The little red plumber that we’re all familiar with is more than just the mascot for Nintendo. Mario is the most recognizable video game character in the world and practically synonymous with the medium as a whole. This is all for good reason; his franchise has an incredibly deep track record of both top quality and highly influential platforming games. Since 1985, the Super Mario franchise has not only pushed the boundaries of what the genre can be, but has also continuously set the bar of quality for what all video games should strive for. With a catalog this deep, it can be hard to decide which Mario games are worth diving down the green pipe for, so “let’s a go!” as I provide you with my personal recommendations for five must-play Super Mario games.
Super Mario 64: Nintendo 64
Super Mario 64 was one of the first video games that I ever played, so I may hold a slight bias towards it, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it is still objectively one of the best Mario games out there. The leap forward that this game took into the 3D world was bold for the time, but it nonetheless went on to heavily impact the video game industry with its revolutionary game mechanics. And yet, the game never loses sight of where it comes from, and somehow manages to maintain the familiar feel of its 2D predecessors. However, Mario 64 isn’t just a technical marvel, it’s an artistic one as well. From varied environments to an amazing soundtrack, there is a lot of love implemented into this masterpiece, and is why it remains one of the most beloved games from its era. More than 20 years after its release date, Mario is still a joy to control, the worlds are unique and memorable, and the game still poses a consistent challenge throughout.
Super Mario World: Super Nintendo
In Super Mario World, we finally get the chance to venture out of the Mushroom Kingdom as Mario and Luigi take a much needed vacation after saving Peach in the events of Super Mario Bros 3. This fresh take on a Mario game provided the developers with the freedom to create a much more diverse setting, featuring wacky enemies and a catchy soundtrack. However, the quality of the game is much more than meets the eye as it incorporates mind-blowing depth through its many hidden areas and even entire hidden worlds. Additionally, your new companion Yoshi debuts as a fun new way to traverse the levels as you’re encouraged to explore every nook and cranny on your adventure to once again save the princess.
Super Mario Bros 3: Nintendo Entertainment System
While you could practically write a book on how influential and important the first entry of the Mario franchise may be, its successor Super Mario Bros 3 expanded upon its groundbreaking mechanics in order to become the best video game on the system. With an unmatched knuckle-whitening difficulty, even hardcore gamers have trouble defeating Bowser and his minions in this wacky journey. The addition of awesome new power-ups provide much needed depth to the franchise. The developers even found a way to incorporate a grand sense of verticality to its levels that would later become essential to the success of future Mario games.
Super Mario Odyssey: Nintendo Switch
The Mario franchise has come a long way since 1985, but luckily in Super Mario Odyssey, stomping Gumbas, smashing blocks, and collecting coins is just as satisfying as it was more than 30 years ago. While Odyssey may be easier than its peers in the traditional sense, the true difficulty lies within the deep exploration and its incentivization of player creativity. On top of that, Odyssey introduced some of my favorite worlds in the franchise that are simultaneously vast yet crammed full of secrets. This impressive entry to the franchise stands on the shoulders of giants while having the courage to explore new concepts, and that is why it still remains as one of the top tier games on the Nintendo Switch.
Super Mario Galaxy 2: Nintendo Wii
Super Mario Galaxy 2 shocked everyone upon its release by taking a game that was widely regarded as a masterpiece and somehow making it even better. It continued to center on the unique gravity mechanics of the first entry while both refining them and introducing even more power-ups. The beautiful art style and funky music make it hard to not smile during every second of this game. While it was critically acclaimed when it released 10 years ago, it is often forgotten about today as it’s overshadowed by the plethora of iconic games in the franchise. However, that doesn’t diminish its quality, and if you give it a shot you’ll get to witness one of the Nintendo Wii’s crowning achievements
The Mario franchise has become legendary through the course of its life, not only because of its aforementioned track record, but because of its importance to the industry. Simply put, the Super Mario games have laid the foundation for what the medium has become, and without them we may not even have video games as we know them at all. The culmination of this has made this list difficult to choose, and I’ve had to leave out many personal favorites. All in all, this list should provide you with the essential titles that every gamer should experience. If you enjoyed this article, please like it and follow me on Twitter @TheGameLounge5, or click the “Follow Blog via Email” button at the bottom of this page.