Super Mario’s Best Levels
By Louis Bedigian GameZone.com
It seemed like an easy task. Mario games have provided us with so many unforgettable levels that, when it came time to pick the best ones, I didn’t think it would be that much of a challenge. But then I sat down and reexamined Mario 64, which doesn’t have a bad level. Next, I looked at the original Mario Galaxy, a game that’s overflowing with brilliance. Then I went back to very first Super Mario Bros., which was the pinnacle of NES innovation. Before I could even make a top 10 list, I realized that this was not going to be an easy undertaking.
As I wrote down my favorite levels and separated the awesome from the really, really awesome, another fact became clear: no matter what, there will never be a definitive list of Mario’s best levels. Chances are you have a favorite level that won’t appear in this article – frankly, I do as well. But that’s always been the problem with Mario: his games are just too good for any one fan to quantify.
The 10 Best, Most Innovative and Most Creative Mario Levels
10. World 8-4 (Super Mario Bros.) In addition to being the hardest dungeon in the game and containing the most challenging battle with Bowser, World 8-4 features an excellent maze. By today’s standards, it probably seems easy – especially since most everyone has beaten this game a million times. But that can’t erase this level’s amazing accomplishments.
9. Tiny-Huge Island (Mario 64) Nintendo loved the idea of larger-than-life enemies, and with this level, the developers delivered. They put an extra twist on the concept by allowing Mario to dwarf his adversaries, an effect that can be switched on-the-fly at certain points in the stage.
8. World 7-4 (NEW Super Mario Bros. DS) Using springs and bouncy platforms, World 7-4 is one of the most exciting and challenging levels in the game. Without question, it is the perfect sequel to the mushroom-filled stages of the original Super Mario.
7. Boo Moon Galaxy (Mario Galaxy 2) You know those moments when a game does something completely unexpected, both visually and physically? This level has a couple of those moments. If you haven’t already experienced this mind-blowing galaxy, do so immediately and prepare to be blown away.
6. Flipsville Galaxy (Mario Galaxy 2) Our planet may be round, but in Flipsville Galaxy, the world is flat. Pound through the ground and Mario will find himself walking upside down on the area underneath. In short, this level is a wonderfully inspired masterpiece that is an absolute blast to play through.
5. Valley of Bowser 2 (Mario World) Mario World was a genius game on so many levels. But only this level challenged players to run through a concrete structure that swayed up and down, squishing the famed plumber like a bug under someone’s shoe.
4. Tie: Jolly Roger Bay and Dire, Dire Docks (Mario 64) Hands down, these are the two most perfect water worlds ever featured in a game. They have everything: lots of areas to explore (both above and under water), hard-to-find coins and stars, and some interesting objects to climb and maneuver around. The music is also worth noting – it’s so deep and memorable that you’d swear it came from Final Fantasy.
3. Upside Down Dizzy Galaxy (Mario Galaxy 2) Just when you think you know what Nintendo is going to do next, the Mario maker throws us a surprise and creates a few levels for Mario Galaxy 2 that are entirely two-dimensional. But instead of rehashing the past, the developers utilized the gravity-defying thrills of the Galaxy system to design levels like Upside Down Dizzy Galaxy, a brilliant world that will thoroughly test your side-scrolling skills.
2. Any Level from Mario Galaxy It might seem like a cop-out to say, “any level,” but that’s the honest truth. The first Mario Galaxy wasn’t merely an impeccable addition to the series – it was the pure essence of innovation. I tried to pick just one but I can’t: the game is too good for that.
1. Bob-omb Battlefield (Mario 64) It may be the first level in Mario 64, but there’s no denying that it is also the most innovative of all the Mario worlds. Bob-omb Battlefield introduced us to the new generation of gaming – not just for Mario, but for the entire sector of video games. This was the level that took everything we knew and loved about Mario, transformed it into 3D, and added new elements like wall jumps and back-flips. It is a level that I and millions of others cherish, and though Mario will continue to impress us with future sequels, it is unlikely that this world will ever be surpassed.
Other Great Worlds
A few honorary awards for some of Mario’s best levels:
Best 2D Revival: Any Level in NEW Super Mario Bros. NEW Super Mario Bros. Wii may not have been the perfect sequel it should have been, but the DS original most certainly was. It featured an incredible lineup of levels – too many to list here – that are as inspired as they are packed with replay value.
Most Eye-Popping: Matter Splatter Galaxy (Mario Galaxy) The “matter” that this level splatters is a blob-like substance that reveals the world (ex: platforms to walk on) underneath. Jump on the blob and you’ll be safe, but if the matter disappears before you land, Mario will fall right through, forcing players to come up with a new strategy for tackling this clever stage.
Best Visual Implementation of Gravity: Beach Bowl Galaxy (Mario Galaxy) This genius level is shaped like a giant bowl with water pouring over the side. It looks beautiful, and as you explore its watery core, you’ll discover that gravity is the only thing holding the bowl together. If you’re not careful, you could swim right through the water and fall deep into outer space.
Most Challenging Climb: Tick Tock Clock (Mario 64) This is one of those hardcore Mario worlds that is inundated with innovative but is often remembered for its immense challenge. The thin platforms, movable clock elements, and the super tall structures are anything but forgiving.
Favorite Green Star: Buoy Base Galaxy (Mario Galaxy) It could take me a year to fully analyze every green star and determine which one is truly the “best” within Mario Galaxy and its amazing sequel. But when thinking of green stars, the first one that always comes to mind is located at Buoy Base Galaxy. Find it and you’ll know why.