What is there to say about Nintendo that hasn’t been said before. Typically I consider them to be the Disney of video games. They are a timeless, fun company that has produced some of the most memorable and lovable characters of all time. Super Mario is the poster-child for everything about gaming. The Big N represents innocence, nostalgia, fun, and creativity. While sometimes they get a little set in their ways it’s nice to take a look at the company who has never lost its way. There have been missteps and slight failures, but in the end Nintendo still follows a path of innovation without complication.
As for Nintendo’s series, there are quite a few games that stand out: Super Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Metroid, Star Fox, and so on. These games have all withstood the test of time and continue to age nicely. Which games from these series are the best? I’m going to try to figure that out. There’s no better way to kick off a series of Nintendo articles than Super Mario. These are the top 5 best Mario games. Enjoy!
5. Super Mario 64 (N64, 1996)
The jump to 3D was a big deal for video games. The mid 1990s took video games off the flat planes and burst them into 3D. The analog stick became the norm and we all forgot how to use d-pads. The Nintendo 64 was at the center of all this buzz. Super Mario 64 was the first game to utilize “real” 3D. I remember playing the demos for Super Mario 64 at Toys-R-Us, completely dumbfounded that they actually made 3D work, and it was good! Looking back now, 3D technology has become so superior that playing games in 1996 with camera controls gives me nightmares. That doesn’t mean that Mario 64 isn’t still a classic. What shocks me is that despite all the camera issues, Mario 64 is sill incredibly playable today. It’s bright colors and cheerful music make it so easy to just jump in. We were encouraged to explore, jump around, and figure out what the caste was all about. 120 stars is nothing to shake a stick at either, this game figured out how to create over 100 original “missions”, something GTA could learn a lesson from. Mario 64 essentially created the 3D sandbox which has become a gold standard today. I think we’ll be seeing the effects of Mario 64 for generations to come.
4. Super Mario Galaxy/Galaxy 2 (Wii, 2007/2010)
The Wii was a strange beast. The new controller was funky, it had a silly name, and it gave us the birth of motion control. Sadly, motion control seems to be on its way out as gamers just want to play games with normal controllers. Still Nintendo gave birth to the motion age, and that’s an important era in video game history. When a new Nintendo console releases the first two questions are: When is Zelda coming out? and When is Mario coming out? We had to wait about a year for Mario, but it was worth the time. Super Mario Galaxy is a love letter to Nintendo fans of all ages. It vastly improved upon the concepts first originated in Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. It continued to perfect the 3D platforming of Super Mario 64 and gave us new toys to play with. Gravity was a new obstacle in the Galaxy games and it worked so fluidly with Nintendo’s platforming. While great Mario games come out quite a bit, few challenged everything Mario was about like Galaxy 1 & 2. While putting Mario in space is a strange concept, Nintendo found a way to make it work. Both Galaxy titles are fun, addictive, and frustrating as anything. I feel that sometimes these games get lost in the ether, but they shouldn’t. They can stand with the best Mario games and have no problem. I would go as far to say that Super Mario Galaxy was the best game of last generation. It’s that good.
3. Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985)
The game that started it all, when it means EVERYTHING. Super Mario Bros. is often considered fully responsible for saving video games in 1985. The NES is the Julius Caesar of home consoles. It came, it saw, it conquered and was then stabbed in the back by Sony. Well, Nintendo actually did the first backstab, but go with it. Super Mario Bros. is perfect. It’s controls work wonderfully, it’s a massive adventure, and has the most memorable video game song of all time. So why isn’t it number 1? The only reason I keep Super Mario Bros. back is because while it is the foundation, Nintendo built a beautiful house to sit on it. Super Mario Bros. is simplistic and fun, but the real innovation came later in the series’ development. Super Mario Bros. started a revolution, it changed the course of gaming’s future, and is still bloody brilliant. That all being said, The big N used SMB to create some magic later on down the road. While this game deserves its place in history, keeping it at #3 is ok with me. Especially after we delve into the next two games.
2. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES, 1989)
Holy god thank you for Super Mario Bros. 3. There are few games that I’d call a gift from the heavens, this is one of them. Super Mario Bros. 3 is perfect. I don’t think I can find any problems with this game. It’s fun, memorable, challenging, bright, and so good that it makes you forget that the world around you is so tragic. Just look at the box art! There is no more recognizable box art in the history of video games, NONE! The second you see Mario in his raccoon suit taking off towards the skies, you hear this:
I bet you just had the biggest smile come across your face. Why? Because SUPER MARIO 3 IS TOO GOOD TO PUT INTO WORDS! My feelings cannot be contained. Super Mario Bros. 3 is the video game personification of a smile. That’s the only way I can explain it, it’s pure digital happiness. Many of us old enough can remember the first times we played it while huddled in our bedroom or play room as Koji Kondo’s 8-bit soundtrack popped off the walls. We were challenged by new enemies like Boom Boom and the Koopalings, we spent time underwater, and we got to dress up as a frog! Nintendo was able to take the brilliance of Super Mario Bros. and give it a PhD. Thinking back, it was a platforming revolution; with its multiple paths, fortresses, and sub bosses. It also finally brought us to Bowser World and gave us the single greatest stage-type in Mario history, the airship.
There’s no better boss-stage. All I have to say to Super Mario Bros. 3 is, thank you.
1. Super Mario World (SNES 1991)
Super Mario World is the finest game in the Mario series. It introduced us to a fairly open floor plan and gave the player options. They could scour stages for hours looking for secret exits and a chance to hit the Star Road. While Super Mario Bros. 3 allowed you to skip stages and take advantage of the level map, Mario World felt like a massive place to get lost in. It’s easy to see where Nintendo took the Mario 3 formula and changed it to give us more of a fluid experience and for 1991 it was MASSIVE. Super Mario World also introduced us to the likes of the Yoshis. the Ghost Houses (a personal favorite), and switch palaces. Remember when you thought you were done with the Star Road, and then there was The Special World, don’t tell me that didn’t throw you for a loop. Super Mario World was a culmination of everything Nintendo had done with Mario, and it pays off in spades.
That opening title still gives me goosebumps. I remember that as the birth of my obsession with Nintendo and video games in general. Mario World is everything I want a video game to be. While it has proven itself to be fun and timeless, it’s also incredibly challenging when it chooses to be. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten Tubular, this stage is awful.
Before modders ruled the internet with insanely difficult ROMs, we had the Special World. Mario World was something for everyone, you could beat it with out getting 100% of the secrets or you could choose to go all out. This is a trend that has continued to mature with the Mario games. Super Mario World is the foundation to the second house, the bigger house that you build when you’ve sold 18 million copies of Super Mario 3. What was built upon Mario World was a mansion, but Mario World was the great foyer that takes your breath away. Super Mario World changed gaming, a trend that Mario tends to do quite a bit. I owe a lot to the SNES and Super Mario world, so putting it at number 1 is just the start. What a terrific time, I’d put it in the top 5 greatest games ever made.
Thank you Mario for all the great memories! Happy 125th Nintendo!