My Completely Unnecessary, Biased and Probably Illogical Ranked List of Mario Games
If you weren’t sure by now, I love video games. Especially games made by Nintendo. Especially their Mario games. Especially the Mario platformers. Especially, especially, especially. Have I said “especially” enough?
The following is my ranked list of all the Mario platformer games, from my least to most favorite. Now, I wouldn’t say any game on this list is bad, but I am admittedly unnecessarily critical of Mario games.
#17 – New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS. 2012)
New Super Mario Bros. 2 was for me anticipated sequel to the first New Super Mario Bros. I was looking forward to seeing how Nintendo expanded their “New” franchise, and if it would deliver the same level of enjoyment its predecessor had. It was, however, only halfway satisfying. NSMB2 lands itself at the bottom of my list for the chronic level of unoriginality it contains. While the gameplay was of course good, nothing about this game felt “new.” Level design was re-hashed, the majority of the power-ups were throwbacks from older games, and enemies and bosses were entirely forgettable (the Koopalings have never held much interest to me as bosses, considering they are seven versions of the same thing). The entire “collect a million coins” gimmick was also completely pointless, as it did nothing but add hours to your total play time of the game. All around, if you played any other of the “New” games, this one can be passed on.
#16 New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii. 2009)
This game was something everyone was waiting for. A multiplayer Mario game where everyone played on the same screen. That concept proved to be a massive success, but was unfortunately the best part of this game. NSMBW Was built from the ground up with multiplayer in mind, which meant single-player took less of a priority, apparently. Many of the game’s levels are not especially fun to play by yourself, with most of the difficulty spawning from attempts to mess up a group’s teamwork, which results in what I would consider “cheap deaths” for a single player. Levels will suddenly go from structured to Mario Party-esque, which clearly happens for the benefit of more than one player. It’s an undue frustration for those of us with no friends.
#15 Super Mario Land. (Game Boy. 1989)
Super Mario Land was the first ever portable Mario game. It gave players the desired ability to take Mario on the go, and enjoy close to the same amount of enjoyment. The reason this game is this low on the list is because one reason: its simplicity. I am well aware of the limitations of hardware, the lack of knowledge and cost issues, but that does not prevent this game from being less enjoyable that many other Mario games. It’s fun, but at times it feels too much like a prototype. Also, I hate the Super Ball power-up. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
#14 Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES. 1990)
Oh boy, I now a lot of you are angry about how low this game is on my list. What can I say? I didn’t grow up with this game. Nostalgia has no effect on me. Super Mario Bros. 3 was a true evolution to the near-perfect formula introduced by the first Super Mario Bros. It had all the fun gameplay everyone had come to love, plus new features like a variety of power-ups and the ability to save game progress.
What makes this game place low on my list is how cluttered it is to me. I mentioned how it added new power-ups, but there are a LOT of them, and many of them rarely ever used in the game. You’ll use one, level specific item once, then discard it as quickly as you can for a Fire Flower or a Leaf. There are also very powerful items, like the Hammer Bros. Suit, which are only ever seen a handful of times, which regulates them to a cruel tease. I also am not fond of the at times overabundance of levels. In later worlds, many of these levels feel like they could have (and should have) been condensed into single, more refined stages. You’ll play many levels in relatively quick succession, then find yourself stuck on one frustrating level that throws off everything you’ve learned in the previous levels. I believe these levels exist because most of the game’s levels do not have much substance past face value, and the oddball levels serve as a way to make the play actually appreciate the normal levels and not notice their monotony. This game also introduced the auto-scrolling levels, the greatest plague on the franchise.
#13 Super Mario Sunshine (Gamecube. 2002)
The second the 3D Mario Platformers, Super Mario Sunshine was spectacle during its day. The gameplay, controls and visuals were all a joy to experience, along with the new, yet admittedly complicated F.L.U.D.D. weapon Mario uses.
The shortcomings of this game stem from the level design. Most of the various locations unfortunately feel and look mostly the same, due to the game’s tropical setting. The lack of variety leaves much to be desired, with many levels being centered on finding your way around an area and almost randomly searching for items and trying to force subtle sequence progressions. I don’t have any proof, but I feel that the decision to set the game in one particular locale hindered the developers’ creativity. It just seems this way to me because of how many of the game’s main collectables, the Shine Sprites, are found by finding secrets and collecting coins, instead of at the end of levels. Honestly, Sunshine feels like it should contain many more levels.
#12 Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (It depends. Ditto)
The first true sequel to the first Super Mario Bros., The Lost Levels stays very close to its predecessor with its gameplay. The only difference is the ability to play as either Mario or Luigi, each with unique characteristics. Oh, and the game is also very, very difficult. The difficulty never truly dampened my enjoyment of this game, but the fact that it feels like little more than an expansion of the first Super Mario Bros. leaves a lot to be desired.
