The Best SMW2: Yoshi’s Island ROM Hacks Worth Trying

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Yoshi was first introduced in the original Super Mario World in 1990.

But he (it?) wouldn’t rise to fame until SMW2: Yoshi’s Island came out in 1995.

This game established the abilities, backstory, and aesthetics around the character. It may have had Super Mario in the title, but this game laid the foundation upon which the Yoshi franchise would later be built.

Whether you played the SNES original or the Game Boy Advance re-release, SMW2 remains a model platformer experience.

The level design is fantastic, the new gameplay elements like the flutter jump were unique, and the graphics are out of this world.

SMW2 doesn’t get quite as much love from the hacking community as the original Super Mario World, but there are plenty of gems to try out there. Let me show you my favorites so far.


10. Secrets of Yoshi’s Island

Secrets of Yoshi's Island ROM Hack

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First up, we’re checking out something small but meaningful from the hand of creator YoshisFan.

Those of you who played Yoshi’s Island’s Game Boy Advance version – released as Super Mario Advance 3 (2001) – will remember the game had secret levels not present in the SNES original.

These hardcore secret levels were one of that game’s best parts. And thanks to this ROM hack, we can now play through them in the original SNES game too.

This compilation includes all six secret levels and a special-colored Yoshi to play as.

It’s nothing new, but being able to experience the full Yoshi’s Island experience on the SNES is a pleasure.


9. Yoshi’s Highland

Yoshi's Highland ROM Hack

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If you’re looking for something a bit more out of the ordinary, consider Yoshi’s Highland – a demented and chaotic series of levels created by WoodenChair, meant to mess with your head and test your patience.

Yoshi’s Highland is what we call a “corruption hack”, meaning it plays as if the game was malfunctioning.

It achieves this by hurling random enemies, objects, and anything with a sprite all over the screen.

The game’s 54 levels have been thoroughly tested and shouldn’t crash (too often). So if you’ve got nerves of steel and love unreasonable challenges, you should check this out ASAP.


8. Yoshi’s Castle Escape

Yoshi's Castle Escape ROM Hack for SMW2

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Frantically dodging flying enemies and items sounds like a great time, but 54 levels?

That’s way too much for such a simple gimmick.

Me, I prefer short and sweet ROM hacks like Yoshi’s Castle Escape by Jimmy.

Instead of over 50 levels of questionable design choices, this hack offers one long level where Yoshi and Baby Mario are taken to their very limits – along with yourself.

There are some bugs here and there, but it’s absolutely playable.

Plus every puzzle is very well designed, and there’s a sense of cohesiveness in this hack, rather than just a bunch of random puzzles mashed together.


7. Golden Yoshi Returns

Golden Yoshi Returns ROM Hack of SMW2

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One of the hacking scene’s most influential creators is Golden Yoshi, who rose to fame with awesome hacks like “SMW2+” and “Golden Yoshi Returns”.

The latter is an exciting one-level hack starring a shiny golden Yoshi trying to get through a massive maze of a level.

It may be side-scrolling, but you can still get lost.

The hack shows off the excellent level design prowess of Golden Yoshi from beginning to end, and it’s a great starting point for fledgling ROM hackers to challenge themselves and have some fun.


6. Kamek’s Revenge

Kamek's Revenge ROM Hack of SMW2

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Something that made the original Yoshi’s Island so good was how it provided a challenge that the average player could tackle, as long as they put in the time and effort.

Kamek’s Revenge also gives players a wide difficulty range.

The first few levels are pretty manageable, but as you progress through its 54 levels, you’ll find increasingly demanding obstacle courses.

If you’re determined, this can be the game that finally takes you from an average Super Mario fan, up to an expert able to challenge even kaizo level ROM hacks – or at least get you on the right track.

The game also features a ton of visual edits to level icons, sprites, and more.

And this was one of the first hacks ever made with modern SMW2 hacking tools, making it a bit of a milestone.


5. Enhanced Yoshi’s Island

Enhanced Yoshi's Island ROM Hack of SMW2

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We all remember the original Yoshi’s Island fondly.

But the brain usually just focuses on the positive.

Going back to it now, you’ll notice some glaring design flaws, such as Mario’s all too annoying crying.

Seriously, it’s like having a fire alarm strapped to your back.

This ROM hack by Trisma will take care of all those tiny details Nintendo overlooked back in the day. Mario no longer cries, plus some annoying sounds are replaced by better ones, and red coins are actually red now!

This is the definitive way to enjoy the vanilla Yoshi’s Island experience.


4. SMW2+

SMW2+ ROM Hack Preview

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As I said before, Golden Yoshi is one of the most respected creators in the SMW2 hacking scene.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find another one of his hacks on the list (and it’s not the last).

SMW2+ was one of the first big Yoshi’s Island hacks to achieve popularity, and in fact, it was the first complete hack out there.

It features 54 levels of pure creativity with new and unique areas full of puzzles and challenges – all of which set this game apart from the vanilla experience.

Some people even think SMW2+ is better than the original.

I wouldn’t go so far given the relatively common bugs and some amateurish decisions here and there, but it’s excellent nonetheless.


3. New! SMW2: Yoshi’s Island

New! SMW2 Yoshi's Island ROM Hack

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This amazing ROM hack by creator YoshisFan shines because of the sheer scale of the adventure.

It features a full 60 levels, custom icons, new maps, and even some new Yoshi colors.

New! SMW2 is also known for its great difficulty.

It starts out moderately manageable, but the difficulty curve is relentless, and some levels are really long – requiring you to hold perfect focus for extended periods.

But the really skilled gamers out there might even want to tackle some of the extra and secret levels, most of which are in a league of their own.


2. SMW2+2

SMW2+2 ROM Hack Preview

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As the sequel to SMW2+, this game brings even more creative levels, and an all-new story where the Yoshis decide to call upon the Chosen One to face the evil witch Kamek.

One thing that makes SMW2+2 pop out is the respect for the original Yoshi’s Island’s level design.

The difficulty and type of obstacles you’ll have to overcome here will all complement nicely against the vanilla game.

And once you’ve cleared this hack, you can get a 100% score on each world to unlock extra secret levels, or tackle the Pit of 50 Trials – a post-game dungeon inspired by a similar pit in Paper Mario.


1. Golden Yoshi’s Island

Golden Yoshi's Island ROM Hack of SMW2

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Golden Yoshi’s Island is something like the Director’s Cut for SMW2+2.

It was designed for speedrunners to stream on Twitch, so Golden Yoshi and collaborators hand-picked the 36 best levels from the original SMW2+2 and rearranged them into four Worlds.

The game also features a faster transformation sequence, hasty egg aim, and a better world clear cutscene.

Autoscrolling sections were also removed for less frustration.

With a beautiful presentation and some excellent levels, Golden Yoshi’s Island could very well be the best SMW2 hack to try out – if you’ve got the chops for it.

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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.