Nintendo’s platform saga has been around for 35 years and has almost 20 major installments behind it. So we’ve sorted our ten favorites.
Weeks ago we made a ranking with the best exclusive Switch games and Mario appeared in 6 of the 15 members, but it seemed little to him, so there is a whole one for him. Because next week will be 35 years since the premiere of the first Super Mario Bros. in Japan, which means that, although the plumber had already been jumping for a season (Donkey Kong will celebrate his fortieth anniversary next summer), the saga is celebrating in its traditional platform aspect. On the occasion of this anniversary, Nintendo has surprised – half – with the announcement of several related releases, such as an online multiplayer based on Super Mario Bros. itself, the arrival of Super Mario 3D World on Switch and a compilation with the first three three-dimensional deliveries.
We do not have games to launch (that would be a surprise), but we have fingers, keyboards and desire to celebrate the saga by looking back to remember which deliveries have marked us the most during a trajectory that already spans more than a dozen consoles, leaving several legendary titles along the way. So we have organized an internal vote to make a top that may not align with everyone’s tastes – after all, everyone has their own in here too – but that serves as an excuse to refocus about some of the playable experiences or events that have established it as one of the quintessential video game franchises.
10. Super Mario Land
A choice that may surprise some – especially due to certain absences at the top – but it is undeniable that Super Mario Land is an emblematic game that has won the hearts of many players. Originally released in 1989 (1990 in Europe), it was the first portable Mario, and it brought the series to the Game Boy without resorting to the easy port option. Although it was a return to the sequence of levels connected directly and not through a map, at that time here we were still waiting for the location of Super Mario Bros. 3, so it was a minor commitment in exchange for enjoying an unpublished pocket platform with all the classic elements redesigned (Koopas, Piranha Plants, Fire Flowers …) and many other completely new in between.
The change from the Mushroom Kingdom to Sarasaland brought with it more exotic settings such as Egyptian ruins inhabited by sphinxes with bad milk or a tour of Easter Island where the big-headed Moai statues took on a life of their own. It’s something that retroactively adds to its allure even more, as it hasn’t been the norm in recent notebook releases. To change, the damsel in distress and the villain on duty were also changed, thus seeing the premiere of Princess Daisy and the extraterrestrial Tatanga. In fact, our confrontation against him was not even resolved on a platform basis, but in one of the phases where the game put on a shoot ’em up suit and let us shoot from a plane or a submarine. It was a short and simple title, clearly outdone by later exponents in the pure platforming arena, but still able to stand out in the crowd thanks to its own — and often outlandish — ideas.
9. Super Mario Sunshine
Speaking of games that perhaps do not offer the most round experience, but do put something different on the table, we find the immediate successor to Super Mario 64. Going out after one of the most revolutionary games of all time is a proposal that can intimidate even the bravest, so Nintendo anticipated the predictable criticism for lack of innovation by approaching the next adventure as a bumpy vacation on Delfino Island, a tropical setting where Mario not only explored spun worlds more directly thematically and geographically —a Sometimes they could even be seen from each other or from the main city that served as a link – but also almost completely rethink mobility and combat through the implementation of the multipurpose ACUAC (acronym for Combined Ultra-Atomic Jet Apparatus).
Anyone who follows the behind-the-scenes stories will know that Nintendo’s situation with the GameCube somewhat precipitated its launch, causing the need to turn to more collectibles – the infamous blue coins – to fill the 120-star quota and leading to notable ups and downs in quality despite the great global improvement in graphics, handling and camera. Even so, the abilities and peripherals of the ACUAC, in conjunction with the properties of the water – masterfully recreated – formed a new repertoire to experiment with (gliding, propulsion, Mario himself gliding over puddles). On the other hand, the levels where we were deprived of this gadget bet a class of less exploited demanding platform in Mario 64. And although his proposal limited the variety from world to world, his vacation spirit and the vibrant recreation of places such as beaches, ports, an amusement park or hotel on the coast still makes it a unique and enjoyable game to return to.
8. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
We make another stop at the Game Boy because the laptop gave enough of itself and the first Land was succeeded by an even more interesting and memorable game. Despite sharing the limitations of the same 8-bit hardware (upon arrival here in 1993, the SNES was already more than settled), Super Mario Land 2 offered a considerable visual upgrade, with much larger and more detailed sprites. The control was also revised, with considerably lighter handling in the air supported by a new rabbit-eared power-up that allowed floating and made it easier to reach the end-of-level bells – needed to access a diverse selection of prize minigames. juicy. Besides, and now following in the footsteps of Bros. 3 and World, it also introduced a world map from which we could enter small themed areas with their own environments, enemies and bosses.
This premise, although conventional on paper, stands out in Land 2 for two reasons. The first is the witty choice of worlds, like a Halloween pumpkin with monsters from Japanese folklore and living hockey masks in honor of the Friday the 13th movie saga, an oversized house with ants as big as Mario himself, the mechanical entrails of a robot or even an exit to space to dispute the rematch against Tatanga. Overcoming each of these worlds rewarded us with one of the six coins of the title, necessary to access the final castle where Wario was released as a villain before starring in his own series of games. And this brings us to the second reason, because these coins did not follow order of any kind: once the initial phase was passed, the entire map was opened, allowing you to choose where to go with total freedom – something not repeated since then. Like the first Land, it may now be simple and brief, but it remains in the fan imagination thanks to the creativity that was lacking in the subsequent New series.
7. Super Mario Bros.
Of course, the original could not be missing. One of the main dilemmas when tackling a list like this is to what extent games should be viewed for their impact and contextual importance, and to what extent for their ability to deliver a robust playable experience today. In a top focused on the first facet, this game would not go down from the podium, since we can attribute capital merits such as establishing the foundations of the saga, stimulating the console market – Nintendo’s success is not understood without that of the NES, and not the NES is understood without this game—, as well as encouraging the appearance of other platforms or side-scrolling action games that applied and adapted some of their lessons.
The good thing is that in a top focused on validity, Super Mario Bros. also continues to make its way because everything exposed before was not simply the result of chance or opportunism, but of an intelligent and meticulous design. Its gameplay was simple and easy to understand, but the inertia created by the run and the precision of its jumps allowed it to quickly and satisfactorily scale the difficulty. Its levels, still of limited detail and visual variety, were loaded with secrets such as invisible blocks with extra lives, underground tunnels, magical vines and shortcuts to advanced worlds to experiment or trace different routes in replay. And his music, created by avoiding the impositions of the sound channels, has become an anthem that even players born several decades after its premiere hum. It is not the most sophisticated Mario, but it is one that 35 years later still supports its status with a focused and fun playable experience.
6. Super Mario Odyssey
And from the first we go to the most recent. Because one of the great virtues of the saga is that it has not failed to leave exceptional games with new ideas both in its four decades of life and in its two playable perspectives (although not intentionally, the top includes five 2D and another five 3D). Released during the first year of Switch, Mario Odyssey resumed and enhanced a degree of exploration absent from Sunshine, leaving the comfort of the Mushroom Kingdom to take us to other parts of the world that give twists to familiar themes (the Kingdom of the Desert combines Mexican elements and Egyptians, the Woodland collects the melancholy of a world covered by vegetation after the abandonment of its creators) or present new ones such as the already emblematic city of New Donk or a low polygon kingdom with culinary motifs. All of them, moreover, inhabited by a multitude of unpublished native species – friends and enemies – thus recovering that creative restlessness typical of more experimental deliveries such as the Land.
This journey is possible thanks to the Odyssey, the ship that gives it its title and increases its range as we supply it with moonshine, the almost a thousand collectibles that are distributed throughout the fifteen kingdoms. The vast majority is optional, so beyond some events and the general order of access to the kingdoms —sometimes there are two simultaneous alternatives—, the game allows you to face objectives quite freely. That’s where Cappy comes to the fore, a co-star hat that expands Mario’s basic repertoire and rethinks the power-up system through “captures.” Do you want to shoot fire? Do not look for a flower, have an enemy who will. Do you miss the ACUAC? Find a flying octopus and propel yourself with its jets of water. Even some objects and vehicles such as tanks are susceptible to this mechanic, which makes Odyssey one of the most original deliveries despite the latest arrival.
