On The Level

Super Mario World: "Tubular"

Super Mario World: “Tubular”

A short but trying journey through the air can leave players yearning for terra firma.

By Steve Heisler • May 3, 2012

One of the touchstone moments in video game history occurred in the 1989 movie The Wizard, starring Fred Savage and Jenny Lewis (in her pre-Rilo Kiley days). Savage, at the height of his Wonder Years fame, plays a boy escorting his video game savant brother Jimmy across the country to a competition in California—where Jimmy is expected to dominate. There’s one wrinkle: The judges have the finalists play Super Mario Bros. 3, a game no competitor (or filmgoer) had even seen, since it wasn’t yet available in the United States. Jimmy’s rivals run through the first level as fast as possible. But Jimmy, always the meticulous player, hangs back and discovers a leaf, causing Mario to grow raccoon ears and a tail. Then, out of the blue and without precedent, raccoon Mario runs, jumps, and takes flight.

Up to that point, the sky in Super Mario Bros. games was mostly a place where Lakitu, a turtle who rides a cloud, would occasionally hurl spiky enemies at you. It wasn’t a place for Mario. He was a plumber, after all, relegated to the claustrophobic confines inside his pipes. That moment in The Wizard opened Mario games, and by proxy most side-scrolling platformers, to the possibility of entire worlds above what was already constructed.

Super Mario World, the game that came standard with the new Super Nintendo system in 1991, takes the concept and—here it comes—heightens it. Mario’s raccoon tail is replaced with a cape. Not only can he soar high into the air, but he can gather the fabric like a parachute, staying aloft for almost the entirety of a level. The game also introduces Yoshi, Mario’s dinosaur-like pal, and Yoshi can lift off, too. Whenever he eats the shell of a blue Koopa (i.e., a blue turtle guy), he sprouts wings. And while there are certain stretches that require you to explore the air (perhaps to find an item), for the most part, the skies are an escape route. Mario can soar past enemies without having to face them, like a sort of Superman who can’t be bothered.

Super Mario World: "Tubular"

“Tubular,” one of the game’s secret worlds—all of which are named for hip and modern exclamations of joy (“Mondo” and “Gnarly” are others)—turns the tranquil sky into a minefield. There’s no longer any open air. The airspace is littered with monsters and obstacles. To survive, you must master some subtle button-mashing to navigate Mario across the sky and towards the goal. And one wrong move sends you plummeting to your doom.

You begin atop a series of pipes. It’s a familiar Mario tableau. Except there are football-player Koopas standing on a few of the pipes, and if you hit them anywhere but the crowns of their helmets, you bounce back at a weird angle—like the random bounce you might get if you tossed a football at the ground. So essentially, unless you knock each football guy off his pipe with pinpoint precision, you die. Then there’s a pipe with a piranha flower shooting out of it. In a typical level, you can stand next to the pipe until the flower hides itself out of shyness. But there’s nowhere to stand next to this pipe. You will not be preying on this flower’s social anxiety disorder. Either you slip by with a mix of finesse and perfect timing, or—say it with me—you die.

Thus ends the easy part.

All of a sudden, there are no pipes. All you can see is one long, empty chasm separating you from the unknown. It’s at this moment that Super Mario World becomes wistful. “I remember the days,” you think, “when there was a ground.”

Super Mario World: "Tubular"

The remainder of “Tubular” delivers on the promise of the sky and that moment from The Wizard: Freedom, horrible freedom. Your salvation is almost a joke—a balloon item that Mario ingests to inflate his own bowels and make himself lighter than air. Bloated to grotesque proportions, Mario must now navigate past flying Koopas, fireball-spewing flowers, and more football players kicking pigskins like cannonballs. (A few of the football players throw baseballs, which makes no less sense, really.) Oh, and those balloons are apparently the cheap dollar-store variety—they wither quickly, so one balloon simply won’t suffice. The cape isn’t much help here, either: It requires a running start, and you’ve got nowhere to run. You have to keep finding and gobbling down new balloons to stay airborne.

For the first and probably last time in a Mario game, you abandon every button on the controller and focus entirely on the directional pad. Ducking and weaving while airborne is like driving a ski boat for the first time, when the smallest turns set you completely off course, and you find yourself overcompensating in the other direction, starting a vicious cycle. Plus, puffy Mario keeps elevating higher into the air. Pulling him down below a question-mark block in the hopes of finding another balloon is akin to a tug-of-war match against a really fat guy. Just when Mario has finally taken over the sky, the hardest part of “Tubular” becomes the desperate fight to sink back towards Earth.

