It's-a me, Mario!
|Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985)|
|Mario Kart Wii (Wii, 2008)|
|New Super Mario Bros. (DS, 2006)|
|Super Mario World (SNES, 1991)|
|Super Mario Land (Game Boy, 1989)|
It’s hard to believe that there was a time before we all knew and loved our favorite mustachioed Italian plumber, Mario. Created by famed videogame designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario—or Jumpman, as he was originally called—first debuted in arcades in 1981 with Donkey Kong and has since shown up in over 200 videogame titles since.
After appearing with his brother Luigi in Mario Brothers, Mario was bundled with the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the revolutionary worldwide side-scrolling sensation Super Mario Bros. Mario and Nintendo became household names and innovators, taking over the console gaming market from previous market leader Atari and continuing to expand the Mario universe.
The main series of Mario games have largely stuck to a tried-and-true formula of having Mario fighting to save damsel in distress Princess Peach, who’s been kidnapped by dastardly villain Bowser (a spiked turtle-like Koopa creature that breathes fire), and restoring order to the Mushroom Kingdom.
As the years have passed, Mario has evolved from 2D side-scroller to 3D platformer, and in addition to having his own series, he has become Nintendo’s #1 mascot (sorry, Legend of Zelda and Metroid). Mario has appeared in countless spinoffs such as the Mario Kart (racing), Super Smash Bros. (fighting), and Paper Mario (RPG) series of games. In fact, he’s so popular that even minor Mario characters have their own franchises: Evil Mario villain Wario has the Wario Land series and the micro-game WarioWare titles under his nefarious belt; Mario’s brother Luigi became a ghostbuster in Luigi’s Mansion, while Mario’s dino friend Yoshi has appeared in Yoshi’s Story and several other titles.
The whole Mario universe is also represented in the Mario Party games and in several sports titles such as Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario Superstar Baseball, and Super Mario Strikers. The latest Mario release, Super Mario Galaxy 2 (the sequel to the Wii's all-time high-scoring game Super Mario Galaxy), promises more interplanetary excitement and thrills while giving Mario fans an excuse to dust off their Wii this summer after playing Mario’s last adventure New Super Mario Bros. Wii during the winter months.
Top Mario games by category
In a moment, we'll rank every game in the main Mario series from best to worst. First, let's take a quick glance at the top Mario-related titles in a variety of categories. Note that the category rankings below only include games in Metacritic's database; some pre-1999 games may not have Metascores available and are thus omitted.
|Super Mario Galaxy||Super Mario Bros. 3: Super Mario Advance 4||Super Mario 64||Mario Kart Super Circuit||Paper Mario|
|Wii, 2007||GBA, 2003||N64, 1996||GBA, 2001||N64, 2001|
|2||Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story||DS||2009||90||8.8|
|3||Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga||GBA||2003||90||9.6|
|4||Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door||GC||2004||87||9.1|
|5||Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time||DS||2005||86||8.6|
|1||Mario Kart Super Circuit||GBA||2001||93||8.4|
|2||Mario Tennis 64||N64||2000||91||8.3|
|4||Mario Kart DS||DS||2005||91||8.8|
|5||Mario Kart: Double Dash!!||GC||2003||87||8.0|
|Category||Top Game||Platform||Year||Metascore||User Score|
|Donkey Kong||Donkey Kong 64||N64||1999||90||8.4|
|Puzzle||Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!||DS||2009||82||8.5|
|Wario||Wario Ware, Inc.:Mega Microgame$||GBA||2003||89||9.1|
|Yoshi||Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3||GBA||2002||91||9.8|
The main seriesNow, let's examine the main series, which stretches from Mario's arcade origins to this week's second Super Mario Galaxy installment. Titles are ranked by Metascore; for older games where a Metascore was not available, we have slotted them into the rankings where we feel they belong.
