These are the top 10 Mario games ranked

There are so many awesome Mario games out there, but these are the best of the best.

I don't even remember when Mario was first introduced into my life. He's kind of always been there, with new hits releasing every few years. Now with it being Mar10 Day (March 10), I can't help but reflect on the Mushroom Kingdom and all of the Mario games I've played through the years. But which ones are truly the best?

This turned out to be a far harder question than I thought, but we at iMore took on the difficult task of ranking the top 10 Mario games of all time. In fact, my favorite Mario game didn't even make it onto this list because we tried to rank them using a system and not just going with our personal preferences.

Want to learn more about Mario on MAR10 Day? Check out 10 obscure Mario facts you might not know.

How we ranked

So many Mario titles have been game-changers that have not only affected the direction of future Mario games but also broke new ground for their contemporaries to follow. Instead of just choosing our favorites, we determined this order by considering three categories:

  • Legacy: The games were selected because they had a stronger impact on the subsequent Mario games that followed after them. This is often due to innovative new elements and creative ways of employing mechanics.
  • Cultural impact: These Mario titles created a splash when they released and are still highly talked about today.
  • Current replay value: Sometimes as games age, they don't hold up very well. The Mario games we chose are still enjoyable to play, even today.

10 Best Mario games ranked

10. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii 2009)

Starting at the very bottom of the list is an excellent Mario multiplayer that sold over 30.32 million copies on the Wii. The game wasn't that innovative, but it brought retro sidescroller gaming into modern times with its 3D graphics while also paying homage to Mario's earlier titles. Not to mention, it was an absolute blast to play with family and friends of all ages.

To this day, the gameplay holds up. It perfectly balances level difficulty with progressively trickier courses. This game's success revitalized Nintendo's sidescrolling Mario games and is the reason we later got New Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario 3D World, and New Super Mario Bros. U.

9. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (Switch 2020)

It might seem a little strange putting Super Mario 3D World on this list, and honestly, the game wouldn't fit if it wasn't for Bowser's Fury being tied to it. Super Mario 3D World didn't bring a huge change to the Mario franchise. In some ways, it was even a step backward as Nintendo chased after the popularity of the New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Don't get me wrong, being able to run through Mario courses with up to four players is definitely a fun romp, but it was also challenging.

The addition of Bowser's Fury on the Switch version brings this title up above other Mario games and lands it on this page. Though a small standalone game, this adventure has Mario exploring a truly open-world map instead of using a hub to access the various courses. It plays a lot like Super Mario 64, but the controls work way smoother, and you get to go up against a Godzilla-esque fiery Bowser while playing as a Super Saiyan Mario. It feels epic and holds a lot of promise for where the next Mario games will go.

8. Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch 2019)

Super Mario Maker was one of the best games to release on the Wii U, and while it was groundbreaking, several limitations held the game back. So when Super Mario Maker 2 was released on the Switch with hundreds more items and options at players' disposal, it filled in all of the holes from the original game, which allowed players to get even more creative with their malicious death traps.

The whole online community (accessed via Nintendo Switch Online) allows you to upload your crazy courses for others to play and also lets you check out imaginative fan-made levels that you'd likely never see in an actual Mario game.

Another thing that makes Super Mario Maker 2 the far superior game is the inclusion of a story mode. Since 100 courses were built into the game, players didn't need to rely on creating their own courses or jumping into other people's courses for entertainment. Playing Mario games is fun, but being able to create your own levels puts Super Mario Maker 2 on the list of the best Mario games.

7. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (GameCube 2004)

There can't be a list without Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. It was a hard-fought battle between the original Paper Mario and the amazing Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, but we had to give it to TYD. There's a reason why this game is so beloved.

Unlike typical Mario games, this is a 2D RPG game that features a few non-traditional RPG elements. Mario, along with his arsenal of unique partners, is on a journey to Rogue Town to find and, eventually, save Princess Peach. However, just like Rogue Town itself, not everything is as it seems.

This game is just fantastic. It's a perfect balance of RPG wonder and platforming as well as unique story-telling and amazing gameplay mechanics. It really leans into the fourth wall breaks too by utilizing Mario's "paper-ness" and giving players new and different ways to explore, solve puzzles, and fight enemies. Paired with a "chapter book meets play" style of telling the story, we are introduced to an unforgettable cast of characters with special abilities that help Mario uncover the mystery of the Thousand-Year Door.

From start to finish, this game exceeds expectations as a sequel, and sadly, no game in the series following comes even close, though Paper Mario: The Origami King is a step in the right direction. Sadly, a game like this will likely never be seen again. But, if you have a GameCube, you can still boot-up this gem.

6. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii 2007)

In the wake of Super Mario Sunshine, which left the fanbase split, the Wii united the Mushroom Kingdom with a game that took 3D platforming to new heights. Super Mario Galaxy polished everything great about Mario 64 and added a little spice to it. It even took a feature that potentially hurt a few Wii games, the motion controls, and utilized them beautifully. Super Mario Galaxy is nothing short of inventive!

Taking us outside the Mushroom Kingdom, Bowser once again takes off with Princess Peach and her castle, but this time, he escapes to outer space. Together with Rosalina, the enchantress, and her Lumas, Mario must reclaim the Power Stars Bowser has stolen, restore Rosalina's observatory, and save the Princess once again.

While the story is standard Mario fare, the gameplay is next level. Players collect Stars, complete missions, and defeat bosses as they explore individual planets. The game uses gravity and the Star Pointer to explore, fight enemies, and maneuver through the game. And each of these worlds is gorgeous and different. Plus, you can play as a Bee!

You can tell great care went into making sure all aspects of this game worked and helped inspire future Mario titles to think outside the galaxy. You can play this game, Sunshine, and Mario 64 in the new Super Mario 3D All-Stars if you haven't had the chance to experience these gems before. However, you'll need to hurry as Nintendo is pulling this collection from the eShop at the end of March.

Top 10 Mario games ranked

Top 10 Mario games ranked: 5 - 1

Now we're down to the top five Mario games. These titles left a serious impact on Nintendo, the gaming community, and subsequent Mario games, making them the greatest of all time.

5. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch 2017)

From the very beginning of Super Mario Odyssey, you knew this game was going to be amazing. It starts with a cinematic showdown between Bowser and Mario. Upon Mario's defeat, we follow the familiar Mario-game-story beats until we land in the Cap Kingdom and team up with Cappy to collect Power Moons. This Kingdom, though, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Mario is about to embark on a journey that combines the best parts of every Mario game to date using clever and innovative level design and Cappy's possession mechanic. Want to be a Goomba? Sure! How about a Bullet Bill, or maybe a T-Rex? Mario can literally possess different creatures to get the skills he needs to complete puzzles, overcome obstacles, and take down enemies. You think you would miss the power-ups of older Mario games, but this spin takes them completely out of the equation with something more exciting. That's a showcase of how great this game is; you can remove one of the most iconic features, and fans still love it.

We also have to talk about how huge and beautiful this game is. Each world is expertly crafted and unique, with charming NPCs and vibrant graphics — and they are massive! Power Moons are hidden everywhere on the map and there are secret areas, levels within levels, and special 2D platforming areas. Plus, players can find mini-games, unlock special collectibles like costumes and stickers, and snapshots in the game's photo mode. Nintendo even added a hide-and-seek mini-game called "Luigi's Balloon World" so players could compete online. The only downside here is the two-player option is pretty terrible. Still, this game is the best example of what Mario games could be.

One of the reasons Odyssey deserves to be on this list is because it helped validate the existence of the Nintendo Switch. After the colossal failure of the Wii U, people were wary of jumping on Nintendo's next console. Odyssey proved that Nintendo was still a solid contender in the gaming market.

4. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii 2010)

It's hard to mention Super Mario Galaxy 2 without referencing the innovative original. The idea of exploring space and jumping from one planet to the next had been a fascinating new approach for Mario, but the sequel built upon that foundation, providing more complex environments and creative challenges for players.

There is less of a story involved in the second one, which is both a good and a bad thing depending on who you ask. This made it so players could immediately jump from course to course rather than getting hung up on cutscenes. However, it did provide less of a plot-related reason to continue.

In the end though, this game is honestly just a joy to play. Running around celestial globes, making tricky moves while Mario is upside down, and using Yoshi power-ups to play in new ways was both super creative and fulfilling. It's this level of innovation that we've come to expect from Mario games and has continued in subsequent titles.

3. Super Mario 64 (N64 1996)

Super Mario 64 was a game of many firsts for the plumber. For starters, Charles Martinet had just been cast as the voice for Mario. Although he had already voiced Mario in a computer game called Mario's FUNdamentals, this was the first time that many people ever heard the plumber speak in a console video game. Remarkably, his high pitch and light-hearted voice matched everyone's expectations for what Mario would sound like. It was magic.

The game was also groundbreaking in that it was Mario's first adventure into a 3D world. However, what made it truly great was how the game made better use out of that space than many of its contemporaries. Nintendo got creative with their courses like underwater pirate ships, deserts, and even a wacky clock course that played around with mechanics in ways we hadn't seen before. This innovation piloted many discoveries that other developers would attempt to replicate later on.

Mario also got way more skills than he'd had before, which allowed players to use tricky maneuvers to reach Stars and Coins. Getting to wander further and further into Princess Peach's castle and explore the strange worlds that lived beyond locked doors filled players with curiosity and propelled them forward. Super Mario 64 was a game-changer that impacted other games at the time and continued to influence both players and developers for years to come. As such, it's still considered one of the best Mario games of all time.

2. Super Mario World (SNES 1990)

These last two slots were brutal. Super Mario World is an epic experience for Mario fans, and to this day, it remains one of the best games to pick up and play on a Nintendo console. This direct sequel to Super Mario Bros. 3 has the Mario Brothers visiting Dinosaur Land for some well-deserved R&R. Of course, Bowser can't let that happen, and the brothers have to save Princess Peach, their new friend Yoshi, and all of his dino siblings.

Super Mario World is the best-selling game on the SNES, and it earned that title for a reason. This is the first game to feature fan-favorite character Yoshi, and the newest power-up: the cape. Much like the previous game, it featured an expansive overworld map, and players would enter different levels trying to overcome all the obstacles to reach the goal at the end.

What makes this game one of the greatest of all time is simply the design. Super Mario World is so much fun. Regardless if you played it in the All-Stars collection, the original, or one of its many ports, the platforming is the perfect blend of challenging and fun. It has secret areas and levels to uncover, multiple ways to complete levels, and requires a fair amount of strategy to beat. The color palette and music are a perfect combination, and you are drawn into this amazing new world, even as you curse at it after dying a thousand times. While it just misses our top pick, Super Mario World and its sequel, Yoshi's Island, are definitely two of the greatest SNES games ever.

1. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES 1988)

Every so often, near-perfection is released as a video game, and Super Mario Bros. 3 fills that mold. Released as the NES' swan song — what a game to go out on! — it also provided the framework that Mario games still adhere to today: multiple worlds, crazy suits with special powers, and overworld maps. All in a grandiose way.

All the world is a stage, and Super Mario Bros. 3 is structured like a stage play. Bowser and the Koopalings have taken over the Mushroom World, turning the leaders of the seven kingdoms into animals. As players conquer their enemies through 2D platforming, they can retrieve stolen magic wands from the Koopalings and use them to restore the rulers to their former selves.

This game is the pinnacle of platforming, whether you're talking about the overworld or each level. The levels are unique, challenging, and vibrant, even for NES graphics. The stage framing device works perfectly, and you can catch it in every detail, from the stage decorations bolted to the ground to Mario walking off stage right at the end of each level. It's hard to notice these details as you try to stay alive, but luckily, the difficulty of this game is balanced, starting with easier levels and slowly ramping up the difficulty. Each world has its own unique trials, from an angry sun attacking you in a desert or trying not to fall out of the sky in the cloud world. And you don't have to go solo. This can be a two-player affair that can be done cooperatively or competitively.

But really, we all know we remember it for the fan-favorite power-ups (costumes), including the Tanooki Suit, the Hammer Bros. Suit, and the P-Wing. Mario's Raccoon suit is pretty iconic at this point, and you have Super Mario Bros. 3 to thank for it. It really is peak platforming and the best Mario game of all time.

Top 10 Mario games ranked

Bonus round: Best Mario Spinoffs

It was seriously difficult narrowing down the top Mario games and that was without including all of the awesome spinoffs that have come out in the last 35 years. It would be a crime not to include these, so we've highlighted the very best offshoot games that stem from the Mushroom Kingdom.

5. Yoshi's Island (SNES 1995)

Since this game is technically a sequel to Super Mario World, it has made its way into our bonus round. In an odd twist of events, Kamek, the evil Magikoopa, kidnaps baby Luigi, but Baby Mario slips between his clawed fingers. Baby Mario plummets from his stork wrap in the sky and lands on an unsuspecting Yoshi, who decides to help save the infants from mortal peril with the help of his colorful Yoshi family.

This 48-level platformer is not only fun to play but gorgeous to behold. The hand-drawn look comes straight out of a coloring book, and the bright, detailed levels are a treat to take in. It introduced different mechanics, like tossing and creating eggs, eating enemies, and floating jumps so it feels like a different platformer entirely.

It's a charming, relaxed, and fun experience that incorporates the spirit of Mario while doing its own thing. It even spawned its own series of games sticking to the lower-key style and craft-persona, like in Yoshi's Crafted World. Yoshi's Island definitely deserves a nod for pushing the SNES graphics into new territories while creating a new series that many love today.

4. Mario Tennis 64 (N64 2000)

Mario characters and tennis? Yes, please! While the very idea of Mario characters playing tennis may seem like a cash grab, this game is actually a ton of fun. It streamlined tennis for console by making gameplay accessible and simplifying controls. You only need to rely on two buttons for serving and returning, and the combination can change your shot.

But you don't have to just rely on pressing the buttons; character choice certainly helps. Whether you want power or speed, you have to choose wisely. Bowser can pack quite a punch but he's incredibly slow. On the other hand, Yoshi is incredibly fast but his shots aren't as powerful. You can actually play as many characters like Daisy, Birdo, or as a Shy Guy. Plus, this game brought us Waluigi for the first time!

While playing exhibition matches by yourself can be fun, you can double that by playing with up to three friends. You and a partner have to strategize against the opposing team using your character's strengths and balancing out the weaker parts to overcome your opponents. You can easily get a tournament going or grab a friend and take on the computer. Mario Tennis 64 is just plain fun, and it's an easy game for anyone to just pick up and play regardless of skill level. While others have come out since the original release, the OG is simply the best.

3. Mario Party 6 (GameCube 2004)

At the time of this writing, 11 Mario Party games have been released on various consoles throughout the years, but the very best one is Mario Party 6. This entry introduced a day and night mechanic, which influenced what kind of challenges appeared on the board and also changed the kind of mini-games you played at the end of each round.

Speaking of mini-games, there are over 82 of them and since there are day and night versions, it really makes it feel like there's a lot of variety. With some other Mario Party games, it feels like you just play the same 10 mini-games over and over again.

There were several boards to choose from and each one had different themes and spaces to interact with. Most importantly, players could spend the coins and Stars obtained to purchase new characters, boards, and games, giving them more of a reason to keep playing. It's the standard to which we compare all subsequent Mario Party games.

2. Mario Kart Double Dash (GameCube 2003)

You can't talk about our mustachioed friend without thinking about Mario Kart. These games have long been a staple for friend hangouts, sleepovers, and family reunions. Everyone has their favorite, but of all of the titles in this series, none compare with Mario Kart Double Dash.

Double Dash might not have as many characters on the roster as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but at the time, it was one of the first Mario Kart games to seriously expand upon the number of racers you could choose from. Not to mention, the ability to have a friend on your same kart allowed for a unique multiplayer experience that we haven't seen before or since. This allowed up to 16 players at once, a vast improvement from Mario Kart 64's max of four players and still better than 8 Deluxe's 12-player max.

Plus, having a buddy on your kart allowed you to more easily watch your back or get revenge on another team. It's the best Mario Kart game we've had to date.

1. Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube 2001)

While Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is alive with a growing roster, it can't hold a candle to Super Smash Bros. Melee. This game was released back in 2001 on GameCube, and nearly 20 years later, people still call this the best of all time. With a challenging arcade single-player mode, fun versus mode, and unique story mode, this is more than just a fighting game.

Players can collect trophies for completing certain objectives, unlock characters and new stages, and bask in the glory that is the multiplayer option. The environments are alive, they look stunning, and the character animations are top-notch, even by GameCube standards. Melee is considered one of the best competitive games in the series, with well-balanced characters, unique items, and various modes of destruction.

Let's just say there's a reason why it was, hands down, the staff's number one pick for the best Super Smash game.

Thank you so-a much for playing my game!

Mario is such an iconic character, and after 35 years, it's hard to pin down the greatest of all time. Everyone's experience with the plucky plumber is so unique, and you can never really forget your first Mario game. Whether you can't get over the excellence that is Super Mario Bros. 3 or you are blown away by the 3D platformers like Mario Odyssey today, Mario has carved a legacy for players of all backgrounds to enjoy.

As we move on to the next chapter, we can only hope that Nintendo continues to inspire with these amazing platformers. We can't wait to see what the future holds.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Sara Gitkos was a Nintendo fan before she could even hold a controller, and has grown up with this legendary franchise following it from its inception on the NES and is excitedly awaiting the next great adventure. Whether that's platforming or RPGs, Mario has always held a special place in her heart. Nintendo is her life-blood.

Rebecca Spear has been playing Mario games her entire life. One of her earliest memories is controlling Jumpman while playing Donkey Kong on her family's old orange and black monochrome computer monitor. Her favorite Mario game is Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and she can't wait to see what the plumber will do next.

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