The funniest thing about “Tubular” is just how short it is. It takes a long time to complete, because every time you get knocked in the air, you sink like a rock. But once you master the delicate art of floating through the air, ascending and descending at just the right time—it takes well under a minute to complete the level from start to finish. And then it simply ends, like any other level. All that finesse for so little payoff. So it’s on to the next stage, where the skies are once again clear and the memory of “Tubular” lingers like the cautionary tale of the monkey’s paw: Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.

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448 Responses to “Super Mario World: “Tubular””

  1. bunnyvision says:

    I have a childhood memory of being with a large group of kids playing this level. Everyone was clustered around the TV and we would laugh in frustration as Mario fell to another inevitable death and be kicked back to the Special zone. 

    We all knew we would never, ever beat the level, but it didn’t really matter – the fun of playing a game is in sharing it with others, not in constantly winning.

    • bunnyvision says:

      By the way – love the idea for this column, looking forward to more.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      I love your sharing of that memory: the fun of “sharing it with others.” That’s what I loved about the arcade — learning strategies from watching other people go, eagerly waiting to challenge someone with my queued quarter. I’m glad that multiplayer games have taken off, but I’m sort of sad that they’ve evolved beyond LAN parties and the tangled controller madness brought on by GoldenEye 007.

      (Man, I still fondly remember playing Secret of Mana with my brother, and the reluctance with which we’d sometimes revive one another.)

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         Playing “Super Mario Bros:  The Lost Levels” with a group of drunken friends is a blast.  The shared frustration of tackling a particularly difficult level–as well as the shared catharsis of beating it–takes the game to another level.  It’s also good for making fun of Mario, who requires assist blocks and springs to get over some of the jumps (while Luigi of the ridiculous jump can get over any of the game’s chasms without a problem).

      • Shain Eighmey says:

        It’s not that I have anything against online multiplayer, but I think it is a huge loss that so many games do entirely away with multiplayer with the people near you in exchange for online. 

        • Cheese says:

           Agreed, the lack of actual-people-on-the-couch-next-to-you multiplayer in most modern games is really sad.

        • El Zilcho says:

          I agree. I had people over a couple month back and we wanted to link a couple Xboxes and play 4-player Borderlands, the way we used to do with Halo when it first came out. Apparently Borderlands doesn’t let you do that.

        • thewarfreak says:

           Sports games are still pretty good for this. I played a game of MLB2K12 with my brother-in-law last night at my place. Still loads of fun.

      • Afghamistam says:

        In a similar vein, the one abiding memory I have the first couple of Tomb Raider games is having my sister – who had not previously exhibited any interest in video games – watch me play rapt, waiting for the glorious moment where I would fail to avoid a spike trap or Tyrannosaur mauling or drowning.

        Her cruel laughter spurred me on the greater success at least.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I have the exact same memory but from a couple of years ago. I had a Genesis growing up but in my house at Uni we had a SNES, so a bunch of friends and I played this game all the time. They all had memories buried in there somewhere of playing this game as kids, so I had to learn a lot of the hidden stuff from them. It’s a really great game, though, I’m glad they introduced me to it. We would get as high a completion rating as we could, then get bored of trying to find the final like 8% or whatever we were missing, delete the save file, and start over from scratch. GameFAQs was, of course, strictly verboten.

      • TaumpyTearrs says:

        i think my final tally for Super Mario World was 108% complete. Damn that game!

  2. Aaron Riccio says:

    “All that finesse for so little payoff.” Are you kidding me? Super Mario World is one of the first games I ever mastered, and I can’t even describe the satisfaction I got out of figuring out some of the trickier ghost houses, discovering all the hidden exits, and ultimately beating the seemingly impossible stretches of sudden-death screens. And how different/new is the precision here, really, from the split-second moves you needed to execute in, say, the Bowser’s Castles of 7-4 and the like? Or the bullet-filled air-ships riddling Super Mario 3? (I don’t even want to talk about the nightmares I had about the flying levels in the Game Boy version.) 