|1||Super Mario Galaxy||Wii||2007||97||9.0|
|Mario’s long-overdue return to 3D platforming, five years after the disappointing Super Mario Sunshine, was well worth the wait. Mario in space could have been a high-concept fail, but clever use of gravity and the new Nintendo Wii console led it to become one of the series’ best titles.|
|Units Sold:||8.6 mil.|
|2||Super Mario Bros.||NES||1985||n/a||n/a|
|The game that revolutionized home console gaming (and sadly sent arcades the way of the dodo), Super Mario Bros. introduced a narrative side-scrolling platforming gaming experience that still holds up to this day. Mario jumps on most enemies to defeat them as he eats Super Mushrooms to grow into Super Mario and uses the Fire Flower to throw fireballs. Twenty-five years later, the game is still fun, and the music is still stuck in our heads.|
|Units Sold:||40.2 mil.|
|3||Super Mario 64||N64||1996||94||9.0|
|Perhaps the biggest change to ever hit the Mario series happened here with the move to the third dimension. Switching from a 2D horizontal scroll to a 360-degree action platformer on the Nintendo 64 was a jaw-dropper, and the challenge to defeat Bowser’s army and collect stars is long, fun, and satisfying. The new perspective brought a whole new way to play Mario, making Super Mario 64 a game-changer for both the series and for videogames in general.|
|Units Sold:||11.9 mil.|
|4||Super Mario World||SNES||1991||n/a||n/a|
|The first Super Mario for the successor to the NES, the Super Nintendo, Super Mario World boasted improved 16-bit graphics and featured the entrance of dinosaur Yoshi to the Mario universe as Mario traverses Dinosaur Island, riding Yoshi and eating enemies. The spin jump first appears here, and Mario is once again able to fly using a cape instead of Super Mario Bros. 3’s raccoon tail.|
|Units Sold:||20.6 mil.|
|5||Super Mario Sunshine||GameCube||2002||92||8.1|
|To some, it's one of the lone sore spots in the Mario canon. Released for the Nintendo GameCube, the game isn’t terrible -- indeed, reviews were highly positive at the time -- but having a water-powered jetpack that Mario uses to clean up muddy bosses and fly around levels may be a little too high-concept and monotonous for our jolly plumber. Unsurprisingly, the title sold fewer units than many of the other games in the series (although still enough to qualify as a hit).|
|Units Sold:||6.3 mil.|
|6||New Super Mario Bros.||DS||2006||89||8.8|
|A return to Mario’s 2D side-scrolling roots, New Super Mario Bros. for the handheld Nintendo DS was a massively successful title. The DS provided some new touchscreen abilities, but the game was really notable for the Mega Mushroom power-up that makes our hero into a giant and the Mini-Mushroom that shrinks him into tiny Mario.|
|Units Sold:||21.7 mil.|
|7||New Super Mario Bros. Wii||Wii||2009||87||8.9|
|The success of New Super Mario Bros. on the DS naturally led to a Wii version, which focused on four-person local multiplayer, allowing players to work together or throw each other into lava pits. New power-ups include the Ice Flower, which freezes enemies with ice balls, and the Penguin Suit, which allows Mario to better traverse ice and water terrain.|
|Units Sold:||13.8 mil.|
|8||Super Mario Bros. 3||NES||1990||n/a||n/a|
|After the faux Super Mario Bros. 2 sequel became a smash hit, Nintendo became more and more popular. Meanwhile, a true Mario sequel was imminent. Mario popularity was so high at that time that feature film The Wizard was basically an advertisement for the game. Upon its release, gamers were met with a world map and a Mario who could fly!|
|Units Sold:||17.3 mil.|
|9||Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island||SNES||1995||n/a||n/a|
|Yoshi was so popular in Super Mario World that he became the star of its sequel, which ended up being a prequel. Now in charge of taking care of an infant Mario, Yoshi also collects eggs and executes his trademark flutter jump. The game’s stylized graphics were a striking change for the series, as was the fact that Mario was not the main playable character.|
|Units Sold:||4.1 mil.|
|10||Super Mario Bros. 2||NES||1988||n/a||n/a|
|One of the biggest sequel scams in videogame history, the U.S. release of Super Mario Bros. 2 was actually a revised version of Japanese game Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and the new character Toad grafted onto it as playable characters. Protagonists were now able to pick up items—including enemies—to throw, and life meters made their first appearance. Even though the game feels completely different from a Mario game, it’s still a fun platformer.|
|Units Sold:||7.5 mil.|
|11||Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins||Game Boy||1992||n/a||n/a|
|The Game Boy sequel was even bigger than its predecessor and introduced Mario nemesis Wario, who has captured Princess Daisy. Mario uses his classic Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, and Starman as well as a new Carrot that turns him into a rabbit to save the princess and capture the titular six golden coins gained by defeating bosses.|
|Units Sold:||11.2 mil.|
|12||Super Mario Land||Game Boy||1989||n/a||n/a|
|As a launch title for the Nintendo handheld Game Boy, the world of Super Mario Land was black and white, but its lack of color didn’t diminish the trademark Mario gameplay. Mario was tasked with saving Princess Daisy, the first of many changes that included the lack of Bowser, Luigi, and Princess Peach.|
|Units Sold:||18.1 mil.|
|13||Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels *||NES||1986||n/a||n/a|
|Originally released as Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan, The Lost Levels eventually surfaced in the U.S. with the release of Super Mario Bros. All-Stars for the Super Nintendo. Players eventually found a game that was more challenging than the original—often frustratingly so, which might have been why Nintendo held back its U.S. release for seven years.|
|* Known as Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan. No sales data available.|
|The game that started it all. Loosely based on King Kong, Mario ascends a series of ladders attempting to save the abducted Princess while jumping over the barrels and fireballs that are being thrust at him. Donkey Kong recently had a public resurgence when Steve Wiebe attempted to wrestle the game’s all-time high score away from Billy Mitchell as seen in the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.|
|Mario’s taller but clumsier brother Luigi enters the scene. The arena-like layout of the game is similar to Joust, and the setting is a New York sewer whose pipes are overrun by creatures. Evil turtles (in their first appearance of many in the Mario universe) are defeated by knocking them on their backs and kicking them out of the way.|
|The Newest Title|
|??||Super Mario Galaxy 2||Wii||2010||xx||n/a|
|Marking the first time that a 3D Mario sequel has arrived on the same console as its predecessor, Super Mario Galaxy 2 now finds our hero piloting a starship in the shape of his head around the universe as he searches for Bowser and the Princess. Cool new additions include the barrier-destroying Rock Mushroom and the Cloud Flower, which creates mid-air cloud platforms to help you reach new areas while riding Yoshi.|
What do you think?
What is your favorite Mario game? Are you looking forward to Super Mario Galaxy 2? Let us know in the comments section below.