One feature that has stuck with the Mario series since the very beginning is Mario’s ability to collect and use power-ups that transform him and grant him new skills that radically transform the way a stage plays out.
From the mushroom to the iconic fire flower, Mario has always had these power-ups, but they’ve played varying roles in both quantity and important from game to game.
Two of the best games in the series – Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3 – each took radically different approaches to how many power-ups each game had but both delivered unforgettable experiences. In other words, Mario’s power-ups don’t make Mario fun, they simply enhance a great formula.
So what are the best Super Mario power-ups?
5. Carrot – Super Mario Land 2 (Game Boy)
If you haven’t played Super Mario Land 2 for the original Game Boy then you are missing out on one of Mario’s best adventures. The iconic power-up in this game was the carrot and it gave Mario bunny ears that he could use to glide down and even briefly fly. Cute and subtle, the bunny ears presaged entry number 4 which came so much later in Mario’s career.
4. Super Bell – Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
Mario’s big Wii U outing was a pretty awesome affair. Reuniting the cast of Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario 3D World also brought the super bell power-up to the stage. What exactly does the super bell do? It transforms Mario into an agile house cat, capable of climbing walls and rolling around like a typical cat. I know, right?
While definitely timely, given the Internet’s obsession with cats when Super Mario 3D World arrived, the super bell may not be quite as legendary as other entries on this list. Still, it gets tons of points for creativity and wtf factor.
3. Hammer Suit – Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Super Mario Bros. 3 was a power-up extravaganza, so it was really tough to narrow down which ones we would pick from that installment. And while the choice was difficult, it was also quite obvious. Choice number 2, of course, the iconic Hammer Bros. suit that turns Mario into one of the eponymous hammer-tossing baddies.
Kind of like the fire flower on steroids, plus substituting the fireballs with hammers, the Hammer Bros. suit was fairly rare but devastatingly powerful when you found it.
2. Tanooki Suit – Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Another super rare suit from Super Mario Bros. 3 is the iconic tanooki suit, the one outfit in the game that probably baffled non-Japanese players. Tanooki are similar to raccoons and are native to Japan. They play a huge role in Japanese folklore. If you’ve ever played Animal Crossing, Tom Nook is a tanooki.
Basically the tanooki suit is the raccoon suit – only better. You get the tail with the attendant flying abilities, but you can also transform into a buddhist monk statue. Yes, that’s right. You can transform Mario into an itinerant Japanese buddhist monk statue, hand outstretched for alms and all, using the tanooki suit. What this does is render Mario invulnerable to everything as long as he is in statue mode. While much of the cultural meaning was likely lost on non-Japanese players, the tanooki suit was nonetheless distinct and uniquely powerful.
1. Cape Feather – Super Mario World (SNES)
Beating out the tanooki suit only because the cape made Mario look so darn cool, the cape feather from Super Mario World is perhaps the most iconic power-up he has ever gotten in the whole series. You may be wondering, aren’t the mushroom and fire flower iconic? Yes, but they’re also totally original. This list would not be saying much if it listed them at the top because those two power-ups were with Mario in the beginning.
They almost, in a way, make Mario, Mario. But as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World both prove, you don’t need a bunch of gimmicks to make Super Mario Bros. a solid game. Power-ups are bonuses and additions to the classic gameplay we know and love, not substitutions for it. In that spirit, the quirkiness of the tanooki suit puts it at 2 and the indispensability of the cape feather for Super Mario World places it a