Screen Critics Shaun takes on the task of ranking as many Mario games as he can find. With over 40 games, where does your favorite come?
Mario is a franchise that transcends gaming. Ask most people what they know about video games and its very likely the Mushroom Kingdom’s finest will feature heavily in the response. He’s iconic and as such has featured in a wide selection of games (and spawned many others on the side). We decided to take a look at these games – rank them and rate them against each other to decide which we feel are the best and the worst.
For the benefit of ease; we’ve thrown some exclusions in to try and keep things a bit trim. We wanted to include as many games as possible but in the case of these – we genuinely didn’t think they were worth mentioning (At least not this time!);
No sports titles – Let’s be honest, they’re all about as good as each other and really incomparable to the main Mario family of games.
No puzzle games – Not really worth getting excited over are they?
No Wario/Donkey Kong – We wanted to keep it limited to the core cast of Mario characters.
No Pre-Super Mario Games – Mostly just cameo appearances.
We’re not claiming this is ALL the Mario games (We know there’s 2 on Gameboy we’ve intentionally left off this list) and inevitably will have missed something off – but it’s as close as we’ll come to ranking all of the main Mario/Yoshi/Peach/Toad games. So let’s go for it!
47. Super Mario Bros. Special (NEC PC-8801/Sharp X1, 1986) – Never saw release on a Nintendo console; probably not the worst decision. Hudson adapted Super Mario Bros for the Japanese market but somehow ended up warping the game into a merciless horror show. Things get worse when you realize that flip screen scrolling is broken and the iconic Mario levels have been given “twists” that all but ruin them. A terrible idea
46. Mario is Missing (SNES, 1992) – The title of this game should really have been “gameplay is missing”. For those of us unfortunate enough to remember this heap of junk the first time round, the nightmares still remain. The game charges you with playing as Luigi, looking for Mario around a crudely drawn globe. The game doesn’t bother trying to help you, reusing so many assets from earlier games that it should illegal. The effort that went into this game is shockingly poor – worse still if you were unlucky enough to play the DOS version. Who ever thought this would be a good idea for a Mario game?
45. Mario’s Time Machine (SNES, 1993) – Mario’s Time Machine suffers from a lack of coherent ideas. Instead of giving gamers a heap of interesting worlds to explore – most of the actual gameplay takes place in short, dull historical locals. The music is fine, but the gameplay never tries to be anything more. There are also some odd trivia sections which serve to frustrate more than they entertain. Given that this game wasn’t developed directly by Nintendo (Instead under license from them) some of these shortcomings are understandable. But really, there are better 2D Mario games on the SNES. Heck, there are better games full stop you should be making your kids play – instead of wasting time with one of the worst Mario games.
44. Hotel Mario (Philips CD-i, 1994) – Why isn’t this one bottom I can hear people crying. Don’t get me wrong – it’s terrible and playing it is as far removed from a Mario experience as you can imagine. But the fact is that the game is playable – just not enjoyable-playable. Hotel Mario see’s the iconic plumber wandering through doors as he attempts to collect various things without dying. Tragic doesn’t cover it
43. Yoshi Topsy Turvy (GBA, 2005) – Nintendo’s experiment with accelerators goes horribly off the tracks in a game that does nothing but frustrates. Artoon developed this one but that doesn’t really excuse the half-baked mechanics that try to marry platforming and wiggling your console around. Broken beyond repair; not worth the time or effort to track down – even for Yoshi’s biggest fans.
42. Mario Clash (VB, 1995) – Typically when Nintendo releases new consoles, it likes to do so with a Mario game or two in tow. It makes sense, gamers love Mario and his presence can only help elevate the consoles early existence. Not so in this case. Released as part of the ill-fated Virtual Boy lineup, Mario Clash is a simplified take on the core plumber experience. Thanks to the consoles horrendous display, making out what’s going on is a chore all in itself. The game is slow, clunky and just a mess to try and experience. This all wouldn’t be so bad if the levels were any good to play through, but the game relies on the same basic layout for all of its incarnations. It’s lazy, poorly executed and thankfully for Nintendo, easily forgotten.
