Character power-ups are a staple in many different games. Sonic can transform into Super Sonic thanks to the Chaos Emeralds and Link can turn into Fierce Deity Link by putting on the mask of the same name, as a couple of examples. The most iconic video game series featuring power-ups (which also popularized the concept) is, of course, Super Mario. In 1985, Super Mario Bros. introduced the Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, and Starman. From there forward, the power-ups would cover almost everything - from raccoons to penguins. There have been many power-ups in the Mario series throughout the years, and there will certainly be new ones as the games continue.
There are few moments of happiness as great as when picking up an item that gives the character a special ability. Who doesn't enjoy shooting down enemies with fireballs or turning giant and stomping everything in the way? How about being able to soar through the air or turn everything into coins? While most power-ups are definitely excellent, a few of them leave a little to be desired. Some power-ups might be good, but rendered obsolete thanks to superior ones. And then some could even harm the character! (If you see a mushroom with a skull on it, don't pick it up.) One never knows what he/she will find when they hit that Question Block for the first time or put on a cap. For this list, we'll be taking a look at the 10 best and 10 most useless power-ups in Super Mario.
20 Best: Mega Mushroom
Power-ups are a staple in the Mario franchise, and it all started with one: the Super Mushroom. In 1985, Super Mario Bros. changed the video game landscape. World 1-1 is arguably the most iconic video game stage of all time. The opening scene features Mario stomping on a Goomba. The really interesting part is when he hits the Question Block containing the Super Mushroom. Grabbing it will turn Mario bigger, instantly putting a smile on the player's face. How does one beat this great feeling? Going even bigger of course.
The Mega Mushroom first appeared by name in Mario Party 4, but its most notable appearance originated in New Super Mario Bros. This DS classic was the first Super Mario side-scroller in years. World 1-1 here not only had the Super Mushroom, like the original 1-1, it also had the gigantic Mega Mushroom. Grabbing this mushroom makes Mario huge. (He's even bigger than Bowser in this form.) "Mega Mario" can plow through enemies, making this one of the most powerful and just fun power-ups in the series.
19 Useless: Mini Mushroom
New Super Mario Bros. introduced a few new items for the heroes to utilize. Of course, we all know the Mega Mushroom, but there was another new Mushroom the game debuted. It's literally the opposite of the Mega Mushroom, appropriately titled the Mini Mushroom. This power-up turns Mario into a miniature version of himself.
The primary purpose for the Mini Mushroom is to access secret areas that for some reason only mini Mario could enter. Beyond that, the Mini Mushroom has few to no practical uses. Sure, Mario can jump higher and run on water, but he loses by one touch of an enemy. Worse is that he can't simply stomp on enemies anymore; he has to ground pound them. There are only a few other mushrooms worse than the Mini Mushroom, which will be addressed soon.
18 Best: Vanish Cap
Super Mario 64 revolutionized the Mario series with its leap into the 3D landscape. Like the 2D classics, 64 had power-ups. However, they were in the form of Caps. The most famous one is the Wing Cap (after all, it appears on the game's box art) followed by the Metal Cap. The other cap is not quite as famous as those two, but it is as equally good: the Vanish Cap.
An interesting thing about the Vanish Cap is that it's possible to go through the game without acquiring it. The Cap is found in a secret course outside the Castle called Vanish Cap Under the Moat. This Cap is extremely handy, as it will cause Mario to become intangible. Supposedly he turns invisible, but for some reason the enemies still attack when he's near. It doesn't matter, however, because the attacks go right through Mario in this form anyway. The other fantastic aspect of this power-up is that Mario can walk right through metal fences. If that wasn't enough, the player can combine the Vanish Cap with the Metal Cap. This is used primarily in the Dire, Dire Docks course, "Collect the Caps..."
17 Useless: Spring Mushroom
Super Mario Galaxy is considered by many to be, not just one of the greatest Mario games, but also one of the greatest games of all time. Its intricate level design and grand storyline cement this installment as a modern classic. Unlike Super Mario Sunshine, Galaxy featured an assortment of brand new power-ups. Who doesn't have fond memories of soaring around the Comet Observatory as Flying Mario and saving Luigi as Boo Mario? Not every power-up is great like those, however, and chief among them is the absolutely horrible Spring Mushroom.
The Spring Mushroom is known for its infamous controls. It can be easy to fall off the platform in this bouncy form, making for a very aggravating challenge. There are too many power-ups in the series giving Mario the ability to fly (or glide, like with the Super Acorn) to say anything good about the Spring Mushroom.