5. Super Mario Galaxy
Another of the peculiarities of the saga is that the design of its deliveries has often been more conditioned by the hardware and the control than other Nintendo franchises. Thus, Mario 64 was built around the stick-button C tandem, while Mario Sunshine made extensive use of both the conversion of said C into another stick and the L and R triggers into analog buttons (used via ACUAC). At the Wii stage, however, the study found itself faced with an atypical panorama: the graphic advance was minimal – especially compared to that between N64 and NGC – and the revolutionary control scheme offered by the Wiimote and the Nunchuk les it deprived of well-seated elements such as the second stick or the triggers. Mario Galaxy was born out of this apparent limitation, a game that reduced the number of basic actions and control over the camera, but in return built a galactic adventure unparalleled in the creativity of its design or the groundbreaking use of gravity.
Satellites of all shapes and sizes floated in the air, drawing players into orbit who soon got over the initial confusion because the camera system ensured that Mario was always on screen and the following targets were properly laid flat to orient us. With more than 40 galaxies – some destined to obtain a single star -, he had plenty of time to vary the themes (space fortresses, toy worlds, gardens in the sky) more than ever, squeeze the possibilities of gravitational fields, switch between the more exploitative Mario 64 mold and Sunshine’s platform without ACUAC, introduce new power-ups such as the bee suit or the spring, recover from time to time the lateral scroll – face down if necessary – and take advantage of the functions of the Wiimote to collect objects, propel ourselves through the air or participate in mini-games. A waste of imagination like few in this or any other saga.
4. Super Mario Bros. 3
It is unquestionable that the first Super Mario was a titan of the medium, both for what it assumed at the playable level and for the ability to become a cultural icon that transcended video games. However, there is a fundamental difference between the plumber and other iconic figures like the Martians from Space Invaders or the Pac-Man Pac-Man, and it has to do with continuity. The arrival of new installments that not only remind us why they became popular, but evolve the formula significantly to renew interest and create intrigue about what will come next, perpetuating the cycle and keeping the series alive beyond nostalgia. It was something that Bros. 2 did not achieve with enough forcefulness neither in its Japanese variant (The Lost Levels) nor in the western one (Doki Doki Panic!). But Nintendo did not relax and put all the meat on the grill with the next sequel, capable of taking a near generational leap even without leaving the circuits of NES.
Heralded in style in The Wizard, a film and at the same time elaborate marketing strategy, Super Mario Bros. 3 raised unprecedented hype and then managed to rise to – if not above – the circumstances . The graphics were much more detailed; control was fine-tuned and included new features such as sliding down ramps and grabbing enemy shells; power-ups were doubled to enhance aspects such as air travel (raccoon), diving (frog) or attack (hammer); the levels substantially increased their number, density and variety, in addition to being grouped on maps with different settings; Boom Boom and the Koopalings offered a broader repertoire of bosses on our way to Bowser; and the development was spiced up with minigames that allowed us to accumulate lives or items for later use from the map inventory. Quite an 8-bit feat, and also a reminder that good design can overcome the constraints of the humblest hardware.
3. Super Mario Galaxy 2
We enter the home stretch with the only direct sequel that has received a three-dimensional delivery to date (unless we take the license to also count 3D World as a sequel to 3D Land). The truth is that after the creative revolution brought about by the first Galaxy, it didn’t take too much cynicism to predict that the fate of its successor would be overshadowed. Released just two and a half years later, on the same console and iterating on a formula that Nintendo had already squeezed out enough, the wow factor was gone, so beyond being more of the same in a case where “same” It was a brilliant platform for which there was no lack of an audience, the only way for Galaxy 2 to come out of its shadow would be to improve virtually everything and in a resounding way. But guess what: he did.
