The revered Mario games have never been cakewalks, standing the test of time with masterfully-tuned challenges that’ll keep you on your toes. But to some, that simply isn’t enough – gamers looking to truly test their running-and-jumping prowess can turn to the modern-day trials of Mario hacks. These are ROMs which have been greatly altered via editing tools to play in completely different ways compared to the originals. In addition, nearly every video on this list demonstrates the power of a TAS, or tool-assisted speedrun: playing the ROM in an emulator that enables constant use of save states, rerecording, and greatly slowed-down gameplay. This allows play at a level far beyond the capabilities of a mere mortal (which often includes rampant abuse of glitches and shortcuts).
Here’s a carefully-curated list of some of the craziest, most punishingly difficult or insanely laid out levels and worlds. If you haven’t yet seen the unfathomably difficult trials set forth by some of these Mario hacks, prepare your jaw now for ridiculous amounts of floor-hitting. Be warned: With each page, our picks get progressively crazier.
Super Demo World
A hacked version of: Super Mario World
What makes it crazy: This hack is big enough to be a full-sized game. If you’re looking to get into Mario hacks, this is probably the best place to start. The difficulty is definitely scaled up compared to the original, but you won’t pop a blood vessel trying to beat the earlier stages. With a substantial amount of level variety, some awesome Mario 3-style airship levels, and a plethora of secret exits, this hack has a little bit of everything. Also, instead of questing to save Yoshi eggs, Mario just wants to cook up his breakfast, scrambled style.
Our favorite part: The jellyfish-infested depths of Water World 3 (21:24) serve as an early example of how tricky some of the devious level layouts can get.
Super Mario World 2+2
A hacked version of: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
What makes it crazy: Actually, the craziest aspect to this lengthy hack is how kind it is to the player. Unlike the punishing, obscenely difficult hacks that SMW is known for, this creation captures the cheerful essence of Yoshi’s Island with new levels of equal or lesser difficulty compared to the originals. That’s not to say that it’s too easy, mind you – it’s just very laid back, and we can actually enjoy ourselves playing it instead of smashing our keyboard or gamepad with a blind fury after dying for the 99th time.
Our favorite part: Searching for those elusive red coins in all-new hiding spots. That “ba-da-bling!” of collecting them is oh so satisfying.