The Best Mario Games, According To You

Image: Nintendo
Image: Nintendo

Another Mar10 Day has come and gone, and with it came several surprisingly big announcements. While Nintendo celebrated the Italian plumber’s holiday by solidifying release dates for the Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door remake and officially announcing a new animated movie, we here at Kotaku celebrated by asking you, the readers, what your favorite Mario games are from the series’ nearly 40-year-long run.

There were a few big games that got multiple shoutouts, with Super Mario Galaxy, 64, and World getting a lot of love. But there were some unorthodox picks that stuck with y’all over the years. Let’s see what the best Mario games are, according to you.

Super Mario World

“Super Mario World is just perfect. It’s the ultimate distillation of everything the SMB series brought to video gaming. The level designs are inspired and endlessly inventive. The movement is intuitive but very deep (you can do SO MUCH with the cape!) The character designs are filled with personality. There are endless secrets and mysteries to uncover, enough depth to make you want to keep coming back again and again. And the difficulty curve perfectly threads the needle of challenging but not ‘Nintendo hard.’ There’s no Mario game I enjoy coming back to more - or any platformer for that matter.” - ultramattman17

“Super Mario World is my vote. It was so good-looking and fun, introduced Yoshi, and had better mechanics than 3 while not being as complicated as later entries making it very accessible to virtually anyone, was such a good-looking game that showcased the power of the SNES over the NES and had a soundtrack that plays in my head to this day.” - Strossus

Super Mario 64

“As someone who regularly revisits it, I truly, deeply believe that Super Mario 64 remains the best 3D platformer ever created.

What really makes it stand out against later (prettier, more technically refined) titles like Galaxy is that very roughness which gives it a much more sandboxy/improvisational feel. Whether it’s exploiting jump mechanics to climb ramps, or chucking a baby penguin off a ledge, 64 really makes you feel like you’re in a virtual playground.

That spark is missing from the later titles, even if they’re also masterpieces in their own right.” - Darkhawk

“Objectively, I would vote Mario Galaxy 2 or Mario Odyssey. Best given the state of gaming at release goes to Mario 64 hands down.” - Closeout

Super Mario Galaxy and Galaxy 2

“Definitely Mario Galaxy, and not just because it’s the picture. It felt like such a huge improvement over Sunshine (which I liked well enough when it came out but really does not hold up). The orchestral music, new characters, motion controls, a genuine story, and levels that all felt very different. (64 and Sunshine involve repeating levels over and over and over again to get all the stars/shines; Galaxy gives you a different path almost every time through the world.)” - sxp151

“Galaxy 1 just hit a sweet spot for me. Like all the things you listed - the music is phenomenal (one of my favorite video game soundtracks), some of the best use of Wii motion controls, the gravity physics were mindblowing, it had an incredible reward/progression system, and overall it was just fun and addictive in a way few others have matched for me (even other Marios). One of the only games that I’ve gone out of my way to do everything, pitting myself up against its toughest challenges.

Plus, the story is surprisingly melancholy, which just gives a great mood to the whole experience. One of my all-time favorites.” - AmaltheaElanor

“Galaxy 2. Some might argue that it ‘doesn’t have enough moves,’ as if a deep moveset is what put Mario on the map. Some might argue it’s ‘too slow’ as if going speed is the ultimate benchmark of quality by which games are to be judged.

No, what made Mario Mario is neither of those things. What made him is straightforward, crisp movement in impeccably designed levels. Sure, he can’t do a divekick or midair kick or whatever it might be, but crispness of movement is about elegance and the balance between freedom & commitment, not just filling space with new ways to change trajectory for no reason than to fill space. What’s more, he’s doing all of this elegant movement in the hands-down best level design the medium of video games has ever seen. Developed enough to build upon ideas, yet still with enough awareness to know when to move on, these spaces are creativity incarnate. They stretch the bounds of what is possible, take only the best ideas from that thinking, and pares it down to platformer par excellence. It’s hard to not keep comparing it more favorably to other games in the series, so “best level design in the business” will have to do the heavy lifting for now. And with the best level design, you have the best Mario game. Full stop.” - Jakisthe

Super Mario Sunshine

“Unpopular opinion, easily my favorite Mario game of all time is Sunshine. I know it seems to be almost universally panned as one of the worst in the series, but it’s been my favorite for the last 20 years.” - Eludaril

