Despite all the new releases we keep getting over the years, there’s one series that continues to span the generations. No matter what background you come from, chances are you’ve played a Mario game at some point in your life. To celebrate the sheer size and greatness of Mario’s history, the Shacknews staff decided to nail down their favorite worlds or levels.
Question: What is your favorite Mario world or level?
Beep Block Skyway - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Beep Editor
There have been so many fun ideas incorporated into the Mario franchise. Some of them have revolved around power-ups and others have centered around unique level design. This leans a lot more into the latter, but also utilizes one of the series' strongest elements: the music.
Beep Block Skyway (World 4-3 from Super Mario 3D World) isn't the only instance where the Mario series has used the idea of rhythmic Beep Blocks, blocks that blink in and out of existence to the beat of the music. It might be the best, though, because it also combines the Beep Blocks with the Double Cherries. So trying to manage multiple Marios while also keeping the beat of the music becomes one of the game's most fun challenges. It's hard to believe that the Mario games would hit their peak, in terms of level design, nearly 30 years after the original game, but that's what Beep Block Skyway is to me.
New Donk City - Donovan Erskine, Bops to Mario music
Mario Odyssey is already such a joy of a game, but no level in the Mario series feels more magical than New Donk City, specifically the concert at the end of the level. The bright lights, the showmanship, the transitions between 3D and 2D Mario gameplay just feel fantastic. This is all elevated by Jump Up Superstar, the original song sang by Pauline during the concert. It’s upbeat, carefree, and just happy as hell. I can’t play through the ending of New Donk City without smiling, instantly put in a better mood.
SMB3 Giant Land - Blake Morse, Kickin’ it old school
I can’t really fully explain it, maybe I’m more of a size queen than I thought I was, but there’s just something about the massively oversized baddies in Super Mario Bros. 3’s Giant Land that just struck a chord with me. Even as a kid I always thought it was extra cool because it made every enemy feel like a big boss fight. While I couldn’t pinpoint a specific level within that world that I like more than the other when I looked back and took a moment to reflect, it was still the first thing that came to my mind. Kicking around giant koopa shells and squashing big ole goombas just resonates with me.
SMB3 World 1-4 - Chris Jarrard, Has better opinions than other staffers
I probably spent the most time playing Super Mario Bros. 3 out of any other mainline Mario title, so, naturally, my selection comes from the best NES Mario game. I find all of the first world in Super Mario Bros. 3 to be close to perfection, but I think I’d select the fourth level as my favorite. Many players opt to skip this level as it doesn’t need to be cleared to get out of the first world and it doesn’t have any warp flutes like the preceding level, but it's the one I like. It is the first level that forces players to move forward and any wrong maneuver results in death. I spent countless hours trying to perfect my leaps so I could potentially break all the block in the level without dying.
Bob-omb Battlefield - Sam Chandler, Likes the classics
Super Mario 64 remains my personal favorite Mario game in the entire several-decades-spanning franchise. To that end, my favorite level has got to be Bob-omb Battlefield. As far as first-levels go, Bob-omb Battlefield gives you a slice of just about everything you can experience in Super Mario 64, with a few exceptions. There are moving objects that can knock you over, various enemies that you can interact with, cannons to shoot out of and flying hats to zoom around wearing. It’s a fantastic introduction to the first 3D Mario title and one I find myself returning to every few years.
If I was to get a bit meta with my answer, I’d say the actual Mushroom Castle. This thing has so many nooks and crannies and other secrets that make it a joy to run around and explore. Plus, diving into paintings! What a novel idea.
World 1-1 - Bill Lavoy, Co-EIC
When I think of Super Mario Bros. on NES the first thing that pops into my head is 1-1. I instantly get a mental image of the level and different components that make it up. It’s a level I must have played thousands of times and, even after years of inactivity, I can still play it today and remember where everything is. It’s like a snapshot forever saved in my head that acts like a historical record for one of the most influential games of my life.
Big Boo’s Haunt - Josh Hawkins, Used to Be Scared of Boos
As a kid, playing around with my N64, I spent a lot of time exploring the worlds of Majora’s Mask, Ocarina of Time, and Super Mario 64. While I loved the entirety of Super Mario 64, the one level that always stood out to me the most is Big Boo’s Haunt.