16 Best: Tanooki Suit
Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the finest games ever created; some still call it Mario's greatest adventure. Its "Athletic Theme" is one of the most iconic themes from the Mario soundtrack library, and who could forget Giant Land? Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first game to introduce animal-themed power-ups, such as the Super Leaf. One of the best is also one of the most unique in the franchise, the Tanooki Suit.
Like the Super Leaf, the Tanooki Suit grants Mario the ability to fly via a raccoon tail. The Tanooki Suit is better than its Super Leaf counterpart because it gives Mario the ability to transform into a statue. This statue form makes Mario invulnerable to enemies, plus they will ignore him. What's perhaps even more interesting is that if Mario turns into a statue in mid-air, he can beat almost enemy instantly. (He can even stomp on some inanimate objects, like the flame that shoots out of the rocket engine.) This power-up may seem random to American players, but it has a history in Japanese folklore.
15 Useless: Goomba Mask
Super Mario 3D World is the most recent Mario platformer. Every Nintendo home console has its big Mario game; 3D World is the Wii U's. The game took a break from the tired concept of Princess Peach getting kidnapped in favor of Bowser capturing new characters. Like the Galaxy before it, 3D World features brand new items and power-ups. One crucial power-up from this game will be discussed soon, but first, we'll talk about one of the most useless power-ups/items on this list, the Goomba Mask.
As one can guess from the title, the Goomba Mask enables Mario (or any of the playable characters in this game) to masquerade as a Goomba. The real question is why anyone would need to do that? There's no practical point in pretending to be a Goomba simply because it is the weakest enemy in the series; Mario can defeat a bunch of them in a matter of seconds. The Goomba Mask functions much like the Tanooki Suit, but with no usefulness outside of generating some good laughs from the player.
14 Best: Gold Flower
The Fire Flower is one of the series' original power-ups, alongside the Super Mushroom and Starman. Picking up that Mushroom in Super Mario Bros. for the first time was an exciting feeling — equal to grabbing a Fire Flower, which enables players to shoot down enemies. What can beat that? 27 years later in New Super Mario Bros. 2, a new power-up was introduced: the Gold Flower, a souped-up version of the iconic Fire Flower.
Grabbing a Gold Flower will turn Mario golden and enable him to shoot gold fireballs. These fireballs are bigger and do much more damage than the normal fireball. The most excellent thing is that when a gold fireball hits an enemy or block, it will turn into coins, thus making stages a 1-UP paradise. If that wasn't enough, one gold fireball is enough to take out Bowser!
13 Useless: Flower (Super Mario Land)
Super Mario Land for the Gameboy was the first Mario platformer on a handheld console. Though it's not as popular as the other main games, Land featured some fantastic concepts that have not been revisited, such as Mario riding in a submarine and on an airplane. This game is also the one where Princess Daisy first appeared, and one of the very few not to feature Bowser at all. (The final boss was an alien named Tatanga.) Like World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros., Land's World 1-1 was an excellent starting point (featuring extremely catchy music) and had a Super Mushroom as the first power-up. Following the original 1-1, Mario soon runs into a Flower. This plant is very similar to the Fire Flower, but a lot worse.
Yes, it's simply called "Flower." After acquiring it, Mario is transformed into Superball Mario, though his appearance stays the same. So, instead of shooting fireballs, Mario shoots what are called "Superballs." What makes this inferior to the fireballs is the fact that Superballs bounce off the floor and walls, which makes hitting grounded enemies challenging if firing from a distance. Another drawback is that only one Superball can be shot at a time, unlike the fireballs.
12 Best: Cape Feather
Super Mario World is a fantastic game. Many consider it to be the greatest Mario game ever created. With bright worlds, incredible level design, and plenty of secrets to discover, it's no wonder why Super Mario World is such a beloved entry in the series. Two of the most notable things it featured was the introduction of Yoshi and a brand new power-up: the Cape Feather.
There's something really cool about seeing Mario wear a cape. Of course, there are some great aspects to this power-up besides the look. Unlike the Super Leaf, Mario can fly indefinitely in this caped form. What's really interesting, however, is that if Mario hits an enemy while flying, he won't take damage, giving him a few frames of invincibility. Perhaps even better is that if Mario dives into the ground, he will take out all enemies on the screen, including the usually invincible Munchers. (You can try this in Super Mario Maker, it's a neat trick.)
