Top 5 Most Pleasing Mario Power-ups
January 21, 2010
Recent playtime with New Super Mario Bros. Wii had me musing over the Ice Flower, one of several new power-ups in this instalment of the Mario franchise, and one that left me feeling pretty ambivalent about it. But it got me thinking of a wider topic; of all the power-ups littered throughout the gameworlds of the plumber’s adventures stretching right back to the days of the NES, and which of those were the most momentous and fun to use. So, without further waffle, I present my Top 5 Most Pleasing Mario Power-ups, in reverse order.
#5 Invincibility Star
A staple power-up, first seen in the original Super Mario Bros. way back on the NES, the Invincibilty Star deserves its place in the top 5 for several reasons. Not only does it give Mario invincibility (obviously), allowing him to rack up many extra lives by carving through Goombas, Koopas and the like, it also makes him change colour, send a trail of beautiful sparkles behind him, and, in some games, even makes the rotund little blighter somersault, long before Triple Jumps made their acrobatic appearance in Super Mario 64. The fact that the invincibility theme music is almost as recognisable as the Super Mario Bros. theme itself is an added bonus.
#4 Metal Cap
The aforementioned Super Mario 64 found itself in my N64 on launch day (for both the game and console) and was so ground-breaking it even had my Dad (who was watching me play) call out to my Mum with ‘You have to see this!’ The thing that took my breath away, however, was the Metal Cap, shiny headwear that would emerge from a green ‘!’ block and transform our hero into awesome, bad-ass Metal Mario. That was it, I was convinced – graphics wouldn’t get any better than this, as Nintendo’s answer to the T-1000 stomped around in his new reflective form and sank to the bottom of lakes and pools. If Nintendo come up with a cooler Mario power-up than this, I’ll eat my blue dungarees.
#3 Tanooki Suit
In a world where mustachioed Italian plumbers wage war with fire-breathing turtles in a day-glo world called the Mushroom Kingdom, it’s perhaps odd to state that a particular power-up is ‘weird’. But the Tanooki Suit raised my 9-year-old eyebrows in curiosity on Super Mario Bros. 3’s release. It’s primary effect was the power of flight, which worked identically to the Super Leaf, and also allowed Mario to defeat enemies with one swish of his bushy tail. Pressing the down button and B, however, cranked the bizarre nature of the Tanooki Suit up a notch by turning Mario into a bald-headed statue, carrying a long stick much like a shepherd would carry, and making him invulnerable to pretty much every enemy in the game. Although the origins of the Tanooki Suit escape me, this power-up is easily one of the most memorable in the Mario pantheon, even spawning a website named after it.
#2 Wing Cap
So what? Mario could fly way back in Super Mario Bros. 3, remember? And then he had that cape in Super Mario World? Old news. True, but the Wing Cap in Super Mario 64 allowed Mario to fly in three dimensions. Spawning from red ‘!’ blocks and activated by pulling off a Triple Jump or loading yourself into a cannon, the resulting sensation of flying was one of astonishing freedom. The switch to 3D had already changed videogaming forever, and the ability to swoop and soar over the dazzling new playground presented to us added a particularly sweet icing on top. Never since has a power-up captured the sheer joy of controlling Mario as the Wing Cap once did.
#1 Super Mushroom
The power-up that started it all, hidden within the 2nd question block of the very first game, which put the ‘Super’ in Super Mario and has appeared in every iteration since; the Super Mushroom takes its rightful place at the top of this list. The evolution of its aesthetic may have changed over the years, but its basic premise hasn’t. Doubling Mario’s size, enabling him to smash blocks to reveal extra hidden goodies, and most importantly of all, giving the player that one chance to make a mistake without paying for it with a life – the Super Mushroom is the unfashionable, but vital, bedrock that all Mario power-ups since have been built on.
Wrong order? Missed your favourite? Tell us your Top 5 Most Pleasing Mario Power-ups in the comments below.