Yoshi’s Island – Definitive 50 SNES Game #10

Click here to view our list of the Definitive 50 SNES games. Links to each video and write-up are included.

Tenth place on the Definitive 50 SNES games goes to Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Released in North America in October of 1995, Yoshi’s island is a slightly different take on the typical Mario formula. In this game, the player takes control of Yoshi in an effort to rescue Baby Luigi, and return the Mario brothers to their expectant parents.

This game’s title has confused players since release, with many gamers wondering if it is more correct to drop the “Super Mario World 2” portion. Although still a 2-D sidescroller, and every bit as fun and high quality as any other Mario game, Yoshi’s Island of course features Yoshi, rather than Mario, as its main playable character. Its gameplay also differs in a number of respects from the mustacheod plumber’s typical affairs. Whether you want to think of this game as a a true sequel to Super Mario World, or a spin off from the usual franchise, this game’s quality shines through.

Yoshi’s Island’s graphical style is often held up as one of the most beautiful in gaming history. It may come as a surprise to note that this game takes advantage of the Super FX chip. Rather than using it push polygonal graphics (although it does occasionally feature them), Yoshi’s Island largely used the chip to allow more advanced sprite scaling and morphing.

The visuals are, simply, stunning. This game features brightly coloured characters and environments made to appear as crayon drawings. As the story goes, Shigeru Miyamoto, the game’s producer, was instructed to make his new Mario game look more like the highly successful Donkey Kong Country. Miyamoto, not being a fan of Rare’s game, took the art direction as far from that pre-rendered style as he could. The results of that incident led to the creation of the timeless graphics now so fondly remembered.

In this game, players guide Yoshi across 2D levels, generally from left to right, hopping on enemies and avoiding hazards along the way. What’s new here are some of the green dinosaur’s moves, such his ability to turn swallowed enemies into eggs, which he can then fire at objects and other enemies. Yoshi can also flutter in the air for a pseudo-flying move, and ground pound. Yoshi also does not really take damage from contact with enemies, but those events do cause him to lose control of Mario. In these situations, Mario begins floating away in a bubble. It’s up to the player to scramble over and grab him before a brief time allowance winds down.

A greater emphasis is also placed on simple puzzles and level exploration, as well as collecting. To get through the game’s levels and beat the final boss is a fun experience, certainly, but a fairly easy task. The game’s true challenge is in going back to collect the flowers, red coins, and star scattered across every level. At the completion of each level, a score is displayed for the player based on the number of these items collected, with the maximum being 100. To truly master Yoshi’s Island is to score 100 on every level and unlock the additional challenges hidden away as a reward for doing so.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island may or may not be a “true” Mario game in many regards. Measured on quality alone, however, it competes with the other famous titles in that lineage, and deserves to be counted among the finest SNES games made.