Doctor, motorist, golfer, hotel guest, party animal - over the years we’ve seen Mario take on many different forms. While he started his gaming career as a gorilla-abusing carpenter, the mustachioed Italian always seems to shine the brightest when he plays the part of the hero.
So here we are nearly 30 years from the first time Mario jumped on a Goomba. Thirty years of stolen princesses and mushrooms. Thirty years of some jerk dinosaur-turtle getting thrown into lava (and miraculously not dying). There have been dozens and dozens of Mario related titles released, at least a few for every Nintendo system known to man. However, the only ones we’ll be counting on the list below are platforming adventures where Mario takes the lead. Yoshi’s Island is out. Too much Yoshi. Super Mario RPG is out. Too much RPG. Not to mention re-releases like Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3: Yoshi’s Peninsula DX, or whatever ridiculous name they saddled that last one with.
With a series like Mario sometimes even the “worst” game is still pretty darn great. So sit back, relax, and prepare your nasty comments about how wrong I am. Let’sa go!
The original handheld Mario adventure was quite different from the pudgy plumbers usual outings. Mario was out to save Daisy, Princess of Sarasaland, who has been kidnapped by the alien Tatanga. Sure, why not. It’s interesting that Luigi didn’t take the lead in this one, seeing as Daisy is supposedly his main squeeze. Regardless of the bizarre plot, the game was decent, but not up to snuff when compared to other Mario romps. What was the deal with those bouncy balls, anyway? At least the theme was catchy as hell.
I still can’t get over the fact that someone at Nintendo thought, “Let’s make a game where the main focus is collecting gold. What character is greedy and loves gold? I know... Mario!” I mean, come on. New Super Mario Bros. 2 should never have existed, because it should have been New Super Wario Bros. Despite that unforgivable mistepp (who doesn’t want to play as Waluigi!?) the game didn’t do much to the “New” formula, which made the original so wonderful.
The Big N stepped their game up when it came time to produce a sequel to their first mobile Mario adventure. Mario looked like Mario. Fireballs were back. You could become a... flying rabbit man...? That one was kind of strange, and it has never been featured in another Mario title to date. The game had some very memorable worlds such as outer space and that spooky pumpkin (you know the one). Not only was it Mario’s best on-the-go adventure for years, it also introduced the infamous Wario as a villain. Wahahahaha!
The first Mario platformer to allow multiple players at the same time was essentially friend poison in the form of game. It was also a blast. More players meant larger levels and more ridiculous power-ups. Whether you were shaking your Wiimote to activate your propeller suit or just shaking it in murderous rage at your old best friend, NSMBW was a solid entry in the Wii’s somewhat lacking library.
The oldest “New” Mario Bros. (I’ll let that one sink in) was a critical and commercial success, bringing back the sidescrolling spark that had been missing from every gamers grip since Super Mario Land 2. The catchy new tunes, and mixture of old and new made it one of the best selling titles on the DS, which has yet to be topped in handheld sales. Most importantly it gave us the Mega Mushroom and let every player go Godzilla on the Mushroom Kingdom like they always dreamed.
One of the most well known stories in Mario lore is that of the real Super Mario Bros. 2. The fine folks at Nintendo felt the actual game, released in Japan, would be too hard and frustrating for the average American player so they hatched a devious plan to re-skin another game and sell it as Mario. This game was Doki Doki Panic and its multiple character mechanics went on to change the Mushroom Kingdom forever. Gone were Mario’s head stomping and brick bashing ways, replaced by vegetable throwing and hovering princesses. It took Mario to a whole new level of strange. Let’s not even get into what exactly Birdo is... Thank god it was all a dream.
More levels. More power-ups. High definition graphics for the first time. It’s not too far from previous New Super Mario Bros. titles in terms of gameplay, but with the most content, the addition of Nabbit and some 80-odd level of DLC it stands as the best “New” outing to date.
A whimsical mix of both 2D and 3D platforming, 3D Land was smash hit from the very start. Aspects of the New Super Mario Bros. and Galaxy series were both essential in creating the stages in what many consider to be the absolute best handheld Mario adventure to date. Not to mention the enormous amount of levels to clear and items to collect. Here’s hoping we get another in the near future.
