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The Super Mario Series Ranked from Worst to First

Updated on April 27, 2016
Super Mario Bros. (via Wikipedia)
Super Mario Bros. (via Wikipedia)

Mario is one of the most recognizable characters in the video game world, known for his italian accent, his plumbing capabilities and - hopefully most importantly - his popular video games.

Across all Nintendo platforms, you'll see multitudes of games starring Mario, his brother Luigi, Princess Peach, and many others, whether its in Mario party games, various sports game, or games featuring non-Mario characters such as Luigi or Yoshi. There are so many such games, criticism towards Nintendo for "playing it safe" with these characters can be validated, though the constant sales created through the use of Mario suggest Nintendo must be doing something right.

Even with all of the games out there to star Mario, there are a relatively small amount of them which are platformers - The Legend of Zelda has released as many games as there are "Super Mario" platformers. I'm going to rank these 17 Super Mario games based on my personal preference of these games. To qualify for this list, the game must:

  • Be a "Super Mario" game, the arcade game "Mario Bros." would not qualify here
  • Mario must be the main playable character; as such, games such as Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (which stars Yoshi) and Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (which stars Wario) do not qualify for this list
  • The game must be a platformer, which disqualifies games such as Super Mario Strikers
  • The game must be on a Nintendo platform (there are Mario games on other platforms, none of them recent of course)

I should also note that I've enjoyed and had fun with all 17 of these games, and I do not dislike a single one. I do prefer some Mario games over others, though, and so with that, lets rank these 17 Super Mario games.

Super Mario Land (via Wikipedia)
Super Mario Land (via Wikipedia)

New Super Mario Bros. 2 on Amazon

The Bottom Tier

17. Super Mario Land

A launch title for the original Game Boy, Super Mario Land features the only appearance of Princess Daisy in a Super Mario platformer. Its also a very odd title when you look its presentation - you know something is off when defeated koopas turn into timed explosives!

Super Mario Land's biggest problems are its short length - by far the shortest of the 17 Mario games, and the fact that the final boss is part of an auto-scroller shooter minigame which features no platforming.

Available on: Game Boy, Nintendo 3DS (via Virtual Console)

16. New Super Mario Bros. 2

This, to me, is the most forgettable Super Mario game of them all. The third of the "New Super Mario Bros." series, announced and released just before the Wii U game of a very similar name, New Super Mario Bros. 2 brought very little to the table. Its most "unique" feature is the focus on coin collecting, including multiple power ups to allow for mass collection of coins, but the endeavor is mostly pointless (coin collecting only unlocks title screen wallpapers).

Otherwise, the game is your standard New Super Mario Bros. fare, but with nothing really special about it and multiplayer limited by the handheld its on (no online play, as is the standard for Nintendo platformers).

Available on: Nintendo 3DS

15. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels

The original Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan, this game didn't see overseas release until it was part of an SNES Super Mario collection. The game is basically a harder version of Super Mario Bros., with poison mushrooms, wind, and trap warp areas to make life harder.

The game is substantially harder than the original game, which makes it feel somewhat like someone just added a difficulty hack to the original game. As a plus, the game allows Luigi to be playable, and is the first game to introduce his "higher jump, less traction" mechanics.

Available on: Famicom (Japan only), GBA (Japan only), SNES (a 16-bit remake as part of Super Mario All-Stars), GBC (as part of Super Mario Bros. Deluxe), Wii (VC), 3DS (VC), Wii U (VC)

14. New Super Mario Bros.

This game had some decent hype prior to release. After all, it would be the first truly 2D Mario to come out in about a decade. Its an alright game all around, but there's nothing really remarkable about what it did.

It also introduced the annoying "mini-mushroom" item and subsequent gameplay elements. I've never been a fan of this.

Available on: Nintendo DS (playable on 3DS)

13. Super Mario Bros. 2

By now, most Mario fans are aware of this game's origins - originally Doki Doki Panic, edited to include Mario characters and settings to release overseas instead of the more difficult Lost Levels. This game is the first to feature Princess Peach (then known as Princess Toadstool) and the mushroom-topped Toad as playable characters. Many enemies - originally enemies from Doki Doki Panic - are now series staples, such as Shy Guy, Birdo and the Bob-omb.

