Every 3D Super Mario game, definitively ranked from worst to best

Replaying these as a palate cleanser after the film

I’ll be frank: Very few game franchises have meant as much to me in my life as a gamer as the mainline Super Mario 3D platformers have. They’re the games that made me love gaming, the games that had me throwing me controller in frustration at my sloppily executed jump and grinning maniacally at the charming visuals and level design 10 seconds later. They’ve defined my whole life really, across consoles and chapters of my own growing up. Everyone has their favourite when it comes to the 3D Super Mario games, but here’s my ranked list of them from worst to best.

7. Super Mario Galaxy 2

Super Mario games ranked

Via Nintendo 

Honestly just have no clue why this exists? Of all the games to get a direct sequel, why Super Mario Galaxy? Like the first, I enjoy the setting and the level design but the point and clicky dated gimmick nature of the Wii just makes me not be too fussed on it nowadays, and this sequel has the misfortune of not being new or novel compared to its predecessor.

6. Super Mario 3D Land

Via Nintendo

It was a genius move of Nintendo to fuse the worlds of 2D platformer Super Mario games with a 3D dimension – and make no mistake, despite its low ranked placement here I absolutely adore it. I would go as far to say this is the best handheld Mario ever. The level design is amazing and I feel like it’s a bit of a lost soul these days thanks to the relative fever-dream obscurity of the 3DS in hindsight. I have a soft spot for it big time.

5. Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario games ranked

Via Nintendo

Amazing at the time, and still very original and a great concept – also probably one of the best storylines in any Mario game thanks to the addition of Rosalina and her backstory. But… The Wii, man. The dreaded Wii. I hate the cursor on screen. I hate twizzling the Wiimote. Just annoying these days, but great in its heyday.

4. Super Mario 3D World

Via Nintendo

Everything that made Super Mario 3D Land great, but amped up by 1000 per cent. Just a masterpiece in platforming – and like a victory lap of everything that makes 2D Mario platformers great but amplified by a self-awareness of its downsides too. All the power ups are thrilling, the multiplayer is a romp and the character selection and various differences masterful. The levels are just GLORIOUS. Instant serotonin whenever you play it.

3. Super Mario 64

Via Nintendo

One of the most important and seminal games in video game history, and whilst it’s been outdone 10 times over in the years that have passed, Super Mario 64 still feels and plays like a dream over 20 years later. Even in its frustrations, you can just feel the ambition and passion that went into it in the 90s and helped lay the groundwork for the game industry to come. The hub world of Peach’s castle still feels like home to me – as corny as that sounds.

2. Super Mario Sunshine

Sunshine was my first ever Mario 3D game that I played, and it’s perfect. It is a masterpiece. I love every thing about it. It’s funny, it’s goofy, it’s gorgeous, Peach wears a slay little short sleeve dress. Fludd makes gameplay feel so elevated and novel that on the levels you’re stripped of it you feel like Buffy in that episode where Giles injected her with the serum that took her powers away: Vulnerable!

But the star of the Sunshine show is its aesthetic, the incomparable Isle Delfino. Delfino is alive – a world that feels open, realised, lived in. It makes you want to go there – a random feat to achieve for a game where crab and mollusc people are wondering around. I don’t think any Mario game has ever topped Isle Delfino for setting, and I’m always thrilled when it crops up in Smash Bros or Mario Kart.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario games ranked

Never in my days on this earth did I ever think Sunshine would be usurped as my fave of all the Super Mario games ranked, but such is the wonder and majesty of Super Mario Odyssey. But here we are – it’s ranked as the joint third most acclaimed video game of all time, for god’s sake. And that is with good reason. Every corner of Odyssey is perfect – richly detailed, interesting platforming and the kind of creativity that feels beyond belief for a franchise 40 years into the business. How Nintendo will ever top this is beyond me, but maybe that’s okay. Their Mario magnum opus, a game that rewards you for being a longtime fan but retains the power to make a new one of first timers. Insanely great.


Related stories recommended by this writer:

The definitive ranking of all Mario Kart characters, based on nothing but vibes

• Every expansion pack for The Sims 4 ranked, including the brand new Growing Together

• Everything wrong with Growing Together, The Sims 4’s new expansion pack