When you think of video game mascots, one of the first characters to come to mind is most likely the Italian plumber himself- Mario. Since his inception for the arcade game Donkey Kong, Mario “Jumpman” has since been appearing on all of Nintendo’s consoles, having multiple games with each generation. And why would the company ever stop? The Super Mario series is one of the best-selling franchises they have, even beating out giants like The Legend of Zelda.
A lot of people’s’ first memories of gaming involve this moustached man, whether it be sidescrolling in the original Super Mario Bros. or taking to the 3D realm in Super Mario 64. The plumber has since been expanding his horizons with spin-off games, remasters, and open-world extravaganzas. There’s a Mario game for about any taste on the market, and for any Nintendo console owner as well.
As many Nintendo fans know, Mario hasn’t always had a clean track record. He’s had his fair share of lackluster games that had bad graphics, boring gameplay, or a horrible lack of content. Even some of his recent outings on the Wii U have been pretty lame in comparison. After this low point for the franchise, Nintendo seeks to do away with all the bad by creating Super Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch.
But can they really wipe out that much red? Not for us. Here are 15 Mario games that Nintendo wants you to forget.
15. Hotel Mario
When Philips wanted to get in the console race, they developed the CD-i. However, they needed some great exclusives so that they could compete with Nintendo’s Mario and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog. Instead of coming up with something original, they struck a deal with the Big N that allowed them to use characters like Mario and Link and have their own games for the console, after Nintendo decided not to use CDs. Unfortunately, the results were probably the worst games featuring Nintendo characters ever created. Link was unlucky enough to get two, but Mario only had one.
What makes Hotel Mario so bad, you might ask? Pretty much everything about the game. First off, the CD-i made use of animated cutscenes that were horribly put together and are really painful to watch, with weird voice acting all around. Then there’s the gameplay itself. Instead of the classic platforming we’ve come to expect from Mario, Hotel Mario tasks you with traversing a hotel floor and closing all of the doors. Then you can move on to the next level! Believe me, I wish I was kidding about this, but this interactive piece of crap actually exists.
14. Mario is Missing!
Nintendo decided that on top of fun games, they wanted to appeal to parents by creating educational titles for the little ones. Here’s a general rule of thumb for those of you that want to be respectable game developers- educational games involving big characters will likely tarnish your reputation. This knowledge didn’t concern Nintendo, and they pushed through development to create Mario is Missing! for the Super Nintendo. If this game has one thing going for it, it’s the fact that Luigi is the star, and everyone loves Luigi.
The story is pretty weird. Apparently, Bowser has taken artifacts from the real world on top of kidnapping Mario, and the only one who can stop him is Luigi riding Yoshi. The game then becomes very simple. You have to traverse the “real life” globe searching for each of these artifacts and return them to museum curators, who will then ask you trivia questions before gladly taking their property out of your hands. From start to finish, it’s a giant history lesson that was given a Mario skin so that little kids would want to play it. No doubt many people were surprised when they put this game into their Super Nintendos.
13. Mario’s Time Machine
Apparently, Nintendo didn’t really get the memo about the reception of Mario is Missing!, because they pushed through with a sequel to that game titled Mario’s Time Machine. In this game, Bowser is doing the same thing- stealing artifacts and collecting them. Except this time, he’s stealing artifacts throughout history, and he doesn’t even try to kidnap Mario; he kidnaps Yoshi instead. Bowser’s reasoning with this is by collecting the artifacts, he will send the world permanently into the Dark Ages somehow.
Like most of these types of games, it’s up to Mario to save the timeline. The gameplay is very similar to Mario is Missing! but instead lets you go to different points in human history. With each artifact you find, you get a brief history lesson on each one. As you progress through the game, you are supposed to help out with random NPCs who will reward you with more historical information. Overall, it’s a very unsatisfying experience and one that gamers have no desire to play. Thankfully, this was the last attempt to teach history to children by using Mario.
12. Mario Teaches Typing
Oh, you thought that we didn’t have any more educational Mario games to talk about? Well, think again, because there’s another we haven’t mentioned yet. Nintendo has made a few typing games over the years, and none of them have been particularly fun. Their first attempt was in the 90s with Mario Teaches Typing for MS-DOS and Mac. For some reason, Nintendo also attempted a story with this game. Mario comes across a magical typewriter, but as it turns out, he can’t type to save his life. Then the typewriter explodes and Mario and Luigi must find the pieces of it in order to save the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s about as basic as you’d expect, but it’s especially more ridiculous in this context.
The game tasks you with progressing the story by learning to type certain words or phrases in to allow the characters to move forward. As you can imagine, this continues throughout the entire game until you find the typewriter and manage to perfect Mario’s typing skills so that he can destroy Bowser’s castle using the typewriter. Yeah, it doesn’t get much weirder than this, but it’s a good thing that it’s been decades since this game came out. Yet, they still managed to release a sequel.
