It’s time for the list to end all lists: every Super Mario Game ranked from worst to best. With the newest entry in the series, Super Mario Wonder, now available, let’s see how the previous entries stack against each other.
The franchise has been running strong since 1985. Nintendo has revolutionized both the platforming genre, as well as gaming in general, seemingly countless times. While every game isn’t a runaway smash hit, it’s hard to call any Super Mario title explicitly bad.
Since we’re sticking with the Super Mario franchise, we won’t discuss the 1983 Mario Bros. game. Also, any spin-offs, sports titles, or anything else of the sort won’t be discussed. Sadly, that means Super Luigi U, one of the best Wii U games ever made, won’t be on this list.
I would have included Super Mario Run here too, but let’s be honest: it’s going to be last if I did. I’m just getting that out of the way now. This list is based on gameplay, advanced in the Super Mario Bros. franchise, storylines, and other general playability standards.
As always, these lists are ranked according to the opinion of the author. You may agree, but you’ll probably disagree. Just make sure you sound off in the comments below with your thoughts.
This list was last updated on November 13th to include Super Mario Wonder.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
In general, the New Super Mario Bros. franchise isn’t going to fare well on our list of every Super Mario game ranked. The worst of the bunch is 2012’s New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Nintendo 3DS.
The idea of bringing 2D platforming was a chance to revolutionize the franchise’s roots. Ultimately, they just couldn’t keep up with the masterpieces that are old-school originals or the modern 3D platformers. For the most part, anyway.
As a sequel, New Super Mario Bros. 2 didn’t do enough to make it a worthwhile endeavor. The emphasis on gold collecting coins felt misguided as if the challenge wasn’t completing the levels, but collecting everything. In addition, it didn’t really do much to stand out from its predecessors.
It’s far from the worst game in the world, but compared to the rest of the franchise, something has to be last!
Super Mario Land
I didn’t have a Game Boy as a kid growing up. I had a hard life, I know.
All kidding aside, Super Mario Land was a really cool-looking game every time I saw my cousins play it. By the time I finally got my hands on it when we got a Game Boy, I realized that it was shallow compared to other platformers, especially the console Super Mario games.
Super Mario Land is a great game for the Game Boy, but it’s lacking compared to the rest of the franchise. Undoubtedly limited by the capabilities of its hardware, Super Mario Land doesn’t have the chops to hang with the big boys. It tries its hardest, but its just not the same.
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
This is the real Super Mario Bros. 2, at least it is in Japan. Eventually releasing alongside Super Mario All-Stars for the Super Nintendo, Lost Levels is far more difficult than its brethren.
The Lost Levels has developed a cult-following amongst Super Mario game fans. As the audience for overly difficult games has grown, so too does the fondness for The Lost Levels. Still, there’s not really much content here truth be told.
If you’re looking for challenging Super Mario 2D platforming, you’re better off with the Mario Maker franchise. They offer far more in terms of depth and replayabilty.
New Super Mario Bros. U
The best part about this game is Super Luigi U, a spin-off expansion that doesn’t feature Mario.
Like the rest of the New Super Mario Bros console games, there was an emphasis on co-operative play and simple 2D platforming.
It doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the Wii’s Super Mario Bros. game. Speaking of which…
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
I might as well let the cat out of the bag: I do not like the console versions of New Super Mario Bros. They feel dated and overly accessible. It lacks the challenge and replability that other Mario platformers do.
That’s not to say that 2D Mario platforming is inferior, far from it in fact. There are plenty of games, both old and new, that do 2D Mario platforming well. The problem here, and with New Super Mario Bros. U, is that they lack imagination.
These games feel like a cash grab and an easy way to sell video games to the masses. They’re not bad, but they also fall short of the lofty expectations that other Super Mario games come with.
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
While still limited by its hardware, 6 Golden Coins is an incredibly solid sequel.
The game introduced Wario, upped the graphical quality, and presented some incredibly solid level design. It proved that Nintendo was at the top of their game and on track to creating some of the most memorable games of all time.
So why isn’t it higher up on this list? Again, its the hardware. The Game Boy can only do so much.
Super Mario Bros. 2
In the eyes of some people, this is the cream of the crop.