    You want to see some really crazy Mario madness, look at some of the “impossible” levels that have been hacked into the original game and posted onto YouTube. They put the “ew” back in tubular.

    • John Teti says:

      Take it easy. Steve didn’t say it was unsatisfying; he’s talking about a different sort of “payoff” in that sentence than you are here. I don’t think he wrote an entire column about a level that he finds to be a letdown.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        I wasn’t really getting angry or criticizing Steve’s ode to a frustrating, ephemeral moment of gameplay magic. Just offering a different takeaway.

        Do seriously check out the hilarity of these “impossible” levels, though, particularly the trick at the very end: 


        Edited to reply to Teti’s edit: Yes, different types of motion, though similar in some respects to the underwater portions or the occasionally gravitationally unresponsive shooter controls from Super Mario Land. I was more commenting on the nature of precision in Mario games, and all those wonderful plummets to our death, be it in spikes, lavas, or apparently bottomless pits.

        • John Teti says:

          Yeah, those are great. There are some fun tool-assisted speedruns of Tubular on YouTube, too, that I came across while finding a Tubular run to embed at the end of this article. I never get tired of watching TASes.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          I will add this about this particular power-up though: unlike the referenced tail or cape, which you’d keep until you were hit, as Steve mentions, this mechanic was more like the star in that you were never *quite* sure when you’d flip back to normal. I love the panicked feeling welling up in the pit of my stomach every time he morphs between balloon and regular Mario — is he going to drop this animated pixel or the next?

        • PugsMalone says:

          This is my favorite romhack level:


        • @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus But you did know when you were about to flip to normal – towards the end of the power-up, you would fluctuate between fat and thin before it ended. You had about… 3 seconds when that began before you lost it.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          @facebook-501651:disqus : It was the imprecision, at least for my seven-year-old self, that got me. Yes, there’s an animated cue (just as with the star, there’s a musical cue), but it’s easy to get distracted — especially when football players are throwing gyroballs at you — and start praying for that one . . . extra . . . bulge . . . of . . . air.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          @PugsMalone:disqus : Oh, you’re right. That romhack level is much better; same end-state fake-out, a much harder (and time-crunching) middle, hidden blocks galore, and a hilarious overdub. “There’s more than one?!? WHAT?! WHAAAAT?!”

        • Afghamistam says:


          I usually can’t stand commentaries on Let’s Plays (nerds have annoying voices – who’d a thunk it?), but the Kaizo Mario dude and his frustration is incredible. Reminds me that I never finished watching those from I Want To Be The Guy.

        • PugsMalone says:

          @Afghamistam: There’s an entire series of videos for Super Kaizo World and its sequel, they’re all great.



        • Aaron Riccio says:

          I don’t know, the one guy who was playing that ice level while drunk probably deserved to keep dying as much as he was, and when he started ranting about forum members, I had to turn off the sound. Can you imagine playing these levels *without* save states?

      • Placeholder says:

        @PugsMalone:disqus @Afghamistam:disqus @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus

        I actually played through all of Kaizo Mario, and its sequel, and I can confirm that this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua6pbz3ROvQ#t=7m26s) was the most frustrating moment of my life.

        This level from the sequel is also brilliant:


        • Aaron Riccio says:

          @Placeholder:disqus : You sir, are a better man than I to sit down and play through. I think I could handle it with tool-assist saves, but if that second video was actually beaten straight through, with raw memorization and pixel-perfect skill, then I’m just going to have to face the fact that I’ll never *truly* be any good at platforming. Because that was *sick.*

        • Placeholder says:


          I used ZSNES’s in-game saves to complete it, but I tried to use as few as possible.

          If that video (which isn’t me, by the way) doesn’t use tools I’d be shocked and awed.

  3. John Teti says:

    Maybe I’m crazy, but every time I see Balloon Cape Mario, I think he looks just like a 16-bit Ignatius J. Reilly. MY VALVE!!

  4. GhaleonQ says:

    http://www.mariowiki.com/Chargin'_Chuck need to be brought pack, posthaste.

    And the original names of the Special World stages make me smile.  http://themushroomkingdom.net/smw_j-e.shtml

    Anyway, what really sticks out for me is how UNsurprising these stages were.  Moving from action-based platforming to adventure-based platforming was an absolute fissure in the Super Mario series’ history.  Some failed to notice it with the shiny new console, but the cape, the spin jump, Yoshi, and the level design morphed the series into something it wasn’t before.  The game becomes less a test of skill than 1 of creativity.

