10 Best Mario Challenge Runs
10 Best Mario Challenge Runs
Mario is one of the most iconic video game protagonists, if not one of the most iconic modern characters period, and there's a good reason for that. The love, care, and polish that Nintendo puts into the main series games is virtually unrivaled. Another strength of almost any Super Mario game is its accessibility. They're easy for new players to pick up, but offer astonishing depth to explore.
However, this depth doesn't need to be daunting. With a goal in mind, it can be an absolute blast to explore. The Mario community has had over thirty years to come up with plenty of new challenges that can totally change how Mario plays. Speedrunning a level might just involve mastering it, but playing a pacifist plumber or an utterly lost go-kart driver invokes an entirely different set of skills that's just as fun.
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10 No Damage
Best game for it: Super Mario Bros.
The original Super Mario Bros. codified many aspects of Mario, and of platformers in general. With catchy music, clever levels design that's still fun to this day, and some impressive programming feats behind the scenes, it's one of the most iconic and beloved games there is.
A game this iconic lends itself well to one of the oldest video game challenges — a no damage run. The principle is simple, don't let Mario suffer a hit, but the execution can be deviously challenging. Players must dodge everything from the lowliest goomba to Bowser himself, all while never running into a spike, fireball, or other hazard.
9 Reverse Racing
Best game for it: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
As a general rule, the goal of racing games is to go forward, fast. But when playing with friends, it can be an interesting change of pace to see what happens when that fundamental concept is turned on its head. In a reverse race, players race backwards through a normal racetrack.
Whether this is by holding down reverse or just turning around doesn't generally matter. The goal is to see things from a new angle — and to minimize head-on collisions with any AI racers. While only about a dozen new tracks in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe can be fully lapped like this, those dandy dozen remain some of the most interesting in the series thus far.
8 Don't Touch The Coins
Best game for it: New Super Mario Bros. 2
No coin runs are simple in premise, but can be deviously difficult to actually pull off. While they have caught on in many Mario games, there's likely none better suited for it than New Super Mario Bros. 2, a game dedicated to having an excess of coins around every corner.
Thanks to this abundance of treasure, players will need plenty of cunning and skill to make it through, as even the end credits seek to doom the run with one last shower of coins. If a copy of New Super Mario Bros. 2 is too difficult to find, almost any 2D Mario game will work as well, though it will lack some of the flair.
7 Limited FLUDD
Best game for it: Super Mario Sunshine
Following the smash hit success of Super Mario 64, Sunshine had big shoes to fill, especially being only Mario's second ever venture into 3D platforming. Unique to Sunshine is "FLUDD," a talking water-spraying backpack that serves as Mario's companion in this game and vastly expands his moveset.
While FLUDD can't be totally set aside, players can challenge themselves by minimizing its use during their run. FLUDD's spray attack is mandatory, as is the rocket nozzle, but the ability to hover isn't mandated at any point. In a run like this, the infamous FLUDD-less levels might even be easier than normal ones, since they were built with this limit in mind.
6 No Item Use
Best game for it: Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga
The Mario & Luigi series was Nintendo's third attempt at a Mario RPG, following the success of Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario. Focusing more on wacky adventures and puzzle-filled dungeons than its predecessors, the series evokes a unique tone that few games have hit.
While Mario & Luigi haven't seen another entry in a while, the games are still fun, and have spawned creative fan challenges over the years. One of the easiest to get into is a "no items" run, where players limit themselves from using any consumable items. Superstar Saga is an especially good game to try it with, since it's the first game in the series and available on the Nintendo Switch.
Best game for it: Super Mario Maker 2
Due to its nature as a "maker" game, Mario Maker 2 has spawned tons of different challenges, and almost every level offers some new surprise to experience. One of the most unique "genres" of level has got to be the pacifist run. In these, neither daring plumbers nor crafty toads are allowed to kill any enemy.
Players must avoid stomping goombas or kicking koopas, not even beating Bowser, should he show up. In these, players must dodge hordes of foes or even protect them from harming themselves in stages designed to make the hero's noble goal nothing but a pipe dream if they slip up at all.
4 Never Stop Crouching
Best game for it: Super Mario 3D World
Can you complete a Mario game while eternally crouching? Improbably, the answer is yes to almost every game that features the signature squat. While it always slows down Mario, or even stops him completely, crouching usually opens up new moves, be it a long jump, a high jump, or a speedy roll.
Super Mario 3D World can be especially fun to try this challenge in, thanks both to its wildly varied levels and its chaotic multiplayer, which allows up to four people to play at once. The Switch-exclusive "Bowser's Fury" expansion can likewise be completed with a waddling Mario, and to 100% completion to boot.
Best game for it: Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 not only pioneered the very concept of 3D worlds, but it was also many gamers' first exposure to them. It is only natural then that in the nearly thirty years since its release, modern gamers have discovered tricks and techniques players back in the day never even dreamed of.
These tricks, combined with the game's iconic status, have helped make Super Mario 64 one of the most speedrun games out there. While beating one of the records might be daunting, there's still plenty of fun to be had with more casual runs, whether solo or competing with friends around a TV.
2 Level 1 Forever
Best game for it: Paper Mario
The Paper Mario series combines elements of a traditional JRPG with a charming art style and some clever light-action combat. As natural for most RPGs, the characters grow in power, Mario gaining better stats with every level as he journeys through the games.
Thanks to the ability to dodge most attacks, a level one run is surprisingly viable. While a player can't force Mario to avoid gaining a level, they can put all of his stat increases into Badge Points, increasing a limit that they're never forced to max out. While similar challenges can be attempted in most of the series, it works best in the first Paper Mario, especially if replaying it.
1 No Jumping
Best game for it: Super Mario Odyssey
Since his introduction in the original Donkey Kong, jumping has been the core of Mario's moveset. Given this, it might sound absurd to try playing a Mario game without jumping, but it is possible, and in Super Mario Odyssey no less, a game often regarded as one of Mario's most acrobatic appearances to date.
The key to this challenge lies in his companion Cappy. This adventurous hat ghost kindly allows Marios to bounce off of him to gain height and speed, all while never incrementing the in-game jump counter. Capture abilities, even those labeled as "jump," aren't counted, though talking to NPCs inexplicably is. However, this can be avoided by chatting mid-air.
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