20 Best Super Mario World ROM Hacks

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Super Mario World. Easily one of the most iconic Mario games, and quite possibly one of the best SNES games ever released.

It offers crisp graphics and some of the best level-design from platformers of that era.

That said, even the most fervent fans of the series are bound to want something new after all this time. Enter ROM hacks.

If you want to relive the fight against Bowser and his Koopalings, but Mario Maker just isn’t cutting it, then our ranking here covers all the best Super Mario World ROM hacks that you can find online.

20. Super Mario World: Odyssey

Super Mario World: Odyssey ROM Hack

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Let’s start our ranking with one of the most unusual and frankly hilarious ROM hacks I’ve ever seen, and one that shows you the potential of these fan-made projects.

Super Mario World: Odyssey is a mash-up between SMW and Mario’s most recent adventure on the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey.

Like in the latter, Mario is accompanied by Cappy, his talking cap, which he can throw to use as a platform. Or yes, use to possess other characters.

Not only can you take control of Koopas and Banzai Bills, but even some moving platforms and even information blocks. It’s insane!

Though not fully completed, it’s still playable and available for download.


19. SMW 2 Player Co-Op Quest

SMW 2 Player Quest Hack

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Taking turns to play Super Mario World is an experience anyone with a SNES went through at some point in their lives.

While the charm of such an arrangement is indisputable, wouldn’t it be cool if you could play with a friend at the same time?

That’s precisely what SMW 2-Player Co-Op Quest offers. Although in a bit of an unexpected way.

Instead of just spawning a second character to go through the levels with Mario, this allows your P2 of choice to control Mario’s enemies on screen.

At first you’ll have fun sabotaging each other. But as the game progresses, clearing this hack’s levels will require careful cooperation.


18. Dr. Mario World Redrawn

Dr. Mario World Redrawn Screenshot

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Take control of Dr. Mario – or Wario, if you’re so inclined – and make your way inside your patients to beat the viruses afflicting them.

With lots of crisp custom visuals and interesting gameplay, this medical adventure will keep you entertained for a while.

The only downside to this great-looking hack is its somewhat repetitive level design. But that should only be a problem if you’ve been playing SMW for way too long.


17. Banzai Mario World

Banzai Mario World gameplay

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By now, most people interested in ROM hacking knows of Kaizo hacks consisting of hyper-difficult levels that only the most skilled gamers have a chance at beating.

Banzai Mario World is known as a Kaizo Light, offering significant challenges but in a more manageable fashion.

This specific hack also has a very well-planned learning curve that’ll help you become acquainted with Kaizo staples and develop your skills.

This hack is also one of the longest, most complete Kaizo-like releases. It comes with consistently good level design and very polished graphics so it’s really fun to play as well.


16. Brutal Mario

Brutal Mario SMW hack

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Also notorious for its intense difficulty is Brutal Mario, a 10-hour long adventure with a fantastic soundtrack, good-looking custom graphics, and varied level design.

One of the hack’s most appreciated and unique features is the number of references to other classic franchises such as Final Fantasy, Kirby, and even Donkey Kong Country. It even includes a boss fight against King K.Rool!


15. Item Abuse 3

Item Abuse 3 SMW Hack

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One of the most well-known hacks in the history of SMW is Item Abuse, a sort of Kaizo-level challenge demanding you to make extensive use of every single item in each level so you can reach the final flag.

It’s wild.

And I don’t mean “normal” use.

This hack expects you to break the game by exploiting interactions, like throwing items against walls and picking them back up in mid-air to re-set your jump and the like.

With its third release, the developer decided to increase the difficulty to a point where even they have just managed to clear it once. So look forward to a lot of frustration.


14. ‘the (Coronation Day)

SMW Rom Hack Creepy the

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Also known as Coronation Day, this ROM hack is more of a storytelling device rather than a Super Mario game. It’s a sort of playable creepypasta.

