When you think of video game series that have no bad games, there might not be many that come to mind. Even the best developers slip up from time to time, and while Mario is no exception to having a rough game from time to time, his platformers, especially the 3D ones, never seem to miss the mark.
Mario didn’t just revolutionize the 3D platforming genre, he continues to set the bar. Any one of his 3D outings could reasonably be considered the best, but we’re here to take on the task of ranking all of his 3D platformers.
8/8 Super Mario 3D Land
Super Mario 3D Land was the turning point of the 3DS, kickstarting the system almost a year after its launch. While Super Mario Galaxy leaned into more linear level design, Super Mario 3D Land embraced it fully, creating what is essentially a 2D Mario game in a 3D space. You aren’t collecting stars, nor are you exploring big worlds, but rather you’re starting at the beginning of the level and getting to the flagpole at the end.
The linear level design and the de-emphasis on completing objectives make for the perfect handheld Mario experience. 3D Land also brought back some fan-favorite powerups, most notably the Tanooki Suit. If you’re looking for the perfect on-the-go Mario game, 3D Land may be your best bet.
7/8 Super Mario 3D World
Multiplayer and platformers often end up being a chaotic combination. Even in Mario’s case, the New Super Mario Bros. games, while fun in multiplayer, are often very hectic experiences. At its core, Super Mario 3D World is a bigger version of Super Mario 3D Land, with additions such as new powerups, new types of levels, and, most notably, up to four-player multiplayer.
While there is certainly still room for chaos, the generally bigger levels allow for each player to move much more freely than in a 2D space. 3D World is still a treat in single-player though, and overall is a grand experience. Whether you take this one on alone or with some friends, you will surely have a great time.
6/8 Super Mario Sunshine
Mario’s tropical adventure is one to remember. Throughout your journey across Delfino you’ll be getting a lot of use out of the game’s signature mechanic, F.L.U.D.D. With its assistance, you’ll be able to hover for extra mobility, shoot water to clean the area, and launch to the top of the sky. One of Super Mario Sunshine’s most notable upgrades is in the visual department.
Considering that the GameCube was much more powerful than the Nintendo 64, the game looks much prettier and holds up well even to this day. Lastly, Super Mario Sunshine is arguably the toughest of all the games on this list. For its fun tropical theme and its great signature mechanic, Super Mario Sunshine is worth a playthrough.
5/8 Super Mario Galaxy 2
True sequels are very uncommon in 3D Mario, but after the roaring success of Super Mario Galaxy and the Wii in general, a sequel was in order. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is generally more of the same, though that isn’t a bad thing. The fun level design, beautiful locations, and breathtaking spacey theme all carry over. That doesn’t mean there is nothing new, however.
Yoshi makes an appearance in many levels and is incorporated into the level design excellently. There are also some new power-ups, such as the Cloud Flower. While it may not have had the same impact as the original Galaxy, you’re bound to enjoy this game as well.
4/8 Bowser’s Fury
While it may be the shortest game on the list, Bowser’s Fury is one well worth checking out. It takes the platforming mechanics of 3D World and restructures them into an incredible open-world experience. Bowser’s Fury is essentially one big level that has many little levels scattered across it, and rather than selecting worlds or levels, you just hop on Plessie and get there yourself. While there is fast travel, traversing the world is a joy, and there are many fun secrets and objectives to uncover while traveling.
Those who love felines are in for a treat with this game as well, as the entire Mario world has received a cat-like makeover. In spite of its short length, Bowser’s Fury is an incredible Mario experience, especially considering that it is only half of the package it’s sold with.
3/8 Super Mario Odyssey
Launching the same year as the Switch, Super Mario Odyssey was, and still is a must-play. Many Mario games prior to this one focused on linear level structure, but Odyssey made the switch back to more open levels, and it was a fantastic return to form. Of all the 3D Mario games, Odyssey easily has the most items to collect, with 880 unique Power Moons. While some may be more fun to collect than others, the sheer number of them makes hunting each of them down a fun challenge.
The signature mechanic of Cappy gives the game a fun identity as well, allowing Mario to take control of many of the enemies, allies, and objects across his journey. Featuring the tightest controls in the series, as well as plenty of fun moves to use, you’ll love playing as Mario in Odyssey.
2/8 Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy was, and arguably still is, Mario’s grandest adventure of them all. Taking place across space, Mario travels to many unique locations that never fail to impress. Galaxy shifted away from the 64 and Sunshine style of having open-ended levels, instead opting for a more linear level design. Each star you obtain feels more like a mission, and while it’s fun to explore big levels, seeing the different paths and environmental changes of a Galaxy is not a bad replacement.
The game also features motion controls that don’t feel tacky whatsoever. Using the pointer to grab Star Bits is a great addition, and gently shaking the remote to spin isn’t bad either. Super Mario Galaxy is a beautiful game that is still an absolute joy to play.
1/8 Super Mario 64
A game that is just as revolutionary as Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64 is just as fun to play today as it was when it came out. Whether collecting all the Stars in a level, clearing Bowser’s challenges, or discovering secrets in Peach’s Castle, Super Mario 64 is a truly fantastic game.
It is masterfully crafted, and while the camera may be a little tough to get used to considering what we have now, it says a lot that every other aspect of the game has aged phenomenally well. While Mario has had many great adventures since this one, it’s still undoubtedly one of his best games — as well as one of the best games of all time.