For some reason, when my dad bought me a Super Nintendo when I was little, we managed to find a store that was bundling Street Fighter II with the SNES instead of Super Mario World. I don’t necessarily regret the way things turned out, but it does mean that I didn’t play World until a year or two after it came out.
I had played all the NES Mario games to that point, and I think SMB3 was my favorite. That game got a lot of love from our panel when we did our list of the best games of all-time, but to me, World takes everything that 3 did and improves on it. More levels, secret exits that produced branching paths, being able to climb fences and punch enemies on the other side — oh, and a vastly superior soundtrack.
Considering that Koji Kondo produced the entire soundtrack on just a keyboard, the results are quite impressive. A familiar melody covers about half the tracks of the game, sped up for certain songs (like Athletic below) and slowed down for tracks like the underground theme. There’s also some familiar and traditional Mario cues like the invincible theme for nostalgia’s sake.
Here are my picks for the five best songs from Super Mario World:
Picking a favorite stage theme is a little difficult in a game in which they’re all similar, as mentioned above. I especially like this version because of the more frenetic pacing and that cool bass line. Still, there’s something about Super Mario World games and “Athletic” — a track with the same title is also one of my favorites from Yoshi’s Island. This video even showcases the little drum addition when you’re riding Yoshi in this game.
Hands down my favorite track on the entire OST. It’s almost like two songs in one. You get a cool intro as you walk through the castle gates alone (sorry, Yoshi, you have to wait outside). And as that beginning part crescendos around the 50-second mark, one note holds through in the background, descending down into the section that you hear for the rest of the time you’re in the castle. This song would probably make my top-10 list of the best video game music ever made. I wonder if I should tackle that at some point…
Forest of Illusion
There’s something to be said for a 15-second loop that manages to tell a story. The Forest of Illusion was probably a huge pain in the ass for some kids back in the day, with its multiple paths and secret exits and confusing layout. I remember being 8 or 9 years old and beating a level, only to have the road ahead circle directly back into the level I’d just completed. Then again, if you played your cards right, you could get through the forest without doing half the levels. Hooray for options?
If you played Super Mario World, you remember the opening to this song without even having to think about it. After making your way through Bowser’s castle, you reach the top, where only the outline of the castle’s tower and a completely black background await you. As the bass builds, Bowser makes his appearance, and you engage him in a three-round fight to the death where the music gets a little faster and more insistent each wave. A modified version of this track ending up being used as the BGM for Bowser’s Castle in Super Mario Kart as well.
After a hard-fought battle with Bowser, you finally rescue Princess Peach and begin the long journey home. Mario’s a gentleman, so he lets the princess ride on Yoshi while he walks the whole way home (or dances, if you hold down the correct series of buttons following Bowser’s defeat) with a trail of Yoshi eggs behind them. Meanwhile, a jaunty, triumphant theme plays in the background, only to slow down when you finally reach Yoshi’s home — and all the eggs abruptly hatch, sending the music into an even happier version as the list of enemies is displayed. I think this is one of the better ending sequences in gaming, both because of the theme and all the extra stuff on screen besides regular, boring credits.
Music to My Ears covers soundtracks or individual songs from video games on a recurring basis, which is basically whenever Chris gets around to writing it. You can view all posts in the series by clicking here.