The internet is currently ablaze with reactions to Nintendo’s announcements for the 35th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros. As we continue to celebrate gaming’s favorite plumber, it would be a good time to remember some of Mario’s history. Mario has gone on a lot of adventures in his career and he’s needed plenty of tools along the way. So today we are going to go through my ten favorite Mario Power-Ups. As per usual, this isn’t based on what I think is the most powerful. These are just the Power-Ups I like the most.
With that said, Let’sa Go!
10. The Frog Suit (Super Mario Bros. 3)
Water levels tend to be the bane of many gamers’ existence. The team that brought us Super Mario Bros 3 knew this so they gave us a tool to deal with them in the form of the Frog Suit.
The Frog Suit’s main ability is to make it easier to control your character while you are underwater. Instead of repeatedly hitting the jump button to swim, you can just use the directional pad to move in any direction you want underwater. It also has the added bonus of allowing you to swim against currents. This gives you access to some secret locations that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.
On land, however, things are a little more awkward. While Mario still retains his prodigious leaping ability while in the Frog Suit, his walking movement is replaced by awkward hopping that is difficult to control. Giving Frog Mario the unfortunate tendency to ram his face headlong into obstacles. Nevertheless, there is a certain charm to it. And I have a certain fondness for this power-up. While it hasn’t shown up in many games since Super Mario Bros 3, I wouldn’t mind seeing this one come back.
9. FX Badge R (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door)
Paper Mario games don’t really use traditional power-ups. It comes with the territory of originally being an RPG series. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t abilities worthy of note.
In the early Paper Mario games, most of your equipment came in the form of a variety of badges that you could wear. In lieu of traditional armor and weapons that you tend to see in other RPGs. Mario has a certain amount of badge points, limiting the number of these that he can wear. The various badges alter Mario’s stats, tweak some of his abilities and otherwise change Mario. Each of these badges cost a different amount of points to wear. Ones that tend to only give cosmetic changes typically cost no badge points to wear. It makes sense: if it only changes the aesthetic, why would you want to waste badge points on it when you could be using those points to make your character more powerful?
The Thousand-Year Door manages to turn that on its head a little bit. Some of the badges you find are FX Badges, which make your attacks have different sound effects. Notably, the FX Badge R causes your attacks to make cricket noises. This normally wouldn’t have an effect on gameplay except that you find out, going through an early dungeon, that the upcoming boss Hooktail hates crickets. Equipping this free, cosmetic change to Mario, actually weakens the boss during the fight. It’s crazy and it’s brilliant.
For sheer refuge in audacity on the part of Intelligent Systems, the FX Badge R had to be on this list.
8. The Super Bell (Super Mario 3D World)
This is a power-up that I never thought I’d like. I remember when Super Mario 3D World was coming out. I saw Cat Mario and I thought Nintendo must be running out of ideas.
This is one of those cases where I was not only incredibly wrong, but it turned out to be one of my favourite power-ups. The Cat Suit power-up has rightfully earned a place among Mario’s most iconic abilities. It does genuinely add to the gameplay. The climbing ability allows you to approach obstacles in new and exciting ways, as does the pounding. It changes Mario’s movement just enough to be different and exciting, while not changing things up so much to make you go “Oh, well, we’re no longer a Mario game.”
And what’s more, it’s fun. Running, climbing, pouncing, it’s all a joy to play. And that’s the most important thing. If taking my favorite Mario characters, dressing them up as cats, and having them run, frolic and pounce is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
7. The Jet Helmet (Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3)
The Wario Land spinoff series does not generally rely on traditional power-ups as you see in Mario games. As most of these games have a more puzzle platformer bent to them, they tend to rely on Wario being transformed from enemy attacks. However, the first game was more inspired by the gameplay of Six Golden Coins. One of the places that this definitely shows is the power-ups. These feel like twisted, distorted, more villainous versions of the power-ups that Mario used.
My absolute favorite of these is the Jet Helmet. Where Bunny Mario from Six Golden Coins felt more passive, the Jet Helmet feels aggressive. This power-up increases Wario’s speed and jump height and he can also do a flying tackle. This not only allows him to travel rapidly and get to locations he couldn’t otherwise get to but helps him to knock out any jerk who happens to get in his way. Whenever I replay the first Wario Land game, this tends to be the power-up I try to keep as much as possible.
6. Kuribo’s Shoe (Super Mario Bros. 3)
While I greatly enjoy Mario games, it is very rare that I remember specific stage numbers of particular levels. One of the notable exceptions to this is Stage 5-3 in Super Mario Bros 3. The sole reason for this is Kuribo’s Shoe.
I don’t entirely know what it is about Kuribo’s Shoe that makes it so fun. Maybe it’s being able to finally jump on Spinies, Piranha Plants and other pointy obstacles to no ill effect. Or maybe Mario riding around in a giant boot is just entertaining. All I know is, I am not the only one who loves this power-up.
Whenever a new 2D Mario game comes out there is always the rumors of Kuribo’s shoe returning. It has a great tendency to show up in ROM hacks and fangames. But for a long time, it didn’t really get any official love from Nintendo aside from some Super Mario Bros. 3 related things.
With the advent of Super Mario Maker, however, this power-up has finally returned, allowing new generations of gamers to play with their shoes.
5. The Tanooki Suit (Super Mario Bros. 3)
I must admit, the placement of the Tanooki Suit on this list was a hard one. This list is already pretty heavy on power-ups from Super Mario Bros. 3. But there’s a reason for that: Super Mario Bros. 3 is a fantastic game with unique power-ups. And at the end of the day, my absolute favorite is the Tanooki Suit.
