Why every Mario game is the best AND worst in the series

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.


  • cptnoremac - October 3, 2014 11:01 a.m.

    It does not beg the question. Look up what the phrase means.
  • Dmancapri - January 19, 2012 6:14 p.m.

  • eric-johns - January 14, 2012 10:50 a.m.

    The Paper Mario series is not mentioned; also, the Mario & Luigi saga was not mentioned either.
  • jewfromdahood - January 12, 2012 9:12 a.m.

    Am I the only one that realized they forgot a couple? Paper Mario hello! And you call yourselves gamers. How can you forget a single Mario game!
  • sleepyMexican45 - January 3, 2012 5 p.m.

    Great article Henry!
  • chuckles454 - December 31, 2011 1:58 p.m.

    Even though I know it isn't a "true" Mario game, Paper Mario has to be my favorite Mario game and possibly my favorite game of all time. While I'm not the hugest platformer fan, There just hasn't been a Mario game that works for me quite like the original Paper Mario. It's a timeless game if I've ever seen one.
  • Squirrel - December 31, 2011 12:36 a.m.

    Well for a gamer who started with Super Mario Bros here how it goes: Best 3D Mario: Super Mario Galaxy 2/ runner up SM Galaxy 1 Best 2D Mario: Super Mario Bros 3/ runner up SMW2 Yoshi's Island Best Mario RPG: Super Paper Mario/ runner up Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga
  • jenovalife1 - December 30, 2011 6:58 p.m.

    why is everything so brown?
  • GameManiac - December 30, 2011 9:45 a.m.

    I actually have the soundtracks for the two SMG games. You have every reason th say that the soundtrack is unforgettable.
  • AuthorityFigure - December 30, 2011 1:13 a.m.

    All of the negative comments spoke to me throughout the article EXCEPT for those in the 'Galaxy games. To me, they are incredible and I suspect untouchable.
  • shawksta - December 31, 2011 10 p.m.

    Unsuprisingly, they are, Both games literally took a Step up in terms of Platforming and set new standards, Galaxy 2 was "HOLY SHIT", nobody expected Nintendo would actually make a sequel that even MORE new standards.
  • officialjchamp - December 29, 2011 10:45 p.m.

    "Remember when the PS2 was brand new? That was a nice feeling". I know exactly what you mean.
  • ryleigh-kieldsen - December 29, 2011 5:01 p.m.

    What about Super Mario 64 DS!?!?
  • Lupus753 - December 30, 2011 11:35 p.m.

    No remakes allowed.
  • XanderGC - December 29, 2011 4:49 p.m.

    Nice article and an interesting take on the usual best/worst idea. For my money I would play Super Mario World over and over again over any of the other titles. I really enjoyed Sunshine and Yoshi's Island but Galaxy just struck me as Nintendo's attempt to prove that they were still out there for the hardcore crowd and even worse was the fact that they re-released the game as a sequel now with 30% more Yoshi!* I've lost faith in Nintendo over the last few years and I don't know what they can do to win me back.
  • DecoyOctorok - December 30, 2011 4:03 a.m.

    Please just play them. Your comment makes me lose faith in gamers.
  • shawksta - December 31, 2011 9:55 p.m.

    I agree with DecoyOctorok, Play them. That is REALLY stupid to say you "Lost faith in Nintendo" because of 2 of the best Platforming games ever, and calling Galaxy 2 a "Sequel with 30% yoshi" without playing it is just weak, there's a REASON why it got 10's
  • Crimmy - December 29, 2011 3:12 p.m.

    How has Justin not raged on the Sonic comment yet? Also I think Sonic games are good in their own right (excluding the newer ones that nobody likes).
  • zimmer-remmiz - January 1, 2012 2:10 p.m.

    Well the newest Sonic games actually kick loads of ass, i.e. Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations...

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