To be fair, the staging and storytelling tone that the first Galaxy built around Estela and her planetarium is something that still gives it a special charm. Galaxy 2, on the other hand, wastes less time with paperwork and immediately has the spacecraft to jump into action. From there: a greater number of galaxies while still presenting new ideas at every step, more and better power-ups (such as the drill or the cloud), more and better bosses (ceiling still in force in the saga in this terrain), a better adjusted difficulty curve, a stellar re-introduction of Yoshi with several power-ups of his own as well, and a more elaborate post-game thanks to the cast of 120 extra green stars to re-explore the levels in search of them — instead of just pick them up with Luigi. He did not reinvent the wheel, but he polished it up and ten years later remains one of the best representatives of the genre. That is why he is on the podium, and that is why we regret his absence in the compilation.
2. Super Mario World
The qualitative leap that Bros. 3 managed to make with respect to Bros. 1 without leaving its console was such that expectations were triggered again at the prospect of the upcoming 16-bit Super Mario. The look of World, however, initially chilled some who expected perhaps a more pronounced change – something largely fueled by the console battles of the time. But as always when we talk about Mario, the gameplay rules, and time has taken it upon itself to elevate it as one of the most successful 2D games of all time. It is true that Bros. 3 had left such a good template that the saga would need the arrival of the third dimension to shake things up to a more fundamental level, but the additions and refinements of World on it curdled an anthological platform experience.
The maps merged to create a single connected world where progress flowed from area to area continuously, handing out alternate routes and more secrets along the way. Within the levels, Mario displayed a whirlwind jump that destroyed blocks from above or allowed to attack from the side when using the cape, an item that relieved the raccoon suit and allowed unlimited flying in exchange for mastering its most demanding operation. And, of course, it also marked the premiere of Yoshi, a gluttonous dinosaur that swallowed enemies and then spit fire, as well as improving the plumber’s aerial mobility — including the popular and creeping tactic of launching him into the void and then propelling us. These two advantages gave more wings to a design that continued to push forward with new possibilities and demands, from the ghost mansions raised in the key of a puzzle to the special levels only suitable for the most skilled. Like Galaxy 2 compared to its predecessor, the surprise factor was less, but the refinements, the average quality of its content and its replayability worth it a prominent place in the Olympus of the genre.
1. Super Mario 64
There were several serious candidates for the top spot, but probably only Super Mario 64 strikes the perfect balance between the kind of revolution that redefines an industry and the game that maintains its charms at short distances, returning decades later without idealizing it. It is true that its pioneering free camera, assigned to four buttons when that of having two analogs was not yet in style, does not enjoy the refinement of later deliveries. But the game is superimposed thanks to control so far ahead of its time that even today there are not a few – Mario included – that offer less flexibility and options. The revealing 360-degree movement with gradual acceleration were the tip of an iceberg that included triple jumps, long jumps, cartwheels or backwards, wall bounces and plank throws that preserved inertia and could be combined with other actions.
The second half of the equation was the new types of levels, no longer oriented to the distribution of dangers between the start and the finish line, but to the distribution of multiple points of interest and objectives so that the player could decide which task to undertake at each moment in time. function of the clues given by the menu or the visual references. It is something repeated several times since then, but that in Mario 64 continues to stand out thanks to this more plastic maneuverability, less focused on the use of power-ups with contextual applications (the flying, metal and invisibility caps were simple dressing) and its Incomparable freedom to access worlds in different order (Land 2 aside) due to the more open structure and smooth staggering in star requirements imposed by the doors of Peach Castle.
The castle itself is another of those elements that surprise even at the wrong time, hiding a slide behind a stained glass window or a mansion inside a Boo, revealing the entrance to a level through its reflection in a mirror, changing the level of the water or the operation of the machinery of others depending on the height or the moment in which we enter, or offering two alternatives that make everything much bigger or smaller than Mario. There is no doubt that his experimentation served to create more sophisticated games, with a greater variety of mechanics, loaded with more content, free of its rough edges. And over time, new installments are sure to join the family, trying out new ideas, albeit still watching you out of the corner of your eye. Because most of the merits of Super Mario 64 are timeless and still worth a place at the top.