Super Mario World is more than THE definitive Mario experience. Yeah yeah, I know there will be some who will argue that SMB 3 holds that title, and for good reason, that game is great. However, what Super Mario World did, was advance the series in ways that games back then could only dream of, and right out of the gate, it showcased the power of the SNES, and brought to the forefront, some of the most beloved games in history.
Show me a kid in 1991 with any concept of video games, I'll show you a kid who can tell you what a Yoshi is. SMW was in a word, ubiquitous. EVERYBODY has seen, heard, or played this game,and it is beloved by so many people, even the non-gamers out there have some sort of memory of it, which it to highlight two things, the dominance of Nintendo, and the platforming perfection of Super Mario World. Lemmie explain.
To start, visually speaking, the game is colorful, full of life and gorgeous, even today. The game just screamed life, and it was so easy as impressionable young kidlets, to get lost in the hallowed out caves of Vanilla Dome, the mystery of the Forest of Illusion, and of course, the extra-dimensional charm of Star World. The contrasts were at the time, and continues to be today, fantastic. The levels themselves were always very distinctive, with many levels having multiple routes that lead to other areas. The game rewarded you for exploration, and back-tracking, and I would bet there isn't a single person who has played the game, that hasn't felt a small hurray in their gut, when they finally unlocked the path to the colored (RACIST!!) block buttons.
Gameplay was everything Mario had been up to that point and more. Lets start off with the most obvious addition, and that would be the green prehistoric Hoover ride-on vaccum known as Yoshi. He was one of the best tools in navigating the worlds, and defeating enemies. Eat a green turtle shell, it turns into a fireable projectile, nom nom on a blue turtle, Yoshi sprouted wings and could f'n fly! But with the good, you had to deal with the bad, mainly that sense of defeat when you get careless, lose Yoshi, and watch him plumett to his death into the pit below. The damn dino made such an impact with people, he had appeared in practically every other Mario game afterwards, even nabbing several of his own titles. Power-ups were essential to your survival and it was a combination of capes,flowers, and stars, that led to your eventual victory over Bowser (and that creepy, oversized propeller-goblet or whatever the hell that thing is he rode in on. What, no menacing airship to ride in on?). The enemies (as well as the sometimes hostile environment) were always fun to tussle with, and what it did (and has been lost for the most part) was that it punished you for a laxidasical approach. You had to time your attacks just so, and also plan for your next 2 or 3 steps. It was great to take out that Chargin' Chuck with a well timed jump on the noggin, less so if you managed to screw it up with your distance over the large pit waiting to devour you whole. Your timing was everything, and with enough time, you could bounce on 3,4,5 turtles, in the air, drop to a moving platform with an enemy on it, and spin attack the poor sod without breaking a sweat. And on a minor, but not insignificant note, how awesome was that music? Absolutely brilliant, in all respects.
A classic is defined as "Judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind". There is no doubt, that this applies to Super Mario World in every sense of the word. Super Mario World helped elevate games to a more mainstream acceptance, with parents of today and of yesteryear, able to wax nostalgic about having good cape technique, and how much of an asshole a ghost in a haunted house can really be.