Much is known about how Super Mario Bros. 2 in the west is actually Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic in Japan. Despite the fact that this is far from a traditional Super Mario game, it’s actually quite enjoyable!
The impact Super Mario Bros. 2 has on the franchise can’t be ignored. Each of the playable characters have their own unique feel. The strategic platforming, whether it’s navigating terrain or using items, is a mainstay in the series today.
It may have not been intended to release as a Super Mario game, but it was able to deliver a solid sequel that expands upon the original in several ways.
Super Mario 3D Land
Super Mario 3D Land is a love letter to the Super Mario games of old. It offers the right balance between nostalgia and current. Expanding the traditional 2D platforming to a 3D space works wonders, opening up new ideas and avenues for level design. While 3D World would prove to be the better game in this “series,” 3D Land is still an absolute triumph.
Super Mario 3D Land is also one of the few games on the Nintendo 3DS to properly utilize its glasses-free 3D visuals. On the flip side, its difficulty was still a bit on the easier side. Despite Nintendo’s ability to properly mix old and new, they missed the mark when it came to balancing accessibility and challenge.
New Super Mario Bros.
Out of all the entries in the New Super Mario Bros. franchise, this is the one that got it right. Is it a somewhat barebones traditional Super Mario Bros. game? Yes, that’s a spot-on description. Still, New Super Mario Bros. knows what it does well and sticks with it.
Mario doesn’t always need fancy gimmicks, ground-breaking innovations, or new hooks to capture the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere. The original New Super Mario Bros. sticks with what made the original games so great: sharp platforming, solid level design, and addictive gameplay. While it may fall short compared to other titles in the franchise, you still can’t go wrong with this one.
Super Mario Sunshine
Following in the footsteps of Super Mario 64 would be difficult for anyone, even a Super Mario game.
Super Mario Sunshine brings precise platforming, sharp controls, and a unique flair and vibe to the franchise. It’s aged like a fine glass of wine as time goes on. Sunshine isn’t shy when it comes to clever and imaginative design. It leads to a wonderful world of discovery that would fuel future 3D Mario games down the line.
The game isn’t perfect, though, and at times crumbles under the weight of its innovation.
Super Mario 3D World
Speaking of games that age like fine wine, Super Mario 3D World is just that. Upon release, it was met with praise and acclaim, but fans were hoping for more with the Mario franchise.
Still, don’t sleep on 3D World, especially when bundled with Bowser’s Fury. It’s the best modern 2D Super Mario game by far, offering imaginative level design and a seemingly endless amount of content to see and explore.
When it comes to toeing the line between simple and complex, not just in terms of level design but also difficulty, Super Mario 3D World knocks it out of the park. Every time you return to the game, there’s something new to discover.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is an incredibly safe game. It builds upon the foundation of one of the greatest games of all time to deliver an incredibly solid and satisfying sequel. While it doesn’t push the envelope further, it doesn’t need to.
Yoshi’s Island capitalizes on the Yoshi characters, expanding on not only their lore but also their gameplay. It manages to deliver an experience that’s both similar and unique enough from its predecessor. Whether or not it can escape the shadow of its predecessor, however, is up to you.
Super Mario Maker
It turns out that a lot of people can make some really, really good Super Mario games. Super Mario maker gave fans the power to create the Mario levels of their dreams. While it didn’t always come together, finding those perfect levels made the hassle entirely worth it.
The biggest selling point for Super Mario Maker is the fact that it made owning a Wii U 100% worth it.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is just more Super Mario Galaxy. If you think that’s a bad thing, then I need to ask you politely, yet firmly, to leave.
Super Mario 64
There is no denying that Super Mario 64 changed the game. It didn’t just usher in 3D gaming, it blew the door open. While the franchise often revolutionizes the genre, there isn’t a Super Mario game that has been as innovative as Mario 64.
Mario 64 just oozes style. Once you get over the unprecedented freedom that Mario has, the stages, music, and visuals take over. Everything about this game is beyond memorable; you’ll find yourself quickly humming the tunes and singing along as you collect stars.
Transitioning to 3D opened up an infinite amount of possibilities. While not open-world per say, there’s an insane amount of freedom in each world that awaits you. It’s, at times, intimidating, but you’re too motivated to care. Super Mario 64 can be challenging at times, but it’s also so welcoming that you’re always ready to try again and push forward.