While Super Mario Bros 3 wasn’t the first Mario game to feature some sort of flying power-up, it was the first one to get a wide release and the first one on the NES. The Raccoon Tail was a big part of the marketing for SMB3 and is much beloved by fans even to this day. The Tanooki Suit gave you everything that the Raccoon Tail could and more. In addition to the flying ability, it also granted the ability to turn into a statue, which allowed you to deal with certain enemies that you couldn’t normally handle. Also, you look adorable while doing it.
So, with apologies to all the Hammer Suit fans out there, I have to give the nod to the Tanooki Suit.
4. The Mega Mushroom (New Super Mario Bros.)
The New Super Mario Bros series tends to be a divisive one in the Mario fandom. There’s one portion of the fandom that likes that Nintendo attempted to make a return to Mario’s 2D platformer roots. There’s another portion of the fandom who feel that Nintendo went a little too far and that this particular subseries in the franchise lacked creativity. As such, when you bring up New Super Mario Bros, there tend to be heated discussions.
I’ve only ever played one of the New Super Mario Bros games myself and I think that all of the Mario Fandom can agree on one thing:
The Mega Mushroom is awesome.
Mushrooms have long been a staple of the series. Ever since Super Mario Bros, you pick up a Super Mushroom, you become Super Mario, you get a little bigger, have an additional hit and can break blocks now. The Mega Mushroom is one of those ideas where the developers were playing with the standard tropes of the series. When Mario grabs a Mega Mushroom, instead of becoming just a little bigger, he becomes huge. You then have a certain amount of time to smash through as much of the level as possible, leaving a trail of destruction in your wake. It is a surprisingly fun twist on a classic power-up idea.
The developers decided to twist the idea on its head even more in the 4th world. The boss in the original New Super Mario Bros happens to be a regular Goomba. There is nothing particularly special about this Goomba. But he manages to grab a Mega Mushroom and turns giant. You now have to find a way to use the boss arena to jump on the Mega Goomba repeatedly. (Of course, if you manage to bring in a Mega Mushroom of your own…)
For transforming a foundational Mario idea into something ridiculous but also entertaining, the Mega Mushroom definitely deserves a spot on this list.
3. The Blue Shell (New Super Mario Bros.)
If I hadn’t been getting weird looks from several Mario fans out there for some of the items on this list, I certainly am now. But I have to admit, the Blue Shell is one of my favorite power-ups in the entire Mario Franchise.
In most Mario games, you encounter a Koopa. You jump on the Koopa. The Koopa retreats into its shell. You kick the shell. The shell gets launched off and will break blocks, bounce off walls, and take out enemies. This is all fine. Normal Mario stuff. But one of the developers working on New Super Mario Bros saw this, and had the thought “What if Mario was the shell?” And the result was one of the most difficult and enjoyable power-ups in the series.
When you get the power-up, you give yourself a running start. Once you’ve got a good bit of speed going, you duck into the shell. Soon you are sliding along the level, careening off walls, breaking blocks and terrifying enemies as though you are some sort of demonically possessed hockey puck with a hunger for Goomba. While you are just as likely to launch yourself off a cliff somewhere with this one, it is genuinely a lot of fun to use. I love this power-up and hope it shows up in more games in the future.
2. The Wing Cap (Super Mario 64)
Over the years, Mario has found many things to grant him the power of flight: airplanes, raccoon tails, capes and balloons. But to me, none of them is quite as memorable or iconic as the Wing Cap from Super Mario 64. This is the power-up that everyone remembers from this game. But is it really that cool?
Well, yes. You have to remember Super Mario 64 was one of the early 3D platformers out there. While it wasn’t the first of its kind, it is a shining example of how a 2D game can break the polygon ceiling. When Super Mario 64 came out, other games took notes.
While the Wing Cap wasn’t the first flight power-up in a Mario game, it felt like it changed the game. Thanks to the execution of the Wing Cap, it was the first time where flight in Mario felt liberating. I remember finding the cap for the first time in the hidden level in the castle and it felt like I could truly go anywhere. This was flight in a way that Mario had never experienced it before And it was amazing.
While it may not be the first time Mario was given flight, there is an entire generation of gamers who can’t think of Mario flying without the Wing Cap.
1. Yoshi (Super Mario World)
I must admit, it feels weird to stick Yoshi on this list. He is, after all, an independent character, with his own sense of agency. You can select him in Mario Party or Super Smash Bros. He’s had his own games, with his own power-ups. Nevertheless, no list of power-ups would truly be complete without everyone’s dinosaur buddy and he is definitely one of the greatest assets to Mario’s journeys to battle evil.
One of the great things about Yoshi as a power-up is his versatility. While the abilities you get from him vary depending on the game, he brings a lot to the table. Yoshi’s shoes tend to resist pointy obstacles, giving you the ability to jump on Spinies much like Kuribo’s Shoe. He can eat enemies and sometimes even lays eggs with more power-ups upon doing so. He provides an additional hit, one that can typically be regained if a player is fast enough. Different games allow him to modify Mario’s jump, whether by leaping from him or by adding a flutter jump. And some Yoshis from the series even gain powers based on what shell they currently have in their mouths.
Yoshi is Mario’s ultimate Swiss Army Knife. He brings so much to the table, that it is hard for any other power-up to come close to competing. He is the best parts of several items slapped together in an optimistic, friendly and adorable package. Much like Kuribo’s Shoe, he tends to be a staple of ROM hacks and fan games as well.
While these are certainly my favorite Mario power-ups, they are not the only ones out there. There are plenty that I considered which ultimately didn’t make the list. What are some of yours? Is there one you feel I unjustly snubbed, or that I forgot? Do you feel that Yoshi shouldn’t qualify as a power-up due to the fact that he is a sentient character? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.
In the meantime, I once again wish you all a Happy Nintember!