Mario, pretty much everyone knows him; his games span nearly 35 years after all. During all that time, he’s been on plenty of adventures in some pretty weird and wonderful locales. Today, we bring you the first of our Top Ten series. I’ll be going through some of my favourite locations found in Mario games, in no particular order of course.
Check out our globetrotting list after the break!
1 – The Underwhere – Super Paper Mario – Nintendo Wii (2007)
No, I’m not talking about one’s undergarments, this is purely about the place people go once you reach your game’s end: The Underwhere.
This unique location is home to various characters who have been neither good or bad in life, so they’re just dumped here in a permanent, creepy limbo. The land’s ruler, Queen Jaydes, is a pretty scary character, though is reasonably kindhearted and has a pretty neat fashion sense. Just don’t get on her bad side if you don’t want to meet your true game over. If you want something genuinely terrifying though, then why not take a dip into the River Twygz. I’m sure one of the many Underhands will be more than happy to drag you to a watery grave… your own!
What I love about The Underwhere is just how dark and creepy it is, something which sets itself apart from the game’s bright exterior. I’m not saying there aren’t other dark aspects of the game (poor Squirps), but it’s definitely more emphasised here. I also love all the references to Greek mythology. I mean, you have a ferryman called Charold who will ferry you across the River Twygz to see Queen Jaydes, ruler of The Underwhere!
2 – Turtle Zone 3 – Super Mario Land 2 – Nintendo Gameboy (1993)
When I was a kid, I thought Super Mario Land 2 was really cool. There are so many unique levels in this one game, it’s very difficult to choose just one. One I remember the most, however, has to be Turtle Zone, more specifically, the third course.
This level was just totally bizarre, for one, it takes place inside of a whale… perhaps that served as inspiration for Jabu Jabu’s Belly in Ocarina of Time? Either way, I loved the aesthetic, and I thought the waterways in midair were pretty cool. Then you have the boss at the end. You’ll be fighting Pako, the Octopus, inside of a whale. The fight was definitely a tough one, but it was still a lot of fun none the less!
3 – Ship – Donkey Kong – Nintendo Gameboy (1994)
I have many fond memories of playing Donkey Kong on the Gameboy (known to also be referred to as Donkey Kong ’94). I remember mum doing the school run back when I was at primary school. My brother had to go to a private secondary school so we had to leave about an hour earlier than most. My mum would put on the Chicago soundtrack in the CD player, and I would whack out my Grape Gameboy Colour in the backseat to play this bad boy of a game! It’s arguable that this was probably one of the first games I’ve ever played, and it still holds up today.
It honestly was a brilliant game, with so many great levels. What made this stand out from your general 2D Mario games is how each course is heavily based around solving puzzles; I absolutely ate it up. I found it very tough to choose my favourite level from the game as most of them are fantastic in their own right, though I can confirm any course from Airplane was literal hell. If I had to choose though, it would have to be anything from Ship. Why exactly? Well, for one reason alone… it introduced the Wire Spin mechanic. This allowed Mario to spin around overhanging wires to reach high ground, and I thought this was absolutely hilarious. I can just remember how much that made me smile as a kid.
4 – World 5-4 Painted Swampland – New Super Mario Bros. U – Nintendo Wii U (2012)
As a level in its self, Painted Swampland is nothing too exciting. What pushed this level onto the list however is just how stunning it looks. I absolutely love the impressionist inspiration from Van Gogh and truly sets itself apart from the rest of the levels in the game, or even the series. It’s a right shame that more levels haven’t gone in this art direction or similar. Bowser’s menacing mug at the end just tops the level off!
5 – Wet-Dry World – Super Mario 64 – Nintendo 64 (1996)
Remember when I said it was arguable whether Donkey Kong was the first game I ever played? Well, meet the other game in the argument: Super Mario 64. I remember playing it at my brother’s friend’s house on a few occasions, specifically Big Boo’s Haunt and Jolly Roger Bay; neither of which is this level here though. It wasn’t until a few years later when we bought a copy from eBay; I must have been about 10 years old at the time.
There are a few reasons why I picked Wet-Dry World. There are plenty of other amazing levels from the game, but this one stood out the most to me. It was the first level which had different states depending on how you entered the course. The higher you leap into the painting, the higher the water level will be when you begin. I remember getting frustrated as a kid at Star 5 as I couldn’t figure out where those Red Coins were… I also wasn’t too big on reading at that age, so I completely missed the hints given by a Toad or bulletin board. Either way, it was a thrill once I solved it. The area is also quite eerie. It looks like it should be populated, yet there’s no sign of civilisation… I love that sort of stuff!
