Saturday, February 2, 2013

Frisch's Top 5 "Other" Mario Games

Yesterday I listed my top 5 favorite Mario games in the main series.  But that hardly scratches the surface when it comes to all of the games the portly plumber has starred in, so today I'm listing my Top 5 "Other" Mario games.  This list covers all of the spin-off games Mario has shown up in.  It's also a bit of a hybrid list, as I'm limiting myself to only one game from any given spin-off series.  So if, for example, you see a Mario Kart game on this list, that means it's also my favorite Mario Kart game overall in addition to being one of my favorite spin-off games.  Confusing enough for you?  Good.  Let's-a go:

5. Mario Party DS

The Mario Party series has a long and storied history.  Since 1998 Nintendo has churned out no less than a dozen Mario Party games.  And, for the most part, they are largely the same basic experience.  Same sort of board game format.  Same sort of minigames.  Same sort of intolerable single player experience.  Mario Party DS has one key distinction from the others that sets it apart:  It's handheld.

Otherwise, Mario Party DS is pretty much par for the course as far as this series goes.  But given how infrequently I play multiplayer games, being able to take the game on the go with me is a huge benefit.  I'm much more likely to play through a quick round with CPU opponents or play a few minigames if I have a little time to kill.  And when you do play with multiple people, Mario Party DS is just as fun as any other game in the series.

Plus, who doesn't love coins?  Especially YOURS!

4. Mario Golf Toadstool Tour

Mario has proven to be quite the athlete over the years.  Tennis, Soccer, Baseball, Basketball, and more.  You name it, Mario's played it.  But by far the sport that's jived the best with the Mario series is golf.  For whatever reason, there is something extremely appealing about taking Mushroom Kingdom locations and seeing them re-imagined them into golf courses.  It sounds boring, but it's actually great fun.

Toadstool Tour for the GameCube is my favorite of the Golf sub-series.  At the time the graphics were unmatched, and they still look quite pretty today even if they aren't quite as technically impressive anymore.  The soundtrack is something else.  It has a ton more energy and drama than you would expect for game about golf, but it somehow fits the atmosphere perfectly.  And on top of everything else, all the little Mario touches throughout the game ensure that this is no regular game of golf.  Mario and golf may not seem like an obvious match but, as it turns out, they compliment each other perfectly.

3. Dr. Mario Online Rx/Express

Good grief?  Mario is a doctor, too?  Is there anything he can't do?  Dr. Mario started off on the NES and GameBoy as one of the many falling piece puzzle games to try and ride the wave of popularity started by Tetris.  What makes Dr. Mario unique is that it has a bit of a steep learning curve at first.  It's not quite as easy to pick up and play as other puzzlers such as Tetris or Bejeweled. That said, once you get used to playing Dr. Mario, it is incredibly fun.  Since you always have an end goal to work toward by trying to clear all the viruses on screen, there's a more obvious forward progression than other puzzle games.

Dr. Mario has pretty much always played the same over the years, so the presentation is the key factor in determining my favorite iteration.  Dr. Mario Online Rx for WiiWare and Dr. Mario Express on DSiWare share the same sounds, music, and visual style.  Which, in turn, are largely based on Dr. Mario 64.  But thanks to the clean colors and sleek design, Online Rx and Express manage to take on a charming and almost soothing quality that makes them even more fun to play than previous versions of Dr. Mario.  With this series, you really can't go wrong with any entry, but on the Wii and DS, Dr. Mario is really at his best.

2. Paper Mario:  The Thousand Year Door

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is pretty much perfect.  It looks great.  It plays great.  It has a great soundtrack.  Oh, and the humor.  Did I mention the humor?  This game is hilarious.  It's exploding with personality.  The gameplay, in all honesty, is very nearly identical to it's N64 predecessor.  But the characters are so much more interesting and lovable.  You'll get wrapped up in the story within minutes and it never disappoints all the way through.

The RPG mechanics are also great fun.  Action commands ensure that frequent battles never get stale.  The environments feature great atmosphere.  Really, I can't say enough good things about Thousand Year Door.  It's perfect.  Oh, and I also can't talk about this game without mentioning the Bowser stages.  They really are the best part of the game.  In fact, there should be a whole trilogy of games based on them, don't you think? ;)

1. Mario Kart 64

This one was obvious.  As soon as I sat down to type this list I knew exactly what the top choice would be.  Mario Kart 64 is still, in my mind, Mario Kart in it's purest form.  Super Mario Kart laid the foundation but Mario Kart 64 perfected it.  I greatly enjoy other Mario Kart games too, don't get me wrong.  Super Circuit is goofy fun.  Double Dash!! has some of the best tracks in the series.  DS sports the best controls.  Wii...was actually pretty awful but it had good music at least.  And Mario Kart 7 even features numerous callbacks to the N64 title, in the form of the music and even the classic pipe frame kart returning.

Mario Kart 64 still can't be topped, though.  Before every Mario Kart game started adding one-shot gimmicks there was Mario Kart 64.  While the thrill of playing Super Mario 64 wore off somewhat after so many years of playing it, the excitement of Mario Kart 64 has never worn off.  In single player or multiplayer, it's just as fun today as it was sixteen years ago!

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