With the imminent release of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury on Switch, and the Super Mario 35th anniversary celebrations drawing to a close in a matter of weeks, we thought it was about time we tried putting all of Mario’s original 2D platforming adventures into some kind of order. We’ve previously looked at each and every mainline 3D game in the Super Mario series, but now it’s your chance to rank every one of the plumber’s 2D adventures over the past three-and-a-half decades.
So, here we present to you every 2D Mario game ranked from ‘worst’ (rarely has a term been used in a more relative sense) to best. We omitted certain handheld ports and re-releases in order to streamline things, so you’ll find the most ‘significant’ release if there’s more than one version of the game (and there can be plenty to choose from these days!). We’ve also excluded thirty-five-player battle royale Super Mario Bros. 35 from the running as, unfortunately, it won’t be an ongoing concern in the Mario canon past 31st March 2021.
This ranking comes from Nintendo Life readers’ User Ratings for the games on our database and is subject to real time fluctuations even after publication. Yes, that means it’s entirely possible to influence the ranking below if you haven’t rated your favourites yet. To do so, simply click on the game you wish to rate and assign a score on the Game Page.
Many thanks to everyone who rated their favourites. Without further ado, let’s dive into your ranking of every 2D Mario game…
Release Date: 15th Dec 2016 (USA) / 15th Dec 2016 (UK/EU)
On its own terms, Super Mario Run is a great translation of the plumbers 2D oeuvre into the smartphone space. The fact that it looks so much like an entry in the ‘New’ branch of 2D Marios perhaps set expectations higher than they might have been for the first Mario game to appear on non-Nintendo hardware for a very long time, but this entry is a classy example of transitioning a beloved character and series to a totally different platform and embracing the differences of that platform with a tailormade experience; an authentic Mario game you can play with one hand.
The Remix x10 mode added post-launch offers bite-size nuggets of levels from the main game and adds longevity after you’ve conquered every world, and it’s got a Nintendo level of polish — and without any encroaching microtransactions or irritating currencies or cooldown timers. Super Mario Run was never going to replace Mario World in the plumber’s pantheon of 2D platformers, but it was never supposed to; it offers short bursts of fun perfect for situations where cracking out your Switch isn’t an option. Super Mario Run does what it set out to do, and well — for that, we admire it.
Also known as Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan, this was once ‘the grail’ for gamers in the West who knew the first game back-to-front and wanted more of a challenge. The Lost Levels certainly provides that, and for that reason it’s best enjoyed by Super Mario Bros. veterans — players new to the world of Mario will likely find it bewilderingly, hilariously tough.
Release Date: 19th Aug 2012 (USA) / 17th Aug 2012 (UK/EU)
A rare numbered Mario sequel, this is one from a series which continues to divide gamers to this day. New Super Mario Bros. 2 doubled down on – of all things – coin collection to create a strangely compulsive platformer in the familiar mould. Although hardly revolutionary, the autostereoscopic 3D was a nice touch and if you can embrace the banality of its obsession with gold, it’s a very solid, very enjoyable 2D Mario.
Super Mario Land was impressive when it was first released for the Game Boy. The sequel might have made this original seem inadequate by comparison, but it’s still a very fun Super Mario experience, albeit a short one. Just about the time things are really getting good, the credits roll, but if you haven’t played Super Mario Land before, you owe it to yourself to give it a try – it’s still worth playing through at least once, if only to see where Mario’s portable adventures began. Cracking music, too.
Release Date: 11th Jan 2019 (USA) / 11th Jan 2019 (UK/EU)
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is an impressive package, offering the best of modern-era 2D Mario, madcap multiplayer and glimpses of the outrageous invention that was to come in Super Mario Odyssey. It’s a top-drawer Mario game and arguably the best of the ‘New’ branch whether you play on Wii U or Switch, although ageing visuals and the irritation of being kicked back to the world map after every death stand out as things that could have been finessed in this Deluxe version. Still, with New Super Luigi U included, this is a very fine 2D Mario (and Luigi) package.
This follow-up famously reskinned another game entirely with Mario and co. for release in the West (where Nintendo of America feared gamers wouldn’t be able to cope with the punishment of The Lost Levels). Despite being something of a black sheep in its homeland, Super Mario Bros. 2 had an enormous influence on the iconography of the series. The game is definitely worth revisiting (Nintendo Switch Online is the easiest place to find it these days), if only to remind yourself just how different it is to what came before and after. With four playable (and very different) characters to choose from, we highly recommend a playthrough.
Release Date: 15th May 2006 (USA) / 30th Jun 2006 (UK/EU)
Decried by some as mere shadows of the original games, there’s no denying the popularity of the New series. The original New Super Mario Bros. may well give off a «been there, done that» vibe these days, but it opened up 2D Mario to entirely new generation. We dinosaurs can pine for our pixels and the ‘classic’ games, but there’s still a remarkably solid Mario platformer here. No, it’s not the pinnacle of the series, nor is it absolutely essential in the grand scheme of things, but there’s still plenty to like.
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