to the evil Bowser and the kidnapped princess. Much as Super Mario Bros. 3 did, SMW includes a world map to travel around freely. Any beaten stage can be played through again later, which is handy since many of the game's levels include hidden exits, which often unlock secret levels. SMW also introduced the world to Yoshi, the friendly dinosaur who can swallow enemies whole, spit fire, shells, and dust clouds, or even fly, depending on what color turtle shell he swallows. Mario can fly too, thanks to the help of a special cape that lets him glide for significant distances once he gets some air, and he can even do some ill dive-bomb attacks.
The thing that really makes Super Mario World stand out, though, is just how incredibly well crafted an adventure it is. Nothing about the game feels out of place or superfluous, and even though it's not a long game by today's standards, there's so much wacky hidden stuff to dig through that it's hard to imagine anyone just blowing through the game without going back to find everything. The level designs are among some of the best and most challenging the series has ever put forth, and even if you've already found all the hidden stuff, it's still fun to just go back and play through them time and time again.
Even though it was, for all intents and purposes, the first of the SNES games, SMW still stands up as one of the best-looking games on the system, and it's still pleasing to look at after all these years. The graphics are colorful, the animations are cute, and there's a wide variety to the world's scenery. SMW also includes some of the best music the series has ever seen, with supercatchy tunes that permeate every level.
There's not much to find fault with in this emulation of Super Mario World. The game's save system is fully intact, and the game runs about as well as it ever did on the SNES hardware. It might've been nice if Nintendo had found a way to clean up some of the bouts of extreme slowdown that occur when tons of enemies and projectiles pop up on screen, but that is what it is. As with any of the SNES games on the Virtual Console, either the Classic Controller or GameCube controller will work, but the Classic Controller wins out due to having a more SNES-like button layout.
Of course, odds are that many have experienced this game in one way or another over the years, be it with a copy of the original SNES release, or with 2002's fabulous GBA remake. If you own either of those and still have the required systems to play them, this VC version becomes significantly less necessary. However, if you're too young to have played the original game back in the day (or just spent most of the '90s in the era's equivalent of a disco haze) and never got around to picking up the GBA version, there's no excuse not to give Super Mario World a try now.