The Super Mario franchise is easily Nintendo’s biggest. Despite having all sorts of creative ideas with other properties, Mario tends to garner the most sales (just take one look at the sales figures between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey). To be fair, Nintendo has always made it a point to craft some of the wackiest and most polished video games in history with the red plumber, and they show no signs of stopping thus far.
There’s no denying that the franchise has created some of the best platformers, both in 2D and 3D. However, it’s also worth mentioning that the Super Mario series isn’t without its problems. For all their amazing creativity and well-polished games, Nintendo is still Nintendo. They have made their fair share of mistakes and issues with even Mario (some mistakes they are still making).
People love the Super Mario series and will happily throw money at it every time a new game comes out. However, there are still plenty of problems that even fans won’t admit to themselves. With that out of the way, let’s go over 25 glaring issues with the Super Mario series.
To be clear, with a criticism of the Mario franchise as a whole, it’s important that every point that we make isn’t a blanket statement that goes across every game. More appropriately, each point is fairly localized to either a few select games or even a specific one. It’s also worth mentioning that we still love the franchise.
25 Similar Environments
There were a few Mario games where the same environments were re-used. There was typically a desert world, a grass world, an ice world, and some sort of Bowser-related world. After those locations were repeated, particularly in the New Super Mario Bros franchise, it seemed as if Nintendo wasn’t trying to be creative. The games still had solid platforming, but it was hard to ignore the recycled environments from previous entries in the series. It made each game blend together in a bad way.
24 Playing It Safe
Mario is Nintendo’s golden goose. All they have to do is put him on the cover, and more people are likely to buy the product.
However, this reliance on the brand of Mario led to Nintendo playing it safe with a lot of their games.
That’s not to say games like Super Mario 3D World were bad, but they were just more of what everyone expected. With a lot of the Mario games, Nintendo didn’t try to blaze new trails or have some sort of creative spin. They were just revamped versions of ideas as old as the gaming industry.
23 Poor Co-Op Experience
With how popular Mario’s games are, it makes sense that Nintendo would try to implement co-op in some of their games. Unfortunately, the core Super Mario games have had some lackluster co-op. While games like New Super Mario Bros Wii and Super Mario 3D World tried to add co-op in, it turned out to be a lackluster experience. Trying to cram four people onto one screen in a platformer proved more frustrating than exciting, with most players being turned into bubbles after just a few minutes.
22 Poor Power-Ups
Power-ups are a key element of the Super Mario series and add a lot of variety to the formula. Items like the Fire Flower and Mushroom are classic elements to the franchise. However, as Nintendo created new power-ups for later games, the results were less than impressive. The squirrel suit from New Super Mario Bros U was as forgettable as they come and the frog suit from Super Mario Bros 3 hasn’t returned since its debut. While there are some great power-ups, there are plenty that are better forgotten.
21 Peach Being Taken
Mario, the princess is in another castle! Everyone knows those words. Most Mario games start with Bowser stomping around the Mushroom Kingdom and stealing Peach, sending Mario on his quest to save her. Peach getting stolen is such a major trope that Nintendo refuses to let go. Super Mario Odyssey made things a bit different with trying to have Bowser marry Peach, but the princess was still taken and Mario still had to save her. It wouldn’t hurt Nintendo to try a different story.
20 Repeated Enemies
With Super Mario games, most of the same enemies are used each time. Expect to see plenty of Goombas, Piranha Plants, and Bullet Bills in each adventure.
Some Mario games try to mix it up by adding new foes for the plumber to tackle.
However, most of the time, that isn’t the case. Many Mario games just force players to tackle the same set of foes they’ve been stomping on for decades. Little things like that are why some people think the series is overhyped.
19 Playable Characters
The idea of extra playable characters in the Super Mario series is exciting. The execution in some of the games could’ve been much better, though. For example, the New Super Mario Bros series offered Luigi and two Toads of varying colors. When the franchise has tons of characters like Wario, Yoshi, and even Shy Guys, it’s disappointing to see Toads re-used. Perhaps the best example of extra playable characters was in Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario 3D World.
18 Bland Stories
Bowser takes Peach. Mario goes to save her. He defeats him. Peach is saved. The end. While we’re not wanting any grand narratives or spectacular, epic stories with our Mario games, it’s easy to see that the narrative formula is getting stale. It’s clearly an afterthought for Nintendo, as the best reason they can think of to send a little red plumber on his quest is to have the local princess get captured multiple times. They’ve been creative with their gameplay, why can’t they do the same with the story?
17 Weird Gimmicks
When you read reviews for Super Mario Odyssey, the one criticism most people shared was that it tried to encourage motion controls by locking certain movements to waving around the Joy Cons. Unfortunately, the Super Mario series has incorporated some bizarre gimmicks over the years. Super Mario Galaxy wanted players to have the Wii Remote to perform the spin attack. Super Mario 3D Land only had the binocular sections to use the 3DS gyroscope feature. The series is littered with these gimmicks.
16 New Super Mario Bros Art Style
After years of having no new 2D Mario games, Nintendo decided to revive the series with New Super Mario Bros on the DS. Since then, New Super Mario Bros has appeared on the 3DS, Wii, and Wii U, with an appearance on Switch on the way. With a revival of classic 2D Mario, one would think that the visuals would look nearly perfect. Unfortunately, the art style leaves much to be desired, having a generic, plasticky look to it all. Compared to other Nintendo platformers like the Kirby series, it was a definite step down.
The Koopalings themselves aren’t bad. When they first appeared in Super Mario World, they were an interesting way of having varied boss fights with enemies related to Bowser.
However, they got reused so much after that.
Each boss fight with them felt more or less the same as it was back in the day, so it seemed like a lazy move to continuously include them. After all, the Koopalings weren’t necessary to the story of Mario, so there was no reason to constantly have them in every core game.
