Ranking Every Super Mario Game: From Terrible to Timeless Classics

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Ranking Every Super Mario Game: From Terrible to Timeless Classics
Randy Meeks

Randy Meeks

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We can play hundreds, thousands of video games. Live stellar adventures, walk Silent Hill, fight Nemesis or shoot in the Vietnam War. But absolutely no game can compare to the purity of the first time we ran through the Mushroom Kingdom, jumped on top of a goomba and discovered that inside the boxes there were coins and secrets. Super Mario Bros’ is the video game with a capital ‘B’.

But not all Mario games are the same… Or equally good: some are able to summarize all the good things about a video game screen after screen while others find the name a little too big. That’s why we’ve decided, on the eve of Illumination’s movie, to make the definitive list of the games in the main Super Mario saga (leaving aside karts, sports, RPGs and spin-offs) to decide, once and for all, which is the true king of the console. Let’s-a-go!

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19) Super Mario Bros 2 (NES)

Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic’ was not a great game, and its conversion outside Japan to ‘Super Mario Bros 2’ is unfair to the series. Yes, it had a huge influence on the rest of the games (Luigi jumps higher, Peach can float), but neither Bowser is present, nor the gameplay system matches the rest of the series. It has its fans, especially since it was discovered in ‘Super Mario All-Stars’, but the truth is that playing it now is only slightly more fun than doing homework. Next.

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18) Super Mario Land (Game Boy)

It was absolutely awesome that the Game Boy could have Mario on its launch, and ‘Super Mario Land’ is a technical prodigy for the time. Plus, the soundtrack is an absolute hilarious rave. The problem is that the gameplay isn’t up to par and Sarasaland isn’t as fun a place as the Mushroom Kingdom. In this version, Mario saved Daisy instead of Peach and it’s a good summary of what the game is: not bad, but not what we came looking for.

17) New Super Mario Bros 2 (Nintendo 3DS)

The ‘New Super Mario Bros’ saga revived the interest in 2D in a franchise that seemed doomed to the great adventures that had forced to leave aside the more classic screens. But in this case everything felt too derivative: neither the new powers (Gold Mario, the golden block, the white raccoon) were sufficiently novel, nor the new screens were little more than mimics of the previous ones. Entertaining, yes, but without surprises and smelling of DLC.

16) Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube)

It’s about time to admit that ‘Super Mario Sunshine’ wanted to innovate, and that’s commendable, but… it wasn’t a great game. It had some ideas and some amazing screens, but after ‘Super Mario 64’ we expected more than spending half of the game cleaning up tar with a portable hose. Mind you, Delfino Island is a new place full of possibilities and, after a few hours, once you get past the constant cleaning, it becomes even lighter.

15) Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels (NES)

The lost levels’ has, more or less, the same problem as ‘New Super Mario Bros 2’: it’s more of the same in a series that stands out for never settling for that. But the Japanese ‘Super Mario Bros 2’ has something that makes it unique: it is, by far, the most difficult game of the whole series. While the rest of this list can always be played with a smile, this is Mario’s ‘Dark Souls’, which also rewarded with an unpublished world to all those who passed it without taking shortcuts. If you manage to finish it, you may love ‘Doki Doki Panic’ a lot more (and a little less to life).

14) New Super Mario Bros Wii (Wii)

Being a game of the ‘New Super Mario Bros’ saga you know what’s what, but in the case of Wii there was a surprising novelty: the possibility of playing cooperatively and competitively with up to four people. Playing alone made it just another game on this list, but the madness of getting four friends together and trying to pass the screens without killing each other is an experience only comparable in fun to a good ‘Mario Kart’. And that’s not saying little.

13) Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Game Boy)

Letting Nintendo developers let their hair down gives rise to one of the most imaginative (and unfairly underrated) Game Boy games: in ‘Super Mario Land 2’ Mario fought for the first time against Wario, his evil counterpart, and to do so he went through all sorts of wacky worlds, from the one that reflected his miniature body to the moon itself. A real classic to carry around in your pocket. Easy? Yes. Fun and full of secrets? Absolutely.

12) New Super Mario Bros U (Wii U)

Maybe only a few of us remember the Wii U fondly, but the truth is that, although it is now gathering dust in a closet, Nintendo went all out with the few games it released. Proof of this is this ‘New Super Mario Bros U’ that, without changing the rules of the game franchise, managed to give a new tone to the ‘Super Mario World’ in which, in addition, could play up to 5 people at once. Just to have the opportunity to fight against all the koopalings and to be able to become a flying squirrel was worth discovering.

11) Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo 3DS)

Maybe not everyone liked it, but the use of 3D in the game gave it an atmosphere that makes it impossible to play on any other system, or without taking away, at least, much of the fun. The mix between 2D and 3D, creating a hybrid game, made this, once again, the proof that the saga could always surprise. A lot of new power-ups and durability made this a favorite of the last portable (real, at least) of the house.

10) Yoshi’s Island (SNES)

Or, literally, ‘Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island’. Should it be part of the saga? Is it a spin-off like the rest of the games starring Yoshi? Here we count it as part of the same. And how not to do it: it has one of the most careful finishes of a Super Nintendo game, with those graphics like drawn on wax and that unique gameplay controlling Yoshi and throwing eggs. It’s true that some ideas and Baby Mario’s cries don’t quite work, but rarely has a saga been reinvented so well.

9) New Super Mario Bros (Nintendo DS)

We finish with the ‘New’ saga talking about the game that started it all. Nintendo DS, one of the best consoles in history, included powers like the super mushroom, with which we could destroy everything in our path, or the playful blue shell. It is true that this is a game that you can pass in a walk, but, at the same time, it is a joy to return to it again and again. In addition, it started a new saga that revived the game in a period of emptiness… In a more or less original way.

8) Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Mario and company can become crawlies. I don’t know what else a game needs to please absolutely everyone. Eight worlds, four extras, increasing difficulty, a heart-stopping final screen. Its only problem? That there are seven other undeniable titles in front of it. From here the mark is made between “the Mario games” and “THE Mario GAMES”. Attention.

7) Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)

Yes, yes, it’s amazing. Fabulous. A masterpiece. But, at the same time, it repeated some concepts from the original game and you can tell it was originally being prepared as an improved version. But don’t let the trees keep you from seeing the forest: its creativity and ability to surprise are the order of the day and make it one of the best games, not just on Nintendo Wii, but in history. 242 stars to achieve: what a blessed madness.

6) Super Mario Bros (NES)

The game that started it all, the one whose 1-1 screen should be studied by all marketing, development and UX teams, which in just three minutes explains everything you need to know without the need for absurd tutorials. But beyond that, the world they managed to create in 1985 is still able to amaze today. A flower that throws fire, a mushroom that makes you big, secrets scattered here and there, perfect platforming: if you don’t like ‘Super Mario Bros’, it’s not for you.

5) Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)

The first 3D Mario game had to be something special after so many games on the NES and SNES. The new controls had to be understood immediately. And boy, did they get it: the first walk through the outskirts of the palace and the first time we got into a painting already sold you the gameplay, but the best thing is that we still had a lot to go. A word of advice: the Nintendo DS version, even if the purists don’t want to accept it, is even better.

4) Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

The logical evolution of ‘Super Mario Galaxy’, with a tinge of ‘Super Mario Land 2’: crazy screens, each with its own rules, taking things from the open world and letting the charisma of Mario do the rest. Impossible not to enjoy it from start to finish on Switch: a waste of imagination, ideas, puzzles and secrets for completists that make it a walkthrough the first time we play… And a real challenge from there.

3) Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

After ‘Super Mario Sunshine’ failed to win over fans of the plumber, Nintendo had a tough mission ahead of them: to make a new ‘Super Mario 64’ that, at the same time, didn’t look like anything anyone had ever played before. And boy, did they succeed. Estela was a new character that immediately became a new piece of the family and the tone of the game, which could have been an absolute mistake, made it feel like part of the franchise from minute one. If you had a Wii and didn’t play ‘Super Mario Galaxy’, did you really have a Wii?

2) Super Mario Bros 3 (NES)

After ‘Super Mario Bros’, the saga needed a renewal in order not to be more of the same in its third part, the last one on NES. And they did it. More enemies, more differentiated areas, more powers (including Mario Tanuki’s) and a way of playing that polishes to perfection what we already saw in the first two games of the saga but without increasing the difficulty. An absolute revolutionary, influential and fabulous masterpiece.

1) Super Mario World (SNES)

What can we say about ‘Super Mario World’. Mario’s entry to the 16 bits introduced Yoshi, the flying cape, hidden routes, hidden keys… And best of all: 32 years later, the game is still as good as ever. From the first minute to the last, it’s the perfect Mario game: pretty to look at, easy to play, fun, and complicated when it comes to the end. Once we get there, there’s no movie that can take us. yahoo! mamma mia!

Randy Meeks

Randy Meeks

Editor specializing in pop culture who writes for websites, magazines, books, social networks, scripts, notebooks and napkins if there are no other places to write for you.

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