The Mario franchise has been around for decades spawning countless games in the process. Mario is one of the most beloved mascots in video games and stands as a symbol for longstanding success within the industry. Along with its supporting cast, the Mario games have etched themselves into the minds of gamers everywhere. It’s reached gamers from all generations and whether you’re 30 or 15 – there’s a good chance that you played a Mario game as a kid. Even now, everyone has their favourite installment in the series. Whether you got your first taste on the GameCube or the NES, it doesn’t matter.
While most Mario games are either great or just passable, others must be judged much more harshly. Even in a franchise as celebrated as Mario, you’re bound to find some weak links. Be it the gameplay or the premise, something about these games didn’t sit well. While they didn’t do anything to hurt the Mario brand, they certainly didn’t add anything to the mix. While these types of things are hotly contested and debatable, some games are just inherently bad. As you’ll soon see, just because it’s a Mario game doesn’t mean it’ll be a good game. Here are the 8 best and 7 worst Mario games out there.
15 Best: New Super Mario Bros. U
The Wii U might be dead in the water at this point, but the console did give us some pretty good games. One of those games was New Super Mario Bros. U. The game is your standard Mario 2D platformer, but comes with beautiful graphics this time around. Other than that, the game allows you to play with up to five players, continuing Nintendo’s tradition of making great multiplayer games. The game also added in a new flying squirrel power up, allowing players to glide across certain areas. It’s not the most innovative thing out there, but it was definitely an enjoyable addition to the game and made for some fun challenges. This might not be the greatest Mario game you’ll ever play, but it’s definitely up there.
14 Worst: Yoshi's Story
Our lovable friend Yoshi isn’t so lovable in our next game. The Mario games have always presented some sort of challenge to players, but Yoshi’s Story is incredibly simplistic. The game succeeded the successful Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, so you know fans were expecting better. The game makes players take strategy rather than speed into account when going through levels. It’s presented as a puzzle of sorts as players have to map out the best route to Yoshi’s favourite fruits. That would’ve actually been a solid game if it provided any sort of a challenge. Instead it was ridiculously easy, begging the question of why a game that should’ve forced players to think carefully about their choices ended up so mind numbing.
13 Best: Super Mario Bros.
It’s the oldest game on our list, but still holds as one of the most important titles in the Mario franchise. The first in the Super Mario series, Super Mario Bros. is what made the Mario franchise such a ground breaking phenomenon. It’s still a favourite of many gamers and all in all still stands as a solid game. However, the game is over thirty years-old. No matter how good it is, the signs of age are there. There’s some heavy repetition in there, especially towards the end. It also didn’t bring as much to the table as some of the games it inspired. But still, it inspired plenty of games and set the ground work for what would be one of the biggest transmedia franchises ever.
12 Worst: Mario Bros. for the Atari 2600
The first Mario Bros. game isn’t a bad title, it’s a classic video game that we can look back fondly at as the beginning of something great. But that doesn’t apply to its Atari 2600 port. The Atari 2600 was never a great console to begin with and had its share of flaws. But not even a great game like Mario Bros. could save it. The blocky textures and environments made the thing an eyesore and showed just how strange of an idea the port was in the first place. The scratch and overbearing sound effects made it almost impossible to tolerate and just made the whole port seem that much more low quality. Which it was.
11 Best: Super Mario 3D Land
Mario in 3D is still something some of us are getting used to. Some older games just don’t transition well with the new technology ( Sonic anyone?) but Mario games are doing all right for themselves. Not every recent Mario game has been a hit mind you, but Nintendo is still finding ways to make the games fun and interesting while implementing the new look. A great 3D handheld is Super Mario 3D land. This game manages to perfectly find that middle ground between the style of the 2D games with the gameplay of 3D games. It’s not too challenging but fun enough that it will have you going back to it for a while.
10 Worst: Mario's Early Years! Preschool Fun
Ok, so let’s get into this hot mess. Mario games have been around for so long that they’ve inspired a number of spin-offs. Some good, some bad and others just questionably out of place – especially when thought of as Mario games. Mario's Early Years! Preschool Fun is one of those games. It’s one of many educational games on this list and we’re not having it. This is no Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, that’s for sure. The player travels to different islands, each focusing on their own subject. Players point and click on different objects, following instructions and moving on when successful. The game is just dull and repetitive, even considering its target demographic.
9 Best: Super Mario Galaxy 2
The Galaxy games are fun for just about anyone and everyone as they’re some of Nintendo’s best recent efforts at making new Mario games. What makes this better than the first Galaxy game is that it generally improved on most of its predecessors faults. Levels were more creative and imaginative, really allowing you to get invested in the world. The hub levels were replaced with the classic map selection screen making it quick and easy to get into the game. Yoshi also makes an appearance and plays a pretty meaningful role in the game. It might not be perfect, but games rarely are. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was fun and entertaining and still holds up to this day.
