It’s amazing how far fans will go to show their love of a particular game. The web is full of fans who stay on top of gaming news, who create tons of YouTube gaming content, and more recently, fans who host entertaining gaming podcasts.
One step up from all of that? Fan games.
We’ve already covered some of the coolest fan-made Pokémon games, but did you know that Mario fans are just as creative with code? Here are some of the best fan games featuring your favorite plumber and his gang of friends.
1. Super Mario Bros. X
Super Mario Bros. X (referred to as SMBX) is arguably the most popular Mario fan game ever made. It’s a tribute that emphasizes the fundamental elements of the franchise: platforming gameplay, exciting powerups, and fun level design.
SMBX has five playable characters in Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, and Link. Its powerups include classics (e.g. Yoshi) as well as new ones (e.g. the Hammer Suit). And it has local multiplayer! Play with a friend in co-op mode with a camera that seamlessly transitions into split screen, or in battle mode.
But the best part of SMBX is its super-advanced level editor. You can pretty much create any kind of level your heart desires. Not only that, but the editor lets you change levels in real-time as you play them.
Download: Super Mario Bros. X (Windows)
Mari0 (that’s a zero) is an exact replica of the original Super Mario Bros. except with one major change: portals! Yes, the same gameplay from both Portal and Portal 2 — you manipulate enemies and navigate levels using orange and blue portals.
This fan-made game is a perfect example of how two completely different genres can come together and become something greater than their individual parts. Not only is it fun, but you can now exercise even more creativity in how you win. And as a bonus, it supports four-player co-op and has a built-in level editor.
Download: Mari0 (Windows, Mac, Linux)
3. Super Mario Bros. Dimensions
Super Mario Bros. Dimensions is another remake-type fan game that takes the original Super Mario Bros. and expands it with a new gameplay mechanic — in this case, dimension switching.
At the press of a button, you can switch back and forth between the “real” world and the “alternate” world. This has a similar layout but different elements. There are also new powerups to try (e.g. Laser Flower), secret levels to explore, and collectibles.
Lots of blood, sweat, and tears went into this game, and it shows. The quality is so good that you might even mistake it for an actual Nintendo-made game!
Download: Super Mario Bros. Dimensions (Windows)
4. Super Mario War
Super Mario War is a single-screen multiplayer game for up to four players. Your goal is to stomp on the other Marios just as you would stomp on Goombas in the original Super Mario Bros. Whoever stomps the most, wins. Don’t have any friends? Fill in the spots with AI-controlled bots!
With its built-in level editor, you can design and create all kinds of unique maps for more stomping fun. As of this writing, hundreds of community-made maps are available on the forums. You can also play a handful of other game modes like Capture the Flag, Get the Chicken, Domination, and more.
Unfortunately, Super Mario War hasn’t been updated since 2009, and the download link on its official website is dead. However, you can access the source code here, and if you have experience coding in C and SDL, you might even fork the project. If you just want to play it, you can thankfully download a working copy from Softpedia.
Download: Super Mario War (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Mariovania is exactly what you think: a mashup of Mario-esque platformer gameplay with elements from the Castlevania series. Fans of both series will love this game.
Interesting additions include experience and equipment systems, new abilities and powerups, tons of classic and new enemies, lots of secrets to explore, and a suprisingly fitting soundtrack.
The graphics leave something to be desired, but if you can ignore the fact that Mario runs like a marionette doll, you’ll find that the game itself is quite fun. Mariovania is still updated every so often, but expect to run into bugs.
Download: Mariovania (Windows, Mac, Linux)
6. Toads vs. Koopas
And now for something a little different: a small clone of the popular Plants vs. Zombies with a Mario theme. In this game, you place Toad cannons on a field and fend off encroaching Koopas. And it’s pretty dang fun.
The only downside to Toads vs. Koopas is that it only has a single level. It’s hard and it’s fun, but don’t expect to spend more than an hour or two with this one.
Download: Toads vs. Koopas (Windows)
7. Mario Land: Minigame Mayhem
In this game, you enter the Mario Land Theme Park where you can play dozens of fun minigames and earn all kinds of achievements and prizes. Think of it like Mario Party for one person: lots of little challenges that’ll test your skills.
Within the Park, you’ll be able to play arcade games, card games, jumping games, luck games, and so much more. You start off with 10 coins. Each game has an entry cost and a potential reward. Your goal is to amass as many coins as you can.
Once you have enough coins, you can buy outfits and figurines. You can also record high scores for most of the activities, meaning lots of replayability as you try to best yourself in your favorite games.
Download: Mario Land: Minigame Mayhem (Windows)
Try Making Your Own Mario Fan Game
The beauty of modern game development is that anyone can learn how to code. With all the excellent tools and tutorials out there, fast learners have been known to create their first games within just a few months. Why not you?
Check out these tools for creating simple Mario games as well as learning to make games with Buildbox. If you want to seriously pursue game development, however, we recommend learning these top-notch game development tools.
What’s your favorite fan-made Mario game? Have any cool game ideas of your own? Share them with us in the comments below!