Top 10 Mario Games -- Pre-'Galaxy'

smb.jpgFollowing up last weeks Virtual Console release of the heralded "Super Mario Bros. 3," and on the cusp of the release of the next greatest thing in Mario's world, "Super Mario Galaxy," it's time for the ultimate breakdown of the top 10 greatest Mario games of all time.

Right off the bat, I sense that many of you may have some issues with the order of my choices [Editor's note: please send all hate mail to Jason], but you need to understand that I am an 8-bit, side-scroller traditionalist. "Super Mario Bros." changed my life, and because of that, I believe that Mario should never have left his 2-D world.

Also, I just want to be clear on the ground rules of my list:

1. These are "Mario Bros." games in the most traditional sense of the word. No spin-offs, no sports games; platformers and arcade games only.

2. Miyamoto-san is not a required component, and you will see where some of his greatest games fall.

1. "Super Mario World" (SNES) - the epitome of Mario's adventures. A huge world, an awesome cape, a little dinosaur that isn't annoying yet, and it came packed in with your SNES. As good as "SMB3" is, it only set the stage for "Super Mario World." There wasn't one thing that got left out of this game. Just think about it … how satisfying was it to find the super-secret hidden entrances to Star Road?

2 . "Super Mario Bros. 3" (NES) - so close to the top, but just not there. While it is widely recognized as the best NES game, "SMB3" falls short of the number one spot because World took the side-scrolling formula and just did everything better. Plus, the Tanooki Suit made first and only appearance, and it is still the most inexplicably awesome power-up Mario has ever used.

3. "Super Mario Bros." (NES) - the original, a classic, and the most important game of all time. We first get to meet Super Mario, Bowser, Toad (Toad's awesome) and a whole host of other mainstay characters that shaped the lives of so many 80's youths. I'm pretty sure it would be hard to find a gamer out there, over the age of 20 that this game didn't have some kind of effect on their life.

4. "New Super Mario Bros." (NDS) - a return to form, and a worthy successor to Mario World. After 15 years Mario finally returned to his roots, and proved that there is still some fun left in 2-D games. Aside from the issues that some people had with saving throughout the game, the gameplay truly holds up, and makes jumping on koopas fun again.

5. "Super Mario Bros 2" (Japanese Original) (FDS) - one of the hardest games on the list, and unplayable in the U.S. (in it's original, 8-bit glory) until only a few weeks ago. This one rounds out the top five because it is basically what the original should have been. However, if it was, the NES would never have caught on. I always questioned Nintendo's hesitation to release it in the U.S., until I really gave it a shot on the VC, and it may have actually been a good decision for them.

6. "Super Mario Land" (GB) - Mario, in your pocket for the first time. While it might not be the best looking game on the list, it was the first one to allow you to play anywhere. It's also the first time that Mario's feet left the ground, and the last time (up until non-traditional "Super Paper Mario" was released earlier this year)  that shmups and Mario have crossed paths.

7. "Super Mario 2" (NES) - not an original Mario Bros. game, but still a lot of fun. Aside from spawning a handful of characters that have been accepted into the Mushroom Kingdom without any questions, "SMB2" was the first to allow for the Princess and Toad to be playable characters. In other words, Toad finally get's his place to shine - only to never again return as a playable character in a traditional Mario game. Sadly, Mouser, Fryguy, and Tri-clyde have not been seen since.

8. "Super Mario 64" (N64) - there goes any credibility I may have ever had. There was something about the controls of this game that always bothered me … oh wait… maybe it's the fact that I absolutely hated the N64 controller that made this game (as well as many others on the system) truly difficult for me to enjoy. The fanboys are officially circling at this point.

9. "Mario Bros." (Arcade) - wait… Mario has a brother? Luigi, the neglected younger sibling makes his first appearance in one of the greatest displays of sibling rivalry in the history of video games. Which brother could stomp more koopas, and collect more coins? From one younger sibling to another… my money was always on Luigi.

10. "Super Mario Sunshine" (GC)- Mario's squeaky clean appearance on the Gamecube. Was it me, or was all the fun sucked out of a game where you go around cleaning things. I understand that that wasn’t the only thing you do in the game, but, I mean, come on. This game barely made it on the list.

I'm well aware that I could be less than twenty four hours away from a drastic overhaul of this list, once "Super Mario Galaxy" makes its way into my hands, but right now, this is where the list stands. I have my fingers crossed that "Galaxy" will be able to change my mind about Mario in 3-D, but I'm still a bit skeptical. Only time will tell.