Did you know that in one of the best platform games in the Super Mario series, Mario can’t jump, run or talk?
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is a curiosity, even by the standards of a series that had previously seen a vegetable-throwing advergame (based on a discarded Mario prototype) redesigned as super mario bros 2. It is the official sequel to the Super NES launch title and the best contender ever. Super Mario worldhowever, it has a different art style, a different main character, and radically different gameplay.
These days, it might be more useful to describe it as Yoshi’s first game; the game that established the lovable green dino and his brand of mechanically inventive, tactile, and brilliant kindergarten-like platforming. And that’s all accurate. But the wonder of yoshi’s island, which is included in the SNES collection of Nintendo Switch Online, is that it can also be kept between the Super Mario games. It’s as exquisitely crafted, as free, as mischievous, and as playfully weird as any of them, and it’s a contender for best game ever in its own right.
yoshi’s island it’s kind of a storybook prequel to the Mario games. Mario and Luigi, as babies, are being delivered by a stork, when the wizard Koopa Kamek takes baby Luigi away and baby Mario falls to the island where the Yoshis live. (This scenario introduces strange considerations in Mario lore, such as the identity of Mario and Luigi’s parents, and why the babies were born with their distinctive red and green hats.) Yoshi: is it a younger version of the Super Mario world Yoshi, or a parent Yoshi? What is the lifespan of a Yoshi, anyway? — He decides to reunite the twins and carries Mario on his back in search of the boy’s lost brother.
The delightful adventure that follows is defined by the extraordinarily flexible and sophisticated toolset the developers chose to give Yoshi. He has a “flap” that can extend the length of his jumps; he can engulf enemies with his long tongue and spit them out; or he can, um, convert them, with a squat and satisfying pop, on eggs. These eggs can be thrown using a target reticle and bounce off the environment. Mario sits on Yoshi’s back, and if Yoshi gets hit, he floats in a bubble and must be rescued before time runs out.
Most of this was intended to make the game more forgiving than Super Mario world, and in a sense it does. Thanks to flapping, jumps don’t need to be executed as precisely, and the baby bubble mechanic essentially gives Yoshi a second hit before he gets knocked out. The time limit for levels has also been removed, encouraging more careful exploration. Thanks to these changes, yoshi’s island is technically an easier game. But the settings also make it more chaotic.
If Super Mario games are all about momentum, yoshi’s island It has to do with elasticity. Mario runs, jumps and soars. Yoshi bounces, wobbles and skids. The world around you pulses, ripples, expands and contracts, thanks to special distortion and scaling effects powered by a Super FX chip in the game cartridge. it’s all so rubbery. The enemies are mostly innocent and comical beings who just get in the way, except for those who are bewitched by Kamek to become huge, fatuous bosses.
Through a combination of meticulous design, physics-driven cause and effect, and wicked humor, the designers, led by Shigefumi Hino (Yoshi’s original artist) and Takashi Tezuka (Shigeru Miyamoto’s right-hand man), created a box of amazing arena for organic video game antics. In fact, this is one of the funniest physical comedy games ever. An unforgettable stage, “Touch Fuzzy Get Dizzy”, turns the entire level into a wobbly wave machine if you touch one of the narcotic clouds floating in the air, making Yoshi wobble like a drunken salaryman after closing time.
There’s also inherent comedy in Yoshi’s frantic struggle to retrieve bubble baby Mario when he gets knocked out. But there’s also a real desperation, fueled by Mario’s panicked screams. (The sound effects are fantastic, as is Koji Kondo’s lyrical, funky, upbeat music.) Later Yoshi games would be explicitly aimed at very young players. yoshi’s islandhowever, it is not a game by babies, but it’s a game about them.
When it was released in 1995, yoshi’s island it was visually an outlier, if not a relic: donkey kong countryThe delicious renders of the previous year made yoshi’s islandThe pixel art of looks dated, and the dimensional explosion of Super Mario 64 it was just around the corner. However, its graphics have arguably aged better than any of those games, and its intentionally sketchy, hand-crafted look prophesied the scrapbooking aesthetic of many later indie games.
Nintendo later evolved this idea into tactile materials and the soft, padded safety of Kirby Epic Yarn, Yoshi’s Woolly WorldY Yoshi’s Craft World. yoshi’s island, while still adorable, presents a more mischievous, unfiltered take on early childhood. Yoshi is both a stressed-out guardian, running after his weeping charge, and a mouth-obsessed little boy, putting everything he can see into his mouth, ejecting eggs, and tossing them around to see what happens. .
yoshi’s island it’s a world of enchanting chaos, distinct from the surreal incongruities of Super Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom, but a close cousin to them nonetheless. If you have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, you owe it to yourself to visit the island. It will leave you feeling years younger.