If there’s one franchise that Nintendo loves above all others, it’s Mario. After all, when they stepped into the video game industry, it was the glorious Italian plumber who carried them all the way to success. Since then, the character has remained not only Nintendo’s most popular gaming franchise, but also one of the biggest names in the industry.
Because of this, the company has created hundreds of Mario games over the years. Whether it be party games, sports simulators, or platformers — everywhere you look, there’s a new Mario game coming out. It seems that when Nintendo wants to experiment with a new genre, they call on the Mushroom Kingdom to fit the bill.
It’s not hard to see why either. Anytime you buy a Mario game, you’re almost always guaranteed a good time. So much quality and polish go into these titles that they’re very difficult to stay away from. Want a solid racer with great visuals and music? Mario Kart has you covered. Want fast-paced action set to a sports style? Then look no further than Mario Strikers.
That being said, not all of the Mario games can be winners, and anybody that has followed Nintendo for years knows that they’ve come up with some less than good entries in the series.
If you’re looking for a new Mario game, here are 7 of them that are total garbage (you should avoid these) and 8 that are worth playing again.
15. Mario Party 8 (and beyond)
Kicking off this list is a good chunk of the Mario Party series. This franchise came out with a bang on the Nintendo 64 and triumphantly went over to the Gamecube. Ever since it jumped to the Wii with Mario Party 8, though, things haven’t quite been the same. The minigames themselves are much less exciting than they used to be, and the boards are less inspired and more about luck than strategy. By the time Mario Party 9 came out, the possibility of people going different routes on a single board was gone altogether. Instead, Nintendo decided that it would be effective to place everyone in a car, taking away a lot of the fun.
That’s not even the worst of offenses that the new Mario Party games have committed. The 3DS entries in the series rely on motion controls and gimmicks to propel them forward. Mario Party 10 had the Bowser Party mode which had great potential but capitalized on none of it. There’s no support for an Online Party mode. What’s worse is the fact that many of the same mistakes are made over and over again. Remind me why people buy these games?
14. Mario Clash
If you haven’t heard of the Virtual Boy, it’s for good reason. It was Nintendo’s first attempt at bringing virtual reality and 3D to the masses. Considering that the machine was unveiled decades ago, it’s easy to see that the concept was extremely ahead of its time. Part of the problem with it was that it was such a weird system that people didn’t know how to make games for it. Nintendo essentially remade one of their Mario games and put it on the system. Even that didn’t turn out well.
Mario Clash was, for all intents and purposes, a remake of Mario Bros. on the arcade and NES. While the game itself was one of the Virtual Boy’s best, that doesn’t mean it’s good. The gameplay itself is too bland, the visuals are lackluster at best, and the visual effects are jarring and make the game hard to see (though that’s more of an issue with the Virtual Boy itself). Basically, if you want to play the arcade classic, then download a ROM or buy it off of the eShop. Just do anything but play Mario Clash. You’ll immediately regret it.
13. Mario is Missing/Mario’s Time Machine
When developers decide to make educational games for children, the results are almost never going to be good. Unfortunately, Nintendo didn’t get the memo when they created Mario is Missing. In this game, Mario was kidnapped by Bowser, and it was immediately up to Luigi riding a Yoshi to find him. Players have to travel around the Earth and search for various artifacts and put them in their proper places. If that sounds disconnected, it’s because it is. The only reason you travel around the world is so you can get a boring history lesson about each artifact.
Despite how poor this game is, Nintendo approved a sequel to it called Mario’s Time Machine. The game plays exactly like Mario is Missing, except you travel through time to discover new artifacts and you play as Mario instead of Luigi. You can imagine the disappointment of people who didn’t know any better when buying one or both of these games. I want more platforming and tight gameplay with my Mario; you can save the history lessons for when we’re actually in school. Games are a method of relaxation and escape, not to remind people of education.
12. Paper Mario Color Splash
It seems that since Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door came out, Nintendo hasn’t quite figured out what to do with the series. Super Paper Mario was decent on the Wii, but every game after that took a turn for the worse. Gone were all of the elements (apart from the visuals) that made Paper Mario so beloved in the first place. None of the witty dialogue and fun characters were present. Instead, we were given Toads and Peach — characters we’ve gotten to know already. On top of that, there’s less incentive for combat and more emphasis on collecting items that become useless.
Despite how much negative feedback there was for Paper Mario Sticker Star, that didn’t stop Nintendo from continuing that formula with Paper Mario Color Splash on the Wii U. It’s an improvement over the former, but that doesn’t make it excellent. The combat is a pain to slog through considering how shoehorned in the GamePad functionality is. The story is full of crappy dialogue you’d expect from an Illumination Studios movie. All in all, it’s a package that you’d be better off skipping and never touching again.
