Over the years, Super Mario has evolved into one of platforming's greatest heroes. From his humble beginnings in Donkey Kong, Mario soon became the star of his own game, Super Mario Bros., which became a darling in the NES era. Since that time, his games have only gotten better and better, with this Friday's release of Super Mario 3D World continuing to innovate for players of all ages.
Here now are our ten favorite Super Mario games. It was a painstakingly tough effort (sorry, Mario Sunshine fans), but you'll definitely like the choices. NOTE: we considered only the platforming Mario adventures, so you won't see Mario Kart or Super Mario RPG on here.
10.) Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins (Game Boy)
The original Super Mario Land did a fine job with the license, though its pint-sized antics didn't exactly do it any favors. Thankfully, Six Golden Coins returned Mario to his proper form, with plenty of entertaining levels to run through and secret goodies – like 1up's to fine. Plus, the power-ups were ideal, namely a pair of rabbit ears that gave Mario the gift of flight. Considering the Tanooki suit didn't make the cut, it was the next best thing.
9.) New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo DS)
Originally released in 2006, this Nintendo DS favorite shied away from the 3D adventures the plumber had undergone as of late, in favor of a lavish 2D affair. New Super Mario Bros. did a bang-up job of recreating the classic mantra of Mario level design, while introducing some spiffy power-ups, such as the Mega Mushroom. This franchise grew in popularity, with entries on the Wii and Wii U, which both introduced the ability to play cooperatively with friends.
8.) Super Mario Bros. (NES)
All series need to start somewhere, and Super Mario Bros. marked the humble beginnings of this plumber's heroic journey. Featuring eight levels of increasing challenges, a high number of Goombas and turtles to squash, and hidden secrets aplenty – you remember the warp pipe room, yes? – this retro favorite from the NES and arcade days remains a timeless classic today. You can download it now on the Wii U eShop and 3DS for a paltry $5.
Mario's debut on Nintendo's newest handheld had been a long time coming, but it finally arrived in late 2011, and players couldn't get enough of it. Featuring in-depth levels that wisely put the system's 3D technology to good use and inventive gameplay that introduced a number of new abilities and challenges, 3D Land not only became an instant favorite, but it also helped pick up the sales of the 3DS in general.
6.) Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)
Some might question this entry's inclusion on the Mario list, because, well, you don't really play as Mario. Instead, you control Yoshi as a baby Mario sits on his back, eventually breaking away and crying whenever the loyal steed is hit by enemies. Regardless, the ingenious level design, sharp gameplay and pleasant presentation made this one of the better Mario titles of the 16-bit era – and a nice precursor for the sequel that will hit the Nintendo 3DS next year.
You may not have gotten a chance to play it yet, but you can believe us when we say that it's a must-have for the holiday season. Introducing a terrific new multiplayer set-up, with up to four players working cooperatively, as well as a new cat suit ability and plenty of hidden secrets, Super Mario 3D World finally gives players the Mario adventure that they've been yearning for – though the previous year's release of New Super Mario Bros. U wasn't half bad.
4.) Super Mario World (SNES)
Before Yoshi strutted his stuff in his own line-up of games, he made his debut in this 1991 adventure, with Mario riding atop him as he ate everything from enemies to mushrooms to apples. That was just one small part of the game's immense gameplay set-up, with hidden secrets galore (Star Road!), cool new abilities (a superhero cape!) and, best of all, visuals and music that made fine use of the SNES hardware. You can snag it now for $8 on the Wii U eShop.
The original Super Mario Galaxy was an interstellar delight, a planet-hopping adventure that truly defined the plumber's arrival on Nintendo's popular console. However, we're recommending the sequel, which features more lavish level design, more power-ups, an appealing hub that lets you travel the galaxy with ease, and even better visuals and music than ever before. On top of that, there were some challenging stage designs that would put even the most elite platforming skills to the test. We're still trying to beat them…
2.) Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64/Nintendo DS)
When the Nintendo 64 was first announced, many were skeptical about Nintendo's foray into the next generation – especially since it still used cartridges. Shortly after, though, Mario 64 was unveiled, and soon all was right with the world. With outstanding 3D visuals (at the time – it was a late 90's machine, after all), ridiculously in-depth level designs, and the ability to soar to the heavens with the helpful wing hat, it really gave Mario the quantum leap he needed into the next generation of games. Plus, the interactive "poke at Mario's face" intro screen is the stuff of legend.
1.) Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
If we're going to talk about a true, quintessential Mario gaming experience, then nothing can come close to Super Mario Bros. 3. When it first came out in 1990, nothing could touch its resourceful level design – especially when you first stepped foot into Giant Land – or its colorful new visuals. For that matter, the introduction of the Tanooki suit revamped the gameplay immensely, giving players the ability to fly above the platforms and find hidden secrets and entryways. On top of that, c'mon, there was Kuribo's Shoe. There was nothing quite like riding around in that thing. It's little pieces of magic like that which made Super Mario Bros. 3 the ultimate experience in the series – and the best Mario game in existence to date.
Super Mario 3D World arrives on the Wii U on November 22nd.