games / Columns

The Top 8 Mario Games

February 21, 2023 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Super Mario RPG

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk Mario, specifically the best Mario games in my opinion. The main criteria for this list is that Mario has to be the main character of the game and that you principally only control him. So games like Mario Kart, Mario Party, the various sports games, etc., are all out because while you can play as Mario, you generally aren’t required to do so. With that said, let’s begin:

#8: Super Mario Galaxy

Sue me, I just didn’t like this particular Mario game much. I think it’s a neat idea of visiting different planets, but I didn’t like the motion controls and the small size of the levels means that you don’t get to spend a ton of time on any particular world. Like, I actually think there are 6 stars per level, which sounds fine, but each star you go for changed the level geometry, which just seemed a bit odd to me. It’s not a bad Mario game in the slightest, but it just didn’t personally click with me for a few different reasons.

#7: Bowser’s Fury

If this game didn’t have the repetitive boss fights, it would probably be higher on this list. Bowser’s Fury just gives you a fairly big area and tells you to get to work. There are three bigger-sized landmasses for you to do your business on, and a few smaller ones that only have one or two tasks associated with them, as well as some tasks being in the water and such. The big problem, like I said above, is that the fights against Fury Bowser are all the same. There’s almost no differences between them, you just become big Cat Mario and pound on him, rinse & repeat. It’s boring. If, however, the next mainstream Mario game was like this, with a lot more varied locations, goals, boss fights, etc., it would be pretty awesome.

#6: Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins

I still really love Super Mario Land 2, even though the game is over 30 years old. It really did pare down games like Mario 3 or Mario World into a handheld form. Each zone only had 3 or 4 levels in them, but they were almost always memorable, chief among them is the Mario Zone, where you go through gear-themed levels as you traverse upward inside a giant Mario robot. The fire flower in the game is pretty useless, like in every other game, but Bunny Mario is a blast to play, and it’s just fun gliding over levels. I still play this game about once a year and enjoy it.

#5: Mario Odyssey

I dug Mario Odyssey a lot, except for one small issue: the motion controls. While it’s not as prevalent as in Mario Galaxy, it still wanted you to use the Joycons to do stuff with Cappy that just felt awkward to me. Like, I never mastered how to do that move where Cappy would spin around Mario. I think it either involves you rotating the analog stick, or shaking the Joycon but I never got it to be 100% reliable. That’s my only real bone to pick with this game, the levels are all pretty decent sized and varied, great music, some really great callbacks to past Mario games, like the Mario Bros. 1 2D level stuff, etc. It’s a pretty well-rounded Mario game.

#4: Super Mario Bros. 3

I like a lot about Mario Bros. 3, up until about World 8. While it’s not bad, it just gets a bit monotonous with the tile set and the lack of power-ups. However, everything before that is great, especially the Giant world. What I really like about SMB 3 is the variety of power-ups, most Mario games you get only two or three suits/abilities and that’s it. In SMB 3, there’s about 8, give or take, your definition of a power-up. Plus, you can keep them in reserve, if you find them in the overworld map or in bonus stages, so if you want to rock the frog suit in level 5-3, you are free to do so.

#3: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

This is the only non-mainstream Mario game on this list but man is it still so good. I’ve talked about Mario RPG enough over the years but it’s still one of my favorite RPG’s of all times. Just the idea of having you team up with Peach and Bowser to take on an even bigger threat, is still amazing. I kind of wish Smithy could come back, or at least the Axem Rangers could make another appearance in another game. The RPG mechanics are fairly simple but I enjoy the timing-based nature of it with regards to attacking, defending and special attacks. It also introduced the best character in all of Mario: my man Boshi. And you know Boshi is cool because he wears a leather jacket.

#2: Super Mario 64

It’s nostalgia sure, but I still tend to hold Super Mario 64 as the gold standard when it comes to mascot-based 3D platformers. There are other games that might be more complex, like Donkey Kong 64 or Banjo-Kazooie, but I just think that there’s a pureness to Mario 64 that is still unmatched. Not every world in Mario 64 is great, I really hate Wet-Dry World and (especially) Rainbow Ride, but they are all memorable even now. I could pretty much play through Bob-omb Battlefield blindfolded if I had to. It’s still just a tremendous feeling game and Mario controls very well.

#1: Super Mario World

I tend to compare this game to SMB 3 a lot because they came out about a year and a half from one another. SMB 3 had the power-ups, inventory and level variety. SMW just was a better playing game with the ultimate power-up (the cape) and way more secrets and levels to discover. When I got the game as a kid, I played through it all, unlocking about 92 of the 96 exits the game has. Bear in mind, this was about the time the internet was just getting big, so sites like Gamefaqs didn’t even exist. I literally just played through about half this game a few days ago, due to a power outage, on my Analogue Pocket and it holds up as much today, as it did back then. I think I got from castle 3 to castle 6, which isn’t too bad. It still really is one of the best 2D platformers of all time.

For comments, list your favorite Mario games and why.

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