8 Worst: Hotel Mario
Oh boy, where to begin with this heap of trash. Well let’s start with the fact that Nintendo had nothing to do with this one. Thankfully for them, as it turned out to be well below their standards – especially for a Mario game. They only distributed the game, they played no part in its production or development, which might explain why it sucks so bad. The main objective of Hotel Mario is to close doors before the timer runs out. That’s it. While most of the Mario games can be surmised with a relatively short summary, this bare bones explanation perfectly suites this bare bones game. The terrible voice acting is what seals it for this game. Never should Mario and Luigi have extended voice roles, especially if you’re going to make them sound like cheesy mid-50s mobsters.
7 Best: Super Mario Bros. 3
So we’ve already covered the first Super Mario Bros. game. Now let’s take a look at Super Mario Bros. 3, a game that completely propelled the series into greatness. Some games are great because they’re incredibly enjoyable – others improve upon certain mechanics or problems so much that they distinguish themselves as completely unique. Super Mario Bros. 3 is that kind of game. The game introduced new items and suits, adding a new element to the games and creating additional depth to the gameplay. It was the first time we got to use the Tanooki suit allowing players to fly and glide – making for a truly enjoyable and lasting experience that still finds its way in some Mario games today.
6 Worst: Mario is Missing
While terrible and generally unsuccessful as a whole, Mario is Missing did give Luigi his first shot at the leading role. Some might argue that this was a contributing factor in why the game failed so hard. But let’s not be too hard on Luigi. Though a little bland and not nearly as popular as his brother was during this time, a solid game would’ve more than made up for this switch in the cast. Instead we got an ask an answer game that involved collecting pieces of landmarks by answering questions about them. You got it, another educational dud. Fun, right? Well apparently not as most fans and critics panned the game and passed it off as one of the rare duds in the Mario franchise.
5 Best: Luigi's Mansion
So as we’ve just covered, Luigi’s first foray into the spotlight didn’t go over so well. But his next shot at the leading role was perhaps one of the best games to come out on Nintendo’s GameCube. Taking the reins all on his own, Luigi’s Mansion shows the little green plumber on his own in what can only be considered Nintendo’s greatest attempt at mixing together children’s games and survivor horror. The game revolves around Luigi identifying and stunning ghosts while sucking them up in Ghostbusters fashion with his trusty Poltergust 3000. As colossal of a failure as Mario is Missing was, Luigi’s Mansion more than made up for it. It’s sequel on the 3DS was great but failed to capture the magic of the original.
4 Worst: Mario’s Time Machine
This is another boring educational game and before you say that we’re being too stingy with putting so many educational Mario games on this list, remember that some educational games can be fun instead of boring drivel. Not most but some definitely are. Mario’s Time Machine sounds like an interesting enough game, until you realize that it’s all just filling in the blank. The blanks are in bios of historical figures. Your job as the player is to fill in those blanks by choosing from a very slow multiple choice menu. You then input it into your equally slow time machine and find yourself thrown back in time to talk to the historical figure and get some convoluted dialogue in return. That’s about it. A boring and disappointing way to teach history. Rinse-wash-repeat.
3 Best: Super Mario 64
This game was ground breaking when it came out. Seeing Mario in 3D was a huge deal for everyone, not just fans of the series. The replay value in this game is huge as it prompts players to come back time after time, challenging themselves to clear levels faster and with more efficiency. Obviously, there’s a nostalgic element to this, as for many modern Mario fans this was their first introduction to the series. But Super Mario 64 holds up as a great game through and through. It was the gold standard for 3D platformers and pretty much set the rules for how they should be done. The only issue is the camera which can get pretty annoying at times, but other than that, Nintendo made a great game while transitioning into the 3D era seamlessly.
2 Worst: Mario Teaches Typing
Out of all the terrible, poorly made and thought out games on this list, what sounds more boring than a game where you learn to type? It’s not even something most of us can relate to now as for the vast majority of people, typing is second nature. The game looks like a Mario game, but instead of the usual shenanigans, Mario’s teaching kids how to type. All these educational Mario games were pretty tedious, but in hindsight this one has to be the worst of them all. It’s such a rudimentary skill to have that anyone who actually wanted to use this game to learn it was wasting their money seeing as they’d learn it down the road. Look at the title image, Peach, Luigi and Toad all look like they’re terrified. They want nothing to do with it and neither should you.
1 Best: Super Mario Sunshine
So we’ve come to the last entry on our list at last. This one will probably prompt some debate, but there’s no denying that Super Mario Sunshine is a fantastic game. It wasn’t necessarily what people expected or wanted and while – in most cases – that’s a bad thing, Sunshine exceeded expectations. It’s not a traditional Mario game at all. A tropical island setting where we find Mario cleaning up graffiti doesn’t sound like that great of a time. But it really is one of the best games the Mario franchise has to offer. The bright atmosphere, immersive world, challenging gameplay and versatility of F.L.U.D.D. – which was a brilliant addition to the Mario universe – make this game a one of a kind experience that Nintendo has yet to match.