What is the best 16-bit Mario game?

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by: Hairball

For those of a certain age, Nintendo's only 16-bit console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, better known as the Super NES or SNES, is one of the most iconic video game systems.

Super NES Classic Edition which features many of the greatest Mario games
Super NES Classic Edition which features many of the greatest Mario games

The SNES was a fairly significant upgrade over the NES, featuring glorious "Mode 7" graphics, that allows for rotating backgrounds to create more sophisticated worlds and also pseudo-3D environments.

There were quite a few Mario games in the 16-bit era of the 1990s, including big titles such as Super Mario Kart, Super Mario All-Stars (an enhanced remake of the NES Mario games), Super Mario RPG and Yoshi's Island (arguably more of a Yoshi game than a Mario game).

Now, what is the best 16-bit Mario game? To this day, I would still consider Super Mario World the best of the 16-bit era.

Super Mario World is the best 16-bit Mario game

There are numerous reasons why it continues to live on, but just looking at it holistically - Super Mario World has been re-released over and over (most recently on the SNES Classic and Nintendo Switch Online), and it's one of the most popular game styles for Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2. This game continues to withstand the test of time.

Super Mario World has some of the best in-game sprites (character art), it's been over 20 years since the original release and you'll still see these sprites on websites and shared in animated GIFs online - it's a game that is remarkably still relevant.

For the era the game was released in, It's a remarkable adventure, with 96 exits to complete. There is a great deal to explore throughout the unique environments that Mario travels through.

Mario is introduced to a new power-up - the Cape Feather that allows him to take to the skies. There are some similarities to the Tanooki Leaf in Super Mario Bros. 3, but the Cape lets Mario unlimited distances, which changes the game significantly. It's also a lot more fun flying with Cape Mario!

We also got a new sidekick - Yoshi and his insatiable appetite and fear of ghost houses and castles. Another great addition is the "Special World" which is like a bonus area that is a bit of a "post-game" that you can challenge yourself after beating Bowser. The levels in the Special World are much more difficult that the rest of the game, requiring you to put your platforming skills to the test.

In SMW, we also got introduced to new Koopa shell mechanics. In earlier games, Koopa Troopas only came in Red and Green. Red Koopas were a little smarter and don't fall off cliffs like the Green ones. When Yoshi eats different coloured Koopa shells, there are different abilities as well! Red lets him breathe out fireballs, Blue lets him fly and Yellow releases a type of deadly smoke that'll kill nearby enemies.

Super Mario World is a game that just plays really well. It feels almost ageless, it's not just a primitive pixely type game with beeps and boops for audio, there's nice cartoonish graphics with decent music, but on the other hand it isn't overly fancy nor too well developed compared to modern day games.

There's a lot to love about Super Mario World, and this is why there is little doubt that it is the best Mario game of the 16-bit era. Even in 2019, it remains one of the best Mario games of all time.


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