You actually don't have to dig nearly as deeply as you might think you do in order to find the inherent weirdness in the world of Mario games. For starters, Mario is a plumber who used to be a construction worker and is also sometimes a doctor. His brother is Luigi, who sometimes is his identical twin and other times is slimmer and a foot taller than Mario. The love of his life is the princess of a land of mushroom people who are constantly being terrorized by a bipedal, turtle-esque beast and his turtle army who have wings and throw hammers and some of which may or may not be his children.
In all seriousness—such as seriousness is going to exist in this list—the Mario games definitely get weird beyond just the general fantastical strangeness of their basic world and premise. When a game character has been around for nearly 40 years, and has evolved to be the all-purpose Mickey Mouse of his company, there are bound to be a lot of bizarre facets to his legacy. While things obviously go off the rails on the rare occasion that Nintendo has let another company take a crack at Mario, even within the games developed in-house there are a lot of really wacky adventures that Mario has gone on. And don't think for a second that the core Super Mario series of platformers is exempt from that, either.
Just to mix things up a bit, though, we're going to also include some Mario games that deserve a remake in this list. We wouldn't want you to have weirdness overload.
30 Weird: Hotel Mario
It's hard to fathom now, but there was a (very) brief period when another company had the rights to develop and publish Mario and Zelda games with zero input from Nintendo. The results were almost universally terrible, of course.
Hotel Mario's actual gameplay mechanics aren't completely broken, they are just utterly boring: a puzzle game revolving around opening and closing doors. But it's the abysmal animated cutscenes that look like they were done in two hours by a team of five-year-olds that is the most perplexing thing about this shameful release.
29 Weird: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
We never said that all the weird games on this list were going to be bad—in fact, some of them are pretty great, which definitely applies to this family-friendly take on the turn-based strategy genre that is honestly one of the best Switch games so far.
It's not so much the crossover itself that is bizarre, but the Rabbid doppelgängers of the familiar Mario characters.
The Rabbids themselves have always been strange, but to see them enter the Mushroom Kingdom and interact with Mario and company is as jarring as it is hilarious.
28 Weird: Super Mario Bros. 2 (U.S.)
While it is many people's favorite Mario game to this day, there is no way to frame Super Mario Bros. 2 as anything but odd. In fact, its setting, the bulk of its enemies, and most of its mechanics have still yet to return to the Mario series in anything but the tiniest of bursts.
While the game is set in Mario's dreams (kind of) which explains why he and his pals feel so out of place, it still never fully feels like a true Mario game—which is exactly what so many people love about it.
27 Weird: Mario's Game Gallery/Mario's FUNdamentals
In the mid-90s, Nintendo let various developers of educational software borrow Mario and friends for use in various learning-type video games. One of the results of this deal was the boring PC release Mario's Game Gallery, later ported to Macintosh as Mario's FUNdamentals for some reason.
Essentially a collection of traditional family board games like checkers, Go Fish, and an off-brand Yahtzee knockoff called "Yacht," the Nintendo assets just end up being pointless window dressing on a bland title that does have one neat distinction: it's actually Charles Martinet's debut as the voice of Mario.
26 Weird: I Am A Teacher—Super Mario Sweater
On paper, it's an interesting idea—a video game that lets you design your own custom images for a sweater and have a professional company actually make it for you. But this was 1988, so the entire process was needlessly expensive and cumbersome.
Given its obscurity, it's tough to know for sure just how much freedom you had in your designs in I Am A Teacher: Super Mario Sweater, but we're guessing you probably had to largely just stick to some basic version of Mario's sprite. And at $24 in 1980s money to have the sweater made, it was too cost-prohibitive for mainstream consumers.
25 Needs A Remake: Super Mario Land 2
It's pretty tough to play an original Game Boy game these days. And that is a shame for a release like Super Mario Land 2, since the game itself is well worth revisiting and deserves to be appreciated as much as any other 2D Mario game.
If nothing else, just fully colorizing the game and optimizing it for televisions would go a long way in reviving this fairly forgotten classic.
Ideally, though, Super Mario Land 2 should see some full-on Super Mario All-Stars caliber remake that takes the original's inventive worlds and power-ups and brings them up to modern visual standards.