    (1 of my fondest gaming memories is of my brother and I steamrolling the game at 6 and 3.  I kept beating a stage the “right” way, which simply put you in a loop of stages.  I was nearing controller throwing, since Miyamoto was punishing me for being good!  Cue my brother falling down a pit, discovering a key, and forever opening my eyes to level design.  I spent the rest of my month coaching my little brother to throw blocks at random spots in the air, soar to special areas, and fall down holes while I practiced speedruns.  It was the 1st time he had been able to show me that he wasn’t a stupid, drooling baby, and I recall him crying after I hugged him after beating Funky.)

    The main stages were still rooted in action, arcade gameplay, however.  It’s pretty easy, but there are difficult sections.  Special World, though, is the fulcrum for the series’ future (Yoshi’s Island is a Yoshi game, fools!).  Whether you call them gimmicks or mission-based levels, each Special stage requires lateral thinking to achieve a single, specified end.  You aren’t dealing with 2:30 of fireball dodging and deep sea dodging subsections.  You’re deducing the trick the designers want you to learn.  Soon, you’d be penguin racing.

    Now, all Super Mario games are like that.  I prefer the balance.  Super Mario World’s still my 4th favorite game ever.

  5. SMW is one of my go-to comfort games. Even the frustrating weirdness of Tubular has become familiar. 

    In my household, our NES days were a very social experience: my brother and our friends would turn every game into de facto multiplayer, swapping turns with every life. By the time of the SNES, however, multiplayer gaming was usually limited to competitive genres. Most of my gaming became a very personal experience, and I finally had the time to develop my skills. 

    • Dikachu says:

      This game was one of the very few “multiplayer” single-player games (i.e. each person takes turns) I ever actually played with other people.

      It really is a shame that Nintendo will put out 9000 craptacular Pokemon games every year, but a top-quality SMW-style platformer only comes around once or twice a decade.  (I’m still fucking bitter about the fact that they only put out one iteration of “New Super Mario Bros” for the DS series.)

      • New Super Mario Bros. 2 is on its way to 3DS!

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          Yup. Just one more reason for me to get a 3DS (especially over the Vita) once they add the second thumb-stick and drop the price. Nintendo, fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, won’t get fooled again.

        • Dikachu says:

          Fuck the fucking 3DS.  Those fuckers have fucked me into fucking buying a console iteration that will be fucking obsolete in 2 fucking years for the last fucking time.

      • Yeah, I’m a little disappointed that the DSi was never fully exploited, but the 3DS appears to be the future, irrespective of its gimmicks. 

  6. Raging Bear says:

    ♬♩Up, up and aWAYYYY, in my beautiful, my beautiful, grotesquely inflated BOWELLLLLS ♫♩

  7. dimsmellofmoose says:

    Maybe I’m just weird, but the hardest special world levels for me were always, I think, Awesome and Outrageous.  The ice one and the forest / fire one.  Tubular was tricky, sure, but not one of the worst.

  8. Marozeph says:

    If my memory serves right, there was a trick to beating the level: get a cape and a blue Yoshi. Instead of getting the balloon, you had to jump to the right, hop off the football-turtles and eat one of the flying koopas. This gives Yoshi wings and the rest of the level becomes much easier.

  9. Afghamistam says:

    “A few of the football players throw baseballs, which makes no less sense, really.”

    Oh. My. GOOOOOD.

  10. Dikachu says:

    One of the best things about this game were the sheer number of recursive secrets… not only was the Star Road secret, but it had secret exits of its own, and then the Special world which was even MORE secret.  Getting all 96 exits in the game felt like a goddamn masterstroke.  I’m always really disappointed when modern games (especially a platformer) are mostly or entirely linear.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      ::sniffs:: I remember when ghost houses used to mean something, dammit. But yeah, I’m totally with you on this: I’m not a huge fan of the “let’s see if this pit is really bottomless” design that Mega Man X and Donkey Kong Country games sometimes employed, but I do like the idea that there are whole levels hidden in my games!

      • alguien_comenta says:

        I remember MegaMan 4 doing the “fake pit” thing (Dive man stage, to get the useless Wire power). Was this a thing in previous Mega Man games? Which was the first game to do this?

