5 Most Game-Changing Moments in Mario History

It's Mario!

The Mario series is one of the most storied franchises in video games. We’ve seen 2D platformers, 3D platformers, and even semi open-world games where exploration is the main focus. The series has transformed drastically over the years, but these are the most important moments in Mario history.

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Ditching Donkey Kong

donkey kong
Image Source: Nintendo

Most people know this by now, but Mario didn’t begin with the release of Super Mario Bros. in 1985. Mario, the character, appeared in other games such as the original Donkey Kong and the original Mario Bros. arcade game.

However, the series as we know it today starting taking form once Mario ditched Donkey Kong, gave up his life of micromanaging pipes, and starting exploring the larger Mushroom Kingdom.

Bowser would also begin his life of crime here, with Mario consistently rushing to thwart his attempts to kidnap Princess Peach and cause trouble.

Mario would then entrench his position as the king of platformers with the release of Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo in 1990. It’s a game that still holds up incredibly well and is arguably the greatest 2D platforming game of all-time.

Spinning Off Into Super Mario Kart

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Image Source: Nintendo

Once Mario was established as a platforming icon, he could comfortably start branching out again into other ventures. Sure, he experimented with golf, and even teaching kids how to type, but the release of Super Mario Kart for Super Nintendo in 1992 was the big spin-off hit that would go to encourage many more.

In addition, Super Mario Kart established a long-running franchise of racing games in its own right. There are plenty of fans that avoid the platforming games but will absolutely go hard in the paint with Mario Kart.

The massive success of Mario Kart was likely a green light to experiment even more with the character and the franchise. Other sports games such as tennis, golf, and soccer would go on to be quite successful. There’s the Super Mario RPG franchise which developed a cult following of its own, and even a series of Mario Maker games that allows talented players to create their own masterpieces.

All of these spin-off franchises are known for being accessible to all players that can find enjoyment out of the genre they reside in. In fact, ironically, the most inaccessible series of Mario games to non-gamers might be the platforming Mario games themselves!

They can be quite tough, especially the earlier ones, but Nintendo has gone out of their way to help younger and inexperienced players out with that over the years.

The Release of Super Mario 64

super mario 64
Image Source: Nintendo

Super Mario 64 not only brought Mario into 3D for the first time, absolutely blowing the minds of any 90s kids that were around to play it when it came out, it also revolutionized gaming and established the 3D platformer genre for years.

While 2D platformers were plentiful before and after Super Mario Bros. (it was just the best of the best), Super Mario 64 was something that we’ve never seen before.

Seeing any world, forget just the Mushroom Kingdom, as large and expansive as what was presented by Super Mario 64 was just a hallmark moment in gaming by any measure.

Perhaps there will be a VR or AR game that will provide a similar “Wow!” moment for modern gamers, but for now, Super Mario 64 has certainly cemented itself as one of the most important and foundational 3D games of all-time.

New Super Mario Bros. Splits Mario Into 2D and 3D

new super mario bros
Image Source: Nintendo

After Super Mario 64, Mario spent a lot of time honing his craft in a 3D space. Super Mario Sunshine and the Super Mario Galaxy games pushed the genre even further both in a visual and gameplay sense.

However, many wanted to see Mario return to his 2D roots. Nintendo was rewarded for its faith in 2D platforming with the release of New Super Mario Bros. on the DS as it would go on to be one of Mario’s best-selling games of all-time.

Perhaps what was more impactful than just the popularity of New Super Mario Bros., though, was that it established Mario in both 2D and 3D spaces in the modern era of gaming.

Following the release of New Super Mario Bros. we have seen new Mario games release in both 2D and 3D right up to the present day, much to the delight of fans of each genre. Nintendo has even experimented with games that merge aspects of the 2D and 3D Mario games such as Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World.

The Release of Super Mario Odyssey

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Image Source: Nintendo

The latest original release, Super Mario Odyssey, feels like a celebration of everything Mario has accomplished over the course of the franchise’s existence, merging elements of everything that has made it so successful.

Super Mario Odyssey to-date is the biggest world Mario has ever explored, and it channels that Super Mario 64 energy that was starting to fade in recent memory.

Like so many other great landmark Mario games, it innovates with the Cappy mechanic that allows Mario to possess various enemies and objects in order to solve puzzles and collect Moons. It even merges elements of 2D gameplay into certain sections, celebrating its 2D roots as well.

The way that Super Mario Odyssey rolled everything we love about Mario into one package really allows Nintendo to go anywhere from this point.

Whether it’s 2D, 3D, or something we’ve never seen before, there’s little doubt that Mario will continue going strong heading into his 36th anniversary year, and will continue to create more game-changing moments.

Be sure to search for Twinfinite for more news and features on the Mario franchise in general, including a list of the weirdest Mario games, as well as our ranking of the best Super Mario Bros games.

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Ed McGlone
Ed McGlone was with Twinfinite from 2014 to 2022. Playing games since 1991, Ed loved writing about RPGs, MMOs, sports games and shooters.