Worst 3D Mario Levels

NinTylo

Goomba
TopTenWorst3DSuperMarioLevels.jpg

Well at least these levels set good examples for game design students and how they shouldn't design something. Now that I've covered the best 3D Mario levels from my perspective, I think it's about time I cover what I think are the worst. The only rule I'm going to reapply here that I did with my best list is that I'm looking at all missions within these levels, but - Spoilers - most levels on this list won't be as big as a Mario level with more than a few missions. I will say that I would include Stone Cyclone Galaxy, but that standalone level in Galaxy 2 originated from a mission in Beach Bowl Galaxy in the original Super Mario Galaxy, so as much as I'd include it, I will not because it's nothing more than a bad influence on Mario levels. And if some of these levels are amongst your favorites, that's fine. Just don't expect me to say anything good about them (at least most of these entries), and you certainly don't need to be a jerk if your's isn't on the list. So will one of your least favorites be on my Top Ten Worst? Hmmm... let's find out.

N10GrandFinaleGalaxy.png

Most of your time spent with Mario's platformers consist of defeating enemies and bosses, collecting coins and stars, and grabbing power-ups. It lacks being a platformer for Mario, when a level is made to have no challenge, instead being comprised of doing nothing more than collecting 100 purple coins while at the same time doing nothing but walking down a harmless lane - albeit one leading to a site of nostalgia (but I'll admit it's a bit of nice touch on the bright side). And that's easily Grand Finale Galaxy in a nutshell. Cause all you're really doing is just walking down a path towards Peach's Castle during its Star Festival (just like you were slightly at the start of the game - as Mario if not Luigi) not having to worry about enemies or jumping mechanics that put you to any form of a test whatsoever (except for one purple coin on the top of Captain Toad's spaceship, even if it's not even that hard to grab).

I know it's trying to show off nostalgia via Super Mario 64, but seriously - why should this be made in Super Mario Galaxy when we can just revisit it as a hub in 64 where I can enter the inside of it to access other levels via its paintings? Come on, add more depth next time, Nintendo. (Wait, nevermind; you already did that with Odyssey. And for that matter, I'll just say "thanks for Mushroom Kingdom")

N9RuinedKingdom.jpg

The only level from Odyssey on my list, Ruined Kingdom is what I would mostly refer to as a level with the "looks good on paper" trope, but obviously at the end of the day doesn't stand out like the rest of the game's levels. Cause as shortly limited as Cloud Kingdom is, what many people might forget is that in terms of roaming around and solid land to walk on, Ruined Kingdom is almost as small. And the thing is, I like more exploration, even if it's the secret/bonus areas that make up for it most of the time. And not that every level on my list is gonna be super small, but if a level's gonna stand amongst my favorites, it's gotta be a half-decent size. (Yeah, even 64's main levels each have more surface to explore than this)

The cool thing about it though is the boss - a realistic dragon that's a far cry from the other cute cartoony ones like Hooktail & Gloomtail (if not Bonetail) from The Thousand-Year Door. Other than that, it isn't much else other than dark & dull surroundings that are more about sight than free-roaming.

N8BattleBeltGalaxy.png

What can you expect from a level entitled "Battle Belt Galaxy" other than enemies, enemies, and more... well, enemies?! This level pits Mario against various enemies from planet to planet after he clears each one of them individually. And I can somewhat see why it's entitled "Battle Belt" when you're basically battling enemies in spite of Mario and the enemies lacking mechanical weapons like guns, but at most, fighting these enemies aren't even that epic or exciting to begin with to say the least. When you make your way to the last planet to try and destroy four metallic Silver Chomps, you do so with the use of rubbery bulbs. Quick question though: How exactly is rubber able to break metal? It makes no sense. Either way, this level's simple and forgettable unlike many others in Galaxy 2.

But on the bright side, at least we got a more challenging boss fight with a fiery Gobblegut a la that Hungry Luma (who strangely requires coins instead of star bits). Cause if Gobblegut and the Ruined Dragon were non-existent, these two would be much higher on my Top Ten Worst. Long story short: Great bosses, poor levels.

N7WingMarioOvertheRainbow.jpg

Even if they're really small compared to the Galaxy games and Odyssey, Super Mario 64's levels have their own unique charm. And on the flipside, all of them admittedly have their fair share of variety that truly makes Mario the standing innovation he still is today. However, as much as 64's my all time favorite game (let alone of Mario obviously), this secret course hidden on the second-to-top floor of Peach's Castle is a total bust. And by bust, I mean a level that screws you over unfairly, and come to think of it, Wing Mario Over the Rainbow is all style, no substance.

The basic rule of the level is to blast Mario around the sky collecting 8 red coins (as almost every other secret course in the game would have) with Wing Caps. And if you've been through the same problem I have, it's quite clear that Mario at times is like a pain to control when flying. And let's not forget the other consequence; short if (at times) mishandled as that level was, at least Tower of the Wing Cap (at the very center of Peach's Castle) put you back in the exact same spot you accessed the level from if you fall out of the sky. In WMOtR's case though, in spite of having cannons to help Mario blast up to higher heights around the sky to reach some of the red coins, if he falls to his undying merciful doom, you end up outside the castle landing into the lake at the entrance. So you basically have to waste another minute or two traveling all the way back up to the same floor you entered it from. For shame, Nintendo!