When I first started playing Super Mario 64, this level used to creep me out. Despite the fun ghost-like design of the Boos, I was always a bit scared of ghosts and Super Mario was no different. The sheer level of atmosphere as you explored as well as the sounds of the Boos and other ghoulies meandering around was always one of my favorite parts of the area.
It took a lot for younger me to work up the courage to dive into the world wholeheartedly and it’s stood the test of time as one of my favorite areas to explore in any Mario game since.
Supermassive Galaxy - TJ Denzer, likes his news big & his Koopa Troopas bigger
I think the giant world in Super Mario Bros. 3 is great. It established a very cool thing early on in the Mario series that Nintendo would go on to return to in later games. But my favorite version of this concept is the Supermassive Galaxy level in Super Mario Galaxy 2. In this area, not only are the enemies big and question blocks big, but so are even other Super Mario staples like the coins. You don’t collect the giant coins. You use their spinning orbit as levitated walls to traverse the level.
Then there’s just the big shiny takes on Goombas, Piranha Plants, Goombas, and even Lumas. Super Mario Galaxy 2’s Supermassive Galaxy was the “big Mario level” theme thoughtfully evolved to a much cooler and polished scale. It will stand out in my mind as the definitive take on this concept until some new and more-polished Mario game once again takes advantage of the theme that thoughtfully outshines even the Super Mario Galaxy 2 version.
Donut Plains - Greg Burke, Head of Video
I thought the cape was the coolest thing in the world. In the Donut plains I remember being able to fly around and “cheat” the whole level. I felt smart. Little did I know that everyone could basically do it. It’s still a fun level with a cheerful overtone.
Grass Land - Steve Tyminski, Stevetendo show host.
What's my favorite Mario level? That’s like asking a parent who their favorite child is.
There are so many good choices to pick from. I could say 1-1 from the NES game. That level throws you right into the Mario fun; being able to hear that iconic Mario music. It also lets you take care of a Goomba right away. You could also say any of the Mario Odyssey levels as they also have great music and gameplay styles.
However, I think for my choice I’m going with Grass Land from Mario 3. It has great music( if you can’t tell, I really like video game music) as well as showing off how great Mario 3 will be. You get all kinds of stages in Grass Land, such as platforming, auto scrolling, and boss fights. You even get Toad houses and Hammer Bros to fight. You can also find two secret warp whistles in Grass Land so how cool is that? I’m going with Grass Land but there are so many good choices here.
Steam Gardens - Bryan Lefler, Sucker for Surf-Rock
Picking one Mario level as a favorite is almost an impossible task as my late night Shacknews Twitch cohort, Steve Tyminski, points out. Being a lifetime Mario fan, there are hundreds if not thousands of levels that have delighted my platforming sensibilities. The level that stands out to me in recent years is Steam Gardens from Super Mario Odyssey.
I would be lying if I said that this pick was purely motivated by the level design itself. Steam Gardens features a gorgeous natural wooded setting that is contrasted starkly by the rusted and aging metal structures reminiscent of giant suspension bridges. The allure of modern architecture being overgrown and taken back by the surrounding wilderness is a powerful one and has been featured countless times in pop culture. These themes struck a chord within me in Steam Gardens, but none as powerful as the music.
Music is an enormous part of why some levels stand out and why others may be forgotten. The surf rock anthem in Steam Gardens not only elevates the rest of the level, it cements it into your subconscious. The first time I heard the breezy guitar twangs matched with groovy bass lines and killer organ hooks, I was completely entranced. The level doesn’t exactly evoke the feeling of surfing, yet somehow the musical accompaniment fits in a way I can’t fully explain. I loved the entire experience of Super Mario Odyssey—from the opening to the ending credits, and even further still. Steam Gardens stood out in a memorable way since I first stepped off the Odyssey and into the Wooded Kingdom.
Do you agree with our choices? We'd love to hear more about your favorite Mario worlds or levels. Leave us a comment and join the conversation below!