The Mario Brothers (let's not forget Luigi, now) officially turn 30 this weekend as Sunday will mark three decades since the release of Super Mario Bros on the original Nintendo Entertainment System.
Since 1985, Mario himself has appeared in dozens of games covering almost every conceivable genre (though we're still waiting for the Super Mario First Person Shooter), and has provided a constant in a constantly evolving gaming landscape in terms of both technology, taste, and business. And perhaps the most remarkable thing is that given Nintendo's high standards, there is virtually no complete dud amongst them.
So strap yourself in and get ready to take a trip down memory lane as we count down the 30th best selling Mario games of all time.
A note on methodology: Whilst we're fairly confident in these figures, we have compiled them from a number of sources. For example, it is unclear whether Virtual Console re-releases affect it - but broadly speaking, the list and ranked positions speak to the magnitude of the success of each title. Similarly, defining exactly what makes a Mario game is harder than you might image: Does Smash Bros count? What about Luigi's Mansion? Yoshi's Island? And so on.
30) Mario Kart 8 (2014, WiiU) - 5.43m
The most recent title in the Mario Kart franchise and the only WiiU title to make the top 30. Whilst one of the best selling WiiU games, poor consoles sales have hampered the success of what is widely regarded as an excellent game.
29) Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 (2001, GBA) - 5.69 million
Just as the first Game Boy Advance Mario title was a remake, this game too is a remake of Super Mario World (see below). The game was later released on the Virtual Console not for 3DS but for WiiU, perhaps as it is arguably a more definitive version of Super Mario World than the original.
28) Mario Kart: Super Circuit (2001, GBA) - 5.91 million
When the Game Boy Advance was released and shown to be capable of running much more detailed games than the Game Boy Color, porting Mario Kart over from the SNES must have been a no-brainer. Super Circuit was one of the major games for the system to make use not just of the four-player link-cable, but also the ability to have players join the race without owning the game themselves. When linked up, players without a cart would download the track from the host Game Boy. The only downside? If you don't own the game you have to play as Yoshi.
27) Super Mario Sunshine (2002, Gamecube) - 6.28 million
Sunshine was the Gamecube's much-anticipated follow-up to the revolutionary Super Mario 64 and saw Mario tasked with cleaning up Isle Delfino (named for the console's codename, Project Dolphin). In a break with tradition the game came out around a year into the console's lifespan, having launched instead with Luigi's Mansion - which is one of the many reasons often given to explain the Gamecube's fairly disastrous sales.
26) Mario Kart: Double Dash‼ (2003, Gamecube) - 6.96 million
Who needs one rider when you can have two? In a change-up for the Gamecube version of the racing game players had to select two characters who could team up. This meant that players could carry two weapons at a time and switch drivers using the controller's Z-button.
25) Super Smash Bros for 3DS (2014, 3DS) - 7.04 million
Smash Bros as a series now classes as long running, but this was the first handheld iteration. To ensure the fast-paced action is legible on a small screen, the game opted for a cell-shaded art style, and puts thick lines around the edge of characters to ensure they stand out.
24) Super Smash Bros Melee (2001, Gamecube) - 7.41 million
The Gamecube sequel to the N64 fighter. Interestingly, the AI is much the same as the N64 version but runs much, much faster. If you run the two games side-by-side, configured with the same weapons and characters, and all computer controlled players, the results will be nearly identical.
23) Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010, Wii) - 7.41 million
A sequel to smash hit Super Mario Galaxy (see below), the game offered my levels, more challenges and more puzzles to supplement the original, and this is no bad thing - as over 7 million people agreed.
22) Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988, NES) - 7.46 million
Now anyone who wants to be a videogames nerd knows something about this game. A game called Super Mario Bros 2 was released in Japan, but was considered too difficult for American kids to play. So instead, Nintendo took an unrelated Japanese title called Doki Doki Panic and retooled it, replacing all of the characters with Mario, Luigi and friends. This is the reason the game features a slightly inexplicably plant-based theme, and why you spend half the game pulling objects out of the ground rather than from boxes.
