When you think of gaming, one character will instantly come to mind, Super Mario. Nintendo helped to revive the gaming industry following the 1983 crash and Super Mario Bros. led the charge. In the four decades since his first appearance, Mario has become gaming’s most iconic figure and more recently crossed over into the mainstream with a billion-dollar movie, as well as the release of the new Super Mario Bros. Wonder in October 2023, which has already sold over four million copies. Gaming wouldn’t be the same without the plumber, so here are the top 10 Super Mario games.
10. Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo Wii U/Switch)
The 3D spin-off series launched on the Nintendo 3DS with 3D Land, which was followed up with 3D World on the Wii U. Super Mario 3D World is designed to be a co-op game, with up to four players similar to the New Super Mario Bros. games. The game was later ported to the Nintendo Switch with a brand new expansion called Bowser’s Fury, making this one of the must-play 3D Super Mario games that you need to check out.
9. New Super Mario Bros. U (Nintendo Wii U/Switch)
Following the move to 3D in 1996, there were no new 2D Mario games from 1995 until 2006 when the New Super Mario Bros series launched, with the first title being on the Nintendo DS. Since then, there have been numerous releases, with them showing up on every new system since. The best of the bunch is New Super Mario Bros U, which had perfected the formula by this point and delivered one of the most fun 2D Super Mario games ever. If you never owned a Wii U, which is understandable, the New Super Mario U did get ported to the Nintendo Switch which makes it much more accessible today.
Following the decision by Nintendo of America to not release the original Super Mario Bros. 2 in North America, Nintendo needed a new game to release as the follow-up to the iconic Super Mario Bros. Instead, Nintendo made the decision to reskin a Japanese-exclusive game called Doki Doki Panic to include characters and enemies from the Mario universe. Super Mario Bros. 2 is a completely different experience compared to the original game and took the series in a new direction, but it ended up working out very well. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is a different take on the series and is fun to play. This game was later released in Japan as Super Mario Bros. USA.
7. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo Wii)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is one of the few times that we’ve seen a direct sequel in the Super Mario series, and it continues to build upon the first game with the addition of new mechanics such as Yoshi. When it comes to the game it is more of the same and feels more like an expansion than a standalone game, not that it’s necessarily a bad thing.
6. Super Mario Bros./Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels (NES)
With there technically being two different Super Mario Bros. 2 games depending on your region, it made sense to bundle these two together rather than take up two entries on this list. When the NES was released in 1985 it came bundled with Super Mario Bros. and this led to the explosion in popularity of the NES, which saved gaming in North America. Even today, Super Mario Bros. is incredibly intuitive just to pick up and play at any time and journey through the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue Princess Peach. The following year, Super Mario Bros 2. was released in Japan, and later as The Lost Levels in other regions as part of the SNES Super Mario All-Stars collection. Super Mario Bros. 2 is much harder than the original game, which drew a lot of criticism and was the reason why the game never appeared in the West and was instead replaced by the Super Mario Bros. 2 we all know. In terms of appearance the game is the same and today it would feel more like DLC rather than its own standalone game. But if you enjoy the original game then certainly check it out.
5. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)
Super Mario Odyssey was released on the Nintendo Switch shortly after the console launched in 2017 and once again took inspiration from the groundwork that Super Mario 64 laid. Mario journeys through many different themed worlds to collect over 1,000 Moons. Like many other Mario games, it is incredibly user-friendly and can be picked up and played by veteran and new gamers alike. Super Mario Odyssey also features one of the best pieces of music in the entire franchise during New Donk City, when you hear it you won’t be able to help but smile.
The Nintendo Wii is often remembered for its sports and family games such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit, but it also had its share of some of the best games in many Nintendo franchises and it is no different with the Super Mario series. Super Mario Galaxy felt very similar to Super Mario 64 in that it had various worlds with lots of levels to complete. The game made clever use of the Wiimote and the motion controls feel natural and help to complement the game. This is a must-play entry in the series.
3. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Super Mario Bros. 3 was the final entry to appear on the NES and it blew all previous games away. The overall quality had really stepped up, with a world map allowing more freedom on the way you play the game, with each having its own gimmick and use of many different power-ups. There will always be a debate about which 2D Mario game is best, with it usually being between Super Mario Bros. 3 and another entry on this list, and either one would have been justified in taking the higher spot on this list.
Super Mario 64 saw the series make the jump to 3D for the first time thanks to the hardware upgrade that the Nintendo 64 provided. The move to 3D allowed Super Mario 64 to be much larger than previous entries in the series, with Peach’s castle serving as the hub for each world. In total, there are 120 Stars to complete across over a dozen levels, which provides a very lengthy experience and the longest game to date at the time of its release. While there have been many fantastic 3D Mario games, Super Mario 64 laid the foundation that any future games haven’t quite topped to date.
1. Super Mario World (SNES)
When it comes to deciding the greatest video game of all time, for me Super Mario World is in that conversation. Nintendo took what worked with Super Mario Bros. 3 and elevated it with the next-generation SNES hardware, allowing the team to finally add elements that had been planned since the first game, such as the inclusion of Yoshi. Thanks to the use of bold colors over large areas, Super Mario World still looks great today and the gameplay is timeless and is yet to feel outdated. When it comes to the pinnacle of 2D Mario games, there is no game quite like Super Mario World, and over 30 years later no game in the series has topped it.