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Classic Mario Power-Ups Vs. Hats: The Progression of Super Mario Brothers

Updated on December 4, 2017

Fire Flowers and Invincible Stars

From his first appearance in arcades through Mario Bros and Donkey Kong, the plumber we love from the Nintendo franchise has recently made his latest appearance in Super Mario Odyssey on the Switch system changing the way fans of the character's play the game.

First the familiar two player mode that has vanished from game giving player two a chance to be a hat? While the new game style brings a pleasant mix of nostalgic cartoon platforming and side scrolling back that made us love Mario in the eighties, more realistic landscapes and open worlds update Odyssey showcasing the ability of the Switch.

With Cappy The Hat as Mario's famed "Player Two", the ability to take over the form of IA in the game is a brilliant update, but I really miss the old power-ups that I grew to love from my first NES to the my 3DS XL.

This leads to the question what were the best power-ups of classic Mario games?


From NES to Switch, Mario has done a lot of growing and as his power-ups and abilities have changed game to game the classic feel of games we have grown up with remains.

Quick Changes

Since Super Mario 3, my favorite entry in the early era of games, costuming that stemmed from power-up items has been a trend that has continued into the current generation. From classic white overalls for a fire flower to Tanooki Suits and Wii U's Cat Suit, Mario has a wardrobe to suit his many power-up items.

The Cape for example from Super Mario World, allowed our hero to truly fly through levels in the same way that the Raccoon Tail, Tanooki Suit, and P Wing would later adapt in games to their own level of invincibility and skill.

The Hammer Suit from Super Mario Brothers 3 lent the ability to fling hammers like those pesky turtles, The Hammer Brothers from various games.

Changing into animals took suit in later games with the Bee Suit gained from a mushroom, and later a Penguin Suit that aided in the survival of those pesky Ice Worlds. The Cat Suit in Wii U let Mario scale the walls if he so desired.

Starting the trend of head wear, the Propeller hat that was a usable power-up in the 3DS generation of Mario games gave Mario a quick boost assist when jumping or gliding.The Wing Hat from Super Mario 64, was an early predecessor of such.

The Vanishing Cap just as the name implies allowed Mario to seemingly disappear for a short time on the 64.

In Super Mario Odyssey a change of wardrobe isn't just about a power-up as new hats and clothing can be unlocked or purchased through the collection of coins and moons throughout the game and purchased in shops.

Starting from Super Mario Brothers 3, costumes were as much a part of the power-ups as the ability themselves.

A Bouquet Of Destruction

All "stemming" back to the first Fire Flower rising out of a question mark box in Super Mario Bros, the plant life has been a big part of the Mario franchise. Where pipe busting piranha plants want to kill you, Mario has always found just the right herbal remedy to take out the baddies and save the princess.

From the basic Fire Flower in Super Mario Bros that changed Mario's overalls color and gave the ability to fling fireballs at his enemies, a garden of other goodies soon appeared in later games.

Some of these included Ice Flowers, with their ability to destroy a nosy Koopa or Turtle with ice balls, a Speed Flower for quickly moving about, the Boomerang Flower, and Gold Flower, one of the best new additions from the New Super Mario Bros 1 and 2 for 3DS. The Gold Flower grants the ability to break down any walls or bricks and turn them into coins- a main theme in the New Super Mario Bros, that featured a mode called Coin Rush. True to old games, every 100 coins still adds another life just as the 1 Up Mushrooms which I thought made the 3DS games a little too easy for the seasoned Mario player and I found myself heading into a castle armed with 52 lives.

Top Mario Power-ups

Tanooki Suit
Gold Flower
One Up Mushroom
Fire Flower
Giant Mushroom
P Wing
White Tanooki Suit
Cat Mario
Ice Flower

By the 3DS generation, I felt the addition of the Gold Flower and stomped and Fire Flowered enemies turning into coins made the game a little too easy, as it still rewarded an extra life per ever 100 coins, so all too often I headed into a boss fight armed with 52 spare lives.

Mushrooms, Stars, And Is That A Beet?

Overused in the world of Mario is the Mushroom, to the point where Super Mario 3D Land and The New Super Mario Bros actually including Poisoned Mushrooms as a nod back to The Lost Levels, a Mario Bros that was so hard that only the Asian countries got the game released as intended as Super Mario Bros 2. To this day I still can't get past about World 4 and that is saying something for all the hours I have invested in Mario.

Instead America was handed a Mario game that to this day still made so little sense even knowing the backstory that they had to end it with "It was all a dream!"

Super Mario Bros 2, was a re-skinned game known on the Asian market as Doki Doki Panic . This game allowed players to be one of four classic characters Mario, Luigi, Toad, or the Princess, and players could swap between them every few levels proving the argument of every kid in the 80's correct that Mario and his brother were not the same character in different colored clothing. Although Luigi could jump higher, he was difficult to control and did sort of a crazy-legged mid air spasm. Princess Peach, or was she still Toadstool then, had the ability to float and got a little more high jump.

Still a side scrolling, the train wreck of a game had platforming and some sort of strange story line where potion bottles were hidden to enter the Shadow World where items like 1 Up Mushrooms, and coins were hidden.

Instead of the typical Super Stars and Mushrooms we knew in the first installment, throwing veggies fresh from the group was the way to defend yourself between magic carpet rides and jumping over snakes.

Instead of our already old enemy Bowser, Mario fights what later becomes Birdo and a large rat among other puzzling enemies.

Perhaps if Doki Doki Panic had been released as planned I might understand what they were going for before making the change to plus in a familiar plumber face to sell a few more games.


Super Mario 3 Changed The Way We Play Mario Games

Super Mario 3 changed the way we play Mario games forever.

It wasn't just the addition of really great power-ups like the Raccoon Tail, or the Frog Suit for super fast and accurate pool time. With its overlaid map of the worlds, players sometimes had the choice in their progression along the map as areas unlocked from beating castles, Hammer Brothers patrolled the roads and a quick defeat dropped much needed power-up items. Toad Houses also became a place to cash and pick up from power-ups needed for the later parts of the world.

Toad Houses still appear in the later games in the franchise but other game adaptions such as The New Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario Bros 3D Land let Mario carry spare power-ups and swap between the two items if a new one is picked up. Like Super Mario Bros 3, a downgraded version of the power-up can also be used for example beating a level with a P Wing still rewards the player for the for the next level and beyond with a Raccoon Tail until the player takes a hit and loses the item. The downgrade from losing the Fire Flower or a costume suit in most games still reduces you to "Big Mario", unlike the first game that brings you back to "Small or Regular Mario" depending on perspective.

While warping is nothing new, Super Mario Bros 3 allowed for the Warp Whistle, a nod to the company's other best selling franchise The Legend of Zelda. One toot on the Warp Whistle would whisk Mario to a far-away land know as the map screen for the most recent Warp Zone.

Gamers soon realized exactly how much of the game you could skip if you had both Warp Whistles but the power-ups for defeating each castle and taking on the new legion of Bowser's offspring The Koopaling Kids, gave Mario some of the best power-ups that smart players saved for the airships and beyond of World 8.

Super Mario Bros 3 still holds up to a current generation as the game is still in Nintendo's E Shop long after its release in 1990.

Mario may wear a lot of Hats as he has come such a long way in his adventures since the Nintendo Entertainment System, but his roots are still in the familiar items that power-up our little buddy in mobile re-imaginings like Super Mario Run, and Super Mario Odyssey.

After all these years and many systems later, Mario is "Still Playing With Power."


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