NES and SNES Mario Games, Ranked

Before I start, there a re a couple of rules. Nah pysch, there aren’t any rules here, I’m just making this up as a I go. Just what constitutes a ‘Mario Game’ for this purpose shall be arbitrarily stipulated by me. For the most part, I’ll be sticking to the main line platforming titles; there shall be no Mario Is Missing here, nor shall there be any Mario Paint, nor shall there be any of the Mario-adjacent puzzle games (such as Dr. Mario and Tetris Attack; although both of those games fucking rule and you should play them). Also, I’m not counting Super Mario All-Stars as its own game, for what I hope are obvious reasons. If you feel that I have omitted a game unfairly, please note that I don’t give a rat’s ass.

To the list!

1. Super Mario Bros. 3 – Still the Greatest Video Game Ever.

2. Super Mario World – I played through this one a couple of years ago, and it was both harder and better than I remembered. Would’ve had a chance to overtake SMB3 if it had a bit more variety.

3. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels – More games should have been doing this since always. Sometimes you just want more, harder levels. Extra merits awarded for making Luigi playable (and distinct from Mario).

4. Super Mario Bros. – Here’s the thing about the original: it is not forgiving if you’re playing it on NES, without any save states. Growing up, I always thought it was relatively easy, but that’s because I was playing the All-Stars version, where you get 5 lives and all the continues you want, and you can save at the start of each world. The NES version gives you 3 lives, no continues, and no saves. Not the hardest NES game by any means, but there’s little margin for error.

5. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island – Since the Super Mario World appellation is often dropped from this one, I could have omitted it entirely, just to be a dick. But that would be wrong. Instead it comes in at 5th, despite being an obvious masterpiece and, for a certain definition of the term, the most technically impressive SNES title. But 4th grade was a shit year, and therefore almost none of my memories of playing this game are positive. So it goes.

6. Super Mario Kart – This one probably shouldn’t count based on the vague semblance of rules sketched out above, but this is my blog and I wanted to write about it and that’s that. The first Mario Kart was fantastic in its day and is still fun enough now, but it can’t hold a candle to any of the later titles in the series due to its technical limitations. In a lot of ways, it feels more like a proof-of-concept for Mario Kart generally than its own thing. Now that I’m thinking about it, I almost wish they made a second Kart game for SNES later in the console’s lifespan, although we’re fine without it.

7. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars – Another highly-touted classic that I’ve never thought much of, Super Mario RPG is an actually pretty seamless blend of platforming and Final Fantasy-style combat that has a lot of humor and personality, to boot. And yet, despite my best efforts to get into it, which I have put forth on multiple occasions, it hasn’t happened and I don’t think it’s ever gonna.

8. Super Mario Bros. 2 – Nothing is like, wrong with SMB2; the controls are responsive and the hit detection is good, and it is not marred by any of the other things that make a legitimately bad game bad. But SMB2 is paced a little too slow and a little too deliberate relative to what’s going on, even in the harder levels. There’s some exploration to do, but not a lot. A few sections of the game could pass for something not entirely unlike a puzzle, but only if you squint. The character selection conceit is well done though, and the enemy design is top-notch. It’s a fine game, but I could go the rest of my life without playing it again and be no worse off.

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