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There's a good reason why Mario is the most recognizable face in the history of the gaming industry. His core titles have been, without exception, fantastic gaming experiences and pure platforming bliss. While the plumber has seen missteps in spin-off series like Mario Party, Mario Sports Mix, and his Olympic romps with former rival Sonic, the core series is as close to perfection as we've seen in a long-running franchise. With this blog, I'm inviting plenty of debate in the comments about how it should be ordered. Some gamers hate Super Mario Sunshine, others will passionately debate whether Super Mario Bros. 3 or World is better, and others will trash Super Mario Bros. 2 for not being a "real" entry. Regardless of what your personal choices may be, here are my picks for the ten best Mario titles of all time. I'm not weighing factors such as historical importance...these are ranked strictly on fun factor. Debate away.
10. Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985)
With the introduction of series mainstays like the fire flower and mushroom, the iconic music and sound effects, and its challenging-yet-rewarding gameplay, the first Super Mario Bros. laid a foundation that still has an impact in 2011. Every Mario game ever owes its existence to the great platformer that Shigeru Miyamoto presented to gamers in 1985, and it still plays well today. It may not feature all the bells and whistles of later titles, but its rock-solid controls and level variety make it more than just a nostalgia act.
9. Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES, 1988)
Out of the ten games on this list, this is the only one that doesn't feature the traditional "jump on that thing's head to kill it" gameplay. The reasons for this dramatic departure are well known, but that doesn't make it stick out any less. By giving gamers access to four characters with wildly different play styles, relying on an odd vegetable-throwing mechanic, and omitting familiar enemies from the first Super Mario Bros., Nintendo certainly ran a risk with this sequel. This risk paid off, as Super Mario Bros. 2 proved to be a fantastic title that plays better than the legendary original.
8. New Super Mario Bros. (DS, 2006)
This DS title released over a decade after the last proper 2D entry, and it proved that Nintendo hadn't missed a beat. New power-ups like the Mega Mushroom and blue Koopa shell felt natural in this familiar environment, and the game controlled like second nature to longtime fans. Its 80 stages presented classic gameplay without relying on touchscreen gimmicks, making the game seem like a natural successor to the series' SNES entries. With nearly 20 million units sold, this return to form was an undeniable success. Lifelong Nintendo fans loved it, but (more importantly) it simultaneously introduced an entirely new generation to the joys of 2D Mario.
Read on to see where Mario's 3D debut ranks among his best games.