Why it’s the best Mario ever: Though three dimensional adventures existed before Super Mario 64, they were all just practice; people flailing around in the dark. Mario 64 showed everyone the light, and influencing every 3D game that followed it. It created new rules at every turn, defining a genre in a single game, just as Mario had done in 2D on the NES. It opened up a vast new world that everyone was ready to take a part in.
Why it’s the worst Mario ever: We’d say every single game from the PSOne/Saturn/N64 generation has aged horribly, though some fared better than others. Mario 64’s art design worked within the system’s small means and has its charms, but it still looks pretty primitive by today’s standards. Much like the first Super Mario Bros, 64 laid the groundwork perfectly, but every 3D Mario after it improved on it. Finally, the N64 and its controller were designed to accommodate this game, which had a negative effect on almost every single N64 game that followed it, which we count as a negative for this game.
Personal take: It set the standard for 3D platformers and remains one of the best of its generation, but what it innovated on masterfully has been borrowed so much it makes 64 seem blander by comparison. It’s place in the pantheon of gaming history is assured, but if we had to pick a 3D Mario to play right now, it wouldn’t be this one.
Why it’s the best Mario ever: After a longer than normal break and skipping a system launch for the first time ever, Mario finally made a splash on the GameCube with this wet, summery adventure. Instead of just sticking with what worked, Nintendo decided to play around a little, giving Mario a backpack that shot water to give him a ton of new moves. It played like no other game before it, and the island atmosphere makes it unique in Mario’s history. And Yoshi was back!
Why it’s the worst Mario ever: We always appreciate Nintendo (or any other developer) trying something new, but not all the concepts worked out. The water mechanic gave new options, but slapping a backpack on Mario seemed counter to series’ simple concept of a little guy jumping around. And the water mechanic became even more annoying when you realized it was an obvious ploy to make jumping easier for those that have trouble judging distance in 3D. There’s no way around it, FLUDD was just lame.
Personal take: We don’t hate Sunshine, far from it in fact. However, it is the odd man out in 3D Mario history. We appreciate Nintendo trying something unique after everyone and their mother borrowed so heavily from Mario 64, but when you compare it to later Mario games, it can’t help but look like a pit stop on the road to greatness.
Why it’s the best Mario ever: After basically a decade passed without a single original 2D Mario game, the plumber finally returned to his roots in New Super Mario Bros. With new power-ups and enemies added to the series, NSMB reminded us why we loved the original games. Additionally it worked great on a handheld where the quick stages were a bonus, not a hindrance.
Why it’s the worst Mario ever: It’s not as new as the title leads you to believe. Instead it does a very good job of emulating and recreating what we loved about old Marios while not contributing any lasting new ideas to the series. It aims a little low and plays it too safe, betraying the innovative history of the series.
Personal take: Though it may be one of the best-selling games of all time, we don’t think New Mario is all it’s cracked up to be. It’s definitely better than most retro-ish platformers, but it’s stuck in the past, held back by its reverence to the franchise’s history instead of making some of its own.