It’s one of the best horror/creepy SMW hacks out there.

Rather than frightening you with jumpscares, this game focuses on creating a profoundly unsettling ambiance with its soundtrack and disturbing imagery.

It’s pretty short. But it has multiple endings, and re-playing it is also part of the game mechanics – a bit like Doki Doki Literature club.


13. Kaizo Mario World

Kaizo Mario World ROM Hack

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Next up we have the hack that started a revolution.

This modified version of SMW was made by a Japanese creator only to torture a friend by having them go through the hardest levels they could think of.

Eventually it made its way to the public, and the very first Kaizo hack was born.

As you’d expect, the game is extremely hard. But it isn’t the hardest – or the most polished, for that matter.

If you want to get your hands on some living history, this is the game to play.


12. JUMP – Janked Up Mario Party

Janked Up Mario Party SMW ROM Hack

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One of the most well-known entries in the list is this entry-level Kaizo hack that’s perfect for new players to get acquainted with the genre.

Since the project began as an improvement of the vanilla game, the first few levels are pretty standard.

However as the game moves it starts introducing new gimmicks, gradually increasing difficulty, and entirely new graphics.

This refined hack used to be the very best a few years ago. But this industry moves fast!

Still, it remains a fantastic option. Especially for newbies interested in honing their skills.


11. K-16 – Story of Steel

K-16 – Story of Steel ROM Hack

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On the other side of the difficulty spectrum lies K-16 – Story of Steel, a complete transformation of SMW that changes characters, levels, and gameplay to the point where the game is unrecognizable.

You play as K-16, a robot tasked with stopping the shady Team Supernova from creating a supermassive black hole to wipe out humanity.

This hack is a love letter to classic platformers like Sonic and Megaman, as you’ll notice from the graphics and gameplay.

It’s also incredibly hard to beat.

Anyone could get through the first few levels with a bit of effort. But halfway through the game it gets vicious.


10. This Hack Needs a Name

This Hack Needs a Name ROM Hack

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Now this one is famous for its masterful level design, but also its sense of humor.

It’s also ideal for those of us with no interest in destroying our sanity by trying to clear a Kaizo hack.

Sure, this hack is challenging enough to keep you entertained, but it’s only marginally harder than vanilla SMW.

Among the best parts of this hack is the message box you’ll encounter throughout the levels. It has quite a funny personality that’ll make you chuckle to break up the tension from time to time.


9. Mega Mario World: Another Universe

Mega Mario World: Another Universe ROM Hack

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With eight fully-developed worlds and levels packed full of content, Mega Mario World: Another Universe comfortably positions itself as one of the most innovative SMW hacks.

Not only does it have pretty graphics, a well-designed overworld, and some catchy tunes. But it also features excellent new gimmicks that spice things up, such as Super Mario Sunshine’s FLUDD.

It also includes some pretty open levels based around exploration rather than making a mad dash for the finish line. Which goes a long way towards breaking up repetitive gameplay and keeping things fresh.


8. 9th Annual Vanilla Level Design Collaboration Hack

9th Annual Vanilla Level Design Contest SMW Hack

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SMWcentral.net is one of the biggest ROM hacking communities around, focusing on Super Mario World but also branching out into SM64 and other Mario titles.

Every year they hold a level design contest to find the ROM hacker of the year.

Then they put every entry together into a single ROM hack so you can judge their work yourself.

Graphics and the like are mostly vanilla, as the competition focuses on level design rather than game development as a whole.

The exception would be the overworld, where the contest’s organizers left plenty of fun little things to find.

The quality of these levels is all over the place since they’re all made by different contestants. But it’s overall pretty good, and it’s a very cool concept.

And the music is seriously incredible. If you like SNES music you’ll really like what they did here.


7. New Super Mario World: The Twelve Magic Orbs

New Super Mario World: The Twelve Magic Orbs ROM Hack

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Despite being more famous for its sequel than the original, the New Super Mario World ROM hack series is one of the all-around best you can find online.

