15 Best Super Mario Characters, Ranked

For decades, Nintendo has brought joy and technological innovation to millions with the Super Mario franchise and its wide array of video games and lovable characters. From 8-bit arcade cabinets and the Nintendo Famicom, all the way to the hybrid console powerhouse of the Nintendo Switch, Mario and his peers have starred in sports games, racing titles, and platforming experiences of all shapes and sizes.Related: Best Mario Games, Ranked

After so many years, new characters have been added to the Mario roster and existing characters have gained added depth and intricacy as time has gone on. Some characters that may not be considered mainstream have acquired fan-favorite status, and have earned popularity independent of Nintendo and the heroic plumber himself.

Updated by Stefania Ikeda-Stavridi on the 20th of November, 2023: With even more new games being released in the world of Super Mario, we have updated our list to include five more characters, as well as, more relevant information and images in each entry. We have also rearranged the rankings to match the popularity of certain characters.

15 Birdo

Pink Trans Icon

Fun Facts About Birdo:

  • Birdo Is One Of The First Transgender Video Game Characters
  • Birdo Was Originally A Bird, But Was Changed To Dinosaur

Birdo has a fascinating and vivid history. Super Mario Bros. 2 first introduced this iconic character, who stands out with their unique appearance that includes a bow and a protruding snout, adding a touch of whimsy to the Mushroom Kingdom. This adorable dinosaur is one of the first trans game characters, and enjoys wearing girly attire. In Japan she prefers being called Catherine, while in the rest of the world as Birdetta.

Although initially portrayed as an antagonist, Birdo has evolved into a more nuanced character and is often aligned with the protagonists. Despite limited appearances in mainline games, Birdo has gained recognition in spin-offs such as the Mario Kart series.

14 Kamek

Bowser’s Chaotic Advisor

Fun Facts About Kamek:

  • Kamek Is Yoshi’s Arch Enemy
  • His Full Name Is Kamek The Magikoopa

Kamek, a mystical and enigmatic character in the Super Mario universe, has left an indelible mark on the series. Debuted in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island as an adviser to the young Bowser, Kamek quickly became a recurring figure known for his magical prowess and cunning strategies.

Despite not always taking center stage, Kamek’s influence is felt at critical moments, often orchestrating challenges for Mario and his friends. This Magikoopa’s intriguing presence extends beyond the games, making appearances in various spin-offs and the Super Mario Bros. movie. Kamek’s presence proves that even behind the scenes, certain characters play pivotal roles in shaping the Mushroom Kingdom’s destiny.

13 Pauline

Damsel In Distress Turned City Leader

Fan Facts About Pauline:

  • Pauline Is Mario’s Ex-Girlfriend
  • She Had A Small Cameo In Super Mario Bros. Movie

Pauline, Mario’s initial love interest from 1981‘s Donkey Kong, was his first damsel in distress before Princess Peach assumed the role. Despite this transition, Pauline has experienced a resurgence in recent Mario games. In Super Mario Odyssey, she stole the spotlight, singing the beloved Jump Up, Super Star!.

Her enduring presence extends to titles like Mario Strikers, reaffirming her significance. Notably, the Super Mario Bros. movie featured a brief, yet memorable Pauline cameo, adding a nostalgic touch. These appearances showcase Pauline’s ability to transcend her original role, proving that her character continues to captivate audiences even after relinquishing her status as Mario’s love interest.

12 Wario

The Black Sheep Of The Super Mario World

Fun Facts About Wario:

  • His Name Is A Mashup Of Mario And Warui (Bad In Japanese)
  • The letter W Shows His Opposite Relationship To Mario

Vulgar, greedy, addicted to eating onions, and ready to throw the world under the bus if it conveniences him, Wario is anything but selfless. In spite of his disgusting nature, he’s done nothing but endear himself to players with his never-ending quest for riches and fortune, laying waste to anyone and anything standing in his way. Even his beloved spinoff series, Wario Land, is a theft in and of itself, as it hijacked the Super Mario Land series from the third entry onwards due to his appearance in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins making him a hit with fans.

Related: Best 2D Mario Games, Ranked

With an array of non-standard games under his belt to emphasize his bizarre nature compared to the rest of the Mario cast, Wario makes a big splash whenever he arrives on the scene, and players know that things have gotten interesting. Top to bottom, Wario is the best black-sheep character in gaming, and he’s happy to remind everyone of that fact upon request.