11. Mario Bros. (Atari 2600)
One of the pioneers of the gaming industry back in the day was the company Atari. They had some of the most classic games that would go on to motivate how developers thought of their products. However, the company is pretty much dead at this point and hasn’t made consoles for a really long time. Perhaps games like the Mario Bros. port fed into their eventual demise.
Mario Bros. is a really classic game. You take the role of Mario as he goes down in the sewers and does some actual plumbing for a change. However, he is constantly attacked by Koopas, crabs, and fire balls, and must properly dispose of them to complete his plumbing job. You make use of jumping and POW blocks in order to beat each level.
The game was pretty well received and Atari wanted a piece of the action, so they got the licensing and ported it over to the Atari 2600. Make no mistake, as far as ports are concerned, this is one of the worst. The graphics are downright inexcusable, the frame rate is bad, and everything seems so flashy as it moves that it looks like they are all teleporting. The beautiful coins are discolored squares that glitch as they move. Don’t ever play this.
10. Mario Clash
Nintendo wants people to pretty much forget the commercial disaster that was the Virtual Boy. It was a poorly designed console that tried to get virtual reality and 3D to become industry standards. However, that concept was way ahead of its time. One of the few games that ever made it to the system was a re-imagining of the aforementioned Mario Bros. game titled Mario Clash.
Mario Clash played a lot like its predecessor. Mario is stuck in a sewer, and he has to clean up shop by taking out Koopas and crabs, while dodging fireballs and hitting POW blocks. The game ended up playing poorly, mostly due to the design of the Virtual Boy itself. The visuals also took a big hit because of the hardware. You can’t really get past everything being red- not to mention that the 3D effect wasn’t very good on the system either. It has its good aspects, but most Virtual Boy games ended up being really bad.
9. Mario Party Advance
The Mario Party series is a bit of a mixed bag. It goes through something I like to call sequel rot. It started out as an amazing game on the N64, but as it progressed through the Gamecube and the Wii, it slowly went downhill. However, that’s the console side. Nintendo has also released its share of Mario Party games on their handheld lineup. While some of them are fun at times, their first attempt, Mario Party Advance, was anything but.
Much like Mario Clash, this was mostly due to what the Gameboy Advance was capable of, but you could argue that Nintendo should have been aware of that. Their series was already starting to feel a bit stale at this time, and Mario Party Advance didn’t help at all. You could only choose between a total of 4 different characters for starters. Then, the maps were really different and weird. You were given a limited number of mushrooms at the start of each game, and each turn costed a mushroom. Once you run out, the game is over. You can get more by completing mini games, but the mini games control poorly and aren’t fun like they should be.
8. Mario Party 9
There is no way we can finish this list without talking about more games in the Mario Party series. The series had always been on the decline, but people didn’t really start to notice until Mario Party 8. There was still fun to be had with that game, though. However, its sequel, Mario Party 9 nearly killed the franchise for the general public. It has nothing to do with graphics or sound design either. For the most part, Mario Party 9 looks and sounds really good. The fault comes with its gameplay.
Most people love the Mario Party series because it is one of the most brutal board games in history. Everybody takes their own path to collect as many stars as possible before inevitably screwing friends over to get ahead. In Mario party 9, that element is no longer present. Instead, everybody rides in this silly car and can only take one path. As each person takes their turn, the car moves forward. This eliminates the feeling of skill and choice as everything you do is now based on the luck of the dice. Top it all off with minigames that aren’t as fun as they used to be, and we’ve got a game that no one wants to play anymore.
7. Mario Party 10
Then as if the series couldn’t go down any further, Nintendo announced that they were making Mario Party 10 for the Wii U. While many people didn’t feel that this could end up being a good game, there were some ideas that had a lot of potential. First off, there was the Bowser Party mode, which placed the person wielding the gamepad in the role of the titular villain. They then had to chase the other four people, who are still in the car from the previous game. Then there was also an Amiibo Party mode that felt a bit more classic as well.
Unfortunately, none of these ideas were executed very well. Bowser Party was horrifically unbalanced. Basically, if you were Bowser, you likely won every single time. Nintendo also decided to keep the characters in the car for the regular party mode, which didn’t exactly enhance the overall experience. Then even the Amiibo Party mode was bogged down by lackluster visuals and minigames that were either hit or miss. It’s sad when the handheld Mario Party games end up being better than the console ones by default. Island Tour and Star Rush are better than this.