Sunshine has always felt like the Super Mario Bros. 2 of the 3D platforming era. It’s a little weirder than its surrounding titles (Mario 64 and Galaxy), but it still has its die hard fans. With the inclusion of the FLUDD, a water spouting jet pack of sorts, Mario could hop and bop his way all over Isle Delfino while cleaning up Bowser Jr.’s colorful mess. It’s not the most well received 3D Mario title for certain, but its charm and lovely change of scenery make it stand out. Now where’s our HD remake, Nintendo?
It’s not a far stretch to think that Super Mario Bros. is one of, if not the, most recognizable video games in all of history. It’s the one that taught us how to run, how to jump, how to stomp, and how to warp. The game is still hailed as a challenging and well thought out title, one that teaches players as they progress without holding their hand. Something that many games still struggle with. Nothing beats trucking across the vast expanse of brick footing as you “cheat” your way over world 1-2 and into the fabled warp zones.
I would be lying if I said I was excited for 3D World upon its initial announcement. I wanted Super Mario Galaxy 3, darn it! Not this bizarre sequel to a handheld game that featured... cat suits? What. Little did I know how wrong I was. Super Mario 3D World has become one of my favorite Mario outings of all time and easily has the best looking visuals in the long running series. The soundtrack is amazing and features a ghost house theme to die for (pun intended). Multiplayer action and five unique playable characters push it into the top six.
The squeal that everyone wanted, but few thought would happen. At the time Nintendo had never made a direct sequel to a 3D Mario title, so why would they start now? While the gameplay was nearly identical to the original Galaxy title, the sequel added in some new Yoshi gameplay and a more straight forward level selection. It’s like eating the best piece of cake you ever had and then realizing there was another piece. Pure joy.
If you owned a Super Nintendo there’s a pretty good chance you had Super Mario World. Probably more than a “pretty good” chance seeing as it was packed in with every system for the majority of the consoles shelf life. For many it was the first step into a world of 16-bit beauty, and one that introduced us to Mario’s dinosaur pal. The inclusion of Yoshi, a huge overworld map, new baddies and the highly sought after cape feather made Super Mario World the launch title Nintendo needed.
The Mushroom Kingdom is a weird place. No Mario title to date has demonstrated this better than Super Mario Bros. 3. The second Mario Bros., technically being a reskin, had been a strange departure from Mario’s initial outing, so fans were ecstatic to see his hop-and-bop return to form. From blazing deserts to icey tundras, the level design and variety was something most hadn’t ever experienced. Fantastic levels, music and gameplay can only get you so far though. What really sets Mario Bros. 3 apart is the fact that YOU GET TO RIDE IN A GIANT SHOE. *cough* Sorry, did I shout that last bit?
No game has blown my mind as much as Super Mario 64. It still goes down as one of the most defining moments in my young gamer life. Being able to move in three dimensions, as well as flip, slide and punch was just too much for my eight year-old brain. The graphics were phenomenal for the time, and the 120 star hunt influenced a dozens of future hits. It’s nearly 20 years old, but whizzing around the skies with a Wing Cap and shredding over fields of lava on a koopa shell are still bliss. Super Mario 64 is possibly my favorite Mario game of all time, which is surprising seeing as it’s sitting at number two. What could possibly top it?
The Wii was already a hot commodity when Super Mario Galaxy launched in the fall of 2007. Once word got out of Mario’s remarkable return to form folks scrambled to find the under-stocked home console for the holiday season. Galaxy took the world of Mario to new heights. It incorporated slight motion controls and gravitational physics to give players the perfect sense of what adventuring in space should be. The diverse levels, sectioned off into “galaxies”, gave developers the chance to add in anything and everything their hearts desired. It’s truly a labor of love. Galaxy takes the coveted top spot on the list because it best represents the world of Mario. A fresh new take on a series that always seems to find a way to on to people’s screens, no matter the decade.
Which of Mario’s platforming adventures do you feel is the best of the best? Let us know in the comments below.
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