Last week I shared some really horrendously early off-model Super Mario artwork with you. This week I thought it was only appropriate to shift the other way and show you some of my favorite Nintendo-produced Super Mario artwork. Personally, my favorite era of Super Mario art comes from the images created for 1991's Super Mario World. Let's take a walk down memory lane to a time when 16-bits was a lot, games came in big boxes stuffed with plastic, and all one needed to fly was a cape (or a blue turtle shell and a Yoshi).
Yoshi may have been the big new important addition to the Mario world, but, for me, this image of Mario gliding with his new cape is what I think of when I remember the excitement and anticipation around Super Mario World.
Not that Yoshi didn't have his place, of course. Most people tend to remember this image when it comes to Super Mario World artwork, and with good reason. Take note that for as much as Mario has changed over the years, here we see Yoshi at the beginning of his own evolution. Incidentally, this particular picture turned up again as part of the coloring book feature in 1992's Mario Paint.
Here we see Mario and Luigi finding a Yoshi egg after their arrival in Dinosaur Land. Notice how the egg is in a nest, something we never see again when it comes to Yoshi eggs. Most people will probably remember this image from the Mario Mania player's guide released by Nintendo. It was billed as a complete historical guide of Mario, but was actually more of a Super Mario World guide that included a few pages of Mario lore.
Another image from the Mario Mania guide, this time showing Mario at his cartoonish best with multiple speedy motion legs. While the bridge and the saw were in Super Mario World, they never did combine to show the kind of peril seen here. What is notable is that it's one of the rare times that we see Mario in a panic. He is commonly shown in control of the situation in the modern era, but that's certainly not the case here.
Speaking of not being in control of the situation...
No wonder Mario is so terrified here: there's just no way out of this situation that doesn't require repeating this Vanilla Dome level. Based on Mario's unsure footing, I'd bet that it's the Buzzy Beetle that will deal the killing blow.
I've never cared much for this particular image because I feel that Yoshi's then-current design meant that he appeared... well, wrong when holding an object in his mouth. Both in-game and in artwork such as this, the dinosaur pal just doesn't look right. The sleepy-eyed baby Yoshis apparently falling to their deaths high above the Star Road isn't such a rosy image either.
Mario is more of a prop in this image. We don't even get to see his face (nice slight profile angle on his mustache, though). Bowser and his maniacal Koopa clown car take the stage here. As an aside, the first time that I questioned the logic of the Super Mario universe happened when I saw Bowser descend from above in his wacky contraption near the end of Super Mario World. It didn't fit anything else established in the series and was just downright bizarre. The whole giant spiked turtle king abducting a princess who never seemed to actually govern her kingdom of mushroom people and the Italian plumber who uses Super Mushrooms to grow large and ride a hungry dinosaur with a sticky tongue thing made perfect sense up until the clown car appeared.
I'll leave you with a similar image as the one we came in on, as Mario flies the unfriendly skies with Super Koopas and a startled Koopa Paratroopa. This is Mario shown at his heroic best, working to save the day but also clearly having a blast doing it.
(Images via Gamehiker)