Mario has appeared in some of the best video games of all time, from the gravity-defying Galaxy to the wildly fun Mario Kart series, but which ones will make it into our top 10 list?
As the star of the biggest-selling video game franchise of all time, Mario has become a household name around the world with some of the most beloved and critically-acclaimed games from the early NES days right through to the Switch.
Whether it’s the latest innovative 3D platformer Odyssey, a sporty spin-off like Mario Strikers, or even the build-your-own levels of Mario Maker, it seems safe to say the majority of gamers will have played at least one Mario game in their life.
But which one is the greatest? To celebrate Super Mario Sunshine turning 20 years old (yes, really!) we’re looking back at the best Mario games of all time with a list of the top 10 must-play adventures from the mustachioed plumber.
10. Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch)
Whether you’re a budding developer or you just fancy making the most ridiculous video game levels you can, Super Mario Maker 2 offers the perfect way to push your creativity to the limits with hundreds of course parts and all the tools you need to craft the Mario game of your dreams.
There are plenty of new features in this much-improved sequel, like the ability to create courses in co-op mode with another player and a new 3D World style, or if you’d rather have your levels made for you, there’s even a Story Mode that’s almost good enough to be a standalone game.
9. New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
After they set the standard for the 3D platformer with 64 and Sunshine, Nintendo pulled a u-turn by taking the franchise back to its good ol’ 2D days with New Super Mario Bros on the DS, introducing a new generation of gamers to Mario’s classic side-scrolling platform roots.
Nintendo wisely stuck to the rulebook they helped create, while adding enough modern features like the Mega Mushroom and the ability to wall jump to give it a fresh spin. There have been quite a few New Super Mario Bros games released since, but the original DS revival remains the best.
8. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury (Switch)
It might have gone slightly under the radar when it first came out on Wii U, but Super Mario 3D World has loads to offer. With brilliant gameplay, a cute cat costume, and gorgeous visuals – as well as the ability to play in four-player co-op at any time – it’s an undeniably good time for platformer fans.
Even better, Super Mario 3D World was given a new lease of life on the Nintendo Switch in 2021 with a repackage that also added the brand new (and pretty great) open-world Bowser’s Fury mode, so there’s no better time to enjoy this slice of 3D Mario excellence.
7. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
While Mario’s 3D outings tend to get all of the focus nowadays, the original Super Mario Bros. trilogy deserves plenty of credit for helping the beloved plumber – and video games in general – get to where they are today. The standout of the three is, of course, the theatrical Super Mario Bros. 3.
Considered by many to be a ‘perfect’ video game, this sequel refined the already-brilliant Super Mario Bros. experience and added many of the Mario staples we’ve come to expect, including overworld maps and iconic power-ups like the Tanooki Suit and the Frog Suit.
6. Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube)
Super Mario Sunshine often feels like the forgotten middle sibling, stuck between the groundbreaking 64 and the awe-inspiring Galaxy. But don’t let its lack of popularity fool you, as Sunshine is not just one of the best Mario games of all time, but also the most unique and arguably the most difficult.
Instead of relying on classic power-ups to get through each level, Sunshine gave you FLUDD, a talking water jetpack that allowed Mario to blast enemies, clean up sludge, and rocket up to new heights. Two decades later, the sunny shores of Isle Delfino still tempt us back for a replay every now and then.
5. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)
Unlike some other Mario spin-offs that have been criticized for a lack of content or low replay value, the Mario Kart games have been consistently brilliant. While we do have a special place in our hearts for the experimental Double Dash and the nostalgia of Mario Kart DS, there’s really no denying that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive karting game.
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With some of the best courses in franchise history, a Battle Mode that’s as chaotic as ever, and a huge roster of iconic characters that even includes The Legend of Zelda’s Link and the Inklings from Splatoon, it’s hard to find anything to criticize here. With 48 DLC courses on the way, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will likely remain a party staple for years to come.
4. Super Mario World (SNES)
Arriving as a package with the 16-bit SNES, Super Mario World is (in our eyes) the ultimate 2D Mario game. It took the tried-and-tested addictive formula that was established on the NES and gave it a vibrant coat of paint with a super-catchy soundtrack that showcased what the SNES was capable of.
Super Mario World also gave us the adorable green dinosaur Yoshi, who’s gone on to become an essential character in pretty much every Mario game released since. Sure, it might not have been the most game-changing Mario title, but it’s definitely one of the best. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right?
3. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
When it comes to sheer joy and whimsy, it’s hard to beat the experience of blasting between planets in Super Mario Galaxy, which saw our favorite plumber travel into space on another grand adventure to defeat Bowser and rescue Peach – only this time with a little less gravity and a few more Lumas.
Sending Mario to outer space might have seemed like a huge ambition, but of course, Nintendo pulled it off with all of the creativity and magic that you’d expect. It also stands well above the rest when it comes to music, with a live symphony orchestra creating an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack.
2. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
Super Mario Odyssey feels like a culmination of everything that’s great about Mario games, taking all of the classic features that have appeared throughout the decades and expanding on them with some of the most innovative, expansive, and downright fun levels we’ve ever seen in a video game.
From the Lost Kingdom to New Donk City, each location features endless secrets and creatures to possess with the help of Cappy, as well as one final secret nostalgia trip that really sealed the deal that this is one of the best Mario games of all time. There’s just one game that beats it to the top spot…
1. Super Mario 64 (N64)
Super Mario 64 was a game-changer when it arrived in 1996. From open-ended levels that encourage exploration to the smooth 360-degree analog controls and even the central world hub, the game popularized countless features that have become the industry standard for 3D platformers.
It wasn’t just a technical wonder, though; it was also incredibly fun to play. Whether you were racing against penguins, flying through the sky with the Wing Cap, or searching for secrets around Peach’s Castle, it was full of brilliant ideas and is well worth revisiting if you get the chance.
Even now, almost three decades later, the impact of Mario’s first 3D adventure can be felt on pretty much every video game that gets released. Super Mario 64 isn’t just the best Mario game, it’s one of the greatest and most influential video games of all time.
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