Ready to get pissed off by this list that is 100% my own opinion and nothing else? Great. Let’s get started.
Mario is a word that is synonymous with gaming at this point. Show the red-clad plumber to anyone on the street, and they’ll know his name. And there’s a good reason for that. The tiny little man stars in a massive list of games that almost universally receive both critical acclaim and massive sales numbers. But, which of the mainline Mario titles are truly the best of the best? That’s what we’re here to find out, as in this article I’ll be ranking my top 5 Mario titles. As I stated before, this list is completely my opinion, no one else’s, and may not line up with your top 5. Feel free to watch the video version of this list down above! With all that out of the way, let’s get into the list.
- New Super Mario Bros. (2006, DS)- New Super Mario Bros., the first in a line of never-ending *New* Mario games, was huge. And I don’t just mean in sales (it is the highest selling DS game though). It was huge because it repopularized the 2D platformer genre, a genre that had been long dormant as 3D platformers took center stage for many years. The title was a sprawling adventure full of fun and diverse ideas, inviting gameplay, colorful graphics that made the best of the low power of the DS, some amazing minigames and so much more. The package had tons of amazing content that were well worth the price and provided hours upon hours of entertainment. While the *New* formula might feel a bit, well, formulaic nowadays, back in 2006, it was incredibly exciting. Also, you can play as Luigi so automatically this game just got a little (a lot) better.
- Super Mario 3D World (2013, Wii U)- While the Wii U had some great games, none of them really stay in my mind as much as Super Mario 3D World does. The title was a 3D platformer title featuring compact 3D levels you could romp through as Mario, Luigi, Toad, Peach or Rosalina (Peach and Rosalina are best don’t @ me). The different characters all had different abilities that allowed you to experience the incredibly fun levels in a different way. When I say fun, I really mean it. That’s why this game sticks out to me so much. While most Mario games don’t leave too much of an impression on my mind, I can remember the exact layout of some of the levels of this title in detail. They were all diverse and had very original concepts throughout. The title was also just, stunning. Mario had never looked better. Add some amazing old power-ups, the new, incredibly smart cat power-up that was just a blast to use, and you have an amazing game. While my Wii U is currently collecting dust in my closet as we speak, this is one of the only games I could see myself pulling it back out for.
- Super Mario World (1990, SNES)- There’s a reason that this game has remained an absolute classic since it was birthed into the world. That was weird wording, wasn’t it? But honestly, this game is the peak of 2D Mario games in my opinion. The beautiful game introduced the incomparable Yoshi into our lives, has amazing, tight controls, an unforgettable soundtrack and is jam-packed with diverse levels and filled to the brim with secrets to discover. The title also features the amazing cape powerup, which allows you to soar through almost every level (it has 96 of them, by the way). There’s not much more to say about this game. It’s just amazing, and in my opinion, is the best 2D Mario game out there.
- Super Mario Galaxy (2007, Wii)- Are you getting nervous? No 64 or SMB3 yet? You’re getting mad, aren’t you? Honestly, though, I love Galaxy. Turning on this game for the first time and hearing Mario say its name on the Wii title screen, I was floored from the beginning. But then, you know, I played the game. I got even more floored! The intro festival was just stunning to look at, and I spent so much time just walking around talking to each and every Toad. And then once I got into the meat of the game, I couldn’t put it down. The Galaxy theme really allows for tons of diverse ideas to come to fruition, and every level presents something unique and different from the last. The beautiful, orchestral soundtrack compliments the different galaxies it accompanies, as each offers a distinct, vibrant look from one another. The sharp controls still hold up today. Galaxy brought a level of creativity to the Mario series that I feel the developers have only managed to match a few times since. I picked Galaxy over Galaxy 2 because Galaxy was new. Galaxy 2, while it had better ideas overall, was more. It was more of the original, and Galaxy introduced all the novel and interesting out of this world ideas that 2 was built off. It also introduced the fan-favorite Rosalina! The aforementioned space icon’s storybook detailing her past was also one of the only times we got a semi-emotional narrative from a Mario title. Galaxy was revolutionary when it was first released, and I still appreciate everything it did to this day.
- Super Mario Odyssey (2017, Switch)- God I love this game. There is not an aspect of this game I do not enjoy. Do I love the open, enthralling worlds? The ones that feature diverse set-pieces, memorable music, and some of the most inventive concepts of the entire series? You bet I do. Do I love the ability to customize Mario to wear whatever outfit I deem necessary? Wedding dress Waluigi is a go-to of mine of course I do. What about the tight, snappy controls that make Mario an absolute joy to control? Duh. What about the incredibly fun captures Cappy can perform to take control of different creatures (including a literal slab of meat at one point) that all provide unique and interesting gameplay? Yes! I love it all! Super Mario Odyssey is a game that only comes around once a generation. It’s simply amazing. It’s captured my heart more than any Mario title has ever managed to, and it will likely be my favorite for years to come.
So yeah, no 64 or SMB3. I know my list is a lot different from many, but that’s what’s beautiful about Mario. There are so many games starring the plumber that have touched us all in different ways, and these 5 are my absolute favorites of all his adventures.