Mario is one of the few names that everyone associates with video games, even if they don’t play them. If you ask someone out of touch what they picture when you say “video games,” they’ll likely describe someone running from left to right, jumping across platforms and going down pipes. Everyone can relate to Mario, and there’s a Mario game out there for everyone – even if you hate platformers! Actually, some of the best Mario games aren’t platformers at all. Here are the 7 best, spin-off Mario games.
I recently became addicted to picross games. It’s not really something that sounds fun when you hear about it, but once you complete a few puzzles on your own you never want to stop. I remember browsing Gamefaqs just looking for people to nerd out with, and I happened upon a brief but perfect explanation of picross from user Ippongi_Ryuta. “It’s a logical puzzle game that takes place on a grid with numbers on the outer edges, the numbers tell you how many squares in that row or column needs to be filled in. When you fill in all the appropriate squares, it forms a picture and you feel good about yourself.” That’s it in a nutshell. Mario Picross takes that basic formula and offers over 200 puzzles for your number-staring, block chiseling, cross-referencing pleasure. It’s only a few bucks on the 3DS virtual console, so skip a Starbucks one morning and check this out instead. You’ll thank me.
Mario Golf (Game Boy Color)
When I was a kid I didn’t like taking long trips to visit family for holidays. I was just a brat and I hated to be away from my bedroom and all of my video games, but I did look forward to two things at my grandma’s house: great food, and my cousin’s Game Boy Color with Mario Golf. To this day, Hot Shots: Open Tee and Mario Golf are the only two golf games I’ve ever enjoyed. Any developers working on RPGs, adventure games, or platformers need to go back and play this game and take notes. The pacing was absolutely perfect, and there were some strong RPG elements that made progressing through the multiple clubs and taking on various masters feel very Pokemon -esque . All in all it’s an incredible port that, for many, outshines its N64 counterpart.
Super Mario Strikers
This game brought some serious life back to a seriously anemic GameCube software lineup. If you never got the chance to play Mario Golf and you’ve always been skeptical of Mario sports games as cheap spin-offs, then you have to play Super Mario Strikers . Developer Next Level Games was previously known for NHL Hitz Pro and it definitely shows in Strikers , which is a much more physical game than you might expect. Like most multiplayer Mario games, Strikers is best enjoyed with a group of friends. Slow-motion power shots, items whizzing about the field of play, familiar faces, and over-the-top arcade gameplay earn Super Mario Strikers a place on many shelves as the go-to multiplayer game for when friends showed up.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
This GBA classic gives me the warm fuzzies. This is the true sequel to the SNES game Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars , which just so happens to be one of the ugliest games of all time. Superstar Saga , however, looks great, and plays better. If you enjoyed Paper Mario ‘s combat then you’ll have no trouble toppling enemies and dodging attacks here. Having to control both Mario and Luigi during battles, especially during boss battles when you’ll need to perform special Bro Attacks which are executed through short quick time events, is an absolute pleasure. Superstar Saga also has some of the funniest writing you’ll find in any RPG for the GBA.
Mario Paint was really ahead of its time if you think about it. It came with a neat little mouse that plugged right into your SNES, and the game itself was more a collection of apps than anything else. Using a variety of tools you could create works of art from scratch, color in some pre-made templates, compose or edit musical scores using a variety of different instruments and sounds, and… swat flies. Those of you with a Wii U might have noticed that quite a few sound effects and assets from Mario Paint (such as the undo dog) found their way into Super Mario Maker as well – in fact, Super Mario Maker was originally planned to be a Wii U version of Mario Paint . This is a classic not to be missed.
Mario Kart 8
I was so impressed with Mario Kart 8 . This was the first game in a very long time that I felt compelled to show as many friends as possible. If you have any doubts as to whether or not the Wii U is capable of putting out visually stunning games then look no further; this is a head-turner. My favorite bartender back in Nashville is a gamer and I remember she let me bring in my Wii U one night with a bunch of controllers and set up Mario Kart 8 on one of the big TVs. I made a lot of friends that night, and everyone who saw this game in motion wanted to play it. It’s one of the best games of this generation, and it’s the best Mario Kart game that’s ever been made.
If Paper Mario was the only first-party game put out for the N64, the system still would have been worth buying. This is an RPG that could have only come from Nintendo, and it shines so brightly. It was only after playing Paper Mario that I found myself caring to know more about koopas and toads. The characters and comrades you meet throughout your journey are so funny and so charming, and the combat system – augmented as it is by stamps and various party members – keeps engagements fresh for the entire 25 hour story. It’s because of this game that The Thousand Year Door is loved so deeply, and it’s because of this game that Sticker Star is detested for taking the series in a new direction. All we really want (all we’ve ever wanted) is more games like Paper Mario .