This be Joe Garcia's blog.
My Twenty Years with SNES and Super Mario World
Today, as you may well know, the Super Nintendo turned 20 years old in North America. Just as importantly to me, this also means that Super Mario World is 20 years old. This means that the internet will be flooded with lists and features covering every aspect of the machine, and I struggled for about 40 minutes to think of something along those lines that I could contribute to the internet. Everyone else will probably do a better job than anything I could have conjured up, though, so instead I’m just going to write something on a much smaller, but much more personal scale.
While it’s far from the best SNES game, or even the best Mario game, anyone who knows me personally can vouch for the fact that no game on this planet means more to me on an emotional level than Super Mario World. It was the first game I played on the system, which my brother and I received as a gift on Christmas of 1992. Before that, my brother had a NES that was all his own, and he pretty much hogged it the entire time to play with his friends — I barely touched it. He also had a Game Boy with Tetris, but the same pretty much applies there.
The SNES, then, was my first real foray into the world of video games, as my mother gave it to us under the condition that I would actually get to play it. It was the first time I ever got to play for an extended period of time, and as a 5-year-old I was confused by all of the extra buttons that were introduced after the super-simplistic NES pad. Over time, my brother bought a bunch of sports games, such as Bulls vs. Blazers and the NBA Playoffs, NCAA Basketball, and NBA Jam, and since he’s ten years older than I am he would handily kick my ass at all of them. Unless I got to play them on my own, I could never enjoy those games.
But Super Mario World was different. From the moment I first booted it up, something about it just felt … natural. I’m not just talking about the near-perfect controls for the game — something about holding that controller with Mario and Yoshi in front of me just clicked in my head, in the most organic way that a gray electronic box attached to my hand via a controller could. Maybe it was the vibrant worlds, or the bouncy music. All I know is that once I started playing it, I couldn’t stop. From simply beating levels came the urge to explore them, which of course led to discovering that many of the levels have more than one exit. Soon after that, nothing else mattered beyond finding each and every one of them.
Eventually I grew familiar enough with the controller that I started to get better at the sports games that my brother bought. He still beat me most of the time, but he no longer wanted to play against me if his friends were over, lest he suffer an embarrassment at the hands of his kid brother. Beyond that, I began to root around for his NES and took ownership of his Game Boy, and just like that I was hooked.
Our SNES ownership was short-lived, however. My brother drifted away from video games to hang out with his high school buddies, and for reasons I can’t quite remember my mom gave away the Super Nintendo to my younger cousin and bought me a Genesis for my birthday in 1995, which came with The Lion King packed in (seriously, look). Soon after, someone would break into my cousin’s house and steal what used to be my console, while I grew more and more attached to Sega’s system, which also happened to be the first video game system I could call 100% my own.
That’s not to say that I don’t love the Super Nintendo dearly; as soon as I started working with my dad and brother in high school, I bought myself another SNES, and I’ve been slowly building up a library of classic games that we never had in our short time together when I was a kid. I have a tremendous appreciation of its library, but most of it was built up by scouring garage sales, used game shops, and eBay. Soon Tecmo Super Bowl became my all-time favorite sports game, an entire decade after its original release. I cherish each and every game of Roger Clemens’ MVP Baseball that I have ever played against my cousin, even though the game is actually pretty crap. I learned that Chrono Trigger and Super Metroid
were are the absolute pinnacles of their respective genres. I’ll also never forget loading up ROMs in my high school computer lab, huddled around a monitor after class to play Super Fire Pro Wrestling X and Super Double Dragon with my friends.
Most importantly, I repurchased Super Mario World and found that it was every bit as magical as the first time I ever laid hands on a SNES pad. At least once a year for the last six, I’ve made it a point to run through all of the game’s exits and it’s still a joy. The worlds are still vibrant, the end credits music makes me happier than just about anything else, and I’ll be damned if the controls aren’t still perfect.
So here’s not only to the Super Nintendo, but to the game that ignited my imagination and pulled me into the greatest medium in all of entertainment.