It's hard to believe, but our beloved plumber Mario has been around for over three odd decades and has made appearances in tons of games, from being the hero of the Mushroom Kingdom to random cameos. Mario is just a character that we love seeing in our Nintendo games. Because of that, he isn't just the face of Nintendo, but is, for many people, the face of gaming as a whole.
With that said, when so many games have been released under the Mario brand, it's natural that you're not going to remember each and every one. It's even more likely that a few of these games missed the mark and were actually quite bad. Though the Super Mario Bros. series has gotten to hold on to its popularity and success over the years, not all of Mario's adventures have had the same success and are memories that are better off forgotten. Here are some of the worst Mario games that you might have forgotten even existed.
15 Hotel Mario
Back in the nineties, Nintendo decided on partnering up with Philips, allowing them to use their licenses for their own system, the Philips CD-I. You might remember some of the terrible products that were released afterwards, including two Zelda games that should have never seen the light of day. This partnership is what caused the divide between Nintendo and Sony, allowing Sony to go off and create the PlayStation rather than an add-on for the Super Nintendo. In hindsight, this was one of Nintendo's greatest mistakes creating their biggest rival since Sega.
Hotel Mario was the product of the Nintendo and Phillips and Nintendo combo, and boy, what a letdown. Rather than using traditional Mario gameplay, they went the route of a puzzle game where the player must go through several Koopa hotels where the objective is to shut all the doors. Tie mediocre gameplay with poor controls, sluggish animation, and terrible looking cutscenes not worthy of an 80s Saturday morning cartoon show, and you get one of the worst Mario games in history.
14 Super Mario Land
Chances are if you weren't born in the 80s and weren't an early adopter of the original brick sized Game Boy, Super Mario Land probably passed under your radar. For the time, the idea of having a portable Mario game was a novel concept. Even though the game was successful, the game has aged poorly and little resembles the Mario formula we've grown to love.
Long gone is the Mushroom Kingdom and instead, Mario is saving Princess Daisy. Familiar elements return such as collecting mushrooms and breaking blocks, yet the game's physics just feel clunky compared to other Mario games and a good portion of the stages are horizontal scrolling shooter levels. Not to mention, the game lacks King Koopa and a majority of other familiar enemies from the series that we've grown to love over the years. It wasn't until we got Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins that we got a portable entry in the series deserving of Mario's name.
13 Wrecking Crew
Wrecking Crew is an example of Nintendo coming up with a new concept and just plastering Mario and Luigi in the game rather than making any sort of new characters. And why not? Mario was quickly becoming the face of Nintendo, yet it was still a bit before he really jumped into the spotlight with Super Mario Bros. Hey, the plumber had to start somewhere!
Wrecking Crew featured our heroes Mario and Luigi, but they still weren't the jumping and Koopa squashing plumbers we know today. In this game, the objective is to destroy all objects in a given level such as walls and pillars. The player must destroy the objects in a certain manner, otherwise other destructible objects may become inaccessible. Unfortunately, the game suffered from sluggish pacing and lacked Mario's flagship ability to jump, leaving him with nothing more than a hammer. Wrecking Crew is a game I doubt anyone wants a reboot for.
Alleyway is another example of Nintendo putting Mario's image on the cover to a game that has literally nothing to do with the character. Alleyway is nothing more than a clone of Breakout with Nintendo licensing. The cover depicts Mario in a spaceship, using it to bounce a ball back up toward a ceiling, breaking all the blocks above him. Different levels include Mario themed stages as the blocks create images of various Mario characters.
There really isn't much to say about Alleyway, as its core gameplay mechanic is nothing more than breaking the ceiling blocks with a paddle and ball, somewhat similar to Pong. Throwing Mario on the cover and putting a few different images of him throughout the game may have been acceptable in the 80s, but is something that would not be tolerated by today's standards. If a game is simple enough to be replicated on a graphing calculator, it's probably better to just forget about it.
11 Mario Teaches Typing
Growing up in the nineties, the highlight of any grade school class schedule was going to the computer lab because... well, we got to play with computers! Yet the classes were bogged down by rudimentary typing programs and learning how to save files to a floppy disc rather than an hour's worth of Dinosaur Tycoon. Mario Teaches Typing capitalizes on that industry trying to get kids to learn how to type with the colorful visuals and characters of the Mushroom Kingdom, but not even Mario and friends could trick kids into thinking learning how to type is fun.
