games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Mario Spin-Offs – Super Mario RPG, Mario Paint, More

March 13, 2018 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Super Mario RPG

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week, I’m here to talk about Mario games, but not exactly strict Mario games. I’m not talking about main “cannon” Mario games, like Mario World, or Mario Odyssey. I’m instead talking about games where Mario plays a role, either big or small, but the gameplay or even franchise is completely different from the normal platforming Mario stuff. With that said, let’s begin:

#8: Donkey Kong Jr

This game is on the bottom of this list because of its wonky quality. I actually have a good amount of nostalgia for this game, where you play as the titular Donkey Kong Jr., trying to rescue your dad from the villainous Mario who captured him. I think this was the only time Mario has been considered “evil” in a game. Donkey Kong Jr can jump, climb vines and send fruit down to take out enemies. The “wonky” part of the quality comes in with his jumping though. If you fall too far, you lose a life, but it’s never 100% clear on what a safe fall is and what isn’t. Also, certain levels have springs in them, you’re supposed to use them to get to other platforms, but they only work about half the time. Still, I enjoyed playing this game, even if it didn’t feel great in spots.

#7: Puzzle and Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition

This game really looks like the typical match-3/Puzzle Quest style game, but it’s not that exactly. While you can match 3 of the same colored item (star, flower, heart, etc.) to do damage to the enemy team, or heal yourself, that’s not the real goal. In this game, you don’t just move a piece up, down, left or right, instead, you can drag a single piece all over the board, which sets up different chain reactions based on how other blocks are being pushed. So, if you have a row of blue penguins that have a few other gems being in the middle of it, you can push the penguins together by getting rid of the garbage in the middle. You also build teams of characters of various Mario enemies and allies together to go up against other teams.

#6: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

If you’re going to rip off a strategy game, you might as well rip off one of the bests: XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Even if it’s a fairly blatant copy, it still is a cool thing to do, since most people would never expect to see Mario in a fairly hardcore strategy game. You move, shoot, jump, use warp pipes, and destroy cover as you try and take out the corrupted Rabbids. The music in this game is great, as Grant Kirkhope does know how to write some jaunty music. The only problem with Kingom Battle is that it can get a bit too hard in spots, with the difficulty spiking to varying degrees. Also, you not being able to save mid-battle is a bummer. Still, I imagine we’ll get a sequel to this game, sooner rather than later.

#5: Mario Paint

The original Mario Paint is still such a cool idea. You could use some Mario sprites and make art work, or compose music with Mario sound effects, or combine them both to create animated sprites as your created music could play in the background. Driving this was the SNES mouse, which was a pretty unique console peripheral in 1992. I guess there did eventually come a sequel, to the 64DD of all things, but a new Mario Paint game on the Switch would be a rad thing to see happen.

#4: Mario Tennis

This item is kind of a split actually. The main game I’ll talk about is Mario Tennis on the N64. It was a fun, simple tennis game that had a lot of Mario characters, and some inventive new twists on the tennis formula, like the Piranha Plant mini-game, or the way you can do different shots with button combinations. The other side of this particular point is the Virtual Boy version. Mario’s Tennis on the Virtual Boy was the pack-in game, and was probably one of the best games, of the 20 or 25 released Virtual Boy game.

#3: Mario Kart (64)

Mario Kart, as a franchise, is one of Nintendo’s biggest. They generally only make one per console, but they are among the most popular for the platform. For me, the best is Mario Kart 64. It had the best tracks, the most balanced roster, and it didn’t rely on gimmicks that a lot of the other Mario Kart’s tend to rely on. There’s the classic argument that people like the first game they are introduced to, in a series. Your favorite Sonic game is the first one you play, or your favorite MGS is the first one you played, etc. If that was the case, my favorite Mario Kart would be the original SNES one, but I disliked that one. My favorite is Mario Kart 64, by a landslide.

#2: Super Smash Bros Melee

If we’re talking franchise by franchise, I think Mario is best represented in the Smash Bros games. Every other franchise has like 3 or so characters, from Fire Emblem to Starfox. With Mario, it’s usually like 5 or 6, just because of how recognizable his characters are. You typically have, Mario (obviously), Luigi, Peach, Bowser, Wario, Yoshi and a few others, depending on the time the game comes out. Divorced from the Mario love, Smash Bros is just a good pick-up and play fighting game. There are deeper strategies in the game sure, but the basic controls are very simple, and the mechanics aren’t too complex to overwhelm most normal people who approach the game. Also, Melee is the best of the bunch.

#1: Super Mario RPG

There have been a ton of Mario roleplaying games over the years, from Paper Mario, to Mario & Luigi and all the titles those games have made. None of them come close to Super Mario RPG though. The gameplay in Mario RPG is as tight today as it was 22 years ago. It may not be the most complex RPG on the market, but some bosses could be incredibly tricky to approach, and if you didn’t know what you were doing, you could get wrecked pretty easily. More than anything that though, this game both embraced and subverted the tropes of a Mario game. You face usual Mario enemies like goombas and Magikoopas, but things get turned when your party grows to include both Peach and Bowser in your party as you have to group up to take on even worse foes than what Bowser can usually throw at you. I wish an actual, honest to go sequel could be made out of this game, or at least that Nintendo could buy the rights to Mallow, Geno, and of course, Boshi, to include in future games.

For comments, list which Mario spinoff games you enjoy and why.

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Top 8 Wanted Switch Ports

article topics :

The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison