While divisive among fans of the 8- and 16-bit classics, there's no denying the popularity of the 'New' series. The original New Super Mario Bros. opened up 2D Mario to an entirely new generation, even if gives off a "been there, done that" vibe these days. We dinosaurs can pine for our pixels and the 'classic' games, but that shouldn't detract from this remarkably solid Mario platformer. Absolutely essential it is not, but there's plenty to like in Mario's oldest New adventure.
Is that enough qualifications?
The first 2D Mario game to come to a home console in many years, New Super Mario Bros. Wii brought chaotic four-player local multiplayer to the series for the first time and gave old-school fans yearning for a side-on Mushroom Kingdom adventure something to chew on, with plenty of clever nods to the past. The stylings of the 'New' series might not have been everyone's cup of tea, but anyone put off by the 'wah's and cuteness missed out on a real platforming treat.
So much of the foundation of the series — and the medium of video games at large — was put down in Super Mario Bros. that it's tough to evaluate all these years later without considering its historical importance. This game, perhaps more than any other in history, has passed into the popular cultural consciousness and would go on to influence countless other games and developers since 1985. It's the kind of release you use to delineate historical eras; when it comes to video games, there was 'Before SMB' and 'After SMB'.
Going back after all Mario's other 2D adventures shows that it has aged, naturally, 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.
You've played this many, many times before, no doubt, and you'll play it many, many times again. Good game.
Mario's run of hit after hit after hit is rather incredible when you think about it. The expectations each new mainline entry creates are astronomically high and we're continually gobsmacked that, more often than not, those expectations are surpassed. Available to play on Switch if you have a copy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Super Mario Sunshine is a great game which — thanks to its rushed development — lacks the immaculate polish we've come to expect from the Mario series. However, there's 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?
As a direct sequel to Super Mario 64, it is not the genre-defining classic everyone was hoping for. However, with the passing of time, we can look back and appreciate the many things that Sunshine does superbly. The joyful, bouncing Isle Delfino theme alone makes it worth revisiting, and if you've skipped this entry in Mario's back catalogue, don't let its reputation put you off. The Sunshine Defence Force may be overcompensating a tad — it's certainly got its flaws — but at the very least, it's still very good in our eyes.
The original Super Mario Land was a solid start for the series on Nintendo's Game Boy system, but nothing could prepare gamers for what the developers were able to do with this sequel. They managed to improve every aspect of the game and even made the adventure a much longer and more rewarding experience this time around. The difficulty is perhaps a bit on the easy side, but it's still one of the best Game Boy titles ever released and a testament to just how capable a game system the Game Boy truly was. If you're a Super Mario fan, you absolutely must play this game; if you're not, this legendary release is good enough to make you one.
The original Wii U Super Mario Maker, with its multiple updates, additions, and tweaks over time, was 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, the elegant user interface and overall polish made this an exceptional Mario experience, one that was tailored perfectly to the second screen of the Wii U GamePad. It was the system's true 'killer app', but it simply arrived too late in the lifecycle to make a difference.
Super Mario Maker 2 might have added slopes and other fun doohickeys on Switch, but the sequel stands on the shoulders of the original, and base course creation experience is arguably still at its most intuitive on the Wii U GamePad. Bafflingly backward, Nintendo-like solutions for online sharing aside, if you've ever enjoyed a 2D Mario game and have a creative, playful spirit, then the original Mario Maker deserves your attention, even if you can't share your creations online anymore.
Super Mario Maker 2 took everything you loved about Super Mario Maker and turned it up to eleven. It's got more of everything: the Super Mario 3D World style, enemies, gizmos, powerups, vertical levels, the Story Mode having an actual story, multiplayer, and more (and slopes, of course). The list of additions is truly massive when you take a step back.
There are a few small issues here and there — the online is still hilariously obtuse in a way only Nintendo could make it, and the slight awkwardness of button-based building is disappointing after how natural it felt on the Wii U GamePad — but they're overwhelmingly dwarfed by the sheer joy and unbridled freedom on offer. Free updates and tweaks to the formula mean the game has evolved since release much like the original did, with Ninji Speedruns and various new elements added to this expansive Mario toybox.
The 3D platformer that defined what that label meant, it's remarkable just how much Shigeru Miyamoto and his team got right with its first foray into 3D platforming. It feels effortless, as if these mechanics were somehow self-evident or arrived at through natural evolution. Nintendo absolutely nailed the formula from the very beginning – so much so that the basic 3D template hasn't really changed much even today. We still control Mario much as we first did with that wonderfully odd-looking N64 controller.
Super Mario 64 is available on Switch if you nabbed a time-limited copy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars or as part of a Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack subscription, and we could go on endlessly about its genre-birthing mechanics, how it set the stage for 3D gaming as we know it, and blather on about the infinity of tiny details that make this a joy to fire up all these years later.
But you know about all that. Do yourself a favour and blast through a couple of dozen stars next time you're pondering what to play. It still feels almost as good as it did the very first time.