For over 30 years the Super Mario console games series has set a standard for the whole genre of jump and run games. Through all this time gameplay, story and characters have essentially stayed the same and still every new release remains an enjoyable challenge.
To this day the Super Mario series is the epitome of jump and run games. The controls usually consist only of a small number of controls for the direction in which Mario runs, jumping and maybe one other action. The player has to use these to lead Mario and his brother through different levels full of enemies and other obstacles which have to be stumped on, jumped over or jumped against. While this is always rather easy to do in the first levels, things usually get more and more difficult with the appearence of moving platforms, lava, blocks which fall down as soon as you jump on them and many other obstacles. Good timing, good reflexes and strong nerves are essential. It is not only important to press a button but the way the button is pressed influences wether Mario lands where he should or ends up falling into an abyss.
The classic Mario games are side scrolling, meaning that the whole game is seen as a section through the landscape and characters appear in profile. Each level starts left and the screen follows the player character on his way to the right side . Many of the newer games however have a full 3d environment, which is not better but simply a completely different kind of game experience.
Most Mario games are devided into 8 worlds with different themes, like a desert world, an ice world and an underwater world. All worlds are devided into a number of levels and the last level of a world usually has a special enemy boss. There are also non-level places on the map, like Toad Houses where the player can obtain certain items. The way through the world is also not completely linear but there are crossroads where players can choose between two levels to progress. The last level of the game is usually Bowser's castle, a place full of lava and traps, but after overcoming Mario's arch enemy the player is usually surprised with a number of bonus levels.
All levels in a Super Mario game usually have a time limit – with an exception of some of the 3d games that need time for exploration. When the time runs out the player has to start the last level all over again – or at the last reached checkpoint. The player also has only a limited number of lives which can be extended by collecting certain items in the game. As long as the players still have lives, they can retry to solve a level from checkpoints or from the beginning of the level. Once all lives are spent the 'Game Over' screen appears. In many games the level has to be started all over again, no matter how far they already got. No further game progress is lost. However, this is not true in some of the older games, where all progress is lost and the game starts from the beginning. Lives are lost for instance by running into enemies, being hit by them, running into sharp objects or falling into an abyss.
All games feature the famous '?' blocks, which can be found all over the place. By jumping against them Mario reveales their contents, which are various items, coins or even plants which grow to let Mario access high up places. They always give Mario a boost of some kind which give an advantage over opponents.
Side Scrolling games
Super Mario Bros
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance (download available for Wii, 3DS and WiiU), part of the Super Mario All-Stars collection
This game already introduces the Mushroom Kingdom and many recurring characters as well as all of the major gameplay features and items to the series. The evil Koopa Tribe, a family of tortoises, has transformed the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kindom into various objects. Only Princess Peach Toadstool can lift the spell, but she has been kidnapped by King Koopa (later known as Bowser). Mario and Luigi set out to rescue the Princess.
The game is made for one or two players who control Mario (Player 1) and Luigi (Player 2) on their way through the Mushroom Kingdom. It consists of eight worlds, each of which has four levels. All of them have to be solved in their pre-defined order. At the end of each world there is a castle with a boss1. The game cannot be saved, so the player starts from the beginning every time and has to finish playing in one go.
Super Mario Bros. was the game which made side scrolling games popular. It is considered to be one of the best video games ever and with 40 million copies for the NES was the best selling Mario game in history as well as the best-selling video game of all times for almost 3 decades. It was mainly responsible for the success of the NES console. Because of all this there was a large number of re-releases and remakes for different systems.
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
Platform: Famicom Disc System2 (Download available for 3DS, Wii and WiiU), part of the Super Mario All-Stars collection
The Lost Levels is known as Super Mario Bros 2 in Japan. It was not released anywhere else until it was part of the game collection 'Super Mario All-Stars', released for SNES in 1993. The reason for this was that it was believed that this game is too difficult for American and European players. The game is basically the same as the first Super Mario Bros. but has completely new levels and is lacking a two-player mode. The number of levels and their basic design is the same as in the previous game.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Platform: NES (Download available for 3DS, Wii and WiiU), part of the Super Mario All-Stars collection
While on a picnic, Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and Toad come across a doorway to an alternate dimension. King Wart from the land of Sub-Con and his legions of Shy Guys, Ninjis, and Pirhana Plants try to prevent the heroes from making their way back home. Our heroes have to pick vegetables from the ground and hurl them at their enemies. A health-meter is used instead of Mario dying when he is hit in his small form. By the end of their adventure, it is revealed that the whole story was Mario's dream.
This game is very different from the first, and for good reason. It was originally titled Doki Doki Panic and featured three guys in turbans and a princess. The fact is, this isn't a true Mario game at all. It was made for the western market as substitute for the original Super Mario Bros. 2 and not released in Japan until a few years later 3. The player can switch between all four characters at the beginning of each of the 20 levels. Each of them has different strengths and weaknesses concearning speed, jump abilities and power.
