Super Mario World: A Classic Work of Art

Introduction and Game Description:

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Super Mario World is a plat former and the fourth installation of the Super Mario Bros. franchise. This game is considered a masterpiece and has received huge critical acclaim when it launched. This game has stood the test of time and is considered to be a classic by many gamers. The game was originally released for the Super Nintendo and has been remade and rereleased for the GameBoy Advanced, and Wii U. I will be focusing more on the original version for this blog. The goal of the game is parallel to its predecessors, conquer all 8 worlds and save the princess from Bowser (Mario’s arch nemesis). At the end of each level the Mario Bros. fight against one of Bowser’s family members until finally reaching World 8 where they fight against Bowser. The game as an overhead map just like in Super Mario Bros. 3, this organizes the game nicely and the player can easily track his or her progress. However, the real game is within the levels themselves which revolve around side scrolling. The player jumps by pressing the A button and runs faster by holding the B button. The B Button is also used to use power ups. In this game, the player can play any level as Mario and Luigi, and does not need to choose between them like in past games. Mario and Luigi gains power-ups by collecting items such as mushrooms, fire flowers, and a feather, which boosts their health and makes it easier to defeat Bowser’s army. Yoshi has also been added to the game, the Mario Bros can ride him and scroll through levels faster. However, if Yoshi gets hits by an enemy he panics and may potentially die if he runs off a cliff. The Mario Bros. can die in two ways: 1) getting hit by enemies or 2) falling to their death.

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Does Super Mario World Classify as a Game?

In order to answer, let’s take a look at a definition for a game first. One of the most detailed and accurate definition of a game comes from Jesper Juul. According to Juul,

“A game is a rule-based system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels emotionally attached to the outcome, and the consequences of the activity are negotiable”. (Video Games and the Classic Game Model, page. 36)

  1. A rule based system: By playing the game the player agrees that the Mario Bros, can receive superhuman abilities but still die to jumping off a cliff or by being touched by a goomba.
  2. Variable outcomes: The player can choose between Mario and Luigi, Luigi is faster and jumps higher than Mario, However, Mario has more control over his movements.
  3. Valorization of Outcomes: The player chooses whether to ignore the coins floating in the stage, collecting them eventually leads to an extra life. The more enemies you kill along the way, the higher your score will be.
  4. Player Effort: This game is not easy to pass. There are many secret levels the player must discover. When I first started playing I died three times in the first level. It took a lot of time for me to develop muscle memory towards the game.
  5. Player attached to Outcome: The Player will feel happy once the player beats the final level and gets to rescue the princess and defeat their enemy. The player is emotionally attached to Mario and wants to see him succeed,
  6. Negotiable consequences: The game itself does not have any consequences in the real world. The worst that will happen is that you will get a game over, and have to start again from the beginning of the world where your character died.

Super Mario World manages to meet all the requirements for a game from Juul’s definition. Therefore, I can surely classify Super Mario World as a game.

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Super Mario World as Art?

Art is difficult to define, the definition behind art is very vague and its meaning has changed throughout time. However, I will be defining art from the perspective of a sociologist. According to Howard Becker, “Every art, then, rests on an extensive division of labor” (Art Worlds, page. 13). Super Mario World is known for having a huge list of staff. Many individuals were a part of this huge project. Some individuals coded the game to make sure there would be no issues with the graphics or the game play, others were put in charge of the music department, while other individuals were in charge of advertising the game. Without all these individuals, Super Mario World would have not be as successful as it was when it came out in the early 1990s. Becker also states that many people contribute to the art piece in a small manner, while one individual takes care of the work. In this case the person who worked the most on Super Mario World is, Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the Super Mario Bros. franchise. Becker claims that Art takes a lot of skill and time to make. The game took three years in the making divided among 16 highly skilled individuals. The art style of the game is gorgeous with many creative elements such as turtles with boots and clouds with eyes just to name a few. I classify Super Mario World as a piece of art.


3 thoughts on “Super Mario World: A Classic Work of Art

  1. This is one of my favorite games as a child on the Super Nintendo as I spend countless hours with my sisters playing it and trying to master it. All your point regarding to how it is considered a game and art piece are all valid. Just like what we saw in class about how the loop of clouds has been considered a new significant art piece for what it represents overall.


  2. Do you think that because Mario is such a cultural icon it makes it easier to classify it as art? If this game was virtually unknown would you still classify it as art? I think popularity of a piece probably has a lot to do with its acceptance as art.


    • I agree with your statement that the popularity and familiarity of Mario helps with its acceptance as art. Do you think this is an example of Benjamin’s progression of art? The fact that the game is so familiar and recognizable helps to normalize its place in the category of art.


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