11 Useless: Power Balloon
Interestingly, Super Mario World featured barely any new power-ups. In fact, there were only two new ones in this game. (Three, if we count Yoshi's Wings.) The first of these is, of course, the Cape Feather. The other one is the Power Balloon, enabling Mario to float for a limited time. It is by far the silliest power-up on this list, and perhaps all time. (There's only one other power-up that gives it competition, which we'll see in the next section.)
I'm sure everyone at Nintendo had some good laughs when making the Power Balloon. After grabbing it, Mario will, well, act like a balloon. It's a silly visual, and maybe that was the intent: to get some laughs out of the player as Mario floats in this rather undignified state. There's nothing here that the Cape Feather doesn't do better.
10 Best: Hammer Suit
Super Mario Bros. 3 featured a bunch of new power-ups, and perhaps the most powerful is the Hammer Suit. Most players dreaded a Hammer Bro. popping up in the original Super Mario Bros. Who would have thought that Mario would be able to fight back with hammers of his own in the future? The Hammer Suit makes this a reality.
As Hammer Mario, the player is able to throw hammers at enemies. This makes blasting through most stages on ground simple. Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the Hammer Suit is that a hammer can actually kill Thwomps and Dry Bones. This power-up has stayed exclusive to Super Mario Bros. 3, though a similar power-up, the Boomerang Flower, appeared in Super Mario 3D Land.
9 Useless: Weird Mushroom
With a title like "Weird Mushroom," you know things are going to get pretty bizarre. This power-up is exclusive to Super Mario Maker, and the way to unlock it is to beat the four Nintendo World Championship courses. After completing them, the player will be able to shake the Super Mushroom in Course Maker to produce the thinner Weird Mushroom. Its effect on Mario is interesting.
This effect's look is the opposite of the Power Balloon: Mario grows taller and lankier. (Color him purple and he could pass for Waluigi.) The only advantage this mushroom gives Mario is the ability to jump higher. It might be useful solely in the Super Mario Bros. style Mario Maker context, but in the long list of power-ups, there are many far superior (and more dignifying) ones than the Weird Mushroom.
8 Best: P-Wing
Here we have another item from Super Mario Bros. 3. This one is easily the greatest in the entire game, and it goes by the name of the P-Wing. (Originally it was called the Magic Wing.) It functions pretty much the same as the Super Leaf with one key difference: Mario can keep flying until the level is over.
Mario's appearance is the same as when he grabs a Super Leaf, but his map screen sprite features a giant "P" on his chest. (For some reason, the "P" logo is absent when in the actual level.) What makes the P-Wing even better than the Cape Feather is the simple controls; the player just has to keep pressing one button while holding to the right. This power-up makes levels a cinch to complete, as one can just fly over just about everything. It disappears though after the player completes the level, preventing anymore indefinite soaring.
7 Useless: Invincishroom
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was a long, fun RPG starring the Brothers in a mission to stop the evil sorceress Cackletta from taking over the Mushroom and Beanbean Kingdoms. A lot of things happen in this game, and an especially interesting sequence is in Little Fungitown. Here the Bros. run into a Toad marketing for an arcade. He mentions something called an "Invincishroom," and according to him, it's "a mix of 1-Up Mushrooms and Stars from the Mushroom Kingdom". Sounds awesome, right? This, in theory, should be the greatest power-up of all time. Well...
After the Bros. successfully win the arcade game, Mario goes ahead and chomps the Invincishroom. He soon turns green and faints with sickness. According to the doctor, Mario has been hit with "Bean Fever," and it can happen to people who aren't used to the food in that region. If Mario isn't cured, in three days he will turn into a literal bean. Yes, so while the Invincishroom might be useful to the region's residents, it's useless to everyone else.
6 Best: Double Cherry
Super Mario 3D World's premiere power-up was the Super Bell, which enabled Mario and others (even Bowser) to transform into a cat. While it's definitely handy, there's another power-up introduced in this game that's even better: the Double Cherry. This item gives Mario a clone of himself to accompany him. Yes, the player gets to control two Marios. If that wasn't enough, how about the fact that there can be up to five Marios on the screen?
The greatest aspect of the Double Cherry is that the clones will gain the same ability as the main character. So, if the real Mario has a Fire Flower, the clones will as well. (That's a ton of fireballs.) This makes the Double Cherry one of the most useful (and just fun to play) power-ups in the series.