21) Super Mario Kart (1992, Super Nintendo) - 8.76 million
Back in around 1990 someone at Nintendo must have realised that everyone loved Mario - but they might love him more if he had something to drive. And so, Super Mario Kart was born. Very much setting the formula for the future games in the series, the game pushed Super Nintendo hardware to its limits, with cartridges requiring a special chip to enable special "Mode 7" graphics to handle the 3D mathematics.
20) Mario Party 8 (2007, Wii) - 8.85 million
Mario Party 8 for Wii sold respectfully, hence its appearance on this list but perhaps was indicative of a wider creative malaise. Not only was this the 8th instalment of a series that only started in 1998, and not only did it run in old-fashioned 4:3 on widescreen TVs, but it was another bloody mini-game collection for Wii. Ah well.
19) New Super Mario Bros 2 (2012, 3DS) - 9.16 million
Is there such thing as too much of a good thing? Nintendo was hoping not with the release NSMB2 on the 3DS which once again brought side-scrolling Mario into the 21st century. This iteration of the game was slightly cash obsessed, requiring the player to collect large numbers of coins in order to progress.
18) Mario Party DS (2007, DS) - 9.31 million
Yet another instalment in the Mario Party series the game used the device's unique touchscreen in 74 different minigames. Astonishingly, despite its entire existence essentially being for multiplayer, the game lacked any online play.
17) Mario Kart 64 (1996, N64) - 9.87 million
Mario Kart made the jump into 3D with the N64 and with it introduced four player mode to the series for the first time. Interestingly, the line-up of drivers changed quite close to release. The planned Magikoopa (think a Koopa dressed as a wizard for some reason) was wisely replaced with Donkey Kong before the game was finalised.
16) Super Mario 3D Land (2011, 3DS) - 10 million
Take New Super Mario Bros, add a 3D screen what do you get? Super Mario 3D Land, which hit the 3DS in 2011. The game has 96 levels to complete and is the third best selling 3DS game of all time.
15) Super Mario All-Stars (1993, Super Nintendo) - 10.55 million
In recent years Nintendo has perhaps gone a little overboard on the nostalgia factor, repackaging and re-releasing the same games over and over again. But this is where that arguably all started. Mario All Stars packed together Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 2, and Super Mario World all on the same cartridge, along with The Lost Levels, the name given to the game that was Super Mario Bros 2 in Japan, which had never before made it to the west.
14) Super Mario 64 DS (2004, DS) - 11.05 million
Another new handheld console and another reworking of a console classic. To launch Nintendo's first handheld capable of 3D graphics the company took the game that launched Nintendo into the 3D era, Mario 64. The game is much the same, but now you can also play as Yoshi, Luigi and Wario and, perhaps surprisingly, the graphics are much better than those of the N64 version too.
13) Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (1992, Game Boy) - 11.18 million
The second outing for a Mario platformer on the Game Boy certainly made more than six gold coins for Nintendo when it shifted over 11 million copies. Filesize-wise, the game was eight times larger than the first Super Mario Land. The game is perhaps most notable for introducing Wario for the first time - who would later get his own spin-off in Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 and Wario Land 2.
12) Super Mario 64 (1996, N64) - 11.91 million
When Mario made the leap to 3D players were unsure whether the game they know and love would be able to make the transition - but it turns out that under the stewardship of Shigeru Miyamoto, everything always works out okay. The game launched the N64 and was by a long way the stand-out launch game.
11) Mario Kart 7 (2011, 3DS) - 11.92 million
Mario Kart 7 built on the legacy of previous Mario racers and included many tracks from the game's past, and eventually became the second best selling 3DS game of all time (behind Pokemon X & Y). The game made use of the 3DS's "Spotpass" feature, which enabled players to seamlessly download ghost times from other players they pass in the street.
