Kickstarting the 'New' formula, and reviving the 2D gameplay in glorious in 2.5D, if you've been keeping up with every entry in the series, the original New Super Mario Bros. may give off a "been there, done that" vibe that many people won't care to get past – but that shouldn't take away from the fact that there's a great game to enjoy. It's not the pinnacle of the series, but it's still one of the best handheld platformers around, and it comes recommended to anyone looking to be reacquainted with or introduced to Mario's oldest New adventure.
Next up is the game that started it all – Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Such was its popularity that it remains to this day the highest selling Mario game. Even more impressive than that feat is how well it's aged. It's still an awful lot of fun to play even today, with excellent controls, level design, and mechanics. It's incredible how much Nintendo nailed the formula in the very first entry, and that both 2D Marios and other 2D platformers still largely follow in its footsteps.
Going back after all his other 2D adventures shows that it has aged, of course, and it doesn't control quite as tightly as the Super Mario Bros. theme in the Mario Maker games, but it's still the original and, some would say, the best. Not us, but some.
Billed as a stepping stone between the 2D and 3D games, Super Mario 3D Land scaled down the grand playgrounds of the mainline titles into smaller courses that worked better on a handheld screen. Beyond a few gimmicky perspective puzzles, this platformer really showcased the console’s stereoscopic 3D by subtly signalling distance and perspective to the player – you weren’t relying on Mario’s shadow quite so much (a fact we more fully appreciated when we first played this game’s ‘big brother’, the excellent Super Mario 3D World on Wii U). Comfortably contained and wonderfully tailored to the hardware, this should really be in your collection already.
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Super Mario Sunshine followed up Super Mario 64 with another free-roaming platform adventure, although this time the plumber was a equipped with a piece of kit that could conceivably be handy to a man in his profession. F.L.U.D.D. enabled Mario to hover for a short time and spray water on stuff to clean it, including enemies.
Sunshine has its problems and, due to its rushed development, lacks the immaculate polish we've come to expect from the Mario series, but it has a unique charm and brilliance to its mechanics and setting which make it an underdog in the series, and who doesn't love one of those? It has its fans and detractors, but we're generally in the former camp. Except, perhaps, for the piantas - they can only be temp assets which the devs didn't have time to fix.
The most convenient way to play these days is via Super Mario 3D All-Stars on Switch, if you have a copy.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii introduced four-player gameplay for the first time in Mario history. The chaotic multiplayer was perfect for a bunch of friends and family alike to enjoy around the TV, making the game an experience anyone could enjoy using a Wii Remote held sideways. Chock-full of classic Super Mario Bros. influences from start to finish, it takes many of those ideas far beyond what they originally were in past releases. New Super Mario Bros. brings all of the classic fun from past together in one amazing greatest hits-style gameplay experience.
Destined to be overshadowed by its sequel, the original Wii U Super Mario Maker didn't arrive in perfect form, but multiple updates, additions and tweaks left a game which arguably justified the Wii U GamePad on its own. Enabling you to craft levels in the style of the original game, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and the New series, it opened up a world of player-made levels - some awful, others awe-inspiring - and ushered in a wave of positive creativity that was incredible to be a part of. The sequel on Switch will be more successful thanks to the additions it brings and the console it's releasing on, but it stands on the shoulders of the original.
The original Super Mario 3D World is a superb entry in the franchise that included four-player multiplayer for the first time in a 3D Mario game. This co-operative element brought Princess Peach, Luigi and Toad back into the fold, mirroring the lineup of Super Mario Bros. 2. Introducing the adorable Cat Mario suit for the very first time, we also met Captain Toad and his special levels which led to a standalone adventure in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Just as with 3D Land, this game is a stepping stone between the more open 3D games and the 2D platformers.
There's no 'bad' version of the game, but Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury on Switch takes everything that made the cat-filled Wii U original special and throws in various small gameplay tweaks to make it even more enjoyable. The additional open-world-y Bowser's Fury mode packaged with the newer version makes this an essential purchase even if you 100%-ed the game on Wii U, with the only real mark against it being patchy online multiplayer implementation. Otherwise, this is up there with the very best of the plumber's ouevre.