This week is National Mario Day (Tuesday, March 10th), so Gamify would love to take this opportunity to shine a light on some of our favourite Mario video games.
If you feel that we have overlooked an essential Mario experience, please let us know in the comments below. With that in mind, let's take a look at the list of our 10 favourite Mario games.
Super Mario Bros. 2
It may seem like an odd place to kick this list off, given that Super Mario Bros. 2 is not a “real” Mario game, yet it’s fantastic!
So what do I mean by it not being a "real" Mario game? Well, it was simply a western rebrand of a preexisting Japanese title (Doki Doki Panic). Once you notice it, this title sticks out from the rest of the series like a sore thumb, with a lot of the core level design and elements that make up a Mario game missing with different ones swapped in.
It’s the first game to allow you to play as Mario and his brother Luigi, Toad or the Princess. Each of them has their own special attributes. Princess can float mid-jump for a moment or two. Luigi has a slightly higher jump than anyone else.
More importantly, it’s a surrealist adventure full of crazy landscapes, crazier enemies, and a bird that shoots eggs out of its mouth. It may not be the first Mario game you should start with, but it’s one that you absolutely should not miss.
Super Mario Sunshine
Perhaps the most experimental game in the series since Super Mario Bros. 2, the GameCube exclusive Super Mario Sunshine threw Mario onto a tropical paradise armed with his trusty F.L.U.D.D. cannon. The multi-purpose device gave Mario the ability to clean up gunk on the ground, perform acrobatic manoeuvres, or even just fire at enemies.
The F.L.U.D.D. cannon brings about a more offensive style of gameplay and a breath of fresh air to a long-running franchise.
Sunshine represented Nintendo at a time when the company had once again become an underdog, and its bold move away from standard Mario conventions emphasised the scrappy design philosophy.
Super Mario 3D World
Fusing the manic gameplay of the New Super Mario Bros. series with the interesting platform landscape of 3D Land, 3D World was a much-missed gem. Players could scour 3D platforming worlds with some of the most inventive obstacles, power-ups, and enemies in the series thus far.
The Wii U exclusive cherry-picked elements from older Mario games, including Super Mario Bros. 2’s multiple playable characters, choose to play as Mario, Luigi, Peach, or Toad.
This game is gorgeous, fresh, and perfectly designed. Like the best “Super Mario” games of the modern era, it seamlessly blends nostalgia within its gameplay with fresh twists. Each level in “Super Mario 3D World” feels like a gift waiting to be unwrapped, and playing it co-op with friends and family is a true delight.
New Super Mario Bros.
New Super Mario Bros. seems like an oxymoron at this point, but back when the game released for the Nintendo DS, it had been years since fans had gotten a 2D Mario game. Built for classic Mario players and featuring the series’ famous Goomba and Koopa enemies, it nevertheless had its own unique mechanics, such as the Mega Mushroom, and showed that the modern art style was still perfectly suited for two dimensions.
This game was a perfect marriage between both the original and modern Mario titles. Providing a well-polished reworking of the traditional side-scrolling adventures.
Super Mario Bros.
Despite the fact that this game is not Mario’s actual first appearance (his debut being in the original Donkey Kong series), this title was the game that kicked-off one of the biggest video gaming franchises of all time. This title was responsible for giving Mario the mushrooms, the fire flower, his jumping and platforming style, and so much more that identifies him as the hero plumber we all know today.
Super Mario Bros. set a new paradigm in terms of challenge, intent, design philosophy, and player expectation. It’s a game that birthed several of the world’s most recognisable characters, that inspired generations of game developers.
This game helped to revive the video game medium itself. The Nintendo Entertainment System needed a title that would sell consoles, to convince families home gaming was viable after the video game crash of 1983, and Super Mario Bros. led the way.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
This game takes the space theme from the first “Galaxy” game and doubles down, allowing for a new take on the way that traditional “Super Mario” levels are structured. It’s unafraid to introduce a drastically new game mechanic for a single level, which gives the game a hand-made feeling.
Nintendo doesn’t generally make direct sequels to its games, as it tends to alter them in significant and fundamental ways with each release. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is one of the exceptions to this rule, as the first Wii game’s massive popularity and success made it an obvious candidate for a follow-up.
Super Mario Odyssey
Odyssey helped Nintendo achieve its victory lap on the Switch by recapturing that sense of adventure we all knew and loved from Super Mario 64. The developers took a huge risk by adding the new "Cappy" character mechanic, turning Mario into nearly any object, and in turn dozens of new abilities and options for beating levels. Fortunately for Nintendo, this mechanic really paid off in this instant-classic of a title.
Set in a series of large, open environments filled with platforming challenges and secrets, Odyssey is Nintendo platforming at its very best. The game’s gorgeous mix of realistic foliage with Mario’s classic cartoony frame makes it hilarious at every turn, as well, and Odyssey’s jazzy soundtrack and creative 2D segments make it one of the most inventive games in the series yet.
Super Mario World
Super Mario World is still, to this day, one of the best “Super Mario” games ever made.
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System had a lot to prove, as Sega had beaten it to the 16-bit market with the Genesis. Naturally, Nintendo chose Mario to lead the charge and delivered the endlessly fun Super Mario World. Though the game followed the same basic formula as the original game and Super Mario Bros. 3, its increased use of items and diverse cast of enemies make it, unlike any other Mario title.
Super Mario World is the quintessential “Super Mario” game, perfecting the character’s movement and defining many new standards in the series (from the addition of Yoshi to the concept of a Ghost House, and its many exits). It showcased the power of the Super Nintendo, a game console still steeped in deep reverie by millions and was the first truly epic-feeling adventure for Mario.
Super Mario 64
The game that completely changed video games still feels as fresh as ever, almost 25 years later. Many titles from its time tried to imitate and recreate the magic of Super Mario 64, the first full-blown 3D platformer, but none quite achieved the childlike sense of wonder that this marvellous game inspired.
Making the jump from side-scrolling 2D to 3D platforming for Super Mario 64 was a risky move for Nintendo and the Mario series, but it succeeded in a way few other games ever had. Mario’s running, jumping, and flipping translates perfectly to the Nintendo 64’s polygonal visual style, with creative levels encouraging exploration and problem-solving in addition to traditional platforming.
Super Mario 64 is one of the few 3D platformers from the 64-bit era that has aged gracefully, and it’s just as playable in 2019 as it was when the Nintendo 64 launched more than two decades earlier.
Super Mario Bros. 3
When “Super Mario Bros. 3” arrived in 1990, it defied universal expectations about what was possible on the original Nintendo. It had a large, gorgeous map that was in perpetual movement. The levels were full of gorgeous contrasting colours which seemingly popped off the screen. It’s important to note that this was in an era where arcades were still a relatively normal thing, and where most games had three or four colours at most.
Many will argue about the greatest all-time Mario game, and sure, it’s tough to judge–but it’s almost impossible to deny that Super Mario Bros. 3 is the most enduring success of the Mario franchise, and perhaps, the greatest video game of all time, too.
As Nintendo rose into cultural significance and launched this title, Super Mario became a broader, more intricate, and more complex series, providing players with hours upon hours of adventure, and hopping to new worlds never before captured in the medium. It changed the game. And, the raccoon tail was pretty cool, too.
That's our list. Let us know if there are any entries you feel should have made the top 10.