The Super Nintendo entertainment system was released in the early fall of 1991. The price tag was steep at $200.00, which would be closer to $400.00 today when accounting for inflation. To the surprise of no one, it was a hit. Six years earlier, the original Nintendo Entertainment System had dominated the US market, creating anticipation for the SNES arrival. Similar to those searching for a PS5, the SNES was the victim of a supply/demand economy, with demand being high and supply dangerously low. Fast forward to the following year, with the holidays of 1992 looming and new SNES games releasing, distributors found themselves in an eerily similar situation. It’s fair to assume every letter to the jolly man at the North Pole was an inquiry to his ability to secure them a SNES. Coming in at a very close second was a game that had the same availability as the system it was tied to, Super Mario World.
My sister and I anxiously tiptoed down the stairs, as we had been eagerly waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus since December 25th of the previous year. We were 4 and 7, with my sister being the senior, respectively, and Christmas was subjectively our favorite day of the year. Aside from the boxes of Barbies, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures, our mutual interest was in the wrapped box nestled towards the back of the tree. We tore away at the wrapping paper as if hidden inside was the holy grail itself, but this was much better, as the SNES would consume our entire Christmas break. Surprisingly enough, the smaller box behind it was unwrapped to show Super Mario World, the game that did not leave the SNES slot for quite some time. The installation was trickier for my father than he chose to let on. But once the start-screen unraveled, there was not a damn thing that could separate my sister and me from those controllers.
Super Mario World was a 2D game that followed a similar trope to all of its predecessors: the evil Bowser has captured the princess, and it is up to Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi to help save her. The land was separated into nine sections with seven linear areas and two bonus areas accessed via hidden passages in the map. The player progressed through by defeating a boss in its respective castle. As Mario or Luigi (being a little brother, I always chose Luigi,) you traverse the land collecting Yoshi Coins and unlocking the various colored switches.
With over 70 levels and certain ones having the ability to take you in different directions on your journey, the onus was on the user to find the right path that led them to their ultimate goal. For my sister and I, this was the first challenge that we faced together while switching off the controller whenever the last player had died. Coming from a time when we acted as any other sibling duo that could barely agree on anything, this was a triumph in itself for us to collaborate so effectively that my parents considered this game a gift from god. It’s also important to acknowledge that this game received Nintendo Power’s highly touted ”Video Game of the Year,’’ and deservedly so.
However, like all great quests, there must be an area of conflict, and we found it while trying to make it through the Forest of Illusion. At this point, there was no google or technological resource to help someone stuck in said game. You had to rely on either another kid in the neighborhood who had completed the game or perhaps a cousin who was willing to relinquish their secrets. Our path was a bit different, as one night, we had snuck downstairs past our bedtime when we heard the game being played by someone else in our house. Someone who had not only beaten the game but was now taking their time going through all the secret areas and bonus levels. We were intrigued, we were perplexed, but most of all, we were delighted to have found the savior that would lead us to our own date with Bowser. We called her mom.
My mother was a few months shy of her 30th birthday when she began playing Super Mario World. She was and still is a bit of an insomniac, so it was no surprise that one night she ventured downstairs to take a look at the game her two children had become so enthralled in. What began as something to possibly tire out her eyes turned into a pursuit of perfection. She was magnificent. Every level was defeated, and she took the time to show us all the secret locations that had evaded us. It was like having the game’s creator next to you explaining every detail. Word got out that our Mom was so adept that even a handful of kids in the neighborhood would come to watch her play. This legacy has continued as she is still very much a ‘’cool’’ mom. But I will never forget the admiration I had watching her play Super Mario World.
There were a couple of games over the years that she had tried to get into. But now that I’m a parent myself, I see how hard it can be to choose game time over family time. Suffice to say that this gaming experience led me to a love of games with similar quests and side missions. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and most recently Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales were definitely up for consideration, but Super Mario World will always be the one that got me into gaming. Some might argue that being my first video game may have too heavy an influence over my choice, but that’s simply not the case here.
My love for this game is because it showed me how difficult something I love could be and that you may find help in the most unexpected place. Ok, it did not hurt that it also made me closer to my sister and mom, but it really is a great game that can still be played today on your Nintendo Switch. As for me, I dust off my old SNES, pull out the same copy that, yes, still works, and plug everything into the last TV that accepts those cords. They say smell is the strongest sense tied to memory, but for me, every time I hear the opening coin sound that leads into this upbeat tune, the world seems less dark, and it makes me want to call my mom.