it’s been a while since i’ve done a top 10-type list. a month ago i replayed the original SMB3, ending an approximately 5-year quest to play (and in the case of the NES games, replay) the entire main SMB series. in that time three additional SMB games were released, namely NSMB wii and galaxy and its sequel, not to mention all the rereleases on virtual console and the wii version of super mario all-stars, released for SMB‘s 25th anniversary. looking back on this body of work it’s amazing to see the consistently sky-high level of quality of the series as a whole. would it be hyperbole to compare the series to other greats such as shakespeare’s plays or beethoven’s symphonies? somehow i doubt too many gamers would disagree.
so now seems like a good time to go through my ranking of the super mario bros. series. since i’ve reviewed all the games on the blog as i’ve played them, to make things more worthwhile i wanted to ask someone who’s beaten all the SMB games to supply a second list as a point of comparison. noiseredux, who authors the blog game boy player land, graciously agreed (although he hasn’t beaten the SMG games). he turned out to be a good choice because his ordering is completely different from mine, even though both of us grew up in the era of the NES and have a strong interest in retro games. i’m not sure that either of our lists wholly reflects the general opinion, but i’m looking forward to seeing how my own opinion evolves as i begin my second tour of the series, as i’m sure it will.
|the super mario bros. series|
|as ranked by geozeldadude and noiseredux|
|#||geozeldadude‘s list||noiseredux‘s list|
super mario bros. 3: at the top of my list i have to put super mario bros. 3. i think most people would be torn between that game, SMW, and the original SMB. much as i adore the perfection of SMB, SMB3 really feels like a big bang moment, with the mario universe exploding with a cornucopia of new characters and gameplay. one area i judge games on, especially platformers, is the amount of variety and original content, and SMB3 has it in spades, so much so that it’s not just my favorite mario game of all time, but one of my favorite games of all time period.
Super Mario World: This to me is the game that I have compared every platformer to since its release. I remember I had fallen for Sega’s in-your-face marketing during the 16-bit wars, but seeing Super Mario World was mind-blowing. Who needed speed and attitude when you had personality and perfection? It was the culmination of everything that you could do with a 2D platformer. The greatest thing is that it still holds up to this day.
|2||super mario bros.: without a doubt one of the most influential and well-known games of all time, the original SMB is a classic that just never gets old and is even today still a blast to play. it’s tempting to give this my top spot since it all started here, and what it lacks in SMB3‘s variety in worlds it more than makes up for in originality. for me this a very, very close second, not just on my list of mario games, but favorites of all time.||Super Mario Bros. 2: It might seem weird to rate this game so high, but remember that when it came out in the States none of us on the playground knew what Doki Doki Panic was. We just knew this was the new Mario Bros game. And it was crazy weird. The game gets a lot of hate for some reason, but I find its uniqueness totally charming. I’m fairly certain this was the first game I ever beat as a kid. And I’ve beaten it many times since. I just never seem to get tired of it.|
|3||super mario land 2: i know i’m going to be in a minority here, but this was the first 2-D mario game i’d played after a long hiatus away from video games, and i loved every minute of it (except perhaps for the sudden spike in difficulty at the end). probably a large reason i have such affection for this game is that it’s similar to my beloved SMB3, yet it still has its own feel and charm. this is a game that will definitely be interesting to play again now that i have the context of the whole series.||Super Mario Land: Another game that haters love to hate. Super Mario Land was amazing when it was released in 1989. It was a lot like the first Super Mario Bros., but had a bunch of crazy new characters and lands. Plus it had shooting levels! Sure it’s way too short. Sure the sprites are tiny. Sure Mario is a little tough to control. That’s all fine and good, but it’s easily one of my favorite Game Boy games of all time and I’ve probably beaten it more times than any other game.|
|4||super mario bros. 2: i’m actually a bit surprised with myself that i put this one so high. it’s really hard for me to separate out my nostalgia for this game, as it was one i played to death as a kid, but what it lacks in enemy and environment variety it makes up for in its unique and fun, if not immediately gratifying, gameplay, and its four distinct main characters. and who can resist a game that puts two of my all-time favorite mario characters, luigi and toad, front and center?||Super Mario Bros. 3: I very vividly remember seeing The Wizard in the movie theaters when it came out and leaving with two very important revelations: that when I finally hit puberty I’d probably dig redheads, and that in the meantime I’d need to own a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3. And I feel like every kid had the game that year. Everybody was playing it and sharing tips and secrets and whatnot. It’s this perfect blend of the old Super Mario Bros. style gameplay, but was really a hint of the sprawling masterpiece that would be Super Mario World.|
|5||super mario galaxy: although i’m not a huge fan of 3-D games in general, i vastly preferred SMG to SM64. a lot of it was fairly brainless and too easy, but once the challenge ramps up i found a lot to enjoy. miyamoto truly succeeded in making a 3-D platformer for the masses, and this is another game i look forward to replaying.||Super Mario Sunshine: When I first got a GameCube I couldn’t afford that many games. A friend of mine let me borrow this and it occupied a lot of my time. Although I had not been a fan of Mario’s N64 outing, for some reason this game just clicked with me. I remember around the time of the big squid boss just being so completely impressed with my new GameCube. Admittedly Sunshine may not be the greatest 3D platformer out there, but for me the nostalgia is far too cemented. I can’t help but have a soft spot for it.|
