My Ranking of Marios

This list is exactly as it sounds: my personal ranking of the games in the Super Mario franchise. It's one of the few long-running franchises where I've played basically every game, and thus feel qualified to rank. Note that I'm only including what I consider to be the core Mario platformers here. So no sports games, no RPGs, no Yoshi or Wario spinoffs, etc. (and definitely no board games). This ranking is based on my personal, subjective preferences alone, and I will amend it over time as new Super Mario games come out. Hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Last updated on January 26, 2018

See my other rankings of: Metroids | Marios | Zeldas | Final Fantasies | 2D Castlevanias | Fire Emblems | Gaming Years | Consoles and Handhelds

List items

  • Picking my top Super Mario game should have been tougher, but Super Mario World is too damn good. It followed Super Mario Bros. 3's positive trajectory and launched it into the stratosphere. It controlled great. There was a lot of variety in the well-designed levels. It had a large world that contained countless secrets to where it felt like anything was possible. And unlike many of the older Super Mario games, it holds up incredibly well today. To me, Super Mario World reached for the stars and stuck the landing so hard it's still hanging out there. If that's not #1 material, I don't know what is.

  • At a time where 3D platformers seemed completely played out, Super Mario Galaxy opened up a deep new vein of ideas that made the genre feel as fresh as it ever had. It began with the trippy physics that played with gravity in mind-boggling ways, and then extended into an amazing suite of the most varied and creative levels the genre has ever seen. There was a magic to the way it was able to showcase a new idea around ever corner, and it controlled like a dream every step of the way. And that soundtrack? That art? Hot damn Mario Galaxy is a wonderful thing.

  • Super Mario 64 did for 3D action games what the original Super Mario Bros. did for 2D ones. Running and jumping with that extra dimension was magical at the time, yet it wouldn't have been nearly as impressive if the level design wasn't as good as it was. There was a real sense of wonder to the entire package, one that sparked my imagination and urged me to explore every corner of this new 3D world. The camera and controls may be a little clunky and dated by today's standards, but Mario 64 remains a marvel.

  • Super Mario Galaxy 2 had an impossible act to follow, but what really stood out to me is how it continued to showcase brand new ideas in spite of being a direct sequel. In fact, it may be even bigger and bolder than its predecessor. It of course plays just as flawlessly as that game too, and puts those physics to great use in, quite frankly, some of the most elaborate and ridiculously entertaining 3D platforming levels I've ever seen. Shoot, it actually might be a better game than the first Galaxy...

  • OK, you know all those nice things I said about the original Super Mario Bros.? It turns out Super Mario Bros. 3 came along and ate that game's lunch. Joking aside, it was pretty crazy to me how much this game elevated the series that quickly. I thought it controlled much better, and between the world map and crazy new power-ups, it felt so much bigger in scope. Its levels got really wild and creative too. I still think of this as one of the freest, most joyful Super Mario games.

  • The original Super Mario Bros. was obviously a landmark game, and it's not even that bad of a game to play today. Sure, Super Mario games have controlled better over time, and newer games have experimented around the periphery more. But the fundamentals that define the series were there from the start. It's an amazingly impressive achievement, and one that I've had plenty of fun with over the years.

  • Super Mario Odyssey was an extremely polished game that I didn't find all that interesting. It controlled beautifully, had some clever level ideas, and was jam-packed with stuff to do... I just wish I enjoyed a higher percentage of that stuff. The majority of its moons were low-grade collectibles, and very few of them involved any kind of meaningful platforming. This could have been one of my favorite Mario games if it weren't for those two substantial gripes.

  • Super Mario 3D Land gets big points for being the biggest and best handheld Super Mario game. It was the first portable outing for the plumber that felt substantial to me, and I enjoyed working through its timely challenges on the go. It still has some weird design choices like 8-way movement, and it's certainly not as ambitious as the fully 3D games. But it turns out that felt just right on the 3DS.

  • I am not going to pretend that Super Mario Land is one of the better Super Mario games, but it holds an odd and special place in my heart. Maybe that’s due to the time it came into my life, or maybe it’s because the game is just so damn weird. Either way, I have a lot of fond memories of lugging my Game Boy along on family trips and plugging away at it. Also: can-can music.

  • The first "New" Super Mario Bros. is the only one I have much respect for, as it was a solid throwback to the NES original that made for a fun nostalgia piece. That it updated things to feel modern was worthwhile, and it had a few new fun items like the mega mushroom too. It was still pretty simple and thin on the whole, but that worked for one game. Too bad they didn't stop at one...

  • Look. Super Mario Sunshine isn't a masterpiece. And in some ways it's not even that good; there's precious little variety in the world, using F.L.U.D.D. is more annoying than fun, and some of the things you have to do for shines are downright obnoxious. But in 2002 it still controlled better than most 3D platformers of the day, and it had a handful of legitimately good platforming levels in there. Some really good music too.

  • People totally flipped out over Super Mario 3D World, but I felt like it had a lot of dissonant design ideas at its core. It had really wide levels, yet they had a lot of empty space. It encouraged exploration through optional green stars, yet discouraged exploration through a time limit. And it had 8-way movement despite being in a fully 3D space. There were certainly some clever levels in there, but on the whole it felt like a step back from the more ambitious, fully 3D games in the series to me.

  • Super Mario Bros. 2 is kind of the oddball of the series. While I think its oddness makes it one of my least favorite to actually play from a mechanical standpoint, it also lent the game some neat ideas that made it fairly endearing. Plus it introduced ridiculous staples into the Mario canon courtesy of Doki Doki Panic, like Peach's turnips and Shy Guys. Not too shabby.

  • I probably would have liked Super Mario Land 2 more if it had come at a different point in my life, or during a time when I was more into handheld gaming. I don't remember it being bad, but I never felt the urge to sit down and finish it either. Nothing about it really stood out to me one way or another in a post Super Mario World world.

  • The original "New" Super Mario Bros. was a fun throwback that also happened to play just fine. I always felt that making any more of them was completely unnecessary... and that's how it panned out with "New" Super Mario Bros. Wii. I would have rather seen their efforts go into Super Mario games that were, well, actually new. Because the ones with "New" in the name rarely had any new ideas that stuck out to me.

  • "New" Super Mario Bros. U is another "New" Super Mario Bros. game that feels a lot like the other ones. I played halfway through it, and couldn't tell you a damn thing about it. My only memory is it felt incredibly bland. That may come off as a bit harsh, but here we are.

  • I'm always up for a stiff Mario challenge, but the ways in which The Lost Levels was "hard" were not the right ones. It felt cheap by forcing you to learn nonsensical tricks through trial and error, and then stringing them together with perfect timing. All it did for me was make pushing through levels more tedious than rewarding.

  • "New" Super Mario Bros. 2 is the only Super Mario game I've never played. Quite frankly, it just looked boring, especially among the deluge of other "New" Super Mario Bros. games that Nintendo was cranking out at that time. Who knows, maybe if I tried it, it would move up this list. But nothing about it compels me to do so.