    • CountBulletsula says:

      Looking back on it now, the secrets were really great.  As a kid, though, I found it EXTREMELY frustrating that I couldn’t even get out of World 5.  Getting stuck in the endless loop was so aggravating that I just gave up.  I don’t think I quite understood how to progress further, and my finding-hidden-secrets abilities hadn’t developed yet, so I was forced to just give up on the game and enjoy the first 5 worlds over and over.

      I do remember that there was a restaurant that my family used to go to that had one of those SNES arcade machines with huge controllers that let you play SMW, F-Zero, and some tennis game.  I would always beg my parents to take me and my brother there because I liked the food but I also loved being able to play the levels that I couldn’t get to on my SNES.  The problem was, though, that the machine ran on a timer, and so I had very little time to play through the levels.  You could extend your time with another quarter, but I also had to make sure that my little brother got to play F-Zero or he would throw a fit.  I vividly remember playing the sunken ship level for the first time and being so upset that I ran out of time on it.

      Years later I would return to SMW and finally complete the game and I remember loving unlocking Star Road and the Special World.  Tubular was so much fun because you finally got to make use of the rarely-seen balloon and it was quite challenging.  I love going back to SMW and playing it again every once-in-a-while.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        I remember when Toys ‘R Us used to have model SNES systems on the game floor (sort of like GameStop does now), and every kid in a twenty-block radius would gravitate there after-school to collectively work their way through the game. Then they added a timer that would reset the system every ten minutes, and it became a bit like Majora’s Mask: how much can we clear and *save* before we have to start over from the title screen?

        • I remember a similar demo unit with Donkey Kong Country. The problem was that it reset before I could reach Candy. The warp was posssible, but it didn’t help. And I tried so hard…

        • Goon Diapers says:

          Did anyone here ever go to Powerfest as a kid? I think it was like a travelling Nintendo Power Lollapalooza and you got to play all these games that hadn’t come out yet like Crystalis and Mega Man 3. Best day of my childhood.

  11. JokersNuts says:

    yes!  This level gave me nightmares as a kid, it was incredibly tough!  There were a few other really hard ones in this game, but this is the one I always remember freaking out about. 
    You have to know exactly where the baloons are and what route to take.

  12. Citric says:

    Oh FUCK Tubular. Fuck it SO HARD. That was probably the first time I got so frustrated with a level that I wanted to throw the controller. How the hell I got through it I have no idea.

  13. PugsMalone says:

    This level frustrated me so much that it caused me to call Nintendo’s player hotline. My mother wasn’t pleased when she saw the bill for a long-distance call to Redmond, Washington.

    Do the Turbo Tunnel from Battletoads next!

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      “Do the turbo tunnel” sounds like a dance move, but yeah, that was crazy! It made me look up some of the games/levels that I never bothered to complete when I was a kid: remember this one from Battlemaniacs? 

      • PugsMalone says:

        Battlemaniacs was disappointing- except for the bonus stage, every level was a rehash of one from the original game. You’d really think that they wouldn’t have been stupid enough to use the Turbo Tunnel again, but they did.

        I really hope the original Battletoads gets written up here sometime. It had some good ideas, but some really terrible ones as well.

        • George_Liquor says:

           Yeah, like the two players being able to kill each other. Battletoads has to be the only game in history that’s harder to play co-op.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      Oh, and if we’re making requests, how about Super Castlevania IV — the first time you get into one of those rotating rooms? 

    • alguien_comenta says:

      One of the few NES games I owned as a kid was Battletoads, so as kids tend to do I finished it (life trick in the second stage is a must). I think I only completed the Turbo Tunnel “properly” once or twice, most of the times I would end up in the warp. Most people complain about this level, but there was another one with planes and then one in which you surfed that were more difficult.
      The Snake pit one was fun and really creative, the sewers and the tower were almost impossible. Now, doing Turbo Tunnel with two players, that’s impossible

      • My brother and I could make it to the Elevator shaft as a duo (using warps) but never any further. 

      • TT with two players is actually broken. There’s a glitch on the part when you have to manually jump the gaps – and the game can’t process two players landing on the same spot. It’s literally unbeatable.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Fuck that tunnel level. FUCK. Fuck you for making me think about it. Goddamn, I’m so pissed.