11. Hotel Mario
Remember the Philips CDi? If you don’t, then skip this entry. You’ll be scarred for life. If you’ve heard of it, then you know exactly why Hotel Mario is on this list. When Philips created their own gaming console, they needed an angle to attract consumers. They thought it’d be a great idea to negotiate with Nintendo for the use of characters like Link and Mario. While this is a nice idea on paper, the execution was much worse than any of us expected.
Link was horribly spat on with the release of The Faces of Evil, but Mario was arguably worse off with Hotel Mario. This game takes Mario out of the Mushroom Kingdom and into various hotels. Each level is a new hotel that Mario can only complete in by closing all the doors. Jumping on Goombas isn’t a part of this game. Then, like other CDi games, Hotel Mario features animated cutscenes that feature some of the ugliest animation ever put into a video game. If you like Mario and everything that the character and the franchise stand for, then you’re going to want to stay as far away from Hotel Mario as possible. You can thank me later.
10. Super Mario Bros. 2
When Super Mario Bros. came out on the NES, it was a huge success. People were clamoring for the new game console because they wanted to play the Mario game. The tight platforming was a hit, and Nintendo had a home run on their hands. And predictably, it wasn’t long before a sequel was in the works.
Super Mario Bros. 2 went into development very quickly and was created to be much more difficult than the first. When it was set to be released, though, Nintendo decided that the game was too hard for Western audiences and only dropped it in Japan. That said, they didn’t feel that it was fair for the fans in the U.S., so what did they do? They took a previously created game, Doki Doki Panic, and replaced all of the sprites with Mario characters. Does this sound cheap and misleading to you? That’s because it was at the time. To add more fuel to the fire, many fans were even more enraged about the game once they figured out that Nintendo had made a true Super Mario Bros. 2 and didn’t release it in the U.S. Eventually, they brought the game over and renamed it Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels.
9. New Super Mario Bros U
Ever since the final days of the SNES, Nintendo hadn’t made a true 2D Mario game on a home console for a very long time. There wasn’t one for the N64 or the Gamecube. For many years, people thought that such a game would only be released on handhelds in the future. For this reason, there was much excitement when Nintendo came out of left field and announced New Super Mario Bros. Wii for the related console. It was a fun game that had a cool aesthetic and allowed for four people to play.
Unfortunately, Nintendo would bank a lot on this game, and build off of it to create New Super Mario Bros U as a launch title for the Wii U. While this is fine, the problem is that the game has all of the same worlds and aesthetic as New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The only thing that Nintendo did differently in the game was add in Nabbit, up the resolution just a hair, and give a new power-up to use. Other than that, it’s practically the same game. It didn’t even show off the Wii U’s capabilities.
8. Super Mario World
In a world of 2D platformers, Super Mario World is one that you want to buy and keep for all time. Nintendo went at it again with their sidescrolling formula and perfected it with this title. Mario was now in 16 bit, and they used the opportunity to create a massive game with amazing power-ups, a character you can ride, and plenty of secrets to find.
Super Mario World is a fairly long game. What gives it such replay value is that every level feels distinct from one another. Not only that, but there are so many secret levels to find that take a lot of skill and ingenuity. There’s even an entire world that’s hidden from the rest of the game map. To add the little cherry on top, Nintendo even included a 2-player mode in the game, where players would alternate between Mario and Luigi every time one of them died. In many ways, Super Mario World is the perfect sidescroller. If only they could take elements from it and put them into the New Super Mario Bros series.
7. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 was mechanically the best game in the series. Coupled with gorgeous visuals, amazing tracks, and an impressive roster of characters — it was almost the perfect Mario Kart game. Almost. The only thing holding it back was the fact that some staple characters (like King Boo) were missing, and the Battle Mode was the worst one the series had ever seen.
However, Nintendo came in to right their wrongs and developed Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch. Not only were new characters and karts added to the game, but a completely restructured Battle Mode was as well. Gone are the re-purposed tracks, and in their wake are beautiful arenas with 5 different modes to choose from (all set to a surprisingly noticeable upscale to 1080p). The game came out just last Friday at the time of this writing, and these additions make Mario Kart 8 the quintessential Mario Kart experience that’s worth playing again. If you haven’t played the Wii U game, then that’s all the more reason to shell out the $60 and buy it for yourself. It’s worth every penny.
6. Mario Tennis
The Mario Tennis series has been around for quite some time, but to this day, it’s still the first entry that deserves all of the praise. Nintendo defined what a tennis game could be and the set the stage for other games like SEGA Superstars Tennis to follow. The gameplay, like most Nintendo games, was easy to understand but structured well enough that you could spend the time to get really good at it. One of those “easy to learn, difficult to master” types of scenarios.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about Mario Tennis is how much care Nintendo put into it. They introduced new Mario characters just to expand the game’s roster (something they would’ve never done for Ultra Smash) like Daisy and Waluigi. The game itself was also packed with content, whether it be from different modes to unlockable characters. There was no shortage of activities to keep people from coming back, and it’s these factors that make it the best game in the series to this day. Believe it or not, Mario Tennis actually has more content than Mario Tennis Ultra Smash, a game released in 2015 for the Nintendo Wii U — a console that could handle much more impressive content.
