Few gaming franchises have established as much of a legacy and a permanent spot in the gaming pantheon as the adventures of Mario and his cast of lovable characters. Today, we’ll be taking a look at a crucial decade for the Mario franchise – the 90s – and count down the best games the franchise released in these 10 years.
Super Mario RPG (1996)
Super Mario RPG is a unique game. For starters, it is developed by one of the most powerhouse combos you could hope for in the gaming world – a team-up between RPG stalwarts Square Enix and Nintendo. A sprawling RPG set in the Mario universe created by the evil geniuses behind Final Fantasy, this game is everything you would expect from such a wonderful premise.
Super Mario RPG took one of gaming’s most recognizable icons and gave him a role-playing adventure for the ages. As per usual, the story belongs with our beloved princess being kidnapped yet again by Bowser. But there’s a twist. Mario’s daring rescue mission is thwarted by a completely unexpected foe – a talking sword which embeds itself into Koopa’s fortress and also forms the central set piece of the game.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (1995)
Super Mario World 2 is as close to platforming perfection as you can probably get. Shigeru Miyamoto – a man who has revolutionized many different genres of gaming from Wii Fit to Donkey Kong, is the man behind Yoshi’s island. And it shows.
Creating a fun platformer only requires the game to excel within a pre-existing formula. Yet, it is within these limitations that a truly creative developer can create an incredibly rewarding experience that becomes the definitive experience within that genre.
Yoshi’s Island is different from so many other Mario games in one central aspect it allows you to play as another beloved character from the Marioverse – Yoshi. You ride around the beautiful hand-painted universe as a lovely dinosaur and experience some razor-sharp platforming along the way. Get this game if you haven’t already played it back in the day.
Super Mario World (1990)
You know what the hallmark of a great game is, first and foremost? Well, it needs to be fun! And Super Mario World is a ton of fun. Not only is Super Mario World one of the best Mario games, it is one of the greatest games ever in general.
Super Mario World was a shining beacon in the 16-bit era – A Mario game that was bigger, better and more beautiful than anything that had come before it. You’re still following the lovestruck plumber’s side-scrolling adventures to get to the princess, but now you have a companion – Yoshi, the adorable dinosaur who can swallow enemies and spit fire.
Also, Mario can fly in this game with a glide jump that allows you to travel significant distances. This is an expertly put together experience, with fantastic level design and challenging gameplay that will have you revisiting Super Mario World well after you finish it.
Super Mario 64 (1996)
Within the open-world genre there’s always a push and pull between making a game-world vast and making it have more things for the player to do. Every now and then, a game manages to nail that balance and Super Mario 64 is one of those games.
Seeing the world of Mario realized in its full 3D glory is breathtaking to behold and as long-time Mario fans, it was incredibly compelling for us to go explore different areas and uncover hidden secrets. What lies beyond that wall? What if I could get to that one point on top of that ledge? What would I see if I crossed this valley? Mario 64 is a game that encourages and rewards curiosity and exploration – a hallmark of good adventure games.
Mario is able to do a lot of new moves in this one other than just running and jumping – punch/kick combos, flying, swimming, sweep enemies off their feet, a dash jump, a dive bomb attack and several others we’re sure you will discover as you take this magical journey.
Super Mario Bros 3 (1990)
In what seems to be a common theme on this list, and something that is indicative of the quality of games in the Mario franchise – Super Mario Bros. 3 is simply one of the best 2D platformers of all time. This is one of those games that shows a developer and a franchise that confident about their craft and are finding new avenues to wow and enthrall audiences.
Across its 8 worlds and 70+ levels, you’ll run, jump, bounce off Goombas and cross fiery chasms just to get to the princess. One of the reasons this game is so beloved is because of the sheer variety it throws at you – jumping-platforms, scrolling, switching puzzles and swimming. One of the levels even has gigantic versions of all the enemies you’ve faced earlier in the game. As is tradition with a Mario game – there are plenty of hidden paths, shortcuts and pipes that lead down and up into parts of the world that you won’t expect.