Hard to talk about games for too long without bringing up Mario. This is an enhanced remake of the SNES classic. The most noticeable improvements are widescreen graphics and the ability to swap between Mario and Luigi level by level. The downside is tinny audio, which has always plagued the Game Boy Advance. The SNES soundtrack is clearly better.
Mario 3 teaches us that Nintendo had an interest in making Mario a bigger game, but the horsepower of the NES was lacking. At the same time, Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins served as an example for where the series could go. Mario World borrows the overworld from both games, some method of flying from both games, and the ability to break bricks by spinning on them from Mario Land 2.
The remake in particular is extremely generous. If you have a power-up and take a hit, you’ll retain your size instead of being a small Mario. Also, there are extra lives galore. Dedication will lead you to the conclusion, guide- and walkthrough-free. Still, Mario World has secrets, notably keyholes with matching keys that take you to a secret level. The best of these secrets is Star Road, where you can get things like a blue, red, or yellow Yoshi with special abilities. But Star Road’s main purpose is to provide shortcuts on the overworld.
Looking back, 2D games feel as though they can have infinitely better graphics now than games of yore. Games like Bastion (with graphics drawn on a Wacom Tablet) and Ori and the Blind Forest are proof. Graphics can now be hand drawn. It takes some of the fun away from Mario World’s graphics, which would later be called “sprite-based”. It’s a step above Atari, but doesn’t belong on a 4K television set.
If you own the SNES version, and have a method of dumping SNES ROM files on your computer (see the “Retrode”), there is a world of ROM Hacks out there, legal ways of modifying Mario World to create different games from its source. A novice can get into it – like a novice can get into PC game mods – but there are some expertly crafted levels out there. I assume this is where Nintendo got the idea for Super Mario Maker for Wii U and 3DS. See ROMHacking.net to learn more.
In my mind, this is still a great game, despite the passage of time. The game isn’t as challenging as it could be, but that flaw would be corrected with the sequel, Yoshi’s Island. The last great 2D Mario – that was still about Mario — before Super Mario 64 brought our love of the series to the third dimension.