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The Definitive Ranking of Every 3D Super Mario Game

With the 35th Anniversary of Mario and the launch of 3D All-Stars, we decided to rank every 3D Super Mario game in the series.

September 18, 2020

With the release of Super Mario 3D All-Stars on Nintendo Switch, we here at DualShockers thought it would be the perfect opportunity to rank all the 3D Mario games and yes, we are including Super Mario 3D World and 3D Land. Each one of these are all incredible titles with unique experiences that we all know and love, which makes ranking them so hard yet fun.

Composed of Cameron Hawkins, Sam Woods, and Nick Blain of DualShockers along with special guests Brenden Groom of Pass the Controller and Asa GreenRiver of Borderline Entertainment, we took on the challenge of ranking these iconic games from worst to best. Naturally, this led to some heated yet constructive arguments leading to our definitive ranking of every 3D Mario game.

7. Super Mario 3D Land

Up until 2011, 3D Mario titles were typically designed for home consoles, while Mario’s handheld adventures were limited to 2D platformers or spin-off titles. Although, at the tail end of 2011 Mario would approach the third dimension with a new perspective. Super Mario 3D Land— which I think is one of the most under-appreciated Mario games– injected the Mario franchise with some new life, set the franchise up to iterate on the foundation that 3D Land cemented, and fully took advantage of what the Nintendo 3DS had to offer.

Introducing the Boomerang Flower and the ability for Bowser and his cohorts to utilize some of the power-ups typically reserved for Mario, Super Mario 3D Land broke small conventions within Mario and ushered in more fantastical items and level design choices that we’d see flourish in later games.  Not only was the level design top tier, but the game was also built around the 3D capabilities of the platform it was on.

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The depth that playing in 3D brought to the experience is something special and aided the gameplay and platforming unlike anything seen in a Mario game before or since. But ultimately, even with utilizing all of the features of the Nintendo 3DS, and being the first of its kind for Mario on a handheld, Super Mario 3D Land‘s scope is more narrow and limited compared to some of the mustachioed plumber’s forays, which lands it low on the list compared to some of the other experiences Mario has brought us over the years. All of that being said, Super Mario 3D Land is still an adventure worth embarking on, and one of the best games the Nintendo 3DS has to offer.

– Brenden Groom, Pass the Controller

6. Super Mario Galaxy

When experiencing Super Mario Galaxy for the very first time, you get this sense of wonder that is hard to compete against any other Mario title. The level design could be considered the best in any 3D Mario game, along with a beautiful soundtrack and aesthetic. It has plenty of content to offer fans of the series, along with being able to play through the entire game again as Luigi once finished as Mario. Despite these praises, the gameplay suffers due to the implementation of motion controls that make you feel less in control of Mario than any other 3D title. Now that the game is on Switch, it will be exciting to see fans of the series explore its galaxy for the very first time.

– Cameron Hawkins, DualShockers

5. Super Mario Galaxy 2

The world of Super Mario Galaxy was special; so special in fact that Nintendo decided to iterate on it and not only did they iterate on it, but they arguably improved it. Galaxy 2 did everything that was so great about the original while adding Yoshi, a bunch of new and exciting power-ups, amping up the difficulty, and extending the experience without bloating it. There’s a reason Galaxy 2 is often looked on more favorably than the original and despite ranking in the lower half of our list, it is an absolute must-play.

– Sam Woods, DualShockers

4. Super Mario Sunshine

Super Mario Sunshine is arguably the most divisive of the 3D Mario titles, where people either love or hate the F.L.U.D.D. mechanic that was introduced. It is only fitting that we place in the middle of our list. We think that due to Nintendo getting creative and new in a way that we don’t think we’ve seen since, it deserves praise. Sunshine is a whole, fully unique Mario experience that stands out from the rest because of it. Focusing on F.L.U.D.D. as the primary mechanic was something novel–which would also be seen later in Super Mario Odyssey in a similar capacity–Sunshine brought a whole new layer of platforming and puzzle-solving to the series.

– Cameron Hawkins, DualShockers

3. Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D World is a perfect Mario experience. While playing a traditional 2D Mario game in a 3D perspective, 3D World is just an utter joy to play through. The introduction of the catsuit brought a sole sense of identity, to the point where it feels like the game is built completely around it in all the best ways possible. The music is next level, being one of–if not the best–soundtrack any Mario game has to offer, whether it be 2D, 3D, or a spin-off title. Everything about 3D World works in its favor to the point where it feels like a modern Super Mario World or Super Mario 3, depending on your preference. This is easily the best game to have come from the Wii U and it will be interesting to see how those who skipped Nintendo’s last generation will react to it once it comes to Switch next year. While Super Mario 3D World doesn’t introduce many new mechanics to stand out, it succeeds at everything it does, making it one of the best platformers available and, we think, will hold up for decades to come.

– Cameron Hawkins, DualShockers

2. Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 ushered in the era of 3D gaming. Released as a launch title for the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 built on everything that was beloved about the Mario games of the past and propelled them into the future. Creative levels, tight controls, and a sense of wonderment and exploration that had never been felt in prior games: Super Mario 64 had it all. It was truly mind-blowing what the game achieved and it was undoubtedly the foundation for hundreds of titles that succeeded it. It’s hard to imagine what the gaming landscape would look like now if this masterpiece didn’t exist.

– Sam Woods, DualShockers

1. Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey brought a new standard to what a 3D platformer could be. Coming to the Nintendo Switch in its first year, this globetrotting adventure may follow the basic trope of “Bowser steals Peach, go save Peach”; however it feels anything but a retread. Odyssey gave a challenge and pure joy in equal parts. The gimmick this time around of Cappy felt like a complete extension of Mario, so every failure never felt like it was due to the game itself, only on the player. The only criticism that could make Odyssey more perfect than it already is would be to make some levels longer. Odyssey is simply a celebration of all the 3D Mario games before it, which makes it the clear frontrunner of the 3D Mario series.

– Asa GreenRiver, Borderline Entertainment

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Cameron Hawkins

Cameron Hawkins is a Staff Writer at Dualshockers. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with an Emphasis in News at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has played Video Games as long as he can remember. Some of his favorite games series include; Kingdom Hearts, Mass Effect, and Final Fantasy.

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