It’s time for some game theory
At first I attempted to make a simple, rudimentary ranking, but I eventually determined that the process was too linear and one-dimensional to provide much insight. Thus, I opted to make a scatterplot of the Mario games (and selected Mario-likes) instead, rating them on the dimensions of aesthetic quality (original releases only) and mechanical game design nuts and bolts and stuffs.
Note 1: The games’ positions are indicated by the centers of their textboxes. Also, the ratings were finagled so as to avoid overlapping boxes (though this wasn’t too big of a deal).
Note 2: The SMRPG included here is the version that is purely an isometric platformer, with no RPGing at all. It exists only in the hearts and minds of the Mario faithful (it isn’t very good).
Note 3: SMS is missing because I don’t have clear enough memories to properly appraise it. The other games are missing because I haven’t played them.
While the design quality is spread across the board, there is a significant gap in the aesthetic dimension between SML2 and it’s closest competitor. If I had opted to include some Sonic games, they would have handily filled up that space.
Also, using this chart, we can clearly ascertain that
ideal Mario game would be The Lost Levels with the aesthetics/theming of Six Golden Coins. If somebody added simultaneous co-op and the princesses to that mix, I’m not sure I would need another 2D Mario game.
Now, by working my way from the top-right corner of the chart (and fudging things a little), I can much more easily come up with the canonical Top 10 Mario Games List than I would have been able to otherwise.
- Super Mario Bros 3
- Super Mario Bros 2 (The Lost Levels)
- Super Mario Odyssey
- Super Mario Bros. (1)
- Super Mario 3D World
- Super Turrican
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
- Kid Chameleon
- Super Mario Galaxy 2
- Super Mario Land 2