|6||super mario 64: i wasn’t really playing video games when mario 64 came out, so i can only retroactively appreciate this game’s influence on 3-D gaming as a whole. although i still hadn’t completely internalized the physics of the game even after getting the 120th star and i found the tasks to be fairly repetitive, there were a lot of fun moments. yet another game that i’m looking forward to revisiting.||New Super Mario Bros. Wii: What can I say? It’s a new 2D(ish) Mario Bros. It’s huge and difficult. It has co-op and great graphics and sound. It’s pretty much a retro-gamers wish come true really. There’s not a lot to say about it, because if you’ve played it then you know.|
|7||new super mario bros.: since i’d been catching up on mario games i hadn’t played, the first new 2-D mario game after 15 years didn’t have nearly the same impact for me as for many others. i enjoyed this, but it felt easy and way too similar to other games in the series.||Super Mario Bros.: I can’t deny the importance of Super Mario Bros. Even personally it was the game that made me beg my parents for a NES. And even with all the hours I’ve put into it, I can’t in all honesty call it my favorite. I love what the games that it helped usher in, but like a good sequel should, many of them have eclipsed the original. At least when vying for my attention and replays.|
|8||new super mario bros. wii: much as i wanted to love this game, i found it to be way too reliant on what came before and the multiplayer too difficult for its intended, “expanded” audience. as someone who values originality extremely highly, it’s hard for me to give very high marks to this game. but it’s enjoyable for what it is, and in single-player mode i appreciated and enjoyed the high level of difficulty.||Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins: I give Mario Land 2 a lot of credit. It looks really good considering its attempting to ape the 16-bit Mario World graphical style on a handheld that struggles with 8-bits. Sure it’s a really large game on a tiny cartridge. But there’s something about it that just doesn’t feel right to me at the same time. As much as I find it enjoyable, I don’t find it compelling. It’s a game I want to love, but really I just like it.|
|9||super mario bros.: the lost levels: although the game lacks originality, the game designer vs. game player dynamic adds a level of entertainment not found in many other games. when you first grab a poison mushroom or encounter a negative warp pipe, it’s almost like you can hear miyamoto laughing demonically at you. as a “hardcore” gamer i found this to be a unique and fun, if oftentimes hugely frustrating, entry in the series.||Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels: The “real” Super Mario Bros. 2 is kind of a just a curio to me. By the time I got to play it, like most Americans, it was part of a SNES compilation. So while it seemed really cool to play this Mario Bros. game I didn’t even know existed, it was also kind of primitive gameplay-wise and way too hard. To be honest, I never seem to feel the need to revisit it. Call it wrong place at the wrong time.|
|10||super mario sunshine: this is the first game i played after my video game hiatus, and although i was wowed by the bright colors and graphics, the hovering mechanic felt imprecise and falling down from great heights and having to climb back up again and again got really tedious. often mentioned along with SMB2 as being a “black sheep” of the series. it’ll definitely be interesting to replay this one.||New Super Mario Bros.: I remember borrowing this from a friend one day when I was sick. And I remember a few hours later being really glad that I hadn’t been the one to spend $30 on it. Sure it was awesome to have a new 2D Mario Bros., but the game seemed far too easy to me. And not in a I’m-so-awesome kind a way, but more like Nintendo had just dumbed things down too much.|
|11||super mario galaxy 2: although people praised this as being even better than the first, for me there just wasn’t enough that was new and i got bored quickly. maybe if i hadn’t played galaxy so recently before this i would’ve appreciated it more.||Super Mario 64: I know a lot of people love this game, but in all honesty it made me really glad I had bought a PlayStation instead when it was released. I can’t really say what it was I didn’t care for with Super Mario 64, but it just didn’t gel with me. I didn’t find the controls comfortable, I didn’t like the look of the new 3D Mushroom Kingdom. It just all felt slightly off for me. I tried to go back and play it again about a year ago and those same feelings came flooding back. Odd considering my enjoyment of Super Mario Sunshine — a game that is probably technically inferior. But I can’t pretend to like a game that I don’t.|
|12||super mario world: i know i’m in a minority on this one, but i couldn’t help comparing this to SMB3, and it seemed inferior in every way. less variety and less originality didn’t offset the addition of yoshi, who although was a great new character just didn’t seem to add much to the overall experience. this is going to be one of the first mario games i replay, so i’m looking forward to seeing how my opinion changes.||–|
|13||super mario land: i don’t see how anyone can honestly rank this objectively as anywhere but the bottom of the list. a game boy launch title, and boy does it show. an achievement in terms of early game boy development, but this is probably the only game in the series that i actually disliked.||–|
well there you have it. instead of directly replaying the games in the series, i’m going to be working my way through the numerous remakes, and for the 3-D mario games i’ll be finishing up the stars i didn’t collect the first time around (really not looking forward to that leaf/poison river stage in sunshine). how will my ranking change, and where will new entries end up? check back in another 5 years. 😉 happy belated 25th anniversary, SMB, and here’s to many more!