24 Weird: Mario Is Missing!
Poor Luigi—he had to make his debut as a main character in this strange and completely forgettable point-and-click educational game.
What makes games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? so revered is their ease-of-play. Mario is Missing, on the other hand, is completely obtuse and needless cumbersome, making figuring out how to even play the thing the bigger challenge than finding your missing brother. Worst of all, the developers tried to combine existing Mario assets with their own generic original art, making for a game that lacks any sort of aesthetic cohesion.
23 Weird: Wrecking Crew
Mario's "day job" is said to be plumbing—though that really only manifests itself through the pipes present in the games and little else. In his Donkey Kong debut, he was more of a construction worker, which Nintendo actually revisited for the 1985 game Wrecking Crew.
Never is Mario more in "work mode" than he is in Wrecking Crew.
The single-screen game involves Mario destroying various elements of the environment in an almost reverse-Fix It Felix. His look in the game is pretty jarring as well, calling back to Mario Bros. but releasing the same year as Super Mario Bros.
22 Weird: Mario Clash
Everything about the Virtual Boy is weird—that its graphics are entirely red on black backgrounds, that you had to set it up on a table rather than be able to wear it, and that it actually made it to market.
Even weirder is that Mario Clash wound up serving as the main "Mario game" for the platform, a pseudo-remake of the original Mario Bros. set on awkward 3D planes. Why this over a more traditional, modern platformer? It's as if they didn't have much faith in this console or something...
21 Weird: Mario's Bombs Away (Game & Watch)
For those that don't know, Game & Watch was a series of LCD devices that doubled as a digital watch and a simple video game (get it?). Each one contained just a single game, and the mechanics were usually of the "easy to learn, difficult to master" school of game design.
While most of them involved innocent tasks like working in a factory, Mario's Bombs Away saw Mario take on the role of a Beetle Bailey-esque soldier in a very obviously Vietnam War-inspired backdrop as he caught bombs thrown from trees. Not surprisingly, this one is never really referenced anymore.
20 Weird: Mario Paint
Consoles have slowly been morphing into PCs for years, and it goes back even further than you might realize. One early bridge between the two worlds was Mario Paint, which actually came with a mouse and turned your SNES into a painting and music composition program.
And there was also a fly swatting mode for some reason.
People continue to do impressive things with Mario Paint to this day, especially its music maker. But it was still on odd little program the likes of which felt out of place on a 16-bit console.
19 Needs A Remake: Super Mario RPG—Legend Of The Seven Stars
While it may be true that few generations of video games are as timeless from a visual standpoint as 8- and 16-bit games, that isn't true for all graphical styles. That psuedo-3D rendering made popular by games like Super Mario RPG, Donkey Kong Country, and Killer Instinct is pretty rough on the eyes today.
That's why Super Mario RPG needs a remake in the style of Donkey Kong Country Returns, which retains the spirit of that original visual style by does it in modern, actual 3D graphics. Sequel or actual remake, it doesn't matter—just make it happen.
18 Weird: Super Mario Land
At first glance, Super Mario Land just seems like a shrunken-down version of a Mario NES game, not unlike a lot of franchises that made the transition from the NES to the Game Boy. But it only takes a few minutes to realize that SML is actually pretty bizarre.
The fireballs go careening wildly all over the screen, enemies explode rather than being kickable, there is a level that is inspired by ancient Egypt, Bowser is out, and there are side-scrolling shmup levels. It feels like a Doki Doki Panic situation, and another game was retooled as a Mario game.
17 Weird: Mario Teaches Typing
Years before Sega's ingenious The Typing of the Dead re-imagined their light gun zombie game as a typing teacher, Mario got in on the act with this offbeat release.
The game is exactly what you'd imagine: you type certain letters as Mario navigates his world avoiding enemies and collecting power-ups.
It's obvious this wasn't an in-house Nintendo production, though, as various elements—like the Koopa Troopas, as seen above—just don't look quite right. And unfortunately, this was only ever released for PC. If they made a mouse for the SNES, why not a keyboard?
