Wahoo, it's Mario Day! Sorry, MAR10 Day! Or, if you're in Europe, 10MAR Day!... Hmm, 'Iomar' doesn't work at all.
Look, it's March 10th and Nintendo is celebrating all things Mario. There are movie trailers, Switch game sales, Lego announcements, and general plumbery frivolities to enjoy, and it's therefore the perfect time to revisit this reader-ranked list covering every single one of Mario's mainline games across all dimensions and platforms.
If you're interested in Team Nintendo Life's personal opinions, check out our video at the very end of the article, but the list below is based on the opinions of you lovely lot. Remember: This is subject to change depending on each game's User Rating on our database, so feel free to get rating the ones you've played with a score out of ten and potentially affect the order. Enjoy!
What's the best Mario game ever? Where do you even begin to rank them? Let's face it, any of the games in the top 10 could justifiably take the top spot. All of them could easily be somebody's 'best game of all time', and there'll always be someone who believes the series peaked with The Lost Levels. That's an opinion you're entitled to!
In order to answer this question definitively, we asked Nintendo Life readers to rate the mainline Mario games they have played and the result is the ranked list you see below. Remember: the order below is updated in real-time according to each game's User Rating on this here website. It's entirely possible to influence the order, even after publication. If you haven't rated your favourites yet, simply click on the 'star' and assign a score out of ten. With Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 absolutely neck and neck, every rating counts!
You can check out our selections of the Best Zelda Games and Best Pokémon Games elsewhere, but without further ado, we present our list of the Best Super Mario Games — as rated by you, dear readers...
Note. We've included all mainline Super Mario platformers (both 2D and 3D), but you won't see any spin-offs or sports titles here. We've excluded Yoshi's Island, despite its official title, for the same reason Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 doesn't feature — both games are spin-offs that, titles aside, are distinctly lacking in the Super Mario department. We've also taken the liberty of excluding compilations and certain ports to avoid repetition (the GBA 'Advance' ports, for instance), plus we've gone with the Switch versions of New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Mario 3D World.
Super Mario Run served as Nintendo's first foray into mobile gaming (unless you count the ill-fated Miitomo). On its own terms, it's a solid effort with clever compromises to allow for the one-touch control scheme, and a great translation of the plumbers' 2D oeuvre into the smartphone space. Mario runs automatically, vaulting over enemies and small obstacles, and you pull off tricks by tapping at the right moment, jumping high or low depending on how long you hold your finger on the screen. The fact that it looks so much like an entry in the 'New' branch of 2D Marios perhaps set expectations higher than they might have been for the first Mario game to appear on non-Nintendo hardware (for a very long time, at least), but this is a classy example of transitioning a beloved character and series to a totally different platform while embracing the differences of that platform with a tailormade experience. Nintendo updated the original game with Remix mode, too, which provided addictive bite-size levels for quickfire play sessions.
In the Mario canon, Super Mario Run might be an also-ran, but it's a polished little experience that's pleasantly free of microtransactions, currencies, and cooldown timers. This game was never going to trouble Mario World in the plumber's pantheon of 2D platformers, but it was never supposed to; it offers short bursts of fun perfect for situations where cracking out your Switch isn't an option. Super Mario Run does what it set out to do, and well — for that, we admire it.
The 'proper' Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan, this direct sequel was once ‘the grail’ for gamers in the West who had utterly exhausted the first Super Mario Bros. and wanted more of a challenge. The Lost Levels certainly provides that. In fact, Nintendo of America deemed it too difficult to release, and to an extent, you can see where they were coming from. It's a sequel in the truest sense of the word; difficulty-wise, it picks up where World 8-4 left off in the original game and is definitely best enjoyed by seasoned SMB veterans. Players new to the world of Mario (yes, they do exist) will likely find it bewilderingly, hilariously tough.
It wasn't until Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES that the wider world got to experience this game (which is where it picked up its 'Lost Levels' moniker). It's not bad by any means, but it's the sort of thing that would be a New Game+ mode in a modern game. It's incredibly unforgiving and lacks the careful, considered balance of risk and reward associated with Mario platformers. It's available on Switch for anyone with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, so test your mettle with it there if you dare.
A rare numbered Mario sequel, this is one from a series which continues to divide gamers to this day. New Super Mario Bros. 2 doubled down on – of all things – coin collection to create a strangely compulsive platformer in the familiar mould. Although hardly revolutionary, the autostereoscopic 3D was a nice touch and if you can embrace the banality of its obsession with gold, it’s a very solid, very enjoyable 2D Mario.
Super Mario Land was impressive when it was first released for the Game Boy. The sequel might have made this original seem inadequate by comparison, but it's still a very fun Super Mario experience, albeit a short one. Just about the time things are really getting good, the credits roll, but if you haven't played Super Mario Land before, you owe it to yourself to give it a try - it's still worth playing through at least once, if only to see where Mario's portable adventures began. Cracking music, too.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (or Super Mario USA when its plumberised form made its way back to Japan), was the follow-up to the original Bros., a famously reskinned version of the Mario-less Japan-only title Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, with platforming mechanics quite different to the original Mario game. It introduced the ability to lift and throw objects and a screen that scrolled left and right and up and down.
The verticality of levels was a profound change from the first game, but despite being the odd one out in its homeland, Super Mario Bros. 2 ended up having an enormous influence on the iconography of the series as a whole. The game is definitely worth revisiting — Nintendo Switch Online is the easiest place to find it these days — if only to remind yourself just how different it is from what came before and after. With four playable (and very different) characters to choose from, we highly recommend a playthrough.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is an impressive package, offering the best of modern-era 2D Mario, madcap multiplayer and glimpses of the outrageous invention that was to come in Super Mario Odyssey. It's a top-drawer Mario game and arguably the best of the 'New' branch whether you play on Wii U or Switch, although ageing visuals and the irritation of being kicked back to the world map after every death stand out as things that could have been finessed in this Deluxe version. Still, with New Super Luigi U included, this is a very fine 2D Mario (and Luigi) package.
If you've never played Super Mario 64, you'll probably want to begin as nature intended with the home console version due to its vastly superior control system. This remake controls too awkwardly on original DS hardware to compare favourably to the N64 launch title. Still, Super Mario 64 DS takes a stone-cold classic and augments it with new characters, minigames and tweaks that make a playthrough more than worthwhile if you've played the original to death.
The DS might offer sub-optimal controls, but we'd argue that the analogue nub of that system's successor transforms the way this game plays, placing it much closer to the feel of the N64 classic. If you're going to play Super Mario 64 DS — and how else are you going to play as Luigi and Yoshi and Wario in an official release of Mario 64? — we'd highly recommend playing on the biggest 3DS or 2DS you can find. It's an intriguing twist on a genre-defining classic.
Billed as a stepping stone between the 2D and 3D games, Super Mario 3D Land scaled down the grand playgrounds of the mainline titles into smaller courses that worked better on a handheld screen. Beyond a handful of obvious and gimmicky perspective puzzles, this platformer showcased the console’s stereoscopic 3D by subtly signalling distance and perspective to the player – you weren’t relying on Mario’s shadow quite so much (a fact we more fully appreciated when we first played this game’s ‘big brother’, the excellent Super Mario 3D World on Wii U).
It was games like this and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds which really showed off the 3DS' namesake feature and how it could enhance the gameplay experience without poking your eye out. Comfortably contained and wonderfully tailored to the hardware, this should really be in your collection already.