Super Mario Bros 3
Platform: NES, Game Boy Advance (Download available for 3DS, Wii and WiiU), part of the Super Mario All-Stars collection
In the third adventure, the Kings of the Mushroom World have been transformed into different creatures, and the Princess has been kidnapped. Bowser and his children, the Koopalings, take to the sky in their warships, and it is once again up to Mario and Luigi to make everything right again.
Super Mario Bros 3 introduces an amazingly large amount of new power-ups into the Mario world. When a brother stumbles across a leaf, he transforms into a raccoon and, if running, is capable of flying great distances. Other key power-ups are the frog suit, which gives the brothers an advantage underwater (and nowhere else) and quite possibly one of the most bizarre power-ups ever: Goomba's Shoe. This makes Mario hop into a giant shoe and mercilessly stomp on enemies.
Super Mario Bros 3 is considered to be one of the greatest games of all times. It was the first Super Mario game which has an actual world map on which the players can move from one level to the other. This new feature has been copied in all later games. The game also has a two-player mode in which Mario and Luigi take turns in solving the levels.
Super Mario World
Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Game Boy Advance (Download available for Wii and WiiU)
Hailed as one of the best videogames ever, Super Mario World debuted alongside the Super Nintendo (SNES). Upon setting out to rescue the princess once again, Mario and Luigi stumble across a strange egg from which hatches a green dinosaur-like creature - Yoshi. He tells the brothers that the Koopa Kids have captured its friends, the other Yoshis. And so, with a new friend to ride on, the Mario Brothers journey through Dinosaur Land to find Princess Toadstool and to thoroughly beat the tar out of Bowser.
All power-ups that were introduced in the previous game were completely left out of Super Mario World and one new one made its debut: the cape feather. When wearing the cape, Mario is able to spin jump and fly. But the much more important addition to the game is Yoshi. When riding a Yoshi of the right colour, Mario and Luigi can use their abilities such as spit fire, pound the ground, or even fly. Mounting a Youshi even changes the music of the game, adding 'gallopping' congo drums.
New Super Mario Bros.
Platform: Nintendo DS (Download available for WiiU)
After 10 years of only producing Super Mario games in a 3d environment (see below), Nintendo made another side-scrolling Mario game – this time for a handheld device. The games of the New Super Mario series are not truly 2D games, but rather made in 3d but shown from a strictly sideways perspective. The story is the same as before: Pricess Peach is kidnapped and the player can choose to take on the role of either Mario or Luigi to go and rescue her.
New Super Mario Bros. takes some of the new ideas featured in 3d games and puts them into a 2d environment. These are for instance the wall-jump, which lets the character jump higher by jumping against a wall. The game again consists of eight worlds which the player crosses on his way through the map.The graphics have not the old pixel style of the previous 2d games anymore but were upgraded to a more cartoon like design.
In addition to the normal game mode, there is also a 2-player mode available. The players who control Mario and Luigi compete in one of 5 repeating levels by collecting stars. All levels are similar to levels in the normal game. There is also a series of minigames for one or more players.
Super Mario Bros. Wii
Platform: Wii (compatible with WiiU)
In the second part of the New Super Mario Bros. series Princess Peach can be rescued by up to 4 players at the same time. All characters are shown on the same screen, meaning that if a player falls behind the others they loose a life because they 'fall off the screen'. Players who have lost a life re-appear in a bubble floating above the others, from which they can be freed by them. It is also possible to get into a bubble voluntarily and that way skip difficult sections of the game. If the players are unable to finish a level after 8 tries, they have the option to summon Luigi ( the 'Super Guide') who will do it for them. The players can get back control at any time. If luigi finishes the level the players can progress to the next but will not get any rewards for the level they could not complete themselves.
The game again offers a the competitive multiplayer game 'Coin Rush' where players have to collect coins in different levels.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
The goal of the game is to collect one million coins. It was the first Nintendo game ever that was also available as download as well as in stores. New Super Mario Bros. 2 can be played by two people on two individual 3DS handheld consoles. Players can choose whether they cooperate in beating the levels or play against each other. Coin Rush is also available again.
New Super Mario Bros. U
Bowser does not kidnap Princess Peach but simply takes over the whole castle and shoots Mario and Luigi to the other end of the country. The game is very similar tot hat of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. It can be played by up to 4 players on the same screen, killed players end up in a bubble and there is again the Super Guide function and Coin Battles. Players can join or leave the game at any point within levels. One additional player can also use the WiiU's touchscreen on the game pad controller to aid other players for instance by creating blocks to jump on from thin air or stun enemies so they cannot harm other players.
For Luigi's 30th birthday nintendo launched the add-on New Super Luigi U, which features Luigi instead of Mario as main character.
