The 15 best Mario games of all time

UPDATE: Where does Super Mario Odyssey land?

It's been 36 years since Mario – first called "Jumpman" in those simpler days – first leapt into our hearts in the original Donkey Kong, and we've savoured nearly every moment since with the loveable action-plumber.

He's appeared in hundreds of games now, spanning all manner of genres, platforms, and styles, but Nintendo's leading man has an incredible legacy for quality: his core games, in particular, have consistently defined and redefined genres, not to mention singlehandedly made pricey gaming hardware essential purchases.

This week's release of Super Mario Odyssey for Nintendo Switch only continues his impressive legacy, delivering dazzling new worlds to explore with the fresh ability to possess enemies and creatures along the way.

With that fresh in our minds, here's an updated look back on the best games he's been a part of – many of them formative building blocks in our own gaming histories.

15. Super Mario Maker (2015, Wii U)

True, this isn't a typical Mario game in the sense that creation is the defining element, but Nintendo has done a fantastic job of making the process fun, accessible, and totally perfect for the Wii U GamePad.

And believe it or not, this is some of the most fun we've had playing classic-flavoured Mario stages in some time. The wealth of player-created challenges can keep you going for some time, and Nintendo's own quick-hit creations are loose, silly, and completely fab.

14. Super Mario Sunshine (2002, GameCube)

As the first 3D entry to follow the utterly brilliant Super Mario 64, the GameCube's Super Mario Sunshine couldn't help but be let down by expectations – not to mention the seeming reliance on a weird new gimmick.

Yet Nintendo's creativity overcame any concerns, naturally, as the FLUDD water-sprayer – used to clean up gunk around the sunny island – unlocked great new platform gameplay elements.

13. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (2014, Wii U)

Each Super Smash Bros. game was excellent for its time, but this is a series that keeps getting better and better – not only due to the expanding roster, but also to the bulging array of Nintendo fan service bundled in.

While die-hard fans stick by Melee, we'd say the Wii U game is the best yet, delivering frantic eight-player fighting action, both local and online play, and a fantastic array of fun found within. And thanks to downloadable content, it got even wilder.

12. New Super Mario Bros. (2006, Nintendo DS)

What's old was made new again (obviously) with New Super Mario Bros, which put a modern twist on the classics for the Nintendo DS.

By and large, the game stuck to the old playbook: side-scrolling challenges in themed stages, albeit with 3D graphics instead of the old sprites. But newer elements, like the ground pound and super-sized Mario power-up, helped give it a fresh, exciting feel.

Follow-ups have worn the premise a little thinner; the first is still our favorite of these.

11. Mario Kart 8 (2014, Wii U)

As the eighth entry in a series that laid down its fundamentals more than two decades before, Mario Kart 8 might not be the most important entry – but it's definitely the best to date.

Mario Kart 8's weird magnetic hybrid cars allow for looping, twisting tracks that veer off in odd directions, and it looked dramatically prettier than any previous entry. But what really made it so great was the sheer variety of tracks and locales, especially with the DLC bringing in Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, and other favourites.

The later Switch version, Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, is the must-play edition. It bundles in all the DLC, brings in family-friendly accessibility options, and gives us a proper Battle mode after the slight misfire of the original Wii U release.