#11 Super Mario Land 2 (Game Boy. 1992)
This sequel to Super Mario Land got it so, so right. The gameplay manages to be simultaneously consisted with the rest of the series and deliver a significant amount of uniqueness. The levels are all stand-out and interesting, and the enemies and bosses all have a goofy yet endearing charm to them. This game also marked the first appearance of Wario.
My only true complaints about this game would be its length and difficulty. SML2 manages to deceptively short, and most of the game’s challenge is regulated to its final level.
#10 Super Mario World (SNES. 1991)
This is the game Super Mario Bros. 3 should have been. All of the fun plus of all of the refinement. Each level feels intentional and well thought out. This game also introduced the Super Feather, which gives Mario the Super Feather, the best power-up in any Mario game ever.
My main source of dissatisfaction with SMW stems from the sometimes too obscure hidden secrets it contains, as well as the Yoshi coins found in each level, which are the basically the originators of the Star Coins from the “New” games, which are often a pain to collect.
#9 Super Mario 64 (N64. 1996)
Mario’s first 3D game, Nintendo certainly did it right during the industry’s early days of three-dimensional gaming. This game introduced near-perfect gameplay, was the first wide-release reveal of Mario’s voice, and established the winning formula that would be used in the next few 3D Mario games.
What isn’t great about this game is the lack of multiplayer, the sometimes unclear level objectives and the typically boring coin hunting you have to do in order to collect every Power Star.
#8 New Super Mario Bros. U ( Wii U. 2012)
This game is essentially the “New” equivalent of Super Mario World. It takes the premise of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, builds on it, enhances and refines it. NSMBU manages to be fun in multiplayer and single player games, and also offers additional content in the form of challenge modes.
What make this game better would be to have some bosses that actually aren’t the Koopalings, and if Star Coins were at least a little easier to find. Some of the coins require a lot of time and thought to find, and that throws of the overall flow of the game.
#7 Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES. 1988)
Many of you probably didn’t see this one coming. “But it’s not a ‘real’ Mario game,” some people say. Well, some people are dumb. You think about all the things this game introduced. The unique character traits of Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad. The Bob-ombs, Pokeys, Shy Guys, Snifits, and other iconic enemies. Think about how empty the series would feel without them. This unique game allowed for diversity in the series. It’s also fun to play. And it’s actually a Mario platformer without a time limit, which is nice to have once in a while.
The only things that would have made SMB2 better would have been to include multiplayer, more power-ups, and a better life-gaining system.
#6 New Super Mario Bros. (DS. 2006)
The supreme example of creating a perfect homage to an already perfect game mechanic. NSMB was a return to form, being directly inspired by the first Mario games. Therefore, this game has everything good about those games included in it, plus more of its own contributions.
The shortcomings of this game are few, but the most glaring are the blasted placement of Star Coins and some otherwise boring or forgettable levels.
#5 Super Mario 3D Land (3DS. 2011)
The first true 3D Mario game for a handheld 3D Land is kind of like having Super Mario Galaxy on the go. Fun levels, great visuals and a fair assortment popular power-ups. The only real way to make this game better would be to add multiplayer somehow. (For shadowing)
#4 Super Mario Galaxy (Wii. 2007)
Super Mario 64 was the first quantum leap forward in 3D platforming, and Super Mario Galaxy was the second. This game is so beautiful, both in gameplay and visuals. Being able to freely move around on three dimensional objects opens up a plethora of fun ideas for gameplay interactions.
For critiques of SMG, all I can say is that most of them were solved in the Sequel.
#3 New Super Luigi U (Wii U. 2013)
A game made as an expansion pack for NSMBU, New Super Luigi U can be seen as a type of “Hard Mode” for its predecessor. You play as Luigi with is signature style of having a higher jump and less movement control while on the ground, fewer power-ups, and every level has a ninety-nine second time limit. It’s a much more focused and intense experience than other games in the series, making it stand out to me.
What this game did need was even more separation from NSMBU. The over world and locations are all the same, along with all the boss battles, which was disappointing.
#2 Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii. 2010)
So apparently Super Mario Galaxy was such a good idea that Nintendo had enough concepts left over to build an even better sequel. SMG2 keeps everything good about the first SMG, like the physics and level design, and adds improvements where needed, like with the controls and gimmicky motion-controlled levels.
For this game, the only thing I can say would be an improvement would be better implementation of multiplayer and for certain rarely-accessed power-ups to be used more or removed entirely.
#1 Super Mario 3D World (Wii U. 2013)
I haven’t loved a game as much as I’ve loved Super Mario 3D World in a long, long time. This game has it all, plain and simple. Fun gameplay, fantastic level design, appropriate and fun power-ups and surprisingly fun multiplayer. I’ve written an entire piece on this game before, so if you want more details, go ahead and read that. I can’t praise this game enough.
As for critiques… umm…well… I guess the only thing I can think of is that to play certain optional levels, you’re required to use the Gamepad, which you’re probably already using to play the game with. This is one of the very few games I’ve loved from start to finish.
Well, that’s my completely personal and biased list. I hoped you enjoyed it. And if you didn’t, well, I can’t really say I care. At least I’m honest.