Super Mario Maker
Super Mario Maker was released for Mario's 30th birthday. It allows players to build and play their own Super Mario levels and share them online. For this the player has a large number of different elements from Mario games which they can arrange to form courses. More elements are unlocked by spending time with designing game levels. Players can also arrange their own and downloaded levels to worlds. There are also four different game styles to choose from, which pick up the graphic styles as well as gameplay elements from different games in the Super Mario series. There is also a large number of pre-installed sample courses for players to complete.
Super Mario 64
Platform: Nintendo64, Nintendo DS (Download available for Wii and WiiU)
Bowser has kidnapped the princess and hidden the Power Stars in the various paintings hanging on the walls of the castle. Mario can enter these paintings, which serve as doors to the different levels, each level offering a few different tasks to complete. The castle itself takes the place of a world map. This game was not only made possible by the better graphics of the N64 but also the new kind of controller, which features a small joystick.
Super Mario 64 is a landmark in videogame history, not only is it the first 3D Mario game, but it heavily influenced the whole range of 3d console games which should follow. Almost all the classic Mario enemies return and there are also a few new ones, but not a single power-up from the old games (except the one-up mushroom) makes an appearance. Instead there are three caps: one for flying, one to pass through walls, and one to transform Mario into living metal. Mario also learns a whole range of new moves like jumps and kicks.This was the first time Mario, Princess Toadstool, or Bowser have ever spoken in a game, and it was also where we finally learn Princess Toadstool's first name: Peach. The game is only for one single player and Luigi does not make an appearence at all.
Super Mario Sunshine
Platform: Game Cube (compatible with Wii)
Mario, Princess Peach and an entourage of Mushroom People fly to the sunny Isle Delfino. Unfortunately a strange doppleganger of Mario covers the whole island in a paint-like substance and Mario himself has to clean it all away.
The island serves as a map through which various levels are accessed. With the help of the F.L.U.D.D. (Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device) Mario has to clean all levels from paint and finish various tasks in every level. The game is for only one player.
The only power-ups in the game, aside from the one-up mushrooms, are the three nozzles for F.L.U.D.D. One would make Mario hover, another would make him run or swim very fast, and the third would launch him straight into the air. Because of the island theme of Super Mario Sunshine, the game levels are not as varied as before, and unfortunately the camera, which has to be controlled by the player and does not adjust itself correctly at all times. Super Mario Sunshine is regarded to be not a very good Mario game, if compared to others of the series, but still a good jump and run game if compared to others of the genre.
Super Mario Galaxy
Platform: Wii (compatible with WiiU)
Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach together with her whole castle and brings them to the center of the universe and Mario himself is shot to a small planet where finds new friends who help him to travel the galaxy and free Princess Peach.
Super Mario Galaxy and its successor are certainly the most 3-dimensional Mario games which have ever been made. Each of the 42 levels consists of a number of micro planets and gravity is the main aspect of gameplay. Mario can run all around the differently sized planets where he encounters various enemies and puzzles which require 3-dimensional thinking.
Super Mario Galaxy can be played by two players, one controlling Mario while the other helps for instance by collecting special items and shooting them at enemies. The game is visually stunning and very inventive in its design and has also a very sophisticated orchestral soundtrack.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
platform: Wii (compatible with WiiU)
The story and gameplay of Super Mario Galaxy 2 are very similar to Super Mario Galaxy. At a later stage of the game Luigi is available for playing instead of Mario and Yoshi also makes an appearence. As the game is more difficult than the original Super Mario Galaxy there is also a feature similar to the Super Guide in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
Super Mario 3D Land
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Super Mario 3D Land goes back to a more 2D-like level design in which paths are very much pre-determined. The game combines elements from both 2d and 3d Super Mario games. The graphics style resembles that of the 2D New Super Mario games series. In case a player does not manage to beat a level there are various items designed to get them through after a certain number of failed attempts. The game is designed for only one player.
Super Mario 3D World
Super Mario 3D World is very similar to Super Mario 3D Land, but the path through the game is not quite as linear anymore and there are more puzzles and even whole puzzle levels featuring Toad. It is possible to play Super Mario 3d World with up to 4 players simultanously, taking on the roles of 5 different characters with different abilities. The players work together to beat the levels, but get individual scores based on how well they played. Additionally the game pad controller can be used as a booster in a similar way as in New Super Mario Bros. U and the bubble-feature for dead players re-appers.
Super Mario 3d World is probably the Mario game with the largest number of bonus levels. The game starts with a very family friendly level of difficulty, but after encountering Bowser for the first time things really start to get interesting.
With over 300 million copies sold the Super Mario series is the best selling video games franchise after Tetris. It is also one of the longest running games series in the video games business, and there is no end in sight. Every new game is a success and new Super Mario games are constantly being developed.
Apart from the main Super Mario games series there is also a very large number of spin-off games. Some of the games are also jump-and run games, but there are also Super Mario role-playing games, the Mario Kart racing games series, puzzles and many more.