41. Yoshi Touch N’ Go (DS, 2005) – An Entirely forgettable game that plays like a series of mini-games. Even with the novelty of the Nintendo DS still fresh – this game lacked any real substance or depth to warrant itself as a full retail release. That being said what is here is fun in small doses.
40. Mario Party Advance (GBA, 2005) – The fun of Mario Party as a series is that you get to play minigames with friends – but if the mini games you play are all awful – what’s the point? Few Mario video games deliver the kind of underwhelming mess that Mario Party Advance manages. With its combination of bad minigames, slow gameplay and a multiplayer mode that’s barely a thing – you’ll wonder what the point is.
39. Mario Kart Super Circuit (GBA, 2001) – On a list of Mario games that is stacked with quality – something had to be pushed all the way down. In this lists ca, e it was Super Circuit, the Gameboy Advance game that tried (and ultimately) fell over due to limitations. Overly sensitive controls and unimaginative courses didn’t help the cause but for me – it just wasn’t as fun as other Mario Kart games.
38. Super Princess Peach – (DS, 2006) – Nintendo’s attempt at spinning off a Peach focused game was not without merit. The game was decent for the most part – playing like a solid homage to Wario Land games. But the focus on Peach’s emotions served to make proceedings feel more like a novelty than a proper game; breaking the flow and giving the game an unfortunate air of novelty that wears off quickly.
37. Yoshi’s Story (N64, 1997) – Visually this game stands up well – managing to invoke a unique identity on the N64. Sadly the game itself is just too easy – the game lacked any challenge or real drive to push the gamer. The result is an experience that feels severely lacking in the shadow of Yoshi’s Island – something I suspect many fans of that game would have preferred.
36. Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS, 2012) – Taking the Paper Mario concept and attempting to shake it up, Nintendo delivered something of a bomb in the shape of Sticker Star. The game play is more reminiscent of traditional Mario games – with the franchise’s much-loved RPG elements ejected entirely and replaced by sticker combat. Very few side quests and the complete removal of XP meant there was little replay value for those who dared to play. It was an awkward move and one that the fans of the series rightly rounded on. Not a great experience.
35. Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels (Famicom, 1986) – More of a level pack for the original Super Mario Bros than anything else. A large number of the levels in this game are designed from the ground up to infuriate the gamer – with little to no attempt to ease new players into the experience. Challenging? Yes. Fun? Questionably so.
34. Yoshi’s Island DS (DS, 2006) – An attempt at being a full sequel to the SNES’s Yoshi’s Island – this game borrows heavily from its forbearer in tone and mechanics. The different babies made things over-complicated while the decision to have the action move between the two DS screens made for some uncomfortably awkward deaths as hazards would be between the two. It’s not a bad game by any stretch but certainly, no where near as good as the game aspires to mimic
33. New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS, 2012) – The decision to shift game play focus to coin collecting was an interesting one – and something that gives this Mario Bros game a unique style. But it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is simply a retread of already hashed out ideas found in other games. The result is a fine but somewhat forgettable experience.
32. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (DS, 2009) – There’s nothing ultimately wrong with BIS other than it tries a little too hard. The problem with a lot of Mario DS games is they got landed with gimmicky mechanics that didn’t really add to the experience – more just happened to be there. Throughout BIS there’s several of these mechanics that crop up – leading to the whole thing feeling a bit gimmicky. Add in a bizarre story where you venture into Bowser’s lower colon and you have one of the franchises more bizarre moments.
31. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U, 2014) – A fun if slightly limited puzzle based game that takes the Super Mario 3D World mini games and stretches them into a full game. It’s wonderfully charming and beautifully crafted – offering enough variety to keep gamers coming back. Whether the game play is enough to appeal to you is another matter entirely – it’s certainly unique in the extended Mario family of games.
30. Mario Kart Wii (Wii 2008) – The introduction of bikes left a lot to be desired while the online side of things was exceptionally limited for a console release. The mix of retro and new courses was fine but I never really liked how floaty the karts felt in this game – feeling like an over-compensation for the games motion controls which were god awful themselves. There’s plenty to like but it’s hard to escape the feeling that one played it all a little bit too safe.