NSMW: The Twelve Magic Orbs feels more vanilla than most games of its scope. Almost like a bonafide sequel.

It’s quite long too, and famous for its neat boss fights.

If you’re looking for an expansion for SMW rather than something entirely new, try this out.


6. Mario & Luigi: Kola Kingdom Quest

Mario & Luigi: Kola Kingdom Quest ROM Hack

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Considered one of the most fun and visually striking ROM hacks ever made for SMW, M&L: Kola Kingdom Quest brings 74 new levels with a comfortable difficulty curve that’ll keep you engaged to the very end.

Along with its exquisitely arranged overworld, the newly-added tundra levels are especially striking thanks to custom-made sprites and tiles of fantastic quality.

While the hack’s level design is pretty good, Kola Kingdom Quest is ideal for those in need of some SMW-themed eye candy.


5. Super Mario World: Return to Dinosaur Land

Super Mario World: Return to Dinosaur Land ROM Hack

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On the other hand we have SMW: Return to Dinosaur Land, widely recognized by the online community as the original game’s true spiritual sequel.

This new SMW experience focuses on excellent level design rather than fancy new graphics or a complicated story.

The result is a super-polished hack that’s simply a pleasure to play.

You’ll forget it’s a ROM hack for sure.

It’s reasonably short and about as hard as vanilla SMW, so you should be able to clear it in a couple of hours. If you have a platforming itch that you need to scratch, I can’t recommend this enough.


4. Invictus

Invictus SMW Rom Hack

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While not as famous as some of the other entries, Invictus is greatly appreciated by the select few that have played it.

Despite being classified as a Kaizo Light, this game is incredibly hard, as you can probably tell from its trailer.

This difficulty derives from excellent level design rather than cheap obstacles such as hidden blocks, which creators often abuse.

The game’s final boss is entirely new down to the base code, and it’s one of the best parts of this fantastic hack. I won’t spoil it so make sure you power through to the end!


3. Yoshi’s Strange Quest

Yoshi’s Strange Quest Screenshot

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We all know Yoshi is the real hero of SMW. That green dinosaur will do anything, even sacrifice himself so you can reach higher places.

This mod seeks to give the green dinosaurs a lot more of a protagonist role by making Yoshi the playable character.

Yoshi retains the same skills as in Yoshi’s Island, like throwing eggs at enemies, but without a baby Mario to take care of.

The hack can be pretty hard at times. But it’s manageable and will keep you entertained for around five hours if you try to find all of its secrets.


2. The Second Reality Project: Zycloboo’s Challenge

The Second Reality Project: Zycloboo’s Challenge SMW

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A one-eyed Big Boo going by Zycloboo is intent on conquering the Mushroom Kingdom.

To achieve this, he gets rid of its staunchest protector by sending the plumber into another dimension.

That’s the premise behind one of the largest hacks for SMW: The Second Reality Project.

It features entirely new graphics, original music composed specifically for the game, and very lengthy levels with great difficulty but also learning opportunities.

Not only is the story pretty impressive, but the game also looks gorgeous, and the levels are marvelously designed. What’s not to like?


1. New Super Mario World 2: Around The World

New Super Mario World 2: Around The World Hack

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The second installment in the New Super Mario World hack series is one of the most celebrated SMW hacks in recent years.

Bowser plans on destroying the world from a space station, and more importantly, he’s keeping Princess Toadstool captive.

It’s up to Mario to make his way through a bunch of well-designed and innovative levels so he can stop the Koopa King and his dastardly plans.

Other than amazing visuals and varied music taken from other classic games, this hack shines for its innovative gameplay mechanics. They include stuff like turning Mario into different enemies to clear environmental hazards, or some various suits we all know and love.

If you have to play a single SMW ROM hack, let it be this product of love to the fandom.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely playing games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.