    • What was so wonderful about the difficulty curve in Battletoads was that yes, it was extremely hard, but it was possible to get better without feeling like you were straight up memorizing. Games like “Ninja Gaiden” or the first “Mega Man” make me so angry because there’s no guarantee that I could beat them again. Now, if I sit down to play the Turbo Tunnel, I know I’ll beat it. It’s about learning skills, not just learning patterns. 

    • TaumpyTearrs says:


      My brother and i owned Battletoads and only beat that level like 3 times. What would possess them to make the second or third level of the game damn  near impossible? Then later in the game is ANOTHER tunnel level. Arrrgh!

  14. shriketheavatar says:

    This is still my favorite game of all time.  I played it when I was 4 years old when it came out.

    Problem is, the game is too easy once you know how to do the cape swoop trick (not just the normal down and up one) to keep yourself airborne for indefinite lengths of time.

    • TheLivingTribunal says:

      Yes, the cape cheat is kind of unfortunate and does take a lot of the fun out of the game, or at least the levels with no ceiling.  I’ve always wondered if that was a bug or not.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        It’s funny — some of the levels were so difficult or had such obscurely hidden levels that I often wondered if I was “legitimately” beating it or exploiting some sort of bug in the mechanics.

  15. TheLivingTribunal says:

    Oh wow, this article almost made me cry with nostalgia.  Getting all the way through the star worlds and seeing YOU ARE A SUPER PLAYER written out in coins as you run by might just be the greatest moment of my childhood.  Seriously, do they just not make games as good as Super Mario World and Zelda:A Link to the Past anymore?  Or am I just old and bitter about how my life turned out?

  16. My boyfriend challenged me to play through Outrageous without just
    zipping by overhead in a cape, and we haven’t actually gotten to the
    point where I can take the challenge yet in our current playthrough
    because we’re stuck on Tubular.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      Normal people might call your boyfriend a dick for that, but I think that’s sort of romantic.

    • RTW says:

      Outrageous is the hardest of the special levels, IMO—much harder than Tubular, I think. At least Tubular is mercifully short. Outrageous just keeps going and going and throwing things at you forever and ever ….. and there’s no midpoint.

      I can’t believe I missed this article the first time around.

  17. JokersNuts says:

    The comments section in the article restores my faith in humanity.  You are all beautiful people, I wish we could play multiplayer together. 

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      Wasn’t that a feature Teti was working on? Some sort of way for Gameological members to find each other on Steam, XBOX, or PS3, assuming that’s a feasible thing? (And if not, isn’t that something we’re capable enough of accomplishing on our own?)

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        I asked about it before and I think Teti said he was interested. I’d certainly join a Gameological steam group if there was one. and if there aren’t plans for an official one, it’s super easy to make Steam groups.

    • Goon Diapers says:

      The commenters on here seem like good human beings—in contrast with most of the commenting on the AV Club.

    • Fixda Fernback says:

      I would gladly play some multiplayer anything with any of my Gameological peers. DigThatFunk on Xbox Live if anyone feels like having a new friend! (I play lots of single player stuff but also enjoy plenty of multi)

  18. I am a HUGE Super Mario Bros. fan.

    I wish I had the funds and commitment to get back into the SMB collection and gaming that I used to do back in the day (I was 70 stars into Galaxy before I switched it up to other games) but I was a huge collector, which was pretty great when there was so little collectable STUFF out there for Mario outside the games.

    I have the Nintendo Power SMB comic anthology, the “Best of” anthology of the brief SMB Valiant comic run, trading cards, 6 of the (?) “Choose Your Own Adventure” SMB books (which were surprisingly good), the movie (stupid, but oddly enjoyable), as well as pretty much every game up until SMB 64.

    Strangely enough, I think SMB3 > SMW, and the only reason is that SMB3 encouraged exploration without necessarily having a reason to do so. SMW asked you to explore to get that coveted 96 – which I did, twice. But SMB3 encouraged exploring simply by being FUN. The variety of levels and cleverness in them were insane, so many memorable moments, and KURIBO’S SHOE.

    I think what’s kinda disappointing is that the SMB RPGs show that story-based Mario content could be really, really awesome, but that the movie, cartoons, and comics (for the most part) are so limited. A SMB comic in the vein of early Sonic comics or the Mega Man run would be glorious.