Unfortunately, time hasn’t necessarily been kind to one of the best Nintendo 64 games ever made. That knocks it down a couple of pegs in terms of our list here, but don’t let that steer you away from revisiting this all-time classic.
Super Mario Bros.
The one that started it all. For the Super Mario Bros. franchise, anyway.
The gameplay is simple, yet also somehow complex. The level design invites players to explore at their own leisure. If you want to rush from beginning to end, go right ahead. Looking to collect everything available? Be our guest. Want to discover any and all secrets? Step right up. It’s so simple, so easy to jump into, and yet manages to offer a challenge to those looking for one.
Super Mario Bros. showcased what was possible with home console video gaming. The fact that it still stands the test of time is a testament to its quality. Between the memorable music, characters, stages, and addicting gameplay, it’s easy to get lost playing for hours and hours.
Super Mario Galaxy
Maybe I should talk more about Super Mario Galaxy.
It had been over ten years since the release of Super Mario 64. While Sunshine was enjoyable, many felt like something was missing.
In 2006, Nintendo released New Super Mario Bros., a solid platforming, but not the follow-up we were all hoping for from Super Mario 64. All of that changed in 2007 with Super Mario Galaxy. Mario had blown the door wide open and showed everyone that was possible in a 3D platformer.
Galaxy has some of the best level designs the franchise has ever seen. Its sharper, tighter direction allows for more possibilities and creativity. This tradeoff allows the game to continuously deliver new mechanics and ideas throughout.
The platforming is so perfect that its sequel was just “Hey, here’s more of what you already love, but now here’s Yoshi,” and we rightfully ate it all up.
Super Mario Wonder
It’s that good.
Super Mario Wonder is an incredible achievement in game design. It’s a constant barrage of innovative new ideas, ranging from over-the-top hilarious to challenging, lovingly put together in the best 2D Mario since the Super Nintendo.
2023 has been a stacked year for video game releases, and that includes Nintendo’s own line-up. Despite the success of Tears of the Kingdom, Super Mario Wonder may be Nintendo’s best game of the year.
Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey is, in many ways, a perfect game.
Yet there are several times above it on this list. Again, that’s how strong this franchise is.
Mario Odyssey manages to combine the open-world freedom of Mario 64 with the tight and focused level design of Galaxy. Gameplay finds a way to always convey a feeling of wonder, discovery, and joy. Even when playing in co-op, everyone finds something fun and delightful. I know that Nintendo has managed to do the impossible and top themselves with Mario countless times, but I have no idea what’s next for the franchise other than more Odyssey.
Super Mario Maker 2
Part of me wanted to rank Super Mario Maker 2 as the best of all the Super Mario games. Not only does it expand in a wide variety of ways beyond the original, but it also offers some of the most imaginative and satisfying platforming to ever appear in a Super Mario game.
The fact that it comes from the community is irrelevant.
It’s held by the fact that it’s still rough finding these perfectly designed levels. It’s been made easier to select them individually, but playing through some of the game’s modes that require progressing through weak stages is a bummer.
Super Mario Bros. 3
With Super Mario Bros. 3, the NES is pushed to its limits. Nintendo managed to squeeze every ounce of power from the console. Their efforts were 100% worth it.
Super Mario Bros. 3 is everything you want from a sequel. Remember, Mario Bros. 2 wasn’t originally a Mario game! The combination of refinement from the original title with new ideas, innovation, power-ups, and level design results in a beautiful marriage. We thought we had it good with the original Mario Bros, but we were wrong.
This is, in many ways, the ultimate Super Mario game.
Except for, well, you know.
Super Mario World
Nintendo managed to look back at Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the greatest games of all time, and go, “Yeah, that game’s old and busted now. Here’s the new hotness.”
By now, everyone knows what Super Mario World brought to not just the Super Mario franchise but also gaming in general. It’s memorable every step of the way, delivering beautiful moments of wonder and delight. While many other games on this list represent a huge step forward for the series, none were like Super Mario World. It’s not only the best Super Mario game but one of the greatest games of all time.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play it now.