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Ranking the Classic 2D Super Mario Games!



Today's entry of GFBMT is going to be a little different. Today, I will be ranking the Classic 2D Super Mario games from best to worst. I won't be going in-depth here, just listing the games. We'll be ranking the pre-NSMB (New Super Mario Brothers) era Super Mario games that appeared on Nintendo systems (Sorry, Super Mario Brothers Special!). We will also only be talking about the mainseries Super Mario games, not any of the spinoffs. Mainly, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 won't be included here.

These are just my opinions. I do plan to review most of these games in-depth in future blog entries, whenever that will be. We are also only looking at the original versions of these games. We will NOT be counting any remakes, such as Super Mario All-Stars, Super Mario Brothers Deluxe, and the Super Mario Advance games.

Without further ado, my rankings from best to worst!

  • Super Mario World

This game is simply superb. While there are loads of great things about World, such as the bountiful secrets and fantastic score, the absolute greatest thing about it is the superb physics. Mario handles like a dream. It's impossible to put into words how much better he feels than he did in Super Mario Brothers 3. You'll just have to play it for yourself. Super Mario World is my favorite 2D Super Mario game of all time, and one of the greatest games ever made.

  • Super Mario Brothers 2 (USA) (Super Mario USA in Japan)

I have always enjoyed this one. The game is short enough so that the lack of a save feature isn't that bad, and the game's 20 levels offer a lot of variety and challenge. The music in this game is phenomenal as well. Four different playable characters add strategy and replay value to the game. Sure, the NES version may not be as forgiving as its SNES and eventually GBA remakes are, but unlike its sequel Super Mario Brothers 3, the NES version still holds up pretty well today. Though this originally was released as a non-Mario game in Japan, this sprite-swapped version of the game still seems to feel like a Super Mario game, and improves on the shortcomings of the original in many ways.

  • Super Mario Land

Here's one I adore. Super Mario Land may not be as polished as many of the other games on this list, but it has lots of its own feel and character that make it stand out above the rest. Though the gameplay quirks hold it back behind SMB2 and SMW, it still managed to be pretty close to my top spot. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto had no involvement in this game, and it shows! The wacky and foreign atmosphere of Sarasaland hasn't been replicated before or since SML's release in 1989. The physics, while wonky at first, actually work quite well for the game. At a measly twelve levels, Super Mario Land is the shortest game on this list, though the game is challenging and is highly replayable. The game also has a hard mode, which is sorely lacking from so many other games.

  • Super Mario Brothers

This is the only Super Mario game that I own on the NES. This is a truly fantastic game, with excellent physics that still hold up 35 years later. While I'm very nostalgic for the SNES version, I feel I prefer the NES version for its superior physics. This game was a real game-changer at the time and is often credited for revitalizing the North American console game industry. This game is amazing.

  • Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

Another great game, and while I will admit this is a better game than the original Super Mario Land, I don't prefer it. Mario has incredibly floaty physics in this game, though I don't really mind them much here. At least his momentum makes sense, unlike our next game. Super Mario Land 2 has a unique non-linear World Map setup, and it has mostly unique and new enemies and bosses. This was the last-released game on this list, and is a very unique one at that. If only modern 2D Mario games offered the same amount of uniqueness and diversity instead of regurgitating the same generic Mario garbage with every release. I've been using the word "unique" a lot here, and that's the word that best describes this game.

  • Super Mario Brothers 3

All of the games mentioned before this point are among my favorites. Super Mario Brothers 3 is not. I just don't like this game, though I've really tried to. Everyone else seems to like it quite a bit. In my opinion, Super Mario Brothers 3 is just OK. Whenever someone says differently, ESPECIALLY when someone likes it better than Super Mario World. The NES version has some flaws that are inexcusable and make the game the worst-aged of the NES SMB releases. There's absolutely no way to continue after turning off the system, not even a password system. Sure, there's the Warp Whistles, but good luck beating the later levels without a stockpile of items. Mario 3 is a long game, several hours in fact. But whatever, I can look past that. The real killer of this game is the horrendous physics. Mario is so freaking floaty here, and his momentum and jumping is unpredictable. I've played this game a lot, and I still mess up all the time. There's a jump in one of the World 5 fortresses I often think of. It looks like you should run and jump to it, but whenever I do that I always overshoot it. Landing on small platforms is always a source of anxiety. Everything about how this game controls is just jarring to me. While I enjoy SMB3 enough, these physics always hold me back and take way too long to get used to. This game just isn't the masterpiece everyone says it is.

I like the All-Stars version much more, and I can see why some people enjoy that more than World (though I don't agree), but the NES version just kind of sucks.

  • Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels (Super Mario Brothers 2) (JPN)

I was debating whether I should even put this on the list. Obviously, the Famicom Disk System version of SMB2 is the worst of the classic Mario games! Need I say more? While the original version sucks, I think I might like some of the remakes more than the original NES version of SMB3.


Sorry for going off on Super Mario Brothers 3 there! That's always been a source of rage for me. I hope you enjoyed my rankings. What are your thoughts?


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