The best Mario games ever

Mario loves us.  We love Mario.
Enlarge / Mario loves us. We love Mario.

BEHROUZ MEHRI / Getty Images

Ars Technica editor-in-chief Ken Fisher has a rule: if you have a silly, fun conversation in Ars Slack that lasts longer than 10 minutes, it’s Probably It’s worth turning this conversation into some kind of article. And that’s how a weekday water cooler-style chat about Platonic idealism and Mario has become what you are reading now!

To people of a certain age – which, dear readers, most of us are – “video games” and “Nintendo” meant much the same thing. (There are even a few of us who are older that a certain age, which came from the Great Long Long Ago days when “video games” meant “Atari”, and even these few recognize the dominance of Nintendo that changed the culture of the mid to late years 1980.) So we’ve all played at least a few different games starring the world’s most famous plumber, Mario Mario. (Yes, his last name is also Mario. Which means his brother’s name is Luigi Mario. Which means calling Luigi “Green Mario” is actually correct! Justification!)

A few Ars staff have volunteered to brave the inevitable slingshots and arrows in the comments section to express their thoughts on a simple question: on every video game Mario has made an appearance in, which one is your absolute favorite, and why ?

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Nate Anderson: Super Mario Bros.

Only one Mario game has jumped on – or sometimes over – the pole of my heart. This game, of course, is Super Mario Bros. for NES. Minus worlds, aquatic worlds, warp zones, magic mushrooms, bullets with eyes, bonus rooms, that 1-UP hidden in world 1-1, glorious 8-bit music, the celestial turtle (!) Lakitu, mysterious green pipes—SME he has got everything.

Herself!  Mario from the 80s!
Enlarge / Herself! Mario from the 80s!


Yes, it helped me that it was the first great game of my childhood in the NES era, and that in order to get it I had to coax my parents into renting the cartridge from the local video store for the weekend. Corn SME is not a simple game of nostalgia. Unlike many games of its day, it’s still a lot of fun today, and its iconic levels should definitely be part of today’s Common Core school standards. —Nate Anderson, Associate Editor

Play it on: Go online (NDA) | Wii U Virtual Console | 3DS Virtual Console | Game and watch

Eric Bangeman: Super Mario Odyssey

When Nintendo puts Mario in a sandbox, the results can be … patchy. Super Mario 64, for example, it is pure genius, while Super Mario Sun lack of polish and revolves around an irritant game mechanic.

Fortunately, Super Mario Odyssey, the flagship title of the Nintendo Switch, belongs to the category of geniuses.

Odyssey can be whatever you want it to be. If you want to collect just enough Power Moons to beat the game, do it. I’m not a completion, but I loved walking around Odyssey, collecting as many Power Moons as I could find and discovering the strange portal between worlds.

Don't worry, Mario, you'll understand.
Enlarge / Don’t worry, Mario, you’ll understand.


Odyssey is also easy on the eyes. The Switch may not have the pure computing power of consoles from Sony and Microsoft, but Nintendo developers are able to maximize what they have to work with. I love the richly detailed worlds throughout Odyssey, each of which has its own gameplay quirks.

If I had to boil Odyssey up to a single adjective, that would be “smart”. In the hands of a lesser development studio, Cappy, Mario’s sensitive hat partner, could have been a cheap gimmick. Instead, it’s an integral (and fun) part of the gameplay. I was able to complete the game without mastering the ability to throw Cappy and then use the Airborne Bonneter to cross chasms, but I enjoyed watching my teenager take advantage of this mechanic. Young brains, young reflexes. Sigh.

Maybe the best part of Super Mario Odyssey beat him — the first time. After an adrenaline-filled race through the magma chambers beneath the Moon’s surface, I defeated Bowser, saved Peach, and discovered that there were a multitude of new power moons scattered across every planet in the Odyssey cosmos. After spending many hours hunting them down, I attempted – in fact many hits – on the dark side of the Moon, but I was never able to defeat the Fourth Broodal. It was out of the question to try to meet this challenge.

Even though I quit playing before I did All the Things, I came away satisfied. Nintendo knows what its fans want, and Odyssey offers at all levels.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make sure my Switch is fully charged … —Eric Bangeman, Editor-in-Chief

Play it on: Switch (Physical | Digital)

Andrew Cunningham: Super mario galaxy 2

Nintendo’s 2D classics are easy to play, in the sense that they are easy to find and acquire. NES and SNES games are always the first to be repackaged and redistributed on new Nintendo consoles, and emulating these systems requires so little computing power that you can boot. Super Mario Bros 3 on almost any device that connects to a display.

The preservation of Nintendo’s latest 3D classics has been more ad hoc, in part because they need more powerful hardware to perform well and because it can be difficult to really replicate things like the motion controls on the machine. Wii, the tablet of the Wii U, or the touchscreen of the DS and 3DS or stereoscopic 3D. effects. These games are sometimes repackaged and re-released for new consoles, but they come with price tags for new games.

To look for!

To look for!

All this to say that there is certainly an element of “absence makes the heart more affectionate” to my insistence that Super mario galaxy 2 is my preferred Mario game, because I haven’t played it for almost a decade. But clearly someyou have to stick to it – its lack of The stars of Super Mario 3D was a parody almost on par with the presence of Super Mario Sun. (It’s a joke.)

Galaxy 2 started life as a collection of ideas that weren’t incorporated into the original game, and the result is a brilliant collection of quick-fire challenges that riff on the original Galaxymechanics in a more varied and adventurous way. (It’s a clear precursor to the Power-Moon-stuffed Super Mario Odyssey favored by Eric at the top.) And once Galaxy 2all 120 stars have been collected, the game hits you with another 120 stars that will test any player’s precision platforming skills.

While games like New Super Mario Bros. series or World of Super Mario 3D have more extensive multiplayer modes, Galaxy 2 Also deserves recognition for its excellent two-player cooperative mode, where another person can point their Wii Remote at the screen to stun enemies and collect items. Nintendo also played with this idea in the original. Galaxy and Odyssey, but the iteration in Galaxy 2 is ideal for young players or non-players who want to have fun. Wii Remotes are intuitive, and the second player can do a lot of really useful things that don’t get in the way of the first player.

Mario galaxy 2 is a high watermark between the technical achievements of Mario 64 and the unmixed joy of Mario odyssey, and I would pay (and, sigh, probably pay) a lot of money to play 1080p on a modern console. —Andrew Cunningham, Senior Technology Journalist

Play it on: Wii U Virtual Console


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