6 – Tomb Suites – Luigi’s Mansion 3 – Nintendo Switch (2019)
I will fight anyone to the death if they don’t think Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a must-have for any Nintendo Switch owner, so it only makes sense it makes the list! Don’t believe me? Be sure to check out our review once you’ve finished.
There are so many great floors to choose from in Luigi’s Mansion 3, but my favourite will always be the Tomb Suites. True, there may be a bit of bias here with the fact that I adore anything relating to the aesthetics of Ancient Egypt, but the Tomb Suite demonstrates this aesthetic exceptionally well. The level is riddled with traps, as any good pyramid should, and the music throughout is just wonderful; it often reminds me of my favourite Rick O’Connel adventures. You can even replicate this underground wonderland in the game’s ScareScraper mode, assuming someone in your party owns the DLC pack! Did I also mention there are mummies too?
7 – Jelly Pipe – Yoshi’s Story – Nintendo 64 (1998)
We could fight over the semantics of whether or not a Mario game without Mario is actually a Mario game, or we could just appreciate that this cute little guy has had so many years of mistreatment from the podgy plumber that he deserves his own spot on this list. I’d recommend the latter.
As a technicality, I would call both Jelly Pipe and Torrential Maze the same course. True, they are both actually separate levels, but hey, they’re both included in the same chapter and basically look the same. Putting aside my skewed definition of technicalities, this level is just plain creepy and cool. Most of the music throughout the game is basically the same ditty remixed to suit the environment, and the remix here is on point. This Rap/R&B remix just suits the level so well, it’s not really a frantic level like some of the others, it has that element of chill. As chilled as it is though, both levels can be quite complex with its maze like structure. You better be careful where you move those boxes too, never know when you’ll need to use one as a platform.
8 – Noki Bay – Super Mario Sunshine – Nintendo GameCube (2002)
I don’t care what anyone else says, I still think Super Mario Sunshine is one of the best Mario games released. I will happily die on that hill.
Though other levels come to mind before Noki Bay, I still think I prefer this one just a bit more than the rest. It just looks absolutely stunning, regardless of its low poly count. The music also emphasises its beauty and truly induces serenity. Even it’s poison infested waters up to Chapter 4 are just as beautiful. I also love just how mysterious the bay can be; I absolutely loved exploring the ‘Tricky Ruins’ in Chapter 2 to take down an ink-credible adversary.
9 – Bubblaine – Super Mario Odyssey – Nintendo Switch (2017)
Mario’s latest 3D outing has certainly revitalised series. Each level is extremely open, for the most part, and superbly fun to explore. Yet to play Odyssey? Then be sure to add our review to your reading list to see what you’ve been missing!
Out of all the Kingdoms in Super Mario Odyssey, by far, my most enjoyable one was Bubblaine in the Sand Kingdom. Similar to Noki Bay, this water level is absolutely beautiful, this time with a perfect balance of underwater and ground areas. I had an incredible amount of fun chilling out on the sandy dunes, climbing up the stunning lighthouse, and diving through the sparkling water. Out of all the kingdoms, this is the one I spent the most time exploring. As serene as the beach can be, the boss fight was incredibly unique. The entire sea (which accounts up to about 75% of the level) is the arena, and it was very fun capturing Gushers to jet through the air and show that Mollusque-Lanceur who’s boss!
10 – DK’s Jungle Adventure – Mario Party – Nintendo 64 (1999)
Mario Party is yet another Mario game I had very fond memories of. The best memories of this game was when some family friends used to trek down from London for New Years. While the adults got inebriated on various concoctions of booze, us kids would march upstairs for some Mario Party fun. We would often team up against the lone CPU player, and I still remember the screams when Yoshi (myself) had to give all his stars to Wario (the CPU) in ‘Chance Time’. There was also an incident regarding some blueberries and a trampoline, but that’s a story for another time.
Seeing how indecisive I’ve been on this list (seriously, excluding some games nearly broke my heart), once again it was difficult choosing a particular location, or board, in this case, to be included. The board I remember most though would likely be DK’s Jungle Adventure, and as its the first one on the selection screen, you could say it was the one that started it all. I remember the absolute wonderment I felt while playing as a kid; it sort of reminded me of Indiana Jones, which I really liked around that time. As far as mechanics go, it’s a pretty generic board, it kind of had to be being the first one to play, though even today you can still feel the tension while travelling along the back path; at any moment a boulder could roll on by to ruin your day!
As I said before, there are so many wonderful locations you can visit in Mario games, so hopefully the above gives you a good taste of some of my favourite areas. Are there any levels you love which are missing from above? We’d love to hear them in the comments below or over on social media!
I am a huge Nintendo fan, hence why NintyBuzz exists. I especially love all things Zelda and Metroid. NintyBuzz was started by me back in the Summer of 2014, it started out mainly as a hobby, though the site has gradually grown, and I hope it grows for many years to come!