10) Super Mario Galaxy (2007, Wii) - 12.50 million
Don't get us wrong, Sunshine on the Gamecube was still great, but it wasn't quite up there with Mario 64, but luckily Galaxy on the Wii was the return to form we'd hoped for. An almost perfectly performed platformer, the game saw Mario taken not just into the third dimension but around 360 degrees as a game world based around planets meant that world's could be literally circumnavigated.
9) Super Smash Bros Brawl (2008, Wii) - 12.77 million
This counts as a Mario game, right? The fighter brings together Nintendo's pantheon of well known characters in the ultimate show-down. In addition to featuring Mario himself and a number of characters from his own universe, the game was also notable for including Sonic the Hedgehog and therefore finally answering the eternal playground question of who out of the two would win in a fight.
8) Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988, NES) - 17.28 million
Arguably the high point of Mario's 2D adventures, the game also spawned an utterly dreadful cartoon series called The Adventures of Super Mario Bros 3, which is on Netflix if you want to subject yourself to it.
7) Super Mario Land (1989, Game Boy) - 18.14 million
In 1989 Mario made it to Nintendo's nascent Game Boy in Super Mario Land. The game was essentially a stripped down version of the NES original. After beating the game it unlocked a hard mode where you could play again through the same levels but with more enemies. But get this: As there was no save game function, if you power off you have to play through the normal game all over again to access it. Yikes.
6) Super Mario World (1990, Super Nintendo) - 20.61 million
The fourth official game in the Mario platformers series and the game that introduced Yoshi to the world. The dinosaur would later gets his own spin-off games such as Yoshi's Island and the more recent Yoshi's Wooly World on WiiU.
5) Mario Kart DS (2005, DS) - 23.59 million
Mario Kart raced on to the DS in 2005 and was the first of the series to feature Waluigi and Princess Daisy as playable characters - they haven't been seen since, so perhaps they've lost their driving license.
4) New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2010, Wii) - 29.32 million
The DS release of New Super Mario Bros (see below) was so successful it was just begging for a home console release, and so the answer came in the form of a Wii version of the game in 2010. This version added the ability to have four players running along simultaneously.
3) New Super Mario Bros. (2006, DS) - 30.79 million
So everyone loves 3D Mario in a wide, free roaming world but what about those who love the classic Mario gameplay? New Super Mario Bros was the answer, and took the Mario series back to its side-scrolling roots, albeit with souped up 3D graphics. The DS release introduced the ability to make Mario massive and stomp his way through levels in a way that had never been seen before.
2) Mario Kart Wii (2008, Wii) - 36.38 million
As with every Nintendo console, the Wii also got a release of Mario Kart and it was a big hit too as the first game in the series to feature online play and motion controls. The game came bundled with a steering-wheel type accessory which the game could be mounted into, though true Mario Kart purists would probably have preferred to plug-in a Gamecube controller.
1) Super Mario Bros. (1985, NES) - 40.24 million
And finally the best selling Mario game is back where it all began in 1985 with Super Mario Bros for the NES. Perhaps the reason the figure is so high is partially down to the game coming bundled when buyers bought the original console, but perhaps it also speaks to the game's enduring legacy. SMB has been re-released a number of times on the Virtual Console and so on, and is utterly iconic.
Creator Shigeru Miyamoto revealed when promoting Mario Maker for WiiU something you might not know about the game: That the level design of 1-1, the first level in the game, was aimed specifically at teaching players how to play: Before you could fall down a pit there was a fall that you can recover from, to show how important it is to jump - and the first enemy you encounter is positioned deliberately so that you'll likely head-butt one of the floating boxes to reveal what it is inside.
This is indicative of why, even 30 years ago, whilst the graphics may have aged considerably the intuitive design found from the very first Mario game is utterly timeless.
What's your favourite Mario title? Let us know in the comments.