The Super Mario franchise is by far the most successful video game series of all time. A study in 1990 even proved that Mario himself was more recognized among children than Mickey Mouse, and he’s only become more popular since then. The Super Mario series has defined the platformer for gamers and continued throughout the past three decades to revolutionize it at every turn. Let’s take a look at the top ten Mario levels of all time and see what great gameplay is all about.

10) Super Mario World, Vanilla Dome 3

The underground caverns of the Vanilla Dome make a nice setting for each stage, but Vanilla Dome 3 really brings it home with lava covering nearly the entire course. The only way to traverse the stage is using the skull rafts and being forced to move at their pace. Watch out for shifty eyes as Blarggs will pop out of the lava and try to take you out. This level is great example of the environment being your worst enemy.

9) Super Mario 64, Tower of the Wing Cap

While it may be short and not a truly traditional level, Tower of the Wing Cap was the first time we saw Mario fly in 3D, and that was something special. The beautiful sky and rainbows make it so peaceful to soar through the air. Collect the 8 red coins and you’re on your way to seeing the Wing Cap in more levels. This stage is also great, as it serves as a teaching platform for the Wing Cap.

8) Super Mario Bros 3, 5 – Airship

The introduction of airship levels was one of the most unique features of Super Mario Bros 3, and one that has continued to be a staple to this day. While they are all great, the airship of world 5 is the most quintessential of them all. It seems like there isn’t one moment where you aren’t trying to dodge a canon, a bullet bill, or something else coming your way. This level keeps you on your toes and then it all ends with a showdown with Roy Koopa. Keep reading on, because this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him.

7) Super Mario World, Donut Ghost House

Another popular level type in the Super Mario franchise is the Ghost House. These boo filled spooky levels will mess with your head as well as your skills. The first of the two Ghost Houses in Donut Plains is great example as it has multiple exits, doors that seem to lead to nowhere, and tricks that will send you the wrong way. You have to figure out the puzzle if you ever want to make it out of there alive. If you’re extra clever, you can find the secret exit and get yourself the most useful Top Secret level in Mario history.

6) Super Mario Galaxy, Bowser Jr’s Robot Reactor

Super Mario Galaxy might just be the most clever game ever made. The way it plays with gravity and takes the player through the strangest adventures, while still keeping the Mario charm is astounding. The best example of this is Bowser Jr’s Robot Reactor. While taking on a huge robot named Megaleg, Mario has to make his way up to the boss’s head, all the while dodging bullet bills and traversing winding gears. Once at the top, you’ll need those bullet bills to help you take out the baddie himself. It is truly a battle in this unique title.

5) Super Mario Bros, 1-1

This is the one that started it all. Yes, it is fairly short and not very difficult, but it is the most iconic level in the history of Super Mario, so it has to be on here. So many first time concepts were introduced on this level. Secrets in bricks, alternate paths through pipes, hidden 1-ups, this stage helped us to see more than what was on the screen. It is the sole reason every Mario fan out there has a sixth sense of what blocks to hit and what pipes to go down. No matter when you go back to it, this stage always makes you feel like a kid again.

4) New Super Mario Bros Wii, Bowser’s Castle

In each Super Mario game, Bowser’s castle is one of the most treacherous stages of the whole adventure. New Super Mario Bros Wii is no exception. Classic leaping fireballs, fire rods, and more fill the beginning of the stage, but the distinction of this particular Bowser’s Castle comes with the final boss. At first, Bowser plays just like his class self, wait for him to jump, run under him, and hit the switch to send him falling to defeat. This time, however, Kamek comes along and uses some magic to spice up the situation. Bowser comes back bigger and badder than ever. Players have to avoid is massive fireballs and make their way to the end as the castle collapses before them. It makes for one epic showdown with the King Koopa.

3) Super Mario Bros, 8-4

New Super Mario Bros Wii may have a uniquely great Bowser’s Castle, but the original Super Mario Bros has the most iconic and challenging. Koopas, Goombas, and more are in your way as you make your way to the final boss. Simply going from left to right won’t get you to the end though. You’ll have to figure out the puzzle of which pipes to go down to make your way to Bowser.

Go down the wrong one and you’ll be right back at the beginning. Not only is this stage clever, but it also has one of the most difficult moments in Super Mario history as you have to make your way past a hammer brother only to leap over a lava pit with a perfectly timed jumping fireball, and if you make it past all that, you’re met face to face with the biggest baddie of them all. Fire breath, multiple hammers thrown at a time, unpredicted jumps, this may be the toughest Bowser ever. If you can make your way past him, you’ll finally have rescued Princess Peach. Yes, she is in this castle.

2) Super Mario World, Roy’s Castle

He’s back at it again. My boy Roy built up a new castle in the Forest of Illusion after his airship defeat, and it is a doozy. Like most Super Mario Castles, there’s lava and fireballs galore, but this time Mario’s only way of crossing over them is on top of snake block. This snake block’s unpredictable movements make it difficult to stay on top of it. It becomes even more difficult when dodging fireballs, falling spikes, and more. Snake blocks have been a popular device for many Mario levels, but it all started here. Once at the end, you have to take down Roy Koopa once again. Better do it fast though, cause the walls start closing in fast.

1) Super Mario Bros 3, 8-Tanks

Super Mario Bros 3 is definitely one of the toughest in this long-lasting franchise. Dark Land, the eighth world of the game, is proof of that. It is not a steady build up either. You’re thrown into the mix right away with 8-Tanks as the first stage. Very similar to the airship levels, there are canons, flames, and wrenches on coming from all angles. This time, however, they are coming from a battalion of tanks. There are also a few switches from the regular canons on this stage. Some of them shoot bob-ombs that can go off even after you’ve jumped on them, and there’s even a giant canon that shoots extra fast. At the end of the stage, you’ll have to take down a boomerang bro, who gives you a star after his defeat. You’ll need it to get through the rest of Dark Land and on your way to Bowser.


These Mario stages have really set the standard for this amazing franchise. With a long future ahead, it is always exciting to see what Nintendo will come up with next. What did you think of this list? Let us know in the comments below!

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