16 Weird: Super Mario Sunshine
The Gamecube saw Nintendo at their most experimental in terms of their games. They turned Metroid into a first-person shooter, they let two players share a kart in Mario Kart: Double Dash, Link became a big-eyed anime child in Wind Waker, and their big Mario game was built entirely around a water-spouting backpack and took place almost entirely in tropical locales.
Super Mario Sunshine is definitely one of the more divisive 3D Mario games, and is more gimmick-based than core Mario games typically are. Think of it as the Super Mario Bros. 2 of 3D Marios.
15 Weird: Donkey Kong Jr.
It's pretty cut and dry in the original Donkey Kong who was "good" and who was "evil"—Mario had to rescue Paulina, who had been stolen by the big ape.
In follow-up Donkey Kong Jr., however, the line between good and bad is much blurrier. Mario has imprisoned Donkey Kong, with Donkey Kong Jr. having to rescue his pops. Sure, DK did some iffy things in the past, but from his son's perspective, some dude has his dad in a cage and he just wants him back. Is this a Mario heel turn?
14 Weird: Mario & Wario
This is it, a one-on-one showdown between Mario and his evil counterpart Wario...right? No? Then it's a co-op platformer where the two team up! Still no? Then what the heck is this game all about, anyway?
Mario & Wario is actually about some character named Wanda who has to guide a blinded Mario through trap-filled levels.
It's fine for what it is—though Wanda is a bland and instantly forgettable character—but it's not the game anyone would've hoped for given the potential of its title. It's probably for the best it remained a Japan exclusive.
13 Needs A Remake: Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart 64 remains a fan-favorite entry in the long-running series, but like a lot of N64 games, it's not all that easy to appreciate in 2018. Sure, we've gotten to revisit most of the tracks from MK64 through their inclusion as classic tracks in subsequent sequels, but there's still something about the original game itself that has a certain allure.
The solution? A straight-up HD remaster of Mario Kart 64. Raise your hand if you wouldn't be interested in that. Yep, that's zero hands raised. And then do F-Zero X next.
12 Weird: Mario & Luigi—Bowser's Inside Story
The Mario & Luigi series of RPGs have featured some of the funniest writing and most imaginative gameplay in Mario history. From the GBA original to Dream Team—yep, we left out the disappointing Paper Jam on purpose—the Mario & Luigi games have been a consistent treat.
And then there's the installment where you get sucked into Bower's body.
While Bowser being an ally has long been a staple of Mario RPGs, Bower's Inside Story takes that to an extreme with Mario and Luigi literally inhabiting Bowser as they help guide him to victory. In a word: eww.
11 Weird: Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan)
Before the bizarre American version of Super Mario Bros. 2, there was the bizarre Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2. While the American one was an offbeat but enjoyable romp, Japanese SMB2 was basically SMB1 if it were made by developers who hate you.
While Mario games can get challenging, they are seldom unfair—which can't be said for this game, with poisonous mushrooms, invisible wind gusts over chasms, and warp zones that take you to previous levels. It feels more like a ROM hack designed for people to curse at on YouTube than a polished, enjoyable Mario entry.
10 Weird: Dance Dance Revolution—Mario Mix
One does not simply port Dance Dance Revolution to a Nintendo platform—you have to completely retool the whole thing to star Mario characters, have Mario music, and tell some kind of Mario story.
If the game was DDR but with dancy remixes of Mario tunes, that wouldn't be so weird. But like similar Nintendo games (Donkey Konga says hello), we get a few Mario tunes and a whole lot of techno versions of classical compositions and other domain-free ditties like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. What, that song doesn't make you want to get up and dance?
9 Weird: Mario's Time Machine
The one thing that the developers of Mario is Missing! did right is they kept the game a largely point-and-click, adventure game-type affair. Unfortunately, when they created follow-up Mario's Time Machine, they were a little more confident and thought they could try and incorporate more action-oriented platforming gameplay.
There is a reason why Mario games are so much better than most platformers, even by seasoned developers.
For a company who mostly only made story-driven, heavily text-based adventure games to think they could make an actual Mario action game requires more moxie than anyone deserves to have.
