Update, Sept. 6, 2020: It’s Labor Day Weekend in the US, and even though most of us now also call home “the office,” Ars staff is taking a long weekend to rest and relax. For many, that includes gaming on titles new and old. We planned on resurfacing a few pieces from the archives to keep the lights on over a holiday, so it seemed only right to select one honoring an all-time classic that turns 25 this year. Our Masterpiece essay on Yoshi’s Island originally ran in September 2012 and it appears unchanged below.
Back in 1995, I thought I knew what a Mario game was. Running left to right (or maybe down to up). Jumping on things. Eating mushrooms to get big. Flying, sometimes. You know the drill. Then Yoshi’s Island came along and showed that Mario games could be about a lot more than that.
Yeah, you were still running through levels and jumping on things, but the myriad ways Yoshi’s Island expanded on the Mario formula made it feel like an entirely new game. Yoshi went from an occasional helper in Super Mario World to a permanently controllable character in Yoshi’s Island, tasked with protecting a near-helpless Baby Mario riding on his back. Yoshi’s oversized tongue let players slurp up enemies and transform them into projectile eggs that could be fired in any direction. What used to be a run-and-jump series was now run-and-jump-and-slurp-and-shoot game, and the Yoshi’s Island designers built levels that catered to these new abilities wonderfully.