“I’m going to vote for something that probably everyone will disagree with: Super Mario Sunshine. Now, by modern standards, it is not the best. Galaxy, Odyssey, Wii: I feel like all of them are fundamentally “better,” but I want to take into account how good the game feels even after all this time. By that metric, Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island play incredibly well after over three decades. I would accept either of them. Maybe it’s just me, but I still think that Sunshine is a huge achievement because, unlike Mario 64, it still feels modern. It feels like a game that Nintendo would make today. Considering that so many companies were still figuring out this whole “3D thing,” I give the creators a lot of credit.” - Engeldinck Humperbert

“Sunshine is still my favorite. It’s surprisingly goofy and weird and almost relaxing. The soundtrack is repetitive yet brilliant.” - superslab

Super Mario Bros. 3

“Super Mario Bros. 3 will always be my favorite. The amount of secrets hidden in each masterfully crafted level is a standard which few games ever held up to. It’s why to this day I often check every corner of the map of whatever game I’m playing and am often left disappointed.” - SecretOfManajuana

Super Mario Land

“It’s doubtless nowhere near the best but as a favourite, nothing for me will beat playing through Super Mario Land on a borrowed gameboy in the early 90s, and then playing through the harder version you get after you complete it first time round. Super Mario Land 2 is a fantastic game too.” - Early Discloser

Super Mario Odyssey

“I have a lot of nostalgia for older 2D Mario games (specifically the ones in Super Mario All Stars, since that was what my babysitter had) and Super Mario Sunshine, but I’d probably have to say Odyssey. They did such an amazing job making the captures feel good to control and making a bunch of interesting worlds just crammed with stuff to do. It’s one of the few games (not just Mario games, all games) I’ve enjoyed more on replay because you can just jump in and do whatever you want at your own pace.” - Enfy

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

“I’d argue that Mario Kart 8, namely the Deluxe version, is damn near perfect. It’s accessible, great for both newcomers or experienced players, controls well, runs fantastic, etc. For a game initially released in 2014 it holds up today and was still getting regular content updates through last year.” - crann777

Some covered their bases

“That’s a really hard question, because there isn’t really a “Mario” game genre. There are games with Mario, but they fall across several genres and I struggle to say that Super Mario World deserves the top spot over Mario Kart 8 Deluxe because the former is a 2D platformer and the latter is a racing game, they’re so different.

But if we divide them into categories (with a little cross-over)...

  • Best 2D Platformer: Super Mario World (Runner-up: Super Mario Bros 3, honorable mention to Super Mario Bros Wonder)

  • Best 3D Platformer: Super Mario Odyssey (Runner-up: Super Mario 64, honorable mention to Super Mario Galaxy)

  • Best Sports Game: Mario Kart 8/Deluxe (Runner-up: Mario Kart Double-Dash, honorable mention to Mario Kart 64)

  • Best RPG: Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (Runner-up: Mario & Luigi, honorable mention to Super Mario RPG, SNES or Switch)”

“Played pretty much all of them in my 44 years of life. For 3D, it would be Galaxy and Galaxy 2, 2D loved Wonder and the old school World. Mario Kart is king as far as the spinoffs! For multi-player fun, 3D World with the Cats was a blast for me and the family! That’s what makes Mario special to me is the whole family loves and plays them!” - TheRay79

But there was dissent

“Super Mario 64 is hugely important and has a ton of impact even to today, but the actual game is a little too rough around the edges for me to put it in the top spot like this. I loved it as a kid, but I really struggled to return to it a couple years back when the Super Mario 3D All-Stars pack came out (especially with that camera). For my money, Odyssey finally fulfills the promise created by 64 with a lot more polish.” - Platypus Man

“See, I found Odyssey incredibly frustrating. If Cappy was only used for capturing it’d be one thing, but then they tossed in all the “hat tricks” to where an errant button press or thumbstick move had me fighting with the controls when Mario made a sudden move I wasn’t expecting. It seemed like every minute Mario was launching himself in a random direction I didn’t want because he’d thrown Cappy, and the game thought I wanted to do a cap bounce.” - crann777

There were a few unorthodox picks that didn’t get a ton of love, but deserve a shoutout

“Super Mario 3D World is, for me, the best Mario game.” - Bl4ckbl00d

“Donkey Kong of course.... DK Jr. deserves a shout-out too; The only game where Mario is a villain.” - magpie187

This person had the right answer, though

“Mario Teaches Typing” - Cactrot

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