The game is fairly fun to play, but it can get tedious at times, particularly in areas where you have to dig though layers and layers of sand to advance. Having Birdo be a mini-boss at the end of nearly every level isn't that great, either. I enjoy the game, I suspect more than most, but I simply enjoyed 12 Mario games more than this.

Available on: NES, SNES (All-Stars), GBA (as the 16-bit Super Maro Advance), Wii (VC), 3DS (VC), Wii U (VC)

12. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

The second Game Boy installment is definitely unique. It is the debut game for Wario (though its the rare game in which he's an antagonist). The game also features the "carrot" powerup that gives Mario bunny ears that allow him to glide through the air. The game also breaks up levels into diverse "areas", from an area in space, to an area in a spooky Halloween-themed area, to one that's basically a large clockwork Mario.

The game's biggest problem is that its very easy, the easiest Mario of the 17, I believe. The bunny ears add to the easiness, sure, but the game hold very little challenge until a somewhat difficult final level. Further, the game's sprites are much larger than they were in the original Super Mario Land, but its on the same Game Boy screen, so the visible area around Mario is limited.

Available on: Game Boy, Nintendo 3DS (VC)

Super Mario Sunshine (via Wikipedia)
Super Mario Sunshine (via Wikipedia)

Super Mario 3D World on Amazon

The Middle Tier

11. Super Mario Bros.

Yes, I'm ranking the original Super Mario Bros. behind two of the games in the "New" series. More on that in their respective sections, but for the original game, there's nothing particularly bad about it, which is why it was so successful at the time and even now, but I honestly had more fun with the other 10 games than I did with this one.

Available on: NES, SNES (16-bit remake as part of Super Mario All-Stars), GBC (as Super Mario Bros. Deluxe), GBA (8-bit version), Wii (VC), 3DS (VC), Wii U (VC)

10. New Super Mario Bros. Wii

While this game isn't much different from the other three "New" games besides its unique set of powerups, the thing that separates this game from other games is in its multiplayer aspect. While the game is, well, alright alone, playing the game with 2, 3, or preferably 4 players makes for an absolute blast that hadn't been replicated until the next game in the ranking.

Available on: Wii (playable on Wii U via Wii mode)

9. New Super Mario Bros. U

Take the extremely fun multiplayer of NSMBW, add in much improved level design and (eventually) include the challenge New Super Luigi U as part of the package (though Luigi U is separately purchasable and playable on its own, even with 4 players), and you've got the best of the 4 "New Super Mario Bros." games.

Available on: Wii U

8. Super Mario 3D Land

3D Land is a sort of a mix between 2D Mario games (time limits, a "run" button), and 3D Mario games, and for the most part 3D Land is a fairly fun game. The game is really easy up until initial completion, though, so the only challenge you'll get is in the postgame worlds and levels.

Available on: Nintendo 3DS

7. Super Mario Sunshine

The first and only Mario platformer for the Nintendo Gamecube, the game is met with some derision, but for the wrong reasons. Mario uses a water pack to spray and to use in other capacities, which many claim make platforming far easier, but the game makes up for it by making several challenges much difficult than you'd see in other Mario games. The game, which takes place on a tropical island, has little in variety in terms of level settings and themes, but this is a minor complaint.

The game's biggest problem, for me, is that there are only 96 actual levels or scenarios or areas to acquire Shines, the game's version of stars. Unlike Super Mario 64, or the two Galaxy games which each have at least 120 full stars to find and acquire, Sunshine instead gets the player to 120 by having the player acquire 240 blue coins hidden in every level and/or scenario, for which you'll be given the other 24 shines (10 coins per shine). While the concept of coin hunting is fine though a bit tedious, having it make up 20% of the game's shines is very disappointing and a large reason why this game is not higher in my rankings.