5 Useless: Wario's Cap
Super Mario 64 was remade for the DS in 2004. This remake mostly retained everything from the original game, and even added some stuff. The biggest thing is that other characters besides Mario could be played. (In fact, the first character you're given control of isn't Mario, it's Yoshi.) Another thing is that the remake got rid of the power-up Caps, replacing them with the Power Flower. However, different character caps can be found. For example, if Mario was to run into Luigi's hat and proceeded to put it on, the red hero will then transform into his brother, complete with Luigi's unique abilities. In the level Hazy Maze Cave, the player can run into Wario's Cap and put it on.
The thing is that Wario has some of the worst stats in the game. He's the slowest and has the worst jumping. Even though Super Mario 64 DS is a little easier than the original game, being able to jump well is critical in some of the tougher areas. Transforming into Wario does have a couple of advantages: he's the strongest and can break things the other characters can't, plus he's the only one that can turn metal. If the player plans to collect all the Stars, then playing as Wario is essential. Otherwise, all the other characters are better suited for beating the game.
4 Best: Penguin Suit
New Super Mario Bros. Wii introduced a few new power-ups. One a lot of players have fond memories of is the Propeller Suit, enabling the character to zoom vertically into the air. (Who doesn't enjoy running into these in Super Mario Maker?) Another notable power-up in NSMB Wii is the Penguin Suit. It might look a little silly, but it's actually one of the most useful in the series.
Not only does the Penguin Suit make swimming under water easy, but it also gives the character Ice Flower capabilities. As Penguin Mario, Mario can shoot Ice Balls at enemies. Grounded enemies in this frozen state can then be used as platforms or even better: thrown at other enemies. Penguin Mario can also slide on the ice, knocking out enemies in the way. If that wasn't enough, the Penguin Suit gives the character excellent traction on icy grounds, so no more slipping. It's like having two power-ups for the price of one.
3 Useless: Frog Suit
If you were to ask a gamer what his/her least favorite type of level is, there's a good chance "underwater stages" would be the answer. In the classic Sonic the Hedgehog games, the underwater stages were usually deadly. While being underwater might not be as fatal in the Mario series, (at least in the 2D games) they can still be a nuisance thanks to factors like the Bloopers. In Super Mario Bros. 3, being underwater was actually made fun thanks to the power-up known as the Frog Suit.
I am personally a big fan of the Frog Suit. The reason why it's on this side of the list is because the Penguin Suit makes it obsolete. The Penguin Suit does what the Frog Suit does, plus with the ability to shoot Ice Balls and a couple of other useful things. The Penguin Suit has no drawbacks; it's good on both water and land. The Frog Suit doesn't have many benefits when on land, as it makes the character much slower. It does enable jumping higher, but as a whole, the Penguin Suit is the superior power-up.
2 Best: Invincibility Leaf
Perhaps the greatest feeling when playing a Super Mario game is when the Starman appears. This bright item gives the player invincibility for a limited time. In that time, the player gets to blast through the level unopposed by any enemy. What could be better than this? What if you had invincibility for the entire stage? What if you were able to fly in this form as well? All of this is possible with the Invincibility Leaf.
The Invincibility Leaf first appeared in Super Mario 3D Land and later in New Super Mario Bros. 2. The latter game is where its most useful, because it transforms Mario into White Raccoon Mario. The Invincibility Leaf here is essentially a combination of the Starman and Super Leaf, making it the most powerful and useful power-up in the series, to the point where Nintendo is basically giving a cheat code to the player. This suit is only accessible after losing a certain amount of times where it will then pop up in an "Assist Block." It's up to players at that moment to decide whether they want to use this overpowered power-up or be diligent and keep going at the level themselves.
1 Useless: Poison Mushroom
The Poison Mushroom first appeared in Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. American players wouldn't be able to see this evil mushroom until the game was remade in the compilation called Super Mario All-Stars. This "power-up" is easily the worst and a true definition of useless. If Mario, unfortunately, grabs this thing, he will die or turn back into his small form if he was in his big form.
The Poison Mushroom typically has two looks. One purple design with angry eyes and a skull on its cap. The other look is most famous in Super Smash Bros. It looks like a faded out Super Mushroom, and if you examine it closely, you'll notice the angry eyes. (These subtle differences can make it difficult to distinguishing between the two in the heat of a battle.) It doesn't get much worse than being fooled by a Poison Mushroom. That happy feeling of grabbing a great item is destroyed, making this the most depressing power-up out there.