You select your character and basically are set in a linear stage which has you move forward by pressing the correct key prompt on the screen, which allows your character to hit blocks, sort of run into Koopas, or escape villains. It's all very bland and not quite that exciting, as you might expect, and there are definitely better typing games out there. It should be noted that a browser version of the game can be found for free at archive.com, for anyone who's interested in reliving it.
10 Mario's Early Years! (Series)
Three entries on this list could easily be made up of the SNES games Mario's Early Years! series as it consisted of three games: Fun With Letters, Fun With Numbers, and Preschool Fun. Anyone who started playing Mario games from the beginning of his career was most likely too old for these games by the time they were released in the mid-nineties, and they would have been easily skipped at the video game aisle of the store.
Unlike Mario Teaches Typing, another one of Mario's attempts at educational titles, Mario's Early Years! lacks any resemblance to the main series that it tries to capitalize on. The characters look completely out of place to the rest of the game's style and other than their appearances in the game and a few familiar tunes, nothing really screams Mario. Despite it being an educational game for the under five crowd, the game was still criticized for its lack of depth and the fact that the tasks in the game were too simplistic and repetitive, even for the youngest Mario enthusiast.
9 Mario Is Missing!
Remember when Luigi starred in his own game at the launch of the Nintendo Gamecube for the first time in Luigi's Mansion? Sure, but that technically wasn't his first adventure on his own as he got his very own game called Mario is Missing! Looking at the cover, one might assume this game is a safe bet. It looks like a Mario game, only starring his overshadowed brother Luigi on a quest to save Mario rather than the usual Princess Peach. If there's a lesson in this, never judge a game by its cover.
Turns out that Mario is Missing! is... you guessed it... another educational game. Bowser has stolen several artifacts from different continents and Luigi must retrieve them from Koopa Troopas. Afterwards upon returning the artifacts, he must answer trivia questions about the artifact and the geographical location it comes from. On the plus side, the game gets some credit unlike other educational Mario games simply for retaining the graphical style and sounds of Super Mario World. Regardless, the game was so heavily panned by critics that Nintendo would try to make it up to the brother in green years later by making 2013 "The Year of Luigi." Fortunately, Mario is Missing! was not rereleased on the Virtual Console that year.
8 Yoshi's Safari
It was a little hard for me to put this game on this list because I actually remember having a bit of fun with it, yet in retrospect, nostalgia was probably getting the best of me. This is the only Mario game out of the handful of games released for Nintendo's Super Scope peripheral for the SNES and actually one of the better ones. Though titled Yoshi's Safari, you are essentially playing as Mario from a first person perspective while riding Yoshi through different levels, using the Super Scope to blast any enemies that cross their path. The game offered surprisingly impressive visuals using the graphical capability of Mode 7 seen in other titles like F-Zero and Super Mario Kart along with some pretty entertaining boss fights.
Unfortunately, the levels themselves suffered from being too repetitive and linear and the need for the Super Scope peripheral made this a long-forgotten Mario title as most people didn't want to shell out the money for the expensive accessory. The Super Scope itself was cumbersome to use and drained six AA batteries in no time. I guess that is one advantage to Yoshi's Safari being such an incredibly short game.
7 Mario's Tennis
Forget everything you know about the tennis line of Mario games. Other than the NES's Tennis, which featured Mario as a character, Mario's Tennis for the Virtual Boy brought Mario and his other friends to the court on a brand new system with 3D visuals. The game was actually pretty good... so can I really condemn this game because of the console it came packed in with?
Yes. Yes I can.
The Virtual Boy was a complete hardware flop for Nintendo, only releasing twenty-two games in total. No one seemed interested in this virtual experience and for good reason. The system itself was physically painful to use as it had to be mounted on a table top while the user peered through a head mounted display. The visuals were a strain on the eyes, the user was typically sitting in an uncomfortable, hunched over position, and games were only displayed in red and black. Mario hitting the tennis court was a good idea in theory and proved that it later titles, but the Virtual Boy itself made this game all but enjoyable.
6 Mario Hoops 3 On 3
Basketball has always been a favorite pastime of mine and I longed for the the day that Nintendo would finally get our famous plumber on the basketball court after several other successful sports spinoffs. Not only did Mario get a basketball game, it was co-developed by Square Enix and featured several Final Fantasy cameos! It almost felt like it was too good to be true. In a way, it sort of was.