Also notable is that Super Mario Sunshine remains, somehow, the only Mario game to feature any semblance of full voice acting. Characters like Peach, Toadsworth, the locals and the game's antagonists all have voice acting in this game (Mario is still limited to his catchphrases and such). A lot of it was pretty cringe-inducing, though, so I'm not surprised that Nintendo has opted not to use voice acting in any Mario (or Zelda) game since.

Available on: Nintendo Gamecube (playable on Wii, but not Wii U)

Super Mario 64 (via Wikipedia)
Super Mario 64 (via Wikipedia)

Super Mario Galaxy 2 on Amazon

Which Super Mario game is your favorite?

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The Top Tier

6. Super Mario 64

The groundbreaking nature of Super Mario 64 - the first real 3D platformer and by far the most popular of its time - is well noted. The game is still very fun to play today, even with its dated visuals and camera controls, thanks to its open-ended world and levels, and very little in the way of slowing the game down like you see in later games (i.e. cutscenes, dialogue, that sort of thing).

Available on: Nintendo 64, Wii (VC), Nintendo DS (as the remake Super Mario 64 DS, which has more levels, stars, and playable characters Luigi, Wario and Yoshi which is also playable on 3DS)

5. Super Mario 3D World

3D World is a mix of the style seen in Super Mario 3D Land, but expanded and now supports up to four players at once. Each of the game's playable characters (Mario, Luigi, Toad, Peach, and an unlockable one) each play differently, similar to how they function in Super Mario Bros. 2.

The game is impressive in nearly every aspect, though the game has a very "shiny" look to it that is mildly off-putting, and the 4 player aspect makes the game very fun to go through with others. I believe its the best game currently available for the Wii U even as it finally expands its game library.

Available on: Wii U

4. Super Mario World

A launch title for the SNES, Super Mario World brings Mario to the 16-bit world with bright colors, new powerups, levels with multiple exits and paths, and the introduction of the gluttonous, egg-throwing dinosaur Yoshi. Super Mario World is the favorite Mario for a lot of people, though for me that game suffers just a tiny bit due to an unimpressive soundtrack and the broken nature of both the Cape powerup and Yoshi in general, though again these are minor complaints.

Available on: SNES, GBA (via Super Mario Advance 2), Wii (VC), Wii U (VC)

3. Super Mario Bros. 3

For years, the debate between the best 2D Mario, which still rages today as the New Super Marios Bros. games don't quite cut it, is between this game or Super Mario World. That debate will never end, however, for me I slightly prefer Super Mario Bros. 3. The soundtrack is better, I like the game's inventory system, and the game's "airship" areas and bosses are excellent. Now, the game has its share of broken items (see: the "P-wing" which lets one to fly indefinitely), but these are in limited quantity and, as such, I think were meant to be more powerful than not.

Available on: NES, SNES (16-bit remake as part of Super Mario All-Stars), GBA (as Super Mario Advance 4), Wii (VC), 3DS (VC), Wii U (VC)

2. Super Mario Galaxy

The first Super Mario Galaxy was a magical experience for me on my first time playing through it. The game's orchestrated soundtrack really helps the experience, but the fun of going through the game's varied worlds and areas, the excellent use of the Wii's controller, and varied boss fights (besides the Bowser fights, mostly), really make it stand out for me compared to nearly every other game in this list.

Available on: Wii (playable on Wii U via Wii mode)

1. Super Mario Galaxy 2

So, then, when Super Mario Galaxy 2 comes out boasting even more of what the first Galaxy brought to the table, I couldn't be more ecstatic. Sure, enough, the game's levels, a simpler overworld system, an increased challenge, the ability to unlock and play as Luigi without having to start a new file (as was the case with the first game), and a similarly impressive soundtrack makes Super Mario Galaxy 2 my personal favorite game in the series. I've heard in the past that both Galaxy games sold poorly when compared to the sales of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and if that's true then that's a shame, as the two Super Mario Galaxy games are among the best games in the Wii's large library.

Available on: Wii (playable on Wii U via Wii mode)

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    • A Bones profile image

      A Bones 3 years ago from New Jersey

      Nice list dude! The Mario Galaxy games are incredible. Still, I'd have to say that Super Mario World is my favorite. There is nothing like 16 bit