8 Weird: Mario Artist
By most accounts, the various programs contained within Mario Artist were—for their time, anyway—surprisingly powerful and versatile creation programs. But the question remains why anyone who would be willing to put in the work to make anything worthwhile on them wouldn't have just gotten better, cheaper PC equivalents instead.
Mario Artist—released on the 64DD, Nintendo's most ill-fated device this side of the Virtual Boy—just feels completely unnecessary and without an audience.
Even if it hadn't released on a platform that was a complete dud, it's hard to imagine who Mario Artist was actually made for.
7 Needs A Remake: Super Mario All-Stars
We need to clarify here: We don't actually want the current Super Mario All-Stars to be remade. Instead, we'd like a proper follow-up, one that collects and remakes a newer set of Mario games in the same way the original All-Stars did.
There are a few ways Nintendo could do with this. They could do Mario 3D All-Stars, a compilation of, say, Super Mario 64 through Super Mario Galaxy 2, all remastered in HD. They could also do New Super Mario All-Stars which collects all of the New SMB games. Or they could just do an all-encompassing, career-spanning Mario compilation—unlikely as that may be.
6 Weird: Paper Mario
Put away those pitchforks, guys—like we said, our "weird" entries aren't necessarily bad games. And the Paper Mario games—in particular, the first two—are fantastic. But it's easy to forget just out strange those games really are.
Taking a cue from Parappa the Rapper and turning Mario and his cohorts into flat, 2D sheets that navigate a three-dimensional world is a bizarre look—albeit a really visually striking one. And it's not just for aesthetics, either, as the juxtaposition between the 2D characters and their 3D world is sometimes utilized in really creative ways.
5 Weird: Mario Tennis (Game Boy Color)
As strange as it was at first to see Mario sports games, it's now so ubiquitous that we don't even think twice about it. And while Mario's forays into various sports are generally fun, simple games, they occasional venture into deeper and more interesting territory.
Mario Tennis for Game Boy Color is essentially a fully-featured RPG.
It's hard to imagine such an odd hybrid working, but the sharp writing and fun characters combined with the flawless tennis action makes for one of the most engrossing experiences that 90s gamers could have on a Game Boy outside of collecting pocket monsters.
4 Weird: Mario Vs Donkey Kong
Here we go again—completely mislead by our preconceived notions of a game's title. Coincidentally, Mario Vs Donkey Kong plays a lot like Mario & Wario in that they are both Lemmings-esque puzzle games about guiding characters to a goal.
Where Mario Vs Doney Kong ups the strange quotient is by making it wind-up Mario toys and Donkey Kong toys and those having to be the things that are avoided/guided to the exit. Also, Pauline is there for some reason, long before her triumphant return to AAA Nintendo games in Super Mario Odyssey.
3 Weird: Mario Strikers Charged
The concept of a Mario soccer/football game isn't a weird one in and of itself. They've done baseball, basketball, golf, hockey, tennis...why not soccer? What makes Mario Strikers Charged strange is how oddly mature it was for a Mario game.
Mario Strikers Charged was the first Mario game to ever get an E10+ rating in the U.S., meaning it is designed for players aged 10 and up.
Why the need for such an edgy (for Mario) soccer game? For one, it's oddly violent. And for two, Daisy and Peach are dressed more proactively then they'd ever dressed before (or since).
2 Weird: Mario's Early Years!
We cheated a bit for this entry, since there are actually three different games include in the Mario's Early Years "series": Fun with Letters, Fun with Numbers, and Preschool Fun. But there was no reason to stretch them across three separate entries as they they all use the same engine.
It's a noble concept, using Mario and friends to help toddlers learn basic skills. But like most games of this type, they were farmed off to second-rate developers so they aren't particularly well-made, and Mario just feels shoehorned into games that otherwise have very little to do with him.
1 Needs A Remake: Mario Bros.
Isn't it about time that Mario's first headlining game get re-imagined and updated in some significant way? Mario Clash was a baby step in that direction, but it was based entirely on a weak novelty.
There should be a full-on, 3D Mario Bros. game that plays somewhat like the battle mode in Mario Kart only on foot instead of kart-based. Just characters running around chucking things at each other while also avoiding bad guys, and ducking in and out of pipes in the process. It could be like Smash Bros (only more accessible and less serious) meets Power Stone.