Super Mario Odyssey is on its way and it looks to be FANTASTIC. Another shift in the direction of a truly iconic franchise.
The word ICONIC gets thrown around a LOT nowadays, but let’s be clear: Mario Jumpman Mario is one of, if not THE most iconic video game character of all-time. Since his debut in 1981’s “Donkey Kong”, Mario has been leaping his way into our hearts.
Over the last 36 years Mario, has had his standard platforming adventures, turn-based RPGs, kart racing, partying, educational series, and so on. He’s largely responsible for the transition to 3-D platforming as a whole and is responsible for a lot of tropes in gaming.
Today, I’m going to countdown his greatest efforts, games that if you haven’t had the chance already, you honestly should play. This will be main series games only, so I’m not including Mario Kart, or Mario Party or Sports titles on the main list.
#10. Super Mario Land (Gameboy, 1989)
Super Mario Land was Mario’s first feature game on the handheld device. It was incredibly different than any other Mario game to that point and featured Mario saving Princess Daisy of SArRARRRASSSRARARRASSSAA Land (I think that’s it) from the evil Tatanga. It’s a little more difficult compared to other early Mario entries and incredibly short, if you never played it, get an emulator.
#9. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii, Wii U – 2010)
Took everything that Galaxy did regarding platforming and made it BETTER. It also added Yoshi. Also also, DAT BOWSER THEME (even if the boss is incredibly disappointing).
#8. Super Mario Sunshine (GCN, 2002)
This would have been WAY higher if they didn’t completely screw up the final boss. Either way, Sunshine was a fun game with a unique concept when it came to Mario. Yes, you were still on a collect-a-thon mission, ala Mario 64, but the story around it changed, and that was good enough for me. The whole Bowser Jr./Momma Peach thing is still weird to me…
#7. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SNES, 1995)
Oh man, HERE WE GO. This was my game when I was younger, with Yoshi finally getting his own day in the limelight. Six worlds, eight levels each, crazy designs, a slightly challenging level curve as things continue on. You can find it on the Wii U Virtual Console (I know). One of my favorite final bosses of all time too.
#6. Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985)
I don’t have too much to say about it, it’s the OG, it’s the reason this series exists. It’s a classic.
#5. Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door (GCN, 2004)
This is one of the greatest video games of all-time and I want to place it SO much higher, but for whatever reason I can’t justify going higher than #5. Where do I begin with this game? Innovative and in-depth turn based battle system, a plot that develops and makes several twists and turns throughout its run? Fun and entertaining dialogue? One of the most memorable chapters or segments in the Mario series? It has it all. The story kicks off when Peach sends Mario a letter from far away Rogueport reporting about an ancient treasure. When Mario arrives to help Peach with her search, he finds that she’s been kidnapped, and this time not by Bowser. A secret organization called the X-Nauts have taken Peach and have plans to use her in their quest to open the mysterious Thousand Year Door. Throughout the game the mystery regarding what lies behind the door continue to be glossed over before the main whopper is thrown at you: SPOILER —
The treasure is an ancient demon that has been sealed away for 1000 years. The X-Nauts are planning to use Peach as a vessel for the demon’s soul.
Also the final boss is the ancient demon.
#4. Super Mario RPG (SNES, 1996)
This might be #4 simply because of nostalgia, but here it goes. If you have not played Super Mario RPG, you really owe it to yourself to get it. If you still have a Wii or Wii U, go to the shop now and download it. This game is largely responsible for “timed hits” being added to the RPG genre, giving an additional element to turn based battles that the Paper Mario series and Mario & Luigi series later built off of. It introduced one of the most legendary characters in the series that we never hecvard from again (Geno), featured the first teamup between Mario and Bowser and expanded the Mario Universe for the first time in series history. The story begins with Bowser kidnapping Toadstool (Peach) per usual, when Mario goes to rescue her a giant sword falls from the sky and splits the three of them across the Mushroom Kingdom. Turns out the giant sword belongs to the Smithy Gang, who crashed into Bowser’s Keep to use it as a portal to the Mushroom Kingdom so they can take over the world by creating a world full of weapons. In their descent, the sword crashed through Star Road, eliminating any possibilities for people’s wishes to be granted. Mario and crew must collect the 7 pieces of the Star Road in order to retain hope to the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s dope. Dope as hell. It just got caught in between the end of the SNES development era and the beginning of the N64.
#3. Super Mario Bros. 3 (SNES, 1988)
QUICK NAME YOUR FAVORITE WORLD!
WRONG ANSWER, IT’S WORLD 3 UNLESS YOU PICKED WORLD 3 THEN THAT’S THE RIGHT ANSWER. FROG SUIT FTMFW.
All things considered, Mario 3 was a giant step in the series, seeing as Mario 2 (aka Doki Doki Panic reskinned) was a major step away from what the series was supposed to be. Also, Goomba/Koribu’s Show ALSOFTMFW.
#2. Super Mario 64 (N64, 1996)
Do you remember the first time you popped this game in your Nintendo64 and you ran up as Mario to those castle doors? My God! I was 7 or 8 years old when I first got my hands on this game, the level designs, the open/sandbox style, 120 stars to collect across multiple levels. SM64 was truly a masterpiece and helped usher in the era of 3D Platforming. This game truly revolutionized the industry and still holds up to this very day over 20 years later
#1. Super Mario World (SNES, 1990)
Okay, I went back and forth between this and Super Mario 64, but I have to give the nod to Super Mario World as the greatest Mario game of all-time. This game was incredibly important to the platforming genre and introduced Yoshi as a mechanism for the Mario Universe. The world map, the different zones, the various secrets and unlockables. The epic Bowser fight at the end, it all added up to probably the most polished and put together Mario game of all-time. If someone had (somehow) never played a Mario game before, this would be the one I point them to.