Sometimes I literally fight with myself. Sometimes I don’t. Making this list was an example of the first statement and the list was changed so many times that, in the end, I had to force myself to stop. Super Mario has been an integral part of my gaming life since I was the youngest of crotch goblins. I do not think that a single year has passed since the very early 1990’s where I have not played Mario. When I was asked to make this top five list of my favourite Super Mario games I thought it would be simple – until I started writing it.
It was one of those moments where you write out three games and then verbally say “oh, what about that one?” over and over again. There are countless gems that did not make this list, and I did consider stretching this to the Hi Ten, but it would have defeated the point of limiting a selection to five entries. And even then – I could have probably and easily stretched to a Hi Twenty. So without further ado, here are my current Hi Five Super Mario games…I think.
Disclaimer – these are my top five and are in no way to be considered an official list.
5 Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario is a franchise that far outweighs so many others. Standing the test of time is one thing, but having so many successful games makes Mario a worldwide phenomenon that is the embodiment of Nintendo’s success story. When Mario first entered the realms of 3D games it was on the Nintendo 64 with Super Mario 64. It was rather deflating in the sense that it didn’t really jump out and say “let’s a go!” at all. The premise of 3D was obviously where the industry was heading but Nintendo’s first attempt was subpar.
Super Mario Sunshine was next and, whilst it was fun to play, it was still considered within the same realms of Super Mario 64. Nintendo tried their hands at the 3D method again on the Nintendo Wii with Super Mario Galaxy and they struck gold.
Super Mario Galaxy is possibly one of the greatest platformers ever created. It is more a spin on Super Mario 64, sharing more in common than you originally think, not quite a direct sequel to Super Mario Sunshine. From settings and characters we get more of a sense of the Nintendo 64 days but this time with a new arrangement of levels, bonus stages, puzzles, quirky controls and more.
The game’s hub is a giant spaceship with access to multiple galaxies, and Mario must traverse them all in order to find stars. The more stars you collect the more galaxies you can access. It is simplistic in approach from that perspective, but the level designs are mind-blowing. I know Super Mario Galaxy 2 is an absolute perfect sequel, but this is where it all started.
4 Super Mario Bros.
When it comes to Mario games, I have a lot of great memories. Super Mario Bros. was the first Mario game I had ever played. It was not the first platform game – that title goes to Alex Kidd in Miracle World on the Master System II, but it was the first Mario game. There was something about the entire style of this game which just worked. The blocks patterns might be repeated across the screen, the clouds might be the same sprites as bushes and the premise of mushrooms and fire flowers is completely strange when you truly consider it.
However, nothing in the era this came out was even close in the amount of entertainment you could get from 8 worlds and 32 stages. So many hours of my life were lost to this game, trying to find new warp zones (before the Internet existed of course), trying to speed-run levels and generally just trying to have fun. The game was amazingly recreated into a Battle Royale-style game last year by Nintendo too, added to the longevity of this amazing original.
This game was and always will be the pinnacle of 2D level design in an era when we didn’t have games like Hollow Knight and more technically proficient games. This was to me the father of what was to come in later years and this reason, amongst others, is why it entered the Fing’rs & Thu’ums Hall of Fame last year.
3 Super Mario 3D World
For many years Mario for me was a static plashing of 2D retro classics and the odd Nintendo Wii sprinkling of Galaxy. I enjoyed games that had come out in between all these of course, especially Super Mario Bros. DS and Super Mario Bros. Wii. These were both fantastic games and I felt they were more akin to the originals than people give them credit for. Then the Nintendo Wii U arrived and we had some more 2D greatness with Super Mario Bros. U and of course Luigi U. These were great but somehow seemed too similar to the Wii variant.
Then arrived Super Mario 3D World. I was literally blown away by this game. It was not 3D in the sense of the previous Mario games, nor was it 2D. It kind if took on a twist of both variants and made a new genre of what a Mario platform game could look like. This game is one of the most fun games I have played from the franchise. The colours are bold, the power-ups are fun and unique, the music is utterly perfect and memorable. Playing with my son was totally excellent – a far stride ahead from the multiplayer option on Super Mario Bros. U which, let’s be fair, is irritating as anything.
Super Mario 3D World seems to encompass all that is good with the Mario universe, with amazing visuals, puzzles and bold ideas that have made this game one of my favourite Mario games over time.
2 Super Mario Odyssey
Even though the Nintendo Wii had given us Super Mario Galaxy and Galaxy 2 I was still fundamentally dubious when I saw that Super Mario Odyssey was a spiritual successor to these games and styles. The most recent Mario game I had played up until this point was Super Mario 3D World and I did not feel that a game could top the amount of effort that had been used in developing such an amazing title.
Odyssey should have been a launch title for the Nintendo Switch but instead came out seven months after the console was launched. Apparently this was the first time a Nintendo console had been released without a Mario game at launch. This meant that I had to preorder the game, just so I had a new Mario title to play – and I am so glad I did.
Super Mario Odyssey was one of the most pleasurable games I had played in a long time of gaming. Other than dabbling in the Wii U I was mostly an Xbox 360/Xbox One gamer. Since the shift from the 360 to the Xbox One I felt that the market on these consoles were becoming slightly saturated. Nothing felt original. Super Mario Odyssey is what made me turn my back on Microsoft.
The game is mesmerizingly amazing. The level designs are vast, huge complex areas with so many hidden tricks, puzzles and
Easter eggs. The premise is amazingly unique, with fantastic new characters and the most perfect blend of 3D movability. The music is brilliant, with such memorable pieces and of course the first spoken-word track in a Mario game. The game had me hooked for near 100 hours. Some of this was goof balling around but then there was the fact that I wanted to find all 999 Power Moons and all of the hidden coins. I needed to complete this game 100% and it was so rewarded every time I was a step closer to this. I cannot recommend this game more and it is another game that stormed into the Fing’rs & Thu’ums Hall of Fame in 2020.
1 Super Mario Bros. 3
Sometimes in modern times I find myself utterly disappointed with sequels to games. Sometimes they just try to duplicate the original identically and have no originality, and other times they try to change things so much that they just make the franchise crumble. To an extent Super Mario Bros. 2 was something that, in later years, felt like the later. It was not until I was older that I realised that the game I thought to be Super Mario Bros. 2 was in fact Doki Doki Panic that had been re-sprited for the Western audience. Now the turnips, random birds, Birdo, flying carpets, hidden doors, character selection screen, keys, flying masks, ladybugs, music etc. makes so much more sense.
Regardless, when I was young Super Mario Bros. 2 gave me hours of fun, as I was oblivious to the obvious changes in the game – perhaps we were more accepting when we were younger. But then I managed to get a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 for my birthday one year and I never looked back. Mario was back – he was recognisable and now he could fly. The fundamentals that had made Super Mario Bros. fantastic were back and fine-tuned as far as the NES could take it. The game came with varying levels of difficulty. Not in the sense of a chosen difficulty on the start-screen, but in the sense that later levels became more challenging. It was hard as a child, but I cannot think of a game that I have played more than this. Everything from the story, music, characters, power-ups, the new over-world map…it was utter perfection. Two player was better with family members and I would spend entire Sunday’s playing this game with my sister. Not only is this game fundamentally the greatest platformer of all time in my personal opinion, but it is most definitely the greatest Mario game of all time too. you can read more about Super Mario Bros. 3 in our Hall of Fame here on Fing’rs & Thu’ums.
What will next weeks Hi Five be about? Well you can decide. Send us your ideas via Facebook or Twitter and we will pick one at random, no matter how obscure they might be! And the creator will get a mention too.