5. Super Mario 64
During the Nintendo 64 era, the company made a lot of impressive games that were not only some of the best on the system, but also some of their best altogether. As was the case with Mario Tennis and Star Fox 64, Nintendo defined their respective genres and set the bar as to what those games could be like. As you might expect, the same can be said of Super Mario 64.
There was a bit of concern with bringing our favorite plumber over to a 3D space, but Nintendo succeeded in spades. Super Mario 64 takes everything that was beloved about the previous Mario games and seamlessly integrates it into a new genre. On top of that, there were plenty of new additions to the game that made it a unique and fun experience altogether. Each level was fairly large and encouraged exploration on top of getting to the end of the level. Items like the Wing Cap allow players to push the boundaries of what can be done with a Mario game as well as a 3D platformer altogether. Unfortunately, for many years, Nintendo decided to shy away from this formula for 3D Mario games. While that’s not inherently bad, it makes us miss the N64 days.
4. Mario Kart Double Dash
What’s the one thing better than being able to pick from a massive list of racers? Picking two of them at the same time. Mario Kart Double Dash was arguably the most different of all the Mario Kart games (mechanically, that is). Instead of selecting from one racer, you’re tasked with picking two — one that drives and another that holds items on the back. Because of how the different combinations could accomplish different things, there was an added element of strategy with this feature.
What made Mario Kart Double Dash much more chaotic and fun was the fact that there were special items introduced in the game. Each character had their own unique item that they could get out of a box. Bowser had a huge spike shell, Yoshi could get eggs, etc. This not only made each character beautifully distinct, but it also created more strategy with whom you chose. The gameplay itself was as tight as you’d expect and built on the foundation established in Mario Kart 64. The two-racer feature would never be seen again outside of this game, but the echoes of Mario Kart Double Dash are still felt in the series.
3. Mario Party 4
After Mario Party had three entries on the N64, Nintendo had the daunting task of porting the series over to the much more powerful Gamecube. Thankfully, they came in with a bang, giving us Mario Party 4. This follow-up to the trilogy on the N64 builds on what made those games so fun and frustrating. Unique boards? Check. Fun and diverse minigames? Double check. Mario Party 4 introduced many ideas and mechanics that would then later be utilized as the series progressed on the console.
There isn’t much incentive to play the game by yourself in the Story Mode, but Mario Party isn’t supposed to be played alone. It’s all about how well the game works with multiple people. And, man, has this game demolished so many friendships. Yet, that’s what makes Mario Party 4 so much fun. The game is so cutthroat and intense that people get really competitive while playing. They’re immersed in the experience and thus, are enticed by winning. When people utterly screw them over, the rage ensues. Many of Nintendo’s games are designed for making great memories, but none have quite the impact or lasting appeal of Mario Party 4.
2. Super Mario Galaxy
While I did say that after Super Mario Sunshine, there haven’t been any Mario games that followed the format of Super Mario 64, there is one game that’s better off because of this (well, technically two). Super Mario Galaxy was the Mario swansong on the Nintendo Wii. This game was considered a spiritual successor to the N64 game at the time, and it’s clear that they put a lot of effort into making this game truly excellent.
Super Mario Galaxy takes the tight and excellent Mario controls and puts them in an outer space setting. This means that different gravity effects are also going to change how Mario moves and feels. While this could’ve been disastrous, Nintendo executes it perfectly in the game. On top of that, the space setting allows for so much variety in the game that no two levels feel the same. You’ll be flying from one place to the next just waiting to see what you’ll find. Despite being an early game for the Wii, Nintendo also chose to go with a less-is-more approach with the motion controls. It’s all integrated to enhance the gameplay rather than overpower it. Putting that to some impressive visuals and a stellar soundtrack, and there’s no game quite like Super Mario Galaxy.
1. Super Mario Maker
If Super Mario Galaxy was a swansong to Super Mario 64, then Super Mario Maker is a love letter to all sidescrolling Mario games. A game that many people thought would never happen, Super Mario Maker is one of the best level creators ever made. Nintendo went all out with enabling players to craft whatever levels they wanted in the Mario format. All kinds of parts are used to enhance levels, and the variety allows for some truly creative designs.
Super Mario Maker doesn’t begin and end with creating levels either. Nintendo included challenges where you play through levels that they created as well as what other players created. You can upload your levels to be played by other people around the world, too. Super Mario Maker also has one of the best uses of Amiibo since any game. You can even style levels with the graphics of Super Mario Bros, Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros 3, and New Super Mario Bros U. If you like Mario or are just plain creative, this is the game to get.