    As for this level – yeah, it’s HARD. But nothing was more rewarding than beating it. SMW has a HUGE number of tricks though, which you had to learn to get most of the hardest to find secrets. Reading this makes me want to play 2D platformers again.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Apologies for the sidetrack, but is Archie’s Mega Man series any good? I used to love their Sonic comics (still have a few of the earliest ones!) and I have the entire Dreamwave Mega Man series (surprisingly good! Really plays up the “store brand Astro Boy” conceit that spurred the games into existence) but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. Worth dropping a few bucks for the back issues?

      • From what I read – yeah, it’s pretty good. It’s especially awesome to see side-bosses from the games as legit threats in the comic. At some point I’ll pick up the trades.

        • caspiancomic says:

           Cool, thanks man. It went off the rails after about 50 issues, but Archie’s Sonic series used to be really great, and I get the feeling that serialized dramaticish storytelling would better suit the Blue Bomber than the Blue Blur. I’ll check these out pretty soon. (Maybe very soon, it’s the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this weekend)

    • itisdancing says:

      I like SMB3, but the ability to replay levels in SMW gives it the edge for me. The level design in SMB3 is often more interesting, though.

  19. Channel 8 News says:

    This level still gives me anxiety problems. 

    When I was a kid, my family leapfrogged over the NES and got the SNES as our first console. I loved video games, and up until we got the system, I had only ever played them at a friend’s house.

    I played Super Mario World like it was my job. We didn’t have internet access back then, so I bought strategy books to help me find all the secret exits. I would take them to school and read them during class. My parents were actually impressed with my dedication to the game (something that didn’t last long as my love of video games didn’t wane with age).

    I remember feeling ecstasy when I unlocked the Special World. After handily beating Gnarly, I was feeling pretty good about my chances at getting 100% in SMW. Then Tubular dashed all of those dreams. It stopped my amazing run dead in its tracks. Defeated, I moved on to other games.

    I did eventually come back and beat this level, but it was over a year after we had purchased the system. I’ve played through SMW several dozen times since, buying it in every new iteration (GBA, Virtual Console). I always freeze up at Tubular.

  20. Techee44 says:

    Can we all agree Super Mario World was the best Super Mario game?

    I’ll take that as a resounding yes.

    • Feldspar17 says:

       I’ve always felt this way, and I’m glad that it is a generally-accepted fact.

    • George_Liquor says:

       Close, but the correct answer is Super Mario Brothers 3. How much did you wager? Ooooooh…

      • Techee44 says:

        Nope. SMB3 is good, but I never had nearly as much fun playing as I did playing SMW.


      • craigward says:

         if you could go back and play levels you’ve already beaten, like in SMW, I would do nothing but play the green sock level in world 5 over and over.

  21. By the way, if you’ve never left the game running on the Special World map for 5-10 minutes, drop everything and do it now.

  22. Long_Dong_Donkey_Kong says:

    The author inadvertently hits on what made the NES and SNES Marios great – you needed to get from point A to point B.  That’s it.  The 3D Marios had this down too: get to the star.  On the way, you were free to kick as much or as little ass as needed. 

    In the New Super Mario Bros games and even in Super Mario Land 3, having to backtrack to get Star Coins drains some of that spirit of the game.  Mario games are about navigating through an obstacle course of projectiles, traps, and enemies.  While exploring every inch of a level has its rewards (warp zones, coin rooms, etc.) it shouldn’t be required.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      I’m going to disagree: don’t forget that to get to Tubular, you had to go not from point A to point B, but to point C, or sometimes D. I’m with you in that aimlessly exploring to collect things (Banjo-Kazooie) can be deadening, and I certainly get the most enjoyment out of finally clearing a deadly obstacle course, but the smooth blend of challenge and secrets that I found in Super Mario World is why it remains one of my favorites to this day.

    • I don’t think the New SMB games ever require you to get Star Coins, do they? Admittedly, the original DS one strongly encourages it with all those locked paths along the way. 

      I always view things like that as a separate challenge, one that I usually focus on after I’ve beaten the game. (Getting 100% in SMW2 levels is another example.) Of course, it’s important that the challenge is fun–I remember the defeat I felt when I finally realized that there was no way for a normal human to collect every Blue Coin in Super Mario Sunshine without A) looking up a list and/or B) obsessively documenting every bit of progress they made in the game.