Last year we got the incredibly fun and imaginative Super Mario Odyssey, adding another winner to Mario’s exceptional catalog of 3D titles. However, where does that game fall in comparison to his other 3D outings over the years? Here are all 7 of Mario’s core 3D titles ranked for your viewing pleasure.
7. Super Mario 3D Land
Even the weakest of Mario’s 3D adventures are better than most games. Super Mario 3D Land was released on the 3DS in 2011 and proved a 3D Mario title could work on the go. Making use of every feature it could on the 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land gave players a varied romp through the Mushroom Kingdom. Though the main story is short and breezy, the game quickly gave players a second playthrough that was a little bit more difficult to really test their platforming chops.
Super Mario 3D Land is also best known for the emphasis it placed on the use of the 3DS’ stereoscopic 3D which, at the time, was being given a big push by Nintendo. Of course, as the years went on, it became less of a selling point for the system, but playing Super Mario 3D Land without the 3D on to this day is both difficult and sacrilege. The 3D was important for timing jumps and finding hidden secrets, making Nintendo’s little feature essential to the experience.
6. Super Mario 3D World
Super Mario 3D World is a strange title. It is a sequel to the 3DS’ Super Mario 3D Land, but cannot really use the whole 3D gimmick to make it stand out. The game, which released for the underperforming Wii U in 2013, instead introduced 4-player co-op into its world, previously seen in 2009’s New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The difference here was that the 4 players could interact and move around more freely in a 3D space adding chaos to the franchise like never before. The Tanooki power-up returned here along with a cat power-up that allowed Mario and Co. to crawl up walls and run around on all fours.
Super Mario 3D World is an interesting and delightful adventure that surprised people at a time when most Wii U owners were expecting a more streamlined and conventional core Mario title. It wasn’t what anyone asked for, but we’re glad we have this whimsical title anyway.
5. Super Mario 64
The game that finally made moving around in a 3D environment click with people, to say Super Mario 64 revolutionized gaming forever is an understatement. Released as a pack-in title for the Nintendo 64 in 1996, Super Mario 64 brought gamers, adults and children alike, into its warm arms and made them all believers in 3D gaming. The game was Mario like we had never seen him before, he was running, doing backflips, triple-jumping, and performing acrobatic moves off of walls. He was jumping through paintings, entering dream-like worlds on land, in the water, and even in the air. Mario’s flying cap even let players control Mario’s flight in a 3D space.
Super Mario 64 is a legend in the history of gaming and while its place on this list might seem low, its influence cannot be understated. The core of Super Mario 64 is still being used in his mainline titles to this day.
4. Super Mario Galaxy
When Super Mario Galaxy released on the Wii in 2007, it attempted to go for that wow factor that Super Mario 64 gave people in its initial release. While it didn’t quite meet those mouth-agape standards set by its predecessor it nonetheless proved that the Super Mario team still had some fresh ideas under their belt. Along with running around little planetoids, the game made use of the Wii’s motion controls to give Mario a spin attack and allow him to collect little star bits with the pointer. The platforming was as precise and fun as ever and proved to have some of the most challenging levels to date in a Mario game.
Mario Galaxy also introduced gamers to Rosalina who has since become a mainstay in the Mario universe. Galaxy showed the gaming world that as long as Miyamoto and his team still had crazy ideas, they would be able to translate that into a great Mario adventure.
3. Super Mario Sunshine
Some may scoff at the idea that Super Mario Sunshine is this high on the list, some may say it’s not high enough. The hard truth about this 2002 GameCube entry is that this is the most unique 3D Mario title ever created. It has the most story, its game mechanics are wildly different than the others, and it takes place in an environment that is teeming with creativity.
The fact that Mario, Peach, Toadsworth, and some little Toads go on a vacation to the tropical island of Isle Delfino, already sets this game apart. Mario later takes control of the talking water-sprayer F.L.U.D.D., and is tasked with cleaning up the mess that is spread all over the island. Shooting water to attack enemies and using F.L.U.D.D. to horizontally and vertically traverse the environment works well even to this day. Locales ranging from a harbor to a theme park ensured the visuals were always interesting and really worked to bring the island to life as a true destination for tourists.
I mean come on, the game even had voice acting! I dare you to find me another Mario game that does it like Sunshine does.
2. Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is Mario platforming at the pinnacle of perfection. Perfectly paced, with just a world map with level after level, the challenges just never let up. Releasing on the Wii in 2010, Galaxy 2 was perfectly fine with giving players more of the same platforming goodness found in the original. Along with the inclusion of Yoshi, Galaxy 2 gave players new power-ups such as Boo Mario to mess around with and levels that put the power-ups to good use.
The difficulty was spiked a few notches, but was never unfair, and culminated with one of the most challenging but rewarding Mario levels ever made. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is Nintendo at its most confident and it might be a while before we ever see a mainline Mario title quite like it.
1. Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey may not be as challenging as Super Mario Galaxy 2, nor is it as revolutionary as Super Mario 64. However, the one thing Super Mario Odyssey exudes more than any other game on this list is pure, unadulterated, joy. Odyssey is just a grand adventure and so overflowing with happiness and reverence for the series, you won’t stop smiling until you’ve put down the controller.
The worlds Mario visits across his journey are teeming with challenges and collectibles around every corner. You cannot go more than a few feet in this game without collecting a moon for something, even if that’s just for talking to an NPC. Odyssey sucks the player into each and every world and does not let go. Super Mario Odyssey is the most addicting Mario game you’ll ever play hands-down.
The costumes alone are enough to carry you through the adventure as Mario is continually unlocking them, allowing the player to mix-and-match as they please. Each world has their own special costume (along with a few surprising ones) that keeps the player coming back for more.
And don’t even get me started on Pauline’s theme song, it’ll be stuck in your head long after the credits roll.
What is your favorite 3D Mario adventure? Let us know in the comments!
Anthony is into all things video games, television and film. He’s also a Star Wars and Marvel nerd and will jump at the chance to talk about either. Since the wee age of 3, when his Dad introduced him to his first computer game, Anthony has never stopped playing. He thanks Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3 for making him the gamer he is today.