The game takes place in Jewelry Land. Mario and Yoshi are asked by Princess Peach to save King Fret and his son Prince Pine from Bowser and the Koopalings. Bowser has stolen twelve gems that keep Jewelry Land balanced. Without them an earthquake occurred that split the kingdom into two realms: the Light Realm and Dark Realm.
Yoshi's Safari was one of the very few titles to use the SNES' gun peripheral, the Super Scope (Nintendo Scope in the UK). Aside from being notable for being the only Rail Shooter themed Mario game, it's also the first time Princess Peach was referred to by that name (instead of "Princess Toadstool") in the West.
Yoshi's Safari contains examples of:
- Attack Its Weak Point: Almost every boss in the game has something that needs to be targeted and blasted to defeat them. Usually it's their weaponry or the boss itself. Wendy however averts this.
- Big Boo's Haunt: One of the levels is a ghost mansion.
- Boss Rush: The final stage features a rematch against all the mini-bosses in the game.
- Co-Op Multiplayer: In a 2 player game, player 1 controls Mario by doing the shooting and using items while player 2 controls Yoshi by jumping and moving him left and right on the rails.
- Distressed Dude: Instead of Peach being kidnapped, Bowser goes after a king and prince instead.
- Final Boss: Are you surprised it's Bowser?
- Free-Fall Fight: Roy's boss battle. He strangely falls much faster than you do upon defeat.
- Friendly Fireproof: Averted. Shooting Yoshi will hurt him and he'll let you know it.
- Here We Go Again!: The New Game+ is justified by taking place after Mario and Yoshi saved the kingdom. Bowser did the exact same thing twice in a row.
- Light Gun Game: It uses the seldom used Spiritual Successor to the NES Zapper, the Super Scope. Mario even uses one in-game.
- New Game+: After completing the game, a code appears that unlocks a harder mode. It also changes the colours and cutscene text of the game.
- Oh, Crap!: Some bosses have this expression upon their defeat.
- Puzzle Boss: A minor variant. Wendy cannot be damaged directly nor does she have a weak point. You have to find some other way to defeat her. Shoot the anvil when it's above her head.
- Rail Shooter: Yoshi's Safari is a railshooter with platformer elements.
- Rule of Three: Wendy is the only boss in the game who needs to be damaged three times to force her surrender.
- Shockwave Stomp: Bowser has one of these which prevents you from attacking. Strangely enough he does not attack you while you're stunned.
- Shoot the Bullet: Practically required against the bosses to avoid taking damage.
- Sudden Name Change: Peach had previously been given a Dub Name Change of "Princess Toadstool". This is the first game to refer to her by her Japanese name (which would later be known as her given name). Alas, Peach was still referred to as "Toadstool" in games such as Super Mario RPG and it wasn't until 1996's Super Mario 64 that "Princess Peach" stuck.
- It may well have been a translation error at the time. Due to the unpopularity of Yoshi's Safari, it was not widely noticed.
- Tactical Suicide Boss: Lemmy is only vulnerable in his second phase when he raises his head when he can shoot at you just fine without looking. Roy's balloon will shoot you regardless of his position so there's no reason for him to expose himself. Morton is at least justified in showing his face because he can't attack you otherwise.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Princess Peach doesn't get kidnapped in this game.
- Turns Red: Most bosses will enter a second phase that changes how they attack you and/or where their weak points are. Wendy and the Chargin' Chuck avert this.
- Unlockable Difficulty Levels: A hard mode exists, but it must be unlocked with a code given out at the end of the game.
- What the Hell, Player?: Yoshi will glare at you if you shoot him.
- White Flag: The Koopalings and Bowser will raise them upon defeat.
- Wingding Eyes: Each of the Koopalings and Bowser will have Xs for eyes upon their defeat, with Morton being the exception. Since he never opens his eyes, his frog machine has these instead.