29. Mario Kart – Double Dash (Gamecube, 2003) – By and large I consider Double Dash to be a great Mario Kart game. It looks the part and in multiplayer is a complete hoot for fans – but that dual driver system was a real wrench in the works. It limited the game in areas and made it harder to enjoy the overall experience – bringing weight classes and combinations right to the forefront of Mario Karting. It’s not a great move sadly. Luckily in terms of mechanics and gameplay this game has a lot going for it and some of the courses are great laughs to play through.
28. New Super Mario Bros. (DS, 2006) – Not the best 2D Mario game by considerable distance – there’s still a lot to like in this game. The graphics were great on the Nintendo DS while the controls were tight – offering gamers a challenge worthy of the Mario Bros name. The game lacks a number of the franchises more notable power-ups and boasts levels that are simpler than classic games. In the end though the success of this game brought the Mario Bros. franchise back to the forefront – so it’s worthy of some praise at least.
27. Mario Kart 64 (N64, 1997) – Packing a great selection of levels and having tight controls – Mario Kart 64 pushed the boat on what gamers could expect from the franchise. The battle mode is probably still the best in the franchise while extra modes like time trial’s and ghosts add to the replayability of the game. The introduction of 4-player racing also meant that the fun was expanded beyond just 2 players. It might look rough in modern times but back in the day – this was something special for gamers.
26. New Yoshi’s Island (3DS, 2014) – Playing very similarly to the original Yoshi’s Island – the game makes a better fist of taking that games better ideas and applying them to a newer generation than the ill-fated DS game. The result is a solid outing for Yoshi which sees the best of all worlds being married together with a fairly simplistic art style. Not a wholly memorable outing for Mario’s faithful companion.
25. Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (DS, 2005) – Sticking with the winning formula from Superstar Saga – Nintendo opted to keep things by the books in this sequel to their original hit. The game makes clever use of the Nintendo DS’s second screen while still retaining the sense of humour that found so many fans the first time around. From the time travelling story, through to the Elder Princess Shroob – there’s a lot to like in this game.
24. Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985) – Dangerously we’re going to put this one more in the middle of the pile – if only because by comparison to its newer entries it feels slightly limited and there’s so many good Mario games ahead of it. But that doesn’t decrease the enormous influence this game had on the wider video game industry or the fact that many of its components are so well constructed. From the iconic music to the pin point controls – this was a game that was oozing with charm and style from the word go. It’s iconic and legendary in equal amounts – and paved the way for everything on this list.
23. Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992) – Still good fun to this day – Super Mario Kart is more about out-and-out carnage than anything else. With simple courses and a limited selection of riders – it’s multiplayer where this game really shines. The focus on coin collecting ties in well with the wider franchise and the rewards for smart play are effective. Still a great game that stands up well to multiplayer.
22. Super Mario Sunshine (Gamecube, 2002) – Flawed but ultimately daring entry into the 3D library of games. The over-reliance on FLUDD for gameplay mechanics divided opinion while the use of voice acting was more than questionably delivered. But look beyond this and here’s a game that’s brilliantly designed and stuffed with ambitious gameplay that pushes the gamer. Plus even all these years later – the game looks gorgeous.
21. Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam (3DS, 2015) – The wider jury is still out on this one I suspect but there’s no denying that the game is a quality outing. Marrying the Paper series with Mario & Luigi franchises together – Nintendo uses the benefits of both to create a story that gamers will either love or hate. Really it’s the strong game mechanics that shine – with good combat and exploration overcoming the weaker Toad Hunt aspects. Seriously Nintendo, lay off with the Toad Hunts – thanks!
20. New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U, 2012) – The first high-definition Mario game looks beautiful on the big screen. The game represents a peak for the 2D Mario Bros. franchise with more focus on refinement and bringing together all the moving pieces from past games than anything more ambitious. It’s a classic and when combined with the use of multiplayer and the Wii U’s touchscreen – the potential for fun grew incredibly. We also include New Super Luigi U in this – since this is mostly an expansion of the NSMBU game.
19. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (3DS) – A satisfying culmination of all the Mario & Luigi games that came before it – Dream Team marries the RPG style of Mario & Luigi to a more action orientation – resulting in a fun game that’s packed with engaging content. From the colourful locations to the heap of exploration on offer – there’s plenty to like in this game that makes great use of the dream concept it lays out.
18. Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES, 1988) – Hugely fun to play – Super Mario Bros 2 (Mario Madness in the USA) brought a huge raft of changes to the Mario formula that stuck well beyond this games release. The ability to pick up objects and enemies became an important feature of the games while huge levels granted the player license to go exploring – something future games would lean on heavily. But it’s the inhabitants of Subcon that really shine – populating this Mario world with their quirky sense of humour that endures well into the franchise and leaves the game with a huge sense of knowingly having fun.
17. Mario Kart 7 (3DS, 2010) – Took all the improvements made in the Nintendo DS version of Mario Kart and beefed it up to the nth degree. The selection of tracks was impressive while the online side of things saw huge advances. Thanks to the 3DS’s circle pad driving was a dream while the removal of snaking took away one of the DS-versions more controversial features. The addition of hang-gliders and underwater sections felt exceptionally gimmicky while the single player side of things suffers from being a tad bare-bones – but it’s arguably the best mobile outing for the series.
16. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii, 2009) – The introduction of four player co-op pushes this game ahead of its DS sibling – which takes full advantage of its promotion to the Nintendo Wii. Stages are more packed and varied – with more going on and a harder challenge for gamers who felt the original was lacking in difficulty. The chaos created made for a more hectic feel – similar to Mario games of old. For fans it was a welcome step for the franchise.
15. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA, 2003) – Something of a surprise hit when it landed in 2003 – Superstar Saga gave Luigi a prominent role front and centre with his brother. The result is a highly funny game that see’s the two bouncing off each other in ways previously unseen. The gameplay managed to remain unique enough to avoid comparisons with Paper Mario while maintaining a heavy hand in the RPG elements.
14. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (Gamecube, 2004) – Expanding everything gamers loved about the original Paper Mario – TYD brought a heap of new locations on board. From the Boggly Woods through to the Creepy Steeple – there was plenty of variety on offer for gamers. Add in a refined visual style that was immensely gorgeous on the Gamecube as well as the game mechanics that made the original so well liked and there’s a reason this game is still held in high regard. The only major failing of the game is the length of its story – which at times threatens to sag unceremoniously.
13. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, 2007) – Galaxy worked best when it was focusing on guiding the gamer through wonderfully crafted stages that challenged the gamer. The visuals were gorgeous while the boss battles were enormously fun on the stages provided. One of the reasons this isn’t higher than it’s sequel is that overall it’s experience is slightly less refined – the story taking more of a central hold. The result is a game that can have wildly swinging difficulty curves and given the way the game presents new features – sometimes a bit of a chore to handle.
12. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS, 2012) – The first attempt to marry the gameplay mechanics of the Galaxy games with the tempo and linear approach of the 2D Marios gave birth to 3D Land. A visually striking game – 3D Lands was generous on the 3DS and played like a real champ. Gamers found themselves at the games mercy as the difficulty ramped up across the many stages. Best of all, once the main games wrapped up there’s an entire second quest that extends the games life well beyond expected lifespan. Not bad for a 3DS game.
11. Mario Maker (Wii U, 2015) – Celebrating 30 years of Mario – Nintendo opted to push out what effectively is a “best of” collection. The premise is simple but look closer and Nintendo managed to squeeze every aspect of their 2D Mario games into one stellar package. The ability to flip styles with such ease meant gamers could get creative – creating all kinds of levels that pushed the 2D Mario’s further than they’d ever gone before. Being able to share and download levels from other players inspired gamers and allowed for a level of competitive play that had rarely been seen in the franchise before – with gamers challenging each other to complete their creations.
10. Paper Mario (N64, 2000) – A novel twist on the Mario mythos that saw the franchise being turned into a picture-book style presentation. It changed everything gamers expected from Mario – from a visual style that was distinctive and unique to gameplay that all but embraced RPG elements. Add in a quirky sense of humour that was entirely self-aware and a battle/XP system that made the various companions throughout the game feel unique – and Paper Mario represented something of a triumph for Nintendo.
9. Mario Kart DS (DS, 2005) – For a 2005 Nintendo DS release this game pushed the boat out and then some. It brought online play to the franchise – granting gamers the chance to go online and compete with friends. The ability to play with Nintendo DS owners who didn’t own the game was brilliantly thought out while the multiplayer options are among the best in the franchise. The D-Pad controls are suitable while the selection of tracks and kart options are highly welcome. It was a true classic on arrival and even all these years later still represents a great value.
