The 13 best Mario games of all time

Nintendo's icon has starred in a load of amazing games, and these are our favourites

It's been 34 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 making pricey gaming hardware an essential purchase.

Today's release of Super Mario Maker for Wii U brings a new wrinkle in his epic career: the ability for players to create their own Mario platform levels using the classic design elements.

With that in mind, we thought we'd look back on the best games he's been a part of – many of them formative building blocks in our own gaming histories.

13. Super Mario Maker (2015, Wii U)

Surprise! It's Super Mario Maker. 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 will keep us going for some time, and Nintendo's own quick-hit creations are loose, silly, and completely fab.

12. 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.

11. 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.

Last year's 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 with downloadable content, it's still expanding.

10. 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.