14 Recycled Boss Fights
There are several boss fights in the Mario series that have made their way to other games. A lot of times, though, the same set of boss fights are used in the same game. That standard Koopa boss fight in Super Mario 3D World was repeated several times, and it wasn’t very fun. Mario had to fight the tank mole a few times in the Super Mario Galaxy series as well. Even Super Mario Odyssey’s fights with the Broodals felt very similar to one another.
13 No Exploration-Based Environments
There were a handful of Mario games that encouraged and rewarded exploration in their design. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine were the only ones until Super Mario Odyssey came around. Most big Mario games apart from consisted of a series of levels were players just had to get from point A to point B. While they were still well-designed platformers, there’s something much more exciting about traveling to an environment where one can explore to their heart’s content and find all sorts of secrets.
12 Crazy Hard At Random
The Mario series isn’t known for its difficulty, but that hasn’t stopped Nintendo from randomly making some of its segments extremely difficult. Players have lamented collecting some of the moons in Super Mario Odyssey out of the sheer difficulty of their respective challenges. Furthermore, there were some bizarre levels in Super Mario World, like Tubular, that put a player’s skill to the ultimate test. For games that are generally breezy, those sections of brutal difficulty felt jarring and out of place.
This is a complaint that many people who don’t like the Super Mario series use. It’s just the same game re-packaged every year. While that isn’t true for most of the franchise, it is true for a few of the games; it feels that way, at least. Featuring similar environments, challenges, and enemies, it’s hard to feel like the games are trying anything new or that players are getting a great value. Super Mario 3D World was a continuation of Super Mario 3D Land. The New Super Mario Bros series ripped off itself for years.
10 Water Levels
Few people enjoy water levels in games. There are only a handful that managed to pull it off well. However, the Super Mario franchise is not one of those games, especially in the 2D department.
Most of the water levels caused Mario to move slowly, forcing the player to constantly mash the same button to ascend and let go to sluggishly descend.
They were difficult to control, which made it much easier to take damage. The only power-up that worked in those sections was the fire flower, which could only shoot diagonally.
9 Voice Acting
For most of the series, Mario and his pals weren’t given voice acting. There were a couple attempts at finally breathing life into the characters of the Mushroom Kingdom. Perhaps the most notable instance is Super Mario Sunshine. Despite the validity of the attempt, the voice acting was bad, particularly as it related to Bowser. The characters all seemed wrong, and Nintendo later decided to believe in the “less is more” strategy for voice acting, which worked best for everyone.
8 No Interesting DLC
There hasn’t been much DLC for the Super Mario series. New Super Mario Bros U had the New Super Luigi U expansion and Super Mario Odyssey has been given plenty of costumes, but that’s about it. Despite the opportunity that has opened itself for Nintendo to create some phenomenal DLC (particularly for Odyssey), they haven’t capitalized on it. It would be a great way for them to enhance the life cycle of their best games, but they don’t seem interested in making DLC for Mario.
7 Re-Skinned Game
Many people are already aware of the Super Mario Bros 2 situation. Because Nintendo thought that western players wouldn’t be able to handle its difficulty, they re-skinned Doki Doki Panic with Mario assets and called it a day.
For many North American fans, this was a major slap in the face.
It also didn’t help that the mechanics in Super Mario Bros 2 didn’t return for decades, hinting that even Nintendo knew it was a bad decision. Never again should this happen.
6 Mostly Easy
A lot of Mario games aren’t very hard. Whether it be an abundance of power-ups, a lack of challenging foes, or even a crazy amount of coins, many entries of the Super Mario franchise feel too easy. New Super Mario Bros 2 would never let players see a game over screen because of how many coins they were collecting. Super Mario Odyssey only punished players by taking away a few coins. In the main games, there wasn’t a lot of challenge. Extra content was usually a different story, though.
5 Coin Collecting
The presence of coins has always been a bit odd in Super Mario games. Very few times have they had a real purpose outside of getting an extra life. This came to a head with New Super Mario Bros 2’s insistence on collecting as many coins as possible. They just felt pointless after enough lives were collected. Super Mario Odyssey was the first game to significantly change this by making the coins a currency that could be used to purchase new costumes and moons.
4 Awkward Controls
There were a few Super Mario that had some awkward controls, which was bad considering how much those games usually got it right. Super Mario 64 DS suffered by throwing players in a 3D space solely with a D-pad for movement. There were a few power-ups that also came with some weird controls. The spring power-up in the Galaxy series was so awkward and finicky that the game became harder during those sections. Getting a handle on the slippery controls of New Super Luigi U was also challenging.
It’s hard to deny that the people who feel that Mario games are re-packaged are on to something. The Super Mario games that deal with the plumber traversing the Mushroom Kingdom to tend to blend together. Without any sort of serious hook, like the secret levels of Super Mario World or the new environments of Super Mario Odyssey, they’re hard to differentiate from one another. If Nintendo is going to keep the franchise alive, they’re going to have to buck their own trends.
2 Linear Maps
Super Mario World had one of the best world maps in any video game. Packed with tons of secret levels and areas to visit, it was a gamer’s dream to find everything it had to offer.
However, a map like that hasn’t appeared in the Super Mario franchise since then.
Most of the world maps are linear these days, providing players with every level visible from the get-go. All they must do is make their way across the map and beat every level in the process while avoiding some obstacles.
The word “super” was a nice marketing tactic when Super Mario Bros launched on the NES. However, it’s easily a word that has since lost its meaning. Being attached to every main series Mario game ever created, the word has become as meaningless as comparing a game to Dark Souls. While “super” has since become a part of the brand, it becomes a tiring word that doesn’t add anything whether it’s there or isn’t. Most people don’t even use it when referring to the games anyway.