8. Super Mario RPG (SNES, 1996) – Nintendo slid this game out in the dying days of the SNES – something that meant the game went largely overlooked in the age of the Nintendo 64. But if gamers tracked it down – they would have been treated to an excellent RPG adventure that told a gripping story and married Mario’s typical shenanigans with gameplay not found in the Mario series beforehand. The focus on isometric gameplay works well and overall there’s very little to hate in this hugely underrated games in the series.
7. Mario Kart 8/ Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Wii U/Switch, 2014/2017) – So close to perfection yet so far. Graphically this game is stunning and gameplay-wise it does enough to provide interesting twists on the Mario Kart formula – bringing in the notion of hovering to tight controls. Add in an online mode that was robust and allowed gamers to save recordings from races while taking on up to 11-other races and you have one of Mario Kart’s finest moments. It’s just a shame that it’s let down by some awkward mechanic choices (Not being able to carry an item while holding another behind you) and a battle mode was a complete abomination.
6. Super Mario 64 (N64, 1996) – Say Mario to a certain group of gamers and this is the game they’ll probably think of. As revolutionary as the Super Mario Bros. games were in the 1980’s; this was the game that launched 3D gaming. With a camera that was fully flexible, movement that in tune with the expectations of the fans and levels that varied from water wonderland to Sahara plains – this was the ultimate experience. It paved the way for all 3D Mario games that followed and influenced countless other franchises into mimicking (and in some cases outright lifting) the best parts.
5. Yoshi’s Island (SNES, 1995) – Yoshi’s island wasn’t afraid to mix things up. Utilizing the SNES’s 3D chip to empower its enemies – the game was able to create a more varied and surprising bank of enemies that didn’t typically feature in Mario games. Yoshi’s Island also featured more dense levels – inviting the gamer to explore and make use of Yoshi’s special abilities as he explored every nook and cranny. The use of collectibles made the game addictive and underlined just how refined the experience was in 1995 – still playing well to this day.
4. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U, 2013) – For me, 3D World is the perfect marriage between the two branches of Mario games. It looks beautiful in full HD but leans heavily on the mechanics more associated with the 2D Mario games. The focus on co-operative play adds a layer of competitiveness that makes the game replayable while the level designs are simply divine. It’s a shame many will likely never play it – the game appearing on the Nintendo Wii U which sadly hasn’t sold as well as Nintendo probably hoped. But 3D World makes a very strong case for being that consoles the greatest game and makes an even better shout for being one of the best Mario games ever put out by Nintendo.
3. Super Mario World (SNES, 1991) – Mario’s 16-bit debut was every bit the classic that its predecessors were. Miyamoto and his team used every bit of the increased specs on board the SNES to deliver an experience that hadn’t been had before. Stages did more, were more reactive to the player and the variety on offer was largely increased. It’s the balance between removing power-ups from previous games and making ones such as the cape more important that really wins Super Mario World praise. It’s a beautifully constructed game and one that comes stuffed with brilliantly realized ideas.
2. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii, 2010) – Taking what made the original Galaxy game great and refining it to a tee, Galaxy 2 plays like a superior version of that game. The result is a varied and charming experience that challenges and delights in equal measures but one that feels slightly robbed of originality for its heavy use of borrowing. Luckily there’s enough new mechanics thrown in here (Yoshi’s) for the game to overcome this and thanks to an enormous selection of levels – it’s easy to understand why many who played this game left feeling utterly delighted with it.
1. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES, 1990) – Boasting an impressively large array of power-ups and dozens of stages – each with their own distinctive themes – it’s hard not to be impressed by the variety on offer. It’s the fact that the game never over-utilizes it’s moving parts – only giving gamers enough time to learn and use items before quickly moving on to the next toy that keeps things fresh. From the Hammer Suit through to Kuribo’s Shoe – the game was bursting with fresh ideas and a heap of ways that it wanted the gamer to experience them. Many of Mario’s abilities from this game would be used over and over down the line – but this game stands the test of time and delivers a truly fun experience that feels great to pull out and play.