11 Waluigi

The Beloved And Chaotic Underdog

Fan Facts About Waluigi:

  • Waluigi Has Yet To Star In His Own Game
  • Waluigi Is A Skilled Dancer

Nintendo may sell him short sometimes, but he’s a fan favorite for good reason. Waluigi speaks most often in indecipherable mutterings and laughs, masking his true thoughts and letting his exaggerated, lanky body language do the work. Cartoonish, villainous, but almost always the underdog,

Waluigi’s sheer absurdity has earned him a spot in the hearts of players when compared to the three other plumbers. Sometimes being a walking enigma of a person is all it takes to become a beloved member of gaming’s finest characters.

10 Princess Rosalina

The Motherly Guardian Of The Lumas

Fun Facts About Princess Rosalina:

  • Rosalina’s Right Eye Can Only Be Seen Through Glitches
  • Was Born Into A Royal Family And Has A Brother

Who can say no to a galactic Princess? Introduced in the beloved Super Mario Galaxy, Princess Rosalina rules over the stars as opposed to a segment or neighboring land of the Mushroom Kingdom.

Related: The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Characters Who Belong In The Sequel

Mysterious, well-meaning, and coming to the franchise as the internet was booming in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, Rosalina shot to new heights of popularity and became a fan favorite almost instantly. When it comes to stealing the spotlight, and players’ hearts, Rosalina is a tough opponent to beat, and the stars in the night sky can attest to it.

9 Bowser Jr.

Adorable Trouble-Making Koopaling

Fun Facts About Bowser Jr.:

  • Bowser Jr. Does Not Have A Mother
  • Bowser Jr. Is Actually Bowser Himself

The chaotic and scheming son of the mighty King Koopa, Bowser Jr. made sure to cement his public image as soon as he arrived on the scene. Flying about in a rotary clown car and helping his father plot against the Mushroom Kingdom gives this pint-sized turtle an ego and personality the size of a truck.

Though like most bad boy archetypes, Bowser Jr. has a soft spot underneath his vile, goblin-like attitude. Bowser Jr. ultimately wants a mother to make a complete family for himself and his father, hence his eagerness to help Bowser kidnap Princess Peach so often. He may have the wrong approach to things, but his pranks and subversions make Bowser Jr. an endearing child character to those that get to know him.

8 Princess Daisy

Adventurous Sarasaland Princess

Fun Facts About Princess Daisy:

  • You Can Play Daisy In Almost All Sport-Themed Super Mario Games
  • You Can Unlock Daisy’s Iconic Dress In Bayonetta 2

An active, outgoing Princess that throws out the traditional norms of royalty. Princess Daisy is often more active and involved than her peers, ready to get into a game of contact soccer or join in the Olympic Games with Sonic the Hedgehog. This more involved, athletic persona has kept Daisy from being seen as a total copy-cat of Princess Peach, while giving her and Luigi a dynamic as mirror inverses of Peach and Mario.

From humble beginnings as the new Princess-in-danger in Super Mario Land, to standing alongside Sonic, Ken, Solid Snake, and Sora in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Daisy’s rise to popularity has been a successful slow burn decades in the making.

7 Toad

Quirky And Loyal Retainer

Fun Facts About Toad:

  • Toad Loves Turnips
  • Toad Isn’t Wearing A Hat, The Mushroom Is Part Of His Head

Toad, a loyal companion in the Super Mario universe, has evolved beyond his humble origins. First appearing in Super Mario Bros. as a loyal attendant to Princess Peach, Toad quickly became an iconic character with his distinctive mushroom-shaped head and unwavering loyalty. The Super Mario Bros. movie expanded Toad’s role, portraying him as a street performer, adding depth to his character.

Demonstrating versatility, Toad stars in Captain Toad, a cozy puzzle game on the Nintendo Switch. Steering away from traditional roles, this game lets players explore captivating diorama-like levels, showcasing Toad’s individuality. Whether in movies or his own adventures, Toad continuously evolves beyond a mere sidekick into a character capable of captivating audiences in diverse narratives.

6 Mario

Iconic Mushroom Kingdom Hero

Fun Facts About Mario:

  • Named After The Landlord Of Nintendo’s Warehouse
  • Had Over 120 Jobs From Doctor, Artist, To Astronaut

A corporate mascot known around the world, from humble beginnings. Mario is one of the most important video game characters ever made, and helped revitalize the industry in the mid-1980’s to create the entertainment juggernaut we know today.

Related: Best Franchises That Started On Nintendo

Having starred and appeared in over a hundred games across decades of consoles, handheld devices, phones, and arcade cabinets, Mario makes up for a somewhat lacking depth of character and personality with charm, endless optimism, and the joy he’s brought to millions of people over the course of his life. He’ll always come to save the day from whatever comes his way, and he’ll do it with a smile.

