If the Super Mario Bros. Movie proved anything in the spring of 2023, it’s that Mario is the biggest draw in gaming! Kids and adults alike are entranced in the whimsical, carefree world of the Mushroom Kingdom. Its colors, characters, and themes of heroism are universally adored. Since the 1980s, Mario has been like a chameleon for Nintendo. His mainline platform games are his bread and butter, but other titles in genres ranging from sports to racing have also been home runs with gamers worldwide. It may seem impossible, but we’ll rank the 22 best games Mario has ever starred in, regardless of genre.
1 – Super Mario Odyssey
The only mainline Mario game on the Switch is everything Shigeru Miyamoto could have ever dreamed of when the character originated back in the day. An open world with relative limits, enough collectibles to play the game for 100 hours, and a sandbox style that honors everything previously in the series make this the best game Mario has ever starred in.
2 – Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
There isn’t any other word to use when describing Yoshi’s Island other than magical. You can tell that the people who worked on this puzzle-platform game did so with infinite love and affection for the universe they created. The gameplay and youthful aesthetic of this version of Mario’s world are enough to prove to anyone in the world how special gaming is as an entertainment medium.
3 – Super Mario World
The first game Mario stars in for the Super Nintendo refines everything that Nintendo wanted to do on the NES with the franchise if they had the technology to do so. More items, the ability to ride on Yoshi, and the bright color palette are as vibrant today as when it came out. Many fans of 2D Mario still have Super Mario World as their favorite title.
4 – Super Mario Bros.
It’s hard to balance the importance of a game with the execution of it when ranking stuff like this, but the first Super Mario Bros. remains high on the list because it has aged incredibly well for a nearly 40-year-old game. The controls are still responsive, the music blends nostalgia and wonder, and the eight-bit world is full of life, just like in the 1980s.
5 – Super Mario Sunshine
One of the more controversial titles in Mario’s library is this GameCube classic. Not everybody enjoyed the mechanics that Nintendo introduced here, such as the F.L.O.O.D. water pack that served as weaponry for our favorite plumber. The island vibes and new characters are enough to make this game stand above so many others in the series.
6 – Super Mario Galaxy 2
Sequels in film often don’t capture the beauty of the first movie. In gaming, especially Nintendo’s world, the sequel is usually much better than the original. This is undoubtedly the case with Super Mario Galaxy 2. More inventive level design, evolved musical choices, and grand side quests make this space odyssey something you’ll never want to put down.
7 – Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Certain video games make you get butterflies in your stomach the second you turn them on. The Thousand-Year Door is the experience that brings you back to a simpler time in life, whether you’ve played the game in your past or not. This RPG sees you collect crystal stars with Mario, a fun cast of sidekicks, and a mix of action-oriented, turn-based combat techniques. Nintendo refuses to give us a sequel to this game, which remains an outright tragedy.
8 – Super Mario Galaxy
Bringing Mario into space could seem like an idea that would quickly go awry, but there are no science fiction elements to dissociate the character from his origins. All of the Mushroom Kingdom's goodies are intact and heightened in this Wii classic. New suits like Bee Mario bring a whimsy previously not found in Mario’s adventures. The linearity of this game is also an excellent device to allow newcomers into gaming.
9 – Mario Party 2
Mario Party is Nintendo’s longstanding board game multiplayer franchise, creating fun and arguments since the 1990s. The second game in the series remains the pinnacle of party fun due to the immersive board design and classic minigames. Seeing Mario and his friends dress up like cowboys, astronauts, and pirates on the corresponding boards never gets old.
10 – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is so thorough, complete, and utterly vast that it’s almost eliminated the need for more games in the series. The sheer number of stages and drivers gives you the feeling that you can race through any conceivable part of Mario lore. This game remains the Switch’s highest seller for good reason.
11 – Super Mario 64
Mario’s first game on the Nintendo 64 is one of the most important titles in gaming history, as it opened the doors to 3D gaming for the entire world to enjoy. Even though it’s a little dated, especially the camera, Super Mario 64 is still one of the more enjoyable games on a 1990s console and is a true icon in Mario’s library.
12 – Super Mario Maker 2
Nintendo finally grasped that the fans who play Mario’s games have a seemingly infinite supply of creativity waiting to be unlocked. With Super Mario Maker 2, the company gave gamers the keys to the car, allowing boundless stages and many goodies to contribute to the Mario zeitgeist. Going online and playing everyone else’s stages from around the world feels like a true celebration of the platform genre.
13 – Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
Alpha Dream’s buddy RPG series, developed for Nintendo’s handheld consoles, is a childhood favorite of anyone who grew up on the merits of the Nintendo DS, and the third game of the bunch is clearly the best one. Not only do you control Mario and Luigi as they explore Bowser’s internal machinations, but you also adventure through the Mushroom Kingdom with the baddest Koopa in town!
14 – Super Mario Bros. 3
The third NES Mario side scroller has a pristine reputation. It went back to the basics after a controversial change of pace with Super Mario Bros. 2, and its quirky new characters and items were popular with fans. Stage designs are a little trapped in their day, making this more of a fun retro romp than a truly timeless classic.
15 – Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
The first Mario Kart title for the Nintendo GameCube is a truly wild and crazy affair that puts multiple racers on the back of one kart. You get double the items, double the hectic energy, and some incredibly creative stages to drive through on your way to victory! This may be more of a nostalgia play for young millennials, but it’s truly fun for anyone who loves Mario Kart.
16 -Paper Mario
The childlike sense of wonder in Paper Mario is something that Nintendo seems to have lost in some of their most recent AAA titles. The quests, worldbuilding, and endearing folks you meet in this version of Mario’s RPG life are something you’ll never forget, and it spawned an even better sequel (the aforementioned Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).
17 – New Super Mario Bros. U
Gaming is a very cyclical activity, with players wanting to be introduced to new genres, then brought back to the past. New Super Mario Bros. U is an ode to the classic sidescrollers of Mario’s history. The HD graphics and heightened technology to advance the gameplay make it feel novel instead of just an homage to yesteryear.
18 – Mario vs. Donkey Kong
If there is one character who has always been linked to Mario since the beginning, it’s Donkey Kong. Seeing the two frenemies reunite in this unique puzzle game is good for the heart and the mind. The brain teasers blend perfectly with traditional Mario platforming action, and DK is a great antagonistic force for the plumber yet again!
19 – Mario Golf
Mario is something of an athlete, believe it or not. Mario Golf is one of his finest sporting hours, with an incredible amalgamation of real-life golfing mechanics and Mushroom Kingdom aesthetics in the background. This game spawned many other golf games with Mario and friends, showing that Mario is a perfect subject for sports titles.
20 – Mario Party 4
The first Mario Party entry in the GameCube catalog features some of the best minigames in the series. The graphical upgrades did the series wonders, with lush environments making the boards much more immersive and lifelike than ever before. New items included mini and mega mushrooms.
21 – Super Mario 3D Land
Nintendo always seems to understand how to take full advantage of its gimmicks, and the 3D effect on Super Mario 3D Land does nothing but add to the immersive platforming experience of the game. The stages in this title perfectly combine the past, present, and future of Mario’s game design for something fresh and old-school.
22 – Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games
For those who grew up in the 1990s during the rivalry between Mario and Sonic, seeing the two superstars come together for this sports/party game series did good for the heart and soul. The gameplay is also pretty clever, with a wide variety of games and sports that took place during the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.