Let’s be fair, few videogame icons come close to touching Mario in terms of success. Nintendo’s little Italian plumber has done everything from play football to soaring through space. Yet for all the jokes we can make about how much he’s used, there’s no denying that Mario’s outings are usually of the highest quality. But which of these games are the best? Which Mario experience do we think define the character best of all? Join us as we recount our top ten videogames from Nintendo’s most successful franchise.
10. Paper Mario (N64, 2000)
Taking the established Mario, Nintendo delivers a hugely impressive outing that not only pays homage to the best of the series, it arguably tops it in several ways.
Paper Mario relishes in its RPG roots, its tongue in cheek humour and more story driven adventure. From the way Mario interacts with the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom, through to the way Peach and Bowser interact – there’s a lot for long time Nintendo fans to love in this game.
Perhaps best of all, Paper Mario looks gorgeous. It’s 2D paper style lends itself well to the Nintendo 64’s limited graphics, and certainly delivers a breath of fresh air. The combination of 3D exploration with 2D tropes is delightful – creating one of the best on the Nintendo 64 adventures you can experience.
9. Mario Kart DS (DS, 2005)
Mario Kart DS shouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as it turned out to be. Nintendo went all out in delivering a solid experience, proving not only could the Nintendo DS deliver a console level experience – but that Mario Kart was the real deal.
Ejecting a lot of Double Dash’s more controversial ideas, this game settles heavily on customisation. With an exhaustive selection of classic tracks and new tracks – there’s plenty of fun to be had in the game. Not only this, it was the first Nintendo game to go online – allowing you to take on friends across the world for the very first time. Epic doesn’t cover how great this game was
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.
It’s a tale that tells a gripping story marrying 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 Mario title. The cast of characters offered up is hugely impressive – while the game looks great for a late-day SNES title. Deserves way more praise than its afforded.
7. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch, 2017)
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is easily the best package that Mario Kart has ever delivered. It’s a tour-de-force so grand and beautiful that it’s hard to see how the series can advance past it. Yes its a re-release of Mario Kart 8 (Released in 2014) but the tweaks and fine tuning made to the games works to the betterment of the experience as a whole.
All the DLC content is in from the start, taking the total of courses up to a mind-boggling 48. The Battle Mode has been re-imagined to actually work this time, as well as the return of fan favourite items (Like the Boo Ghost).
It’s the same great game, just better and in the prime of its existence.
6. Super Mario 64 (N64, 1996)
I debated whether to put this on this list – if only because Super Mario 64 has obviously aged at this stage. In particular, the graphics on show don’t quite shine as they once did. Yet returning to play it, the game plays just as well these days as it did back on Nintendo 64 (and arguably much better than the touch screen fiasco on show in the DS version).
The controls remain tight while the worlds are still wonderfully varied – with a mixture of locales and fun ideas to keep you engaged. From physics puzzles to quirky boss battles – Mario 64 set the bar for what a 3D platformer should be, and changed the course of the series forever. Whether playing casually or speedrunning – there’s plenty of fun to be had.
It’s iconic and well worthy of the praise handed to it.
5. 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. Not only this – the game upped its graphical game – creating a beautiful title that shone among the best games on the Gamecube. It’s a delight to work through, as you laugh, despair and ultimately cheer your triumph and progress. Perhaps best of all, the core mechanics that made the original Nintendo 64 outing such a delight haven’t been ruined (That comes later in the series). The battle system is fun, while the companions light up the screen.
Thousand Year Door is one of the games I’d love to see remade for Nintendo Switch at some point. It’s certainly worthy of more attention and easily one of the best Mario story’s ever told.
4. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U, 2014)
When Mario went 3D, there was a feeling that the 2D suffered in its wake. For a few years there, the 2D line of games seemingly fell to second fiddle, as gamers begged for more 3D. When Nintendo returned to these on the Nintendo DS and Nintnedo Wii, they did little to excite me honestly. It felt like Nintendo was playing things a bit too safe. Which is why Super Mario 3D World was so brilliantly fun when it landed on the Wii U in 2014.
The game is delight to play alone or with four friends. The score based nature of things keeps proceedings moving at a brisk pace, and while the story is bog-standard Mario fare, it all pales in comparison to the gameplay. It’s frantic, it’s fast and its great fun – harking back to the frivolous nature of the 2D games. It’s the perfect marriage of core Mario gameplays and works to the best of all worlds.
3. Super Mario World (SNES, 1991)
Mario’s 16-bit debut was every bit the classic that it’s 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 realised ideas – challenging the gamer to get better as you play along. This was a staggering achievement for the series and holds up all these years later. Certainly a must-play for any hardcore gamer.
2. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii, 2010)
Some people don’t like the Galaxy games, and I’m fine with that. But for me, the Galaxy games are the perfect evolution from Mario 64. It’s the perfection of core mechanics, that come together to benefit the game and give an experience like few others.
Galaxy 1 may have introduced the idea of gravity based puzzles, but Galaxy 2 takes that ball and runs with it like few other games. Better designed levels, more interesting challenges and a nice layer of nostalgia thrown in to boot. Add in the fact that the music in this game is wonderfully scored – thrilling and adding tension in equal measure. It’s a grand adventure and only gets harder when you begin looking for all those pesky green stars.
Galaxy 2 is a monumental achievement in gaming – and while some may say it borrows a bit too much from its predecessor.
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-utilises 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. Super Mario Bros. 3 is the height of excellence and a bar that few other games have passed in any genre. As a pure gaming experience, few games touching this one