N6ToweringSunshineSeaside.jpg

In this 9th level of Flower World via 3D World, Mario and friends revisit a shorter version of World 5's first level Sunshine Seaside being given the task of defeating four Fire Bros. standing on huge stacks of Goombas - cause that's your only way of reaching the goal pole. Anyway, whether you're old or new to this game, this level is definitely what I call a fruitless endeavor. For newbies who can rarely dodge those lousy fireballs the Fire Bros. throw at you, it's aggravating at best when you get hit as a canon when you try to blast away all those Goombas to reach the flame-throwing koopas, and while there's plenty enough canons for you to grab when hitting their blocks, the very short time limit only adds fuel to the fire you already got from those fireballs thrown by those brutal Fire Bros., even with the extra clocks that buy you more necessary time. (This is a harder version of a previous level after all)

And unless you're Rosalina (who has the same spin attack that Mario had in the Galaxy games via the Apricot-colored baby Luma when playing as her default self - meaning no power-ups equipped on her), there's not much hope other than to just restart the level cause it's sometimes easy for me to forget how wide the area is when I haven't played the original Sunshine Seaside level in World 5 in a long while (in spite of how good the original version was). Yes, I normally would've excluded cloned levels just cause they aren't much different from their original counterparts as I did with my best list, but I just can't overlook this one. Eventually you reach the goal pole when taking out every Goomba and the Fire Bros., but no thanks to how Nintendo decided to give the level a short timer limit (no matter how many small clocks they added in to make it forgiving at times), the damage has long since been done... no matter how challenging some Mario games & levels are meant to be (if not always done in the right way).

And if you're good enough to where this is a simple enough task for you to where you can just spam this level's enemies endlessly with a canon when dodging all of those fireballs, then what the heck's the point of even revisiting it in the first place?

N5SnowCapGalaxy.png

What better example of poor level design than Snow Cap Galaxy? On the second (and only other) planet of the course, Mario must search for and catch three little bunnies who hide within the snow piles and snowman to collect another power star. Okay, so... what the heck is this level supposed to be? Most levels in general show off some actual creativity or testing. This though is the equivalent of pacing back & forth (especially for experts who can complete it in a flash). You just plow through the snow to get those three bunnies out of rabbit holes and catch all three of them... on a 3-minute timer no less (even with the helpful Fire Flower power up which is pretty much the only mercy to this level as to make it more bearable than the rest of my Top Five). And to make matters worse, if you run out of time, you lose a life.

It's a time-waster at best, and an absolute groan-fest at worst. No wonder bunnies are annoying to catch...

N4LilyPadRide.png

Remember that atrociously sluggish Rudder Madness minigame we all hated in Mario Party 8? It was like Nintendo ran out of ideas and just went with a snail race what with a bunch of lily pads which only gave said minigame an even worse reputation. Know what I mean? Well, just a half a decade earlier, we had this catastrophe from Sunshine; and though it's not quite as dull, it's still just as bad- no, horrendous! Seriously, all that patience that I've been tested for to get Yoshi over to that lone island (on super slow boats that confused me as to which I should take, while at the same time hoping Yoshi doesn't run out of juice) to spray away that squishy juice barrier on the warp pipe, and I got this for a challenge? THIS level?? What a joke!

I mean at first you might have been like "When I finally access that pipe with Yoshi's help, surely it's gone be good, right?" Well, you're wrong. Cause with how hard it is to steer that lily pad and collect all those red coins, it's near impossible that if you scream in agony at all the lives you lost on this level (especially when you miss that 1-Up around half way to the very end more often than not), then you're not alone. And for a level that people were anticipating to play on a lone island that was already hard to reach as I said, it's basically a huge disappointment where if you were really excited to know what the level itself was all along, it was all too good to be true.

And no, this (Spoiler Alert!) isn't the worst level of the game, but seriously; what fun is there in riding down a poison river collecting eight red coins on a lily pad that's hard to control? Nothing if you ask me. (NEXT!)

N3LoopdeeswoopGalaxy.png

Being THE third entry on their list of supposedly "good" 3D Mario Levels, I have absolutely no idea what WatchMojo was thinking when they listed this and my 7th entry no less. Cause let me tell you, nobody likes losing from crappy controls. It always feels like you have to take gimmicky risks just to finish a mission that makes it feel more like mind-boggling school homework you just wanna get over with than some fun game you wanna enjoy and compete in with friends (or in this case, set new records for). Well, if you fail either way; Loopdeeswoop Galaxy is precisely all of that arguably.

Mario controls a manta ray twisting the Wii remote left and right to control the ray and move it around- yes, you have to stick your remote out, which means that if you lose control by twisting it too far to one side or the other, much less wearing your arm out, chances are - unless you've mastered Loopdeeloop Galaxy - you're gonna lose control anyway. To make things worse, this course and its predecessor have no guardrails to keep you from falling off and losing lives, much less the fact that when you don't beat the first record, you lose another life and thus won't get another star. You might risk more than enough lives you've earned beforehand, even with all the others placed throughout the course (whether or not you can grab them all), but at the end of the