5 Princess Peach

Classic Damsel In Distress Turned Icon

Fun Facts About Princess Peach:

  • Princess Peach Gets Married To A Prince (Super Mario Bros. The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!)
  • Princess Peach Was Always Known By Her Name In Japan, But As Princess Toadstool Abroad

Princess Peach stands as the most beloved and iconic princess in the Super Mario franchise, tracing her roots back to the 1980s when she made her debut as Princess Toadstool. Over the years, her character has evolved, becoming synonymous with the Mushroom Kingdom.

Renamed Peach in 1996, she transitioned from a traditional damsel-in-distress to a dynamic and multifaceted protagonist. The recent Super Mario Bros. movie delved into her origins, adding depth to her narrative and sparking interest in her untold story. Now, in the newest game, Princess Peach: Showtime!, Peach takes center stage, further solidifying her status as a cherished and enduring figure in the gaming world.

4 Bowser

A Somewhat Sympathetic Iconic Villain

Fun Facts About Bowser:

  • A Whole Community Of Toads Lives In His Diaphragm (Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story)
  • Changed To A Giant Turtle From Being Originally An Ox

Jack Black’s memorable voice acting, coupled with the iconic song Peaches, has added a new dimension to Bowser’s character. The recurring nemesis of Mario, the greatest military threat in all the lands, and a mediocre kart driver, Bowser is a menace that players love to hate. Eternally on the hunt for conquest and power, only to be stopped again and again by betrayal from within and the intervention of pesky plumbers, Bowser is almost sympathetic due to his endless determination and refusal to throw in the towel.

From the 8-bit King Koopa, to his enigmatic schemes of the week in the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, to actual attempts at galactic conquest, Bowser has proven himself versatile and inventive in his plans to rule with an iron fist. As long as Mario stands tall, the King of the Koopas will have the closest competition he’s ever faced, and will confront him head-on every time.

3 Donkey Kong

Dynamic Gorilla Trailbrazer

Fun Facts About Donkey Kong:

  • First Game To Use Cut Scenes
  • Started His Rap Career In The 90s

The original, the first, and one of the mightiest. Without the original Donkey Kong arcade cabinets proving to be a success, there would be no Mario, no Nintendo video games, and possibly no video game industry as we know it. Large and in charge, Donkey Kong has established a powerful cast of characters and games of his own, but isn’t above showing up to parties and fighting tournaments alongside his old rival, Mario.

Related: Best Mario Sports Games, Ranked

From the bombastic and energized Donkey Kong Country series, to the rhythm-based Donkey Konga, Donkey Kong can’t quit, won’t quit, and isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

2 Yoshi

Adorable And Loyal Dinosaur Companion

Fun Facts About Yoshi:

  • Yoshi’s Full Name Is T. Yoshisaur Munchakoopas
  • Yoshi Means Respectful In Japanese

Mario’s faithful dinosaur mount and breakaway icon from the Super Nintendo era of the mid-1990’s. From Super Mario World and the tie-in cartoon, Yoshi quickly found popularity on his own, featuring in his own titles and becoming a recurring mainstay in event titles like Mario Kart and Mario Party.

As a simple and curiosity-driven dinosaur, Yoshi often stumbles into strange and unusual events, smiling past the danger and emerging better off than he was before every single time. Easily identifiable, lovable, and always down for a race, being turned into yarn, or starring in a light-gun arcade shooter, Yoshi is the dependable friend we all wish we could have at our sides.

1 Luigi

The One Who Broke The Mold

Fun Facts About Luigi:

  • Luigi’s Dream Is To Be A Great Plumber Like Mario
  • The Only One Who Has Seen Under Shy Guy’s Mask (In Mario Power Tennis)

The original Player-2 slot, the one that came to break the mold and emerge from his brother’s shadow as his own person. Luigi’s individuality grew slowly, first it was his exclusive move set in Super Mario Bros. 2, then he got his own sprites in later iterations of Super Mario All-Stars. Models and move sets finally became personality and individuality in Luigi’s Mansion on the GameCube.

Luigi’s sheepish, fearful attitude towards danger and involvement in non-traditional events, like capturing ghosts in a vaccumm cleaner, became the public image of this beloved green-clothed plumber. Finally becoming his own man after years of being ‘the other one’, Luigi’s slow burn rise to stardom is the stuff of legend, and he’s seared into the hearts and minds of players everywhere.

Next: Best Family Video Games, Ranked

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