An important foundational aspect of retro gaming as a hobby is the nostalgia factor. Which is to say, how we remember the games we played as kids informs much of our appreciation of them in the present day. Even when, as it happens, our memories are completely wrong. Super Mario World Remade From Memory directly takes this contrast and expands it into a full-on ROM hack. Remade From Memory is, for all intents and purposes, the Super Mario World of our childhoods- yet off in small, odd ways that can be difficult to pinpoint. And indeed, there were times I found myself wondering, did the author of this particular remembered level get it wrong- or are my own memories the wrong ones?

Unlike the typical Super Mario World hack, which has only a single author, twenty-four individual hackers collaborated on Remade From Memory. The idea came Doom: The Way We Remember It which took the same approach to the classic PC game. Part of what made Remade From Memory so remarkably practical for Super Mario World hackers is the existence of a hotkey combination in Lunar Magic that removes all objects, sprites, screen exits and entrances. This makes it quite practical for any user to create a blank slate while the overall gameplay experience remains largely vanilla.

It was gbreeze who made the first proof of concept with a full Yoshi’s Island 1 remade from memory, and the end result is just plain funny. A major foundational aspect of the project is just the idea of everything being a highly confident first draft. Some levels are subtly wrong, others outrageously so, and revisions were only made for the sake of maintaining basic playability.

Even for dedicated Super Mario World hacking hobbyists, there’s also the matter of some levels being more memorable than others. There were many levels nobody wanted to touch because they just couldn’t remember them at all. None of the twenty-four participants were confident they could remember Chocolate Secret, for example, until Teyla finally managed to scrape together something at the last minute.

Chocolate Secret even stood out to me, not being a particular expert on Super Mario World, because I could definitely pick out what was wrong- the sinking platforms in the underground section are way too fast! I ended up cheating and just using the cape to fly over all of them. In other places I was less confident about what difficulty should or should not be there. The Forest of Illusion Castle, for example, I remember from childhood as being horrifically difficult- the place where you’re glad to have several dozen easily acquired extra lives if you’ve been playing the whole game without pause up until that point.

But was it really that hard? Or am I only remembering it as being that hard? Of course, the mere act of remembering itself is hard- Koopster did the Yoshi’s Island overworld map, possibly the game’s single most iconic image and the first one anybody who uses Lunar Magic sees- and still managed to get it remarkably wrong. Then there’s memory leaks, where hackers jumbled the original game with other projects, albeit in ways so subtle only a person very clued into the romhacking scene would notice. FPzero claimed the Blue Switch Palace in complete confidence, only to completely mix it up with Red Switch Palace.

FPzero’s levels are all the images seen in this article, incidentally. And you may well be wondering, as I did when I first saw them- which ones are the originals, and which ones the remembered versions? That we even have to ask such a question is testament to the fuzzy nature of memory. But anyway, the righthand Star Road and the bottomhand level outlines are the originals. Such is the testament to how we all experience games in unique ways even if the games themselves are identical.

William Schwartz William Schwartz (9 Posts)

William Schwartz is a media writer who specializes in South Korean media, but also writes about a wide variety of popular culture subjects- including retro video games.