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Virtual Console Essentials: Super Mario World

As good as it gets...

Has there ever been a better console launch title than this? Obviously there was the marvellous Mario 64 on N64, and you could argue that, while a far lesser game, Wipeout was of similar importance for PlayStation.

However, buying either of those was a conscious, informed choice by the consumer. Alternative launch titles were available for your otherwise naked console.

Super Mario World, on the other hand, came bundled with the SNES. Surely absolutely every person interested in becoming an early adopter of Nintendo's 16-bit machine would have been happy to pay extra cash for a copy of this.

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But it came as part of the package, along with two controllers and a proper video lead. The marketing man who approved this unfathomably generous launch strategy has since been replaced by a jar of angry hornets.

WORTH ITS WAIT IN GOLD

The game was worth waiting for, and more than lived up to its billing. In the years Mario had been away, we'd dallied with other platform heroes - the likes of James Pond and Zool, may they rest in obscurity.

The SNES arrived so late in Europe - a year and a half after its Japanese debut - even Sonic had grabbed a foothold that he never really relinquished.

Sampling the real thing once again was a revelation. The weight of Mario, the solidity of his surroundings, the inventive economy of the level design... It's in a different league. There's simply no flab in Super Mario World. Thanks to the brilliant decision to equip many levels with a second, more difficult, goal, the game expands to accommodate the skill and commitment of even the most dedicated players.

It remains, on the surface, far easier than Mario's earlier NES outings, without ever resorting to levels that are patronisingly free from challenge. Even Mario Galaxy couldn't match this feat - there's a jarring contrast between its early 'admire the scenery, pick up the star' levels and some of the horribly tricky tasks that follow. Super Mario World's difficulty curve is perfect.

Mario has changed immeasurably since this game. New Super Mario Bros doesn't have the level design, and the 3D versions, while classics in their own right, aren't as tight and precise - if you don't land directly on a Goomba's head in a 2D Mario title, it won't be because you misjudged the camera perspective.

No other game in the series has quite matched the sheer joy of playing with Mario World's best powerups. You'll never forget the time you learned to fly with the cape in a sky filled with coins, or when you grew your first Yoshi from an egg. None of the powerups are timed, either - once collected, you can take them into other levels to see what secrets the designers have left for you in otherwise inaccessible areas.

Sadly, we may never see the likes of Super Mario World again. The people who made this, who poured so much energy into it, have long since moved on to other types of game. The creative vision and commercial drive that led us from Super Mario Bros, through Mario 3 and, ultimately, to World, doesn't exist any more.

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If a truly worthy sequel to this came out tomorrow it would probably be something of a niche title, loved by the most devoted Nintendo fans but hardly the systemselling giant its predecessor was. For a while, in the early '90s, Super Mario World was the greatest game anyone had ever seen

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