The greatest video game mascot has starred in the greatest series of video games in the history of gaming. That’s obviously a bold statement, but an easy statement for me to make considering the hours of fun I found while playing Super Mario games. I’ll admit up front that this list comes with a heavy bias – as if it wasn’t already obvious – but that’s part of what makes these opinionated lists fun to create. You’re likely going to disagree with me on my rankings, but keep in mind that being at the bottom of the list doesn’t mean the game is utter crap. That is even more true when dealing with this particular series. So, without further delay, here is Ranking the Super Mario Series (On Consoles).
12. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
My least favourite game in the Super Mario series is the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2. Dubbed Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels in North America, this game is without a doubt the hardest Super Mario Bros. game. However, I’m not basing this list on difficulty. No, this game lands in the last spot for one major reason: it does very little to differentiate itself from Super Mario Bros. It uses the majority of assets from its predecessor, making it look nearly identical to the first title, plus it does little to push the series in terms of gameplay. This game really isn’t that bad, but there are much better games in the series.
11. Super Mario Sunshine
I’ve tried to like this game, but me and Super Mario Sunshine just don’t click. I commend Nintendo for trying something radically different, but the gameplay here just isn’t as compelling as Super Mario 64 or the Super Mario Galaxy games. While there’s no arguing that the F.L.U.D.D. mechanic is interesting, the game really shines during the pure platforming sections without F.L.U.D.D. Also, to its detriment, the beach theme being used consistently makes the game feel much too familiar. On the plus side, this was the first 3D Super Mario game to feature a playable Yoshi.
10. Super Mario Bros. 2
Our version of Super Mario Bros. 2 is the odd one of the bunch. Everyone is more than familiar with this game’s origin story – if not you can read it in my review of the game – so I’m not about to tell it for the millionth time. Regardless of how different this game is from the rest of the series, Super Mario Bros. 2 is a solid game for many reasons. The game allows you to play as characters other than Mario. Luigi, Princess Peach – known as Princess Toadstool to us retro folk – and Toad are all playable next to the king of platformers himself. Each character has defining attributes, which slightly changes up the gameplay. However, the core gameplay itself is different. No longer could you stomp enemies to defeat them, instead, you had to pluck up vegetables – or even the enemies themselves – and toss them at your foes. This mechanic also changes your approach to each of the game’s bosses.
9. New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Not the first game to be given the “New” treatment – that game will pop up on handheld version of this list – and it wouldn’t be the last. However, of the console versions, this one is undoubtedly the weakest. With that being said, this game is a lot of fun to play. It introduced four-player co-op to the series, awesome new power-ups, and maps similar to those found in Super Mario Bros. 3. Oh yeah, this game also brought back fan favourites, the Koopa Kids. The level design is decent and the gameplay is most definitely tight, but it lacks the charm that made previous games so memorable. At the time, this game was truly a dream come true for longtime Super Mario Bros. Fans, though it is still topped by many games in the series.
8. New Super Mario Bros. U
When the Wii U was announced, fans anticipated the debut of a HD Super Mario game, though, this wasn’t the title they had in mind. Regardless, seeing Super Mario Bros. in HD for the first time was a treat for the eyes, and of course, the gameplay is just as good as it’s ever been. However, bringing this game down is its connection to the New Super Mario Bros. series. This game does little to evolve the that series of games – including a lot of recycled music – and its overall presentation is nearly identical. The new challenge mode and Miiverse features are nice additions, but the game just didn’t wow gamers like it needed to wow them.
7. Super Mario Bros.
The game where our fascination with Goomba stomping began. Super Mario Bros. is arguably the most important video game of all time. Without Super Mario Bros., I wouldn’t be writing these words right now. This is the first video game I ever played, and I became enamoured almost instantly. While the game is still a lot of fun to play, it is the most basic game in the series, though, who can honestly forget discovering its many secrets, or defeating the first of many Bowser imposters. However, the best Super Mario game is in another castle.
6. Super Mario World
Another ranking that I’m sure will ruffle some Cape Feathers, Super Mario World lands at number six. It took elements of Super Mario Bros. 3 and refined them to create a more connected world. Instead of the Mushroom Kingdom, players travel through Dinosaur Land to face off against Bowser one more time. Super Mario World was the first game to display a giant connected map – or world if you prefer – and of course, the first game to feature everyone’s favourite green dinosaur, Yoshi. While these are some of the best additions in the series, the lack of power-ups and less interesting level design – when compared to the superior Super Mario Bros. 3 – aren’t enough to land Super Mario World in a top five spot.
5. Super Mario 3D World
The better of the two Super Mario games that end with the word world, Super Mario 3D World is absolutely fantastic. I was thrilled with Super Mario 3D Land, so I was excited about Super Mario 3D World right from the first trailer. I love how Nintendo has combined the retro gameplay of sidescrolling Super Mario games with the styling of a 3D Super Mario game. There are some awesome new power-ups in this game – specifically the Cat Suit – and some of the most interesting levels in the franchise’s history. Plus, the final battle with Bowser is arguably the greatest boss battle in the series. This game must also be commended for introducing four-player co-op to a 3D Super Mario, Miiverse stamps, and a challenging end game.
4. Super Mario 64
The innovator of 3D platforming, Super Mario 64 is just as important as Super Mario Bros., and perhaps even more important to modern gaming. It revolutionized the way we play 3D games by showcasing a new way to structure 3D gameplay. Plus, Super Mario 64 gave us control of the game’s camera, an element that made 3D games of the time unforgiving. However, this game’s most memorable trait is its non-linear gameplay with a heavy focus on star collecting. Collecting stars would unlock more levels, which could then be tackled in any order the player saw fit.
3/2. Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2
OK, I’m cheating a bit with this entry, though the games are so similar it’s hard not to think of one as the expansion pack. Mario’s first adventure through space in Super Mario Galaxy allowed Nintendo to flex their creative muscles. One moment you could be flying from planet to planet, the next you might be swimming in a gorgeous spherical body of water that truly defies the laws of gravity. Super Mario Galaxy 2 refined the gameplay introduced in the first game, but adds new power-ups, Yoshi – always a fan pleaser – and even more creative galaxy-style gameplay. I’ll give the edge to Super Mario Galaxy because it came first, though Super Mario Galaxy 2 is worth having in your collection.
1. Super Mario Bros. 3
I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone that has been paying attention to MiniFortress.com. In fact, this website’s title is inspired by the game. Super Mario Bros. 3 blew me away when I was a kid. Super Mario Bros. 3 gradually gets more difficult as you advance, has some of the best and most iconic power-ups in the series, and marked the debut of world maps. Super Mario Bros. 3 is most memorable for its Super Leaf power-up, which gave Mario the ability to fly through the sky. This amazing power-up changed the way Nintendo designed levels for a Super Mario game. Aside from the obvious sky-filled levels of Super Mario Bros. 3, the other levels demonstrate perhaps the best level design in gaming. Essentially, Nintendo took the basic gameplay of Super Mario Bros., turned it up to level 9, and out popped Super Mario Bros. 3.