Ranked: Mario and Super Mario Games

It's-a me, Mario!

Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985)
bar 40.24
Mario Kart Wii (Wii, 2008)
bar 21.90
New Super Mario Bros. (DS, 2006)
bar 21.73
Super Mario World (SNES, 1991)
bar 20.61
Super Mario Land (Game Boy, 1989)
Best-Selling Mario-Related Titles
(Units Sold in Millions)
bar 18.14

Sales data: VGChartz.com

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.

The Five Best Reviewed Mario-Related Releases
1 2 3 4 5
Image Image Image Image Image
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
Critics: 97 Critics: 94 Critics: 94 Critics: 93 Critics: 93
The Best Reviewed Mario Games: RPG
  Game Platform Year Metascore User Score
1 Paper Mario N64 2001 93 9.3
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
The Best Reviewed Mario Games: Sports
  Game Platform Year Metascore User Score
1 Mario Kart Super Circuit GBA 2001 93 8.4
2 Mario Tennis 64 N64 2000 91 8.3
3 Mario Golf N64 1999 91 7.0
4 Mario Kart DS DS 2005 91 8.8
5 Mario Kart: Double Dash!! GC 2003 87 8.0
The Best Reviewed Mario Games: Other Categories
Category Top Game Platform Year Metascore User Score
Donkey Kong Donkey Kong 64 N64 1999 90 8.4
Party Mario Party N64 1999 79 8.2
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 series

Now, 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.
Main Mario Series Games Ranked from Best to Worst
  Title Platform Year Metascore Users
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.
14 Donkey Kong Arcade 1981 n/a n/a
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.
15 Mario Bros. Arcade 1983 n/a n/a
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.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (91)

  • VINERI13  

    nr#1 Mario Game of all Time is Super Mario World(1991)
    #2)Super Mario Bros(1985)
    #3)Super Mario Bros 3(1990)
    #4)Super Mario 64(1996)
    #5)Super Mario Galaxy
    #6)New Super Mario Bros DS(2006)
    #7)Super Mario RPG-Legend of the 7 Stars(1996)
    #New Super Mario Bros WII(2009)
    #9)Paper Mario(1997)
    #10)Super Mario Land(1989)

    I don't count Super Mario World 2-Yoshis Island as a Mario Game, i count it as a Yoshi Game & yes, Super Mario World is the Greatest Mario Game ever made, followed up closely by the original Super Mario & on the 3rd place Super Mario Bros 3.

  • Jake R.  

    I find it funny that Mario Sunshine is considered to be one of the worst. In terms of the 3D Platform Mario's, Sunshine has been my favorite from the moment I first picked it up and I've played it far more times through than 64 or Galaxy. In terms of 2D SMB 3 is still my fav.

  • Xinj  

    Tssk, the SMB series where great but Super Mario World is still the best. Thats why its one of the most modded games ever.

  • Coy Smithy  

    Whoa, and where is Super Paper Mario, for the Wii??? I have no idea how well it was received with critics and fans, but this poster absolutely loved it! Incredibly awkward that its not on this list anywhere.

  • Mr Zhit  

    Lol Mario.

  • paul  

    the lack of seven stars truely is depressing..especially when it could replace any of the rpgs listed

  • Jr. Graphic  

    Do some of you guys not realize that Super Mario Sunshine had to be included in the list because it scored 92 among critics. Also the user score average is 8.1 so obviously some people out there liked it.

  • Jr. Graphic  

    Do you some of you guys not realize that Super Mario Sunshine had to be included in the list because it scored a 92 among gaming critics? Also the user average is 8.1 so obviously a lot of people liked it. And what's with this list? They link said the best and worst Mario games but I only see 15 excellent games. Unless they are calling Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. the worst games in the series!? This really seems like another desperate attempt to grab traffic. Shame, shame.

  • Dan  

    I'm pretty shocked to see SMB3 listed where it is... it certainly belongs above Sunshine and SMB1. Also... am I mistaken or isn't SMB3 one of the best selling Mario games ever? I've definitely read elsewhere that it sold better than Super Mario World.

  • Max22  

    Nobody in the comments realizes that this is a list by critical averages. On Metacritic. I love it.

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