6. Super Mario Bros. 2
We’ve seen in the past how Japan can receive games that never come to the West for one reason or another. People who wanted to buy Final Fantasy 2 will tell you all about that. Unfortunately, Square wasn’t the only developer who took on this mindset- Nintendo made a similar move after the success of Super Mario Bros. for the NES. They decided that a sequel would be necessary and began working on Super Mario Bros. 2. The end result was a challenging game that built on the foundation laid by the original. People in the West were excited to get it, until the Big N thought that the game was “too hard” for Americans. Because of this, the proper version of the game was never distributed in the U.S. Instead, Nintendo decided to take the game Doki Doki Panic and put a Mario skin on the entire adventure. When playing the game, you’ll notice a lot of things that aren’t quite right about the scenery and villains. Since then, Nintendo hasn’t done anything like that again, because they know that lying is bad. Is Super Mario Bros. 2 a lie? Well, look at footage for Doki Doki Panic and tell me what you think.
5. Mario Pinball Land
Pinball games are generally really fun and something that Nintendo is really good at. With titles like Kirby’s Pinball Land, it seems that this developer knows exactly what to do with a concept and make it good. However, they didn’t seem to apply this logic when developing Mario Pinball Land for the Gameboy Advance (hilariously known as Super Mario Ball everywhere else).
The game is much of what you’d expect- you have to complete certain objectives in a pinball style using levers at the bottom of the screen. While that’s all fun and good when done properly, this game hardly does anything properly. The entire project was created by a team of five people and it shows. The game had some decent visuals but was plagued with horrible controls and design that made it seem more tedious than fun to play, according to many reviewers. Top that all off with an unfair difficulty level, and you’ve successfully created a game that people want to stay away from. Good job, Nintendo.
4. Super Mario Land
When Nintendo unveiled the Gameboy, it was clear that they were going to bring a lot of their established franchises over to the system to have the “it’s Mario on the go!” type of hook. As such, they created Super Mario Land as a launch title for the system. Unlike the Wii U’s launch title, Super Mario Land was a huge success for what it was at the time, but the impact it left behind isn’t nearly as great.
Super Mario Land struggles from being on a system that was less powerful than the NES. The game could not handle a lot of memory or flashiness. Because of this, the game overall looked very dull and uninteresting (something Metroid 2 would also suffer from). Furthermore, everything happening on screen was so small that it practically hurts your eyes just trying to see Mario move. Then there’s the whole issue of the length of the game, which is incredibly short. Most people can beat it in less than an hour. Most Gameboy games were like this, but that doesn’t make them any better in the long run. Nintendo proved they could make a longer experience with Kirby’s Dream Land 2. Why not attempt it earlier?
3. Paper Mario: Sticker Star
On top of having great platformers and shooters, Nintendo also proved that it could be great at delivering amazing RPG experiences. It began with Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and completely took off with Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64. The game had such a focus on immersive combat and a diverse cast of characters that really set it apart from other RPGs of the time. Then they expanded on it with Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door which many say is the best in the series. Fast forward several years later to Paper Mario: Sticker Star.
The one good thing I will say about that game is that it looks very good and the paper aesthetic only gets better. Apart from that, the game deviates from what made the series so great. Gone are the beautiful and unique characters, and instead we are given a lot of characters we’re already familiar with. Furthermore, the game is so incredibly easy that it feels like it’s just going through the motions. The writing isn’t great and it makes the game appear so lifeless. They righted some of these wrongs with Paper Mario: Color Splash, but what we really want to see is something on the level of Thousand Year Door.
2. Mario Tennis Ultra Smash
When Nintendo began marketing the Wii U, one of their big selling points was now having all of our favorite Nintendo games in HD. I’m not going to argue the fact that nearly all of their first-party games looked incredible because of this. The problem comes when they seemed to put all of their time and energy into making these games look so good that they put little effort into packing them with content and things that are worth playing.
The best example of this is Mario Tennis Ultra Smash. This game was a pretty big letdown. Right away, it’s easy to tell that a lot of time went into making it look very beautiful, but that’s about all it has going for it. The game has such little content that you get bored very easily, and there is only one court for you to play in. The game introduces the Mega Mushroom power up, but that doesn’t really do anything to spice up the gameplay. Not even the Amiibo functionality is good enough to save this game.
1. New Super Mario Bros (Wii U and 3DS)
The reason New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U are making this list is not because the games themselves are terrible. As with most Nintendo games that aren’t remembered too fondly, they’re just more of the same with practically no new additions that set them apart from their predecessors. Nintendo had already remade the Super Mario Bros. sidescroller before with New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. From that point on, it was mind-boggling that the launch title they would include with the Wii U would be a practical HD re-release of that game. Then after that, Nintendo continued the trend by releasing New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS. This game suffers from the problem of being too similar to its predecessors as well. Yes, it stresses the importance of grabbing coins this time around, but that only makes the game easier. The music is all ripped straight out of the Wii game, and was only successful because it had the Mario name on it. Had Nintendo released a more unique Mario game at the Wii U’s launch, the system might have fared much better in the long run.