Mario Hoops 3 on 3 isn't a terrible game by any means, though it arguably might have been better received on a console rather than Nintendo's popular DS handheld. The problem with the game was the same problem that plagued many Nintendo DS games: it used the touch pad for controls. Through the years, the touch pad on the DS has been used in countless intuitive ways, but overall, the control scheme was cumbersome using the directional pad for movement and the touch pad for other actions like passing or shooting. It's great to see developers finding creative ways to use touch pad controls, but this game seems like a missed opportunity and would have served better on an actual console.
5 Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix
By the turn of the century, the Dance Dance Revolution series was the most unique game you could find in arcades giving a rhythm game experience like no other and it wasn't long after that DDR was finding its way into households across the globe. With different titles already being released for Playstation and Xbox consoles, it was only a matter of time before Nintendo's system got their turn on the dance floor. Cue the entrance of Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix, the only DDR game to grace the Nintendo Gamecube.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with the actual gameplay of the DDR series and I'm all for mashups of two great franchises. What makes this game so awful is that the entire soundtrack is composed of remixes of Mario tunes from previous games. Is Mario music terrible? Of course not, but it's definitely not something that one would typically dance to, unlike DDR's history of techno, trance, and dance music. On top of that, most DDR fans probably already had a better version of the game with a dance mat on another console, making this game and peripheral bundle a hard pill to swallow.
4 Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Paper Mario: Sticker Star may not have completely escaped your memory yet as it is one of the more recent entries on our list, but after a few years you'll probably look back and think "Oh, right, that was a thing." The Paper Mario series first captured our hearts on the Nintendo 64 and was followed by an even better sequel, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. What started as a great, new RPG series with a unique visual style soon devolved into something that fans were less enthusiastic about as each new incarnation of Paper Mario pushed away from it's RPG roots and set out to be something completely different.
What is arguably the worst in the Paper Mario brand, Paper Mario: Sticker Star suffers from sluggish and plenty of guesswork gameplay. Actions are done by acquiring and using stickers in battle, each with their own particular function, yet the pacing is slowed down by having to collect specific stickers and bosses are beaten usually by knowing exactly which stickers need to be used. It may not be the worst Mario game ever made, but as far as the Paper Mario franchise is concerned, it's certainly the most forgettable.
3 Super Mario All-Stars: Limited Edition
Let's get a disclaimer out of the way before the pitchforks are raised. Super Mario All-Stars: Limited Edition contains the pinnacle of Mario's earlier years through the Mushroom Kingdom. So why would such an anthology of Mario's best games be on this list? Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a celebration of Mario's history turned out to be nothing for than a cash in on several games we already owned.
Containing Super Mario Bros. 1-3 plus The Lost Levels, Limited Edition is pretty much a straight up port of the SNES version of All-Stars, so much to the point that it included the original SNES controls in the instructions. Not to mention, each game could have been purchased individually on the Wii's Virtual Console for a total of ten bucks cheaper and was most likely done already by gamers as this came out much later toward the end of the Wii's lifespan. Collections are great, but it seems like a waste to not have updated this one with at least some new content. At the very least, they could have included Super Mario World!
2 Mario's Time Machine
With the amount of educational titles on this list, it makes me wonder if Mario's true calling was to be a teacher than rather than a plumber. Mario's Time Machine has the same misleading cover that Mario is Missing! has, making the consumer think that we might be getting an actual Mario platformer, only this time outside the Mushroom Kingdom and through the depths of time.
Much like previous Mario educational games, there's a lack of familiar gameplay that made the titular plumber famous to begin with. Instead, Mario travels through time learning about different historical figures such as Queen Elizabeth or Isaac Newton. It's little more than fill in the blank trivia to progress through the game. As Mario travels through tine, he does so through a surfing mini game because why not? Hopefully, Mario doesn't plan on leaving the 21st century again anytime soon.
1 Mario Party Advance
With the success of the Mario Party franchise, it only seemed natural for Nintendo to try and carry the game's success over to the Game Boy Advance. Though Mario Party hasn't had the widespread success of its initial years in a while, Nintendo still has no problem releasing new versions of the game, with over ten in the core series and several portable versions. Mario Party's success came mostly from its fantastic multiplayer which became a staple of the series.
Mario Party Advance took everything good about the series and threw it out the window. While the game tries to copy the basic premise of the console titles, it gets rid of the most important element: multiplayer. Sure, there were a handful of multiplayer modes, but the game focused heavily on a one player campaign and the mini-games were a snooze compared to the console titles. Even though Mario Party is a fun series in general, it just simply isn't fun to play by oneself, lacking the essence of a party whatsoever. The series has fallen from its popularity over the years, but there is no denying that Mario Party Advance is the worst out of all of the party games.