With New Super Mario Bros. 2 about to hit stores, it's prompted a lot of debate about the Super Mario series as a whole. We decided that we'd take on the list that cannot win, and declare Nintendo Life's favourite Super Mario games.
In total, 16 members of staff rated their top 10 Super Mario titles from a list of 14. Only games that are part of the core franchise are included, so no spin-offs, remakes or re-releases are considered — with the possible exception of Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, in which case the eventual worldwide release of the Japanese sequel was featured. We also excluded Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, on the basis that these are either spin-offs or other character's games with the Super Mario branding.
Although our staff voted for a top 10, every game received votes, so we'll list all 14 titles in descending order. No-one will agree with the whole order, but you can choose your own favourite in the poll at the end of the article.
New Super Mario Bros. brought a long awaited return to 2D Mario platforming after a long absence when gamers had only been treated to re-releases and re-mastered titles. It was a commercial smash, combining with the behemoth DS system to achieve outstanding sales, but its position in this chart reflects a sense that the level design, difficulty level and overall package don't quite capture the magic of the 'old' Super Mario Bros. titles. It's by no means a bad game however, and a must-own for DS owners.
Seen by some as the true sequel to the original NES classic, as it was in Japan, this is a notoriously difficult Mario title. The rest of the world saw an entirely different Super Mario Bros. 2, but these Lost Levels were eventually unleashed on the world and probably led to a few Mario-related tantrums. A true challenge for platforming ninjas, and if you get to the end credits then you can rightly claim to be a Mario master.
Mario's first ever appearance on a handheld, this entry boasts some of the catchiest music in the franchise, and added some variety with a submarine and plane level. It may be relatively primitive, easy and simple by the standards of its contemporaries, but it's fondly remembered.
If Super Mario Land was a fun but limited introduction to Mario on Game Boy, this sequel added much more content, some truly impressive level designs and even more catchy music. If you play this one you'll meet quirky Rabbit Mario, as well as see the first appearance of everyone's favourite gold-fiend, Wario.
In some ways Super Mario Sunshine faced an impossible task when it was released, as it was the successor to Mario's much loved 3D debut — which we'll get to later. Despite that, it's an excellent title, with Delfino Island providing a large 3D world to explore, and shows creativity with its introduction of the F.L.U.D.D. system. The return of Yoshi is a delight, while the voice acting isn't, but this one did enough to earn a top 10 place.
If New Super Mario Bros. on DS brought a long-awaited return of 2D Mario, this Wii entry scratched the home console itch. Bright, colourful visuals are accompanied by plenty of entertaining levels and the headline feature, multiplayer. Although the campaign is enjoyable in single player, finding a few friends may transform the game into the one of the most fun and equally maddening experiences in the series.
When Nintendo decided that The Lost Levels was too difficult for Western gamers, it instead re-skinned Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (which itself started as an abandoned Mario 2 prototype) and made that the sequel outside of Japan. It's quite a diversion from the original, with four characters of varying attributes, levels with plenty of verticality and lots of vegetable tossing madness. It may be unlike any other in the series, but it's nevertheless a Super Mario title with the moustachioed plumber leading the gang.
The original but, in our opinion, not quite the best. This is where the era of Super Mario began, giving millions of young children one of their first 'wow' moments when playing their NES. It's simple — so much so that Mario can't run left — but introduced some of the gaming industry's most iconic moments and features. With shortcuts and warp pipes part of the legend, this is an ageless game.
Mario's first appearance in stereoscopic 3D arrived during the Holiday season in 2011, teaming up with another karting entry to help a 3DS revival. With gameplay that mixes 3D and 2D platforming sensibilities, a lot of levels to play through and the long awaited return of Tanooki Mario, this title shows a mixture of bold experimentation and the familiar. A must-have for Nintendo's latest handheld.
The second 3D Mario platformer on Wii, this title continued the fine work of its predecessor to bring more gravity-bending innovation to the franchise. There are some difficult levels and challenges, the occasional innovative use of the Wii Remote, nods to retro classics and the return of everyone's favourite green dinosaur, Yoshi. There's some stunning orchestral music, too.
The original Galaxy beats its younger sibling by one place. A title that has been touted by some as the true successor to a certain 64-bit classic, it introduces innovative platforming in outer-space, gorgeous visuals and an orchestrated soundtrack, and has earned near-universal plaudits from critics and gamers. Intuitive use of the Wii Remote contributes to a delightful playing experience, while the range of environments and level designs are amongst the very best in the Super Mario series.
The first 3D Mario platformer innovated the genre and blew many minds when it arrived on Nintendo 64. The size of the environments was unprecedented at the time, and it's still the definitive 3D Mario experience for some. It has its share of catchy music, with levels that are now iconic and engrained in video game folklore; you can also mess around with Mario's face on the intro screen, which is enough on its own to earn legendary status.
As we got to the top entries the voting got very close, and the definitive NES Super Mario title settles for runner-up spot. This is a platformer that was incredibly ambitious in scale and level design when released, but met its lofty goals with aplomb. Outstanding gameplay, iconic power-ups, warp whistles and intricate details keep enthusiasts coming back for more. A Nintendo Entertainment System masterpiece.
The image says it all, as this title claims the crown of Nintendo Life's favourite Super Mario game. This entry utilised the 16-bit power of Super NES to produce vibrant, colourful visuals, delightful music and refined, top-class gameplay. It introduced Yoshi to the world, a memorable moment when originally released, and took the series in a number of new directions. The secrets of Super Mario Bros. 3 are nothing compared to this one, with coloured switches, various secret exits and other tricks adding to the experience. Whether you're a retro gaming fan or not, we believe this carries the 2D platforming flag for others to follow.
So there you have it, our list of favourite Super Mario games. We'd love to read all of your thoughts, opinions and lists below, and you can vote in the poll to help decide the Nintendo Life user's favourite in the series.
Which is your favourite Super Mario game? (460 votes)
- Super Mario Bros. (NES)1%
- Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (NES)1%
- Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)2%
- Super Mario Land (Game Boy)1%
- Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)17%
- Super Mario World (SNES)23%
- Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Game Boy)1%
- Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)14%
- Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube)9%
- New Super Mario Bros. (DS)1%
- Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)10%
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)1%
- Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)14%
- Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)5%
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