Mario games have been synonymous with fun and innovation across nine Nintendo consoles over 38 years. As arguably gaming’s most iconic franchise, Mario has evolved from his humble debut chasing a gorilla in Donkey Kong to traversing galaxies, founding sporting competitions, and repeatedly saving Princess Peach. Let’s definitively rank the 10 most impactful Mario adventures you need to (re)play in 2023.
New titles like Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope prove the mustachioed plumber still brings surprises four decades later. We also can’t forget remasters like Super Mario 3D All-Stars or the wealth of classic Mario games available via Nintendo Switch Online. Presented chronologically based on the initial release date, here are our picks for the most iconic, quintessential Mario games that all fans should experience.
1. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch, 2017)
Mario’s grandest adventure reinvented 3D platforming for Nintendo Switch, while honoring his history. Mario’s sentient hat, Cappy, allowed for captivating possession powers leading to ingenious gameplay. Couple that with large-scale worlds, callbacks to past titles, and new ideas like assist mode or snapshot mode, and Super Mario Odyssey set the new standard for the franchise. From fossil hunting in the Cascade Kingdom to stunt racing in New Donk City, Super Mario Odyssey offers a variety of challenges for both Mario experts and newcomers.
2. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, 2007)
The first Super Mario Galaxy transported players into outer space for Mario’s gravity-bending 3D debut on Wii. Iconic composer Koji Kondo returned, delivering a dazzling, orchestrated score. Meanwhile, electrifying visuals brought planets and galaxies to life with charm and mystery. Gameplay also felt revolutionary, as you orbited or walked spherical worlds with altered physics, all powered by the capabilities of the Wii Remote. With clever level concepts, boss fights, power-ups and music implementation, Super Mario Galaxy became an instant classic upon release.
3. Super Mario World (SNES, 1990)
Building upon Super Mario Bros. 3’s additions with improved 16-bit graphics and sound, Super Mario World expanded Mario’s toolkit with the iconic dinosaur steed Yoshi in his series debut. Unique worlds showcased Nintendo’s technical prowess on Super Nintendo, while introducing fan-favorite locations like Donut Plains, Vanilla Dome, and Chocolate Island. From gameplay innovations like spin jumps to the triumphant score, Super Mario World raised the bar and still represents 2D platforming brilliance over 30 years later.
4. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES, 1988)
Before Super Mario World pushed boundaries on Super Nintendo, Super Mario Bros 3 redefined the Mario formula on NES. Mario could now fly with raccoon ears or leap atop water as a frog, alongside classic power-ups. Dozens of new abilities kept gameplay exciting and rewarding. Meanwhile, an overworld map system added diverse paths to conquer. With a perfect balance of challenge and gratifying gameplay, enhanced graphics via custom chips, and memorable music, Super Mario Bros. 3 remains an NES triumph and milestone in Mario’s 2D adventures.
5. Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996)
Mention iconic Mario games, and Super Mario 64 enters any conversation. Far beyond just Mario’s first foray into 3D, this 1996 launch title defined how 3D platforming and open-ended exploration could appeal to gamers for decades. Controlling Mario felt natural as he punched, jumped, and wall-kicked across Princess Peach’s sprawling castle grounds. Pioneering camera systems, underwater physics, obstacle courses, mini-games, hidden collectibles, and memorable boss fights all stemmed from Super Mario 64 DNA. An awe-inspiring technical showpiece, Super Mario 64 also retained the vibrant spirit, charm, and challenge true to Mario’s roots.
6. Super Mario Sunshine (Gamecube, 2002)
Super Mario Sunshine often gets lost between the stratospheric success of Super Mario Galaxy and genre-defining Super Mario 64. Yet Nintendo’s 2002 Gamecube release contains many franchise firsts, from a summery central hub world to FLUDD, Mario’s high-powered water backpack. Sunshine introduced an eco-conscious theme, cartoonish antagonists called Piantas, and levels bursting with tropical charm and colors. Set across seven worlds on picturesque Isle Delfino, Mario explored beaches, amusement parks, jungles, and coastal villages acrobatically cleaning up pollution. FLUDD added another dimension with hovering, rocket blasts, and puzzle-focused pressure nozzles for to fight enemies. For these reasons, Sunshine stands tall as an underrated, exuberant odyssey well worth revisiting.
7. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii, 2010)
When Nintendo designers conceptualized a sequel to landmark original Super Mario Galaxy, gameplay possibilities must have felt endless. Super Mario Galaxy 2 capitalized on the core interstellar premise, while introducing astonishing new features and ambitions not possible on 2007 hardware. Not only did crazy power-ups like Cloud Mario or Rock Mario alter gameplay, but Nintendo painstakingly crafted each 3D planetoid with custom art direction and personalities to surprise fans. From Western-themed Throwback Galaxy to flaming caves in Melty Monster Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 exemplified Nintendo’s determined creativity. While keeping core physics intact, Super Mario Galaxy 2 took chances and expanded gameplay possibilities in exhilarating directions for the ultimate gravity-defying adventure.
8. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (Gamecube, 2004)
Mario spans not just mainline platformers, but also the whimsical Paper Mario RPG series blending action and turn-based combat. For many fans, 2004’s Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door for GameCube marked its pinnacle. The paper-thin graphics brimmed with detail and personality as Mario journeyed across grasslands, volcanoes, forests, and a wrestling ring hub called Glitzville. Innovative audience participation mechanics had you physically tap button prompts during fights for extra power using the controller. Collectible star-shaped companions called Pixls accessed new areas or secrets. Thanks to a witty translation and ensemble cast of partners like the headstrong Admiral Bobbery or moody teen vampire Vivian, The Thousand Year Door told one of Mario’s most charming stories ever alongside great gameplay.
9. New Super Mario Bros. (DS, 2006)
Mario’s 2D platforming glory days seemed over after Super Mario World as he transitioned towards 3D quests on N64 and Gamecube. Then came New Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo DS, reviving and reinventing side-scrolling greatness for a new generation. Blending modern 16:9 widescreen presentation with Super NES-era gameplay produced magic. DS touch controls enhanced navigation alongside wall jumping, triple jumps and super acrobatics. Hidden alternate exits harkened back to Mario 3, now with parachutes. Catchy musical cues complemented high-definition graphics. Most importantly, it modernized 2D scrolling for handhelds with clever twists.
10. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury (Switch, 2021)
We conclude our countdown acknowledging Mario’s continuing evolutionary leap, again on Nintendo Switch. Originally released on Wii U, enhanced port Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury compiles an already excellent multiplayer 3D experience alongside an inventive sandbox expansion. Up to four players simultaneously scramble through colorful worlds rescuing Sprixie fairies and battling menacing new feline foes. Cat Mario’s climbing, pouncing and scratching amp up the challenge. Then comes the open atmosphere of Bowser’s Fury, a striking visual treat merging Mario and Bowser Jr. content. This generous package epitomizes creative design expanding Mario’s brand of fun even today.
Latest Mario Game News and Updates for 2023
Mario shows no signs of slowing down after nearly 40 groundbreaking years. Here’s a preview of major Mario gaming news confirmed on route for 2023 and beyond:
Super Mario Bros. Film Charges Into Theaters April 2023 – Nintendo’s mascot finally makes his animated feature film debut voiced by Chris Pratt. Fans anxiously await seeing Mario, Luigi and the Mushroom Kingdom fully realized in CGI across a star-studded comedic adventure.
Super Nintendo World Expands to Hollywood in 2023 – Universal Studios California will unveil its own real-world Mario theme park location featuring rides, shops and interactive experiences. Fans can explore Bowser’s Castle, Peach’s Castle and more like never before starting next year.
Nintendo Switch Online Adding More Retro Titles – While no specifics were given, Nintendo teased significantly expanding its nostalgia library of NES and SNES Mario classics in 2023. Potential gems like Super Mario RPG, Mario Party or Paper Mario seem prime for revival via Switch Online soon.
New Mainline 3D Adventure Likely in Development – Mario’s next epic 3D journey released before 2025 seems assured given typical Nintendo development timeframes. Will it feature a Galaxy 3 among the stars or radically new motif for Mario’s next phase?
Indie Developers Expand Mario’s Universe – Numerous upcoming indie games use official Nintendo licenses and IPs to envision Mario’s legacy, including Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope’s creative spin. More experimental Mario-themed adventures coming from smaller studios could lead to breakout hits.
Legacy Secured After Nearly 40 Years
As 2024 begins, Mario games will continue evolving yet their vibrant spirit will stay intact. Nintendo will repeatedly craft unexpected multiplayer, 2D, 3D and crossover Mario experiences that will appeal to longtime fans and newcomers. Of course, nothing will replace finally playing the masterpieces listed above that define his illustrious career. Each game here will have displayed key moments in gaming history. 2024 undoubtedly will start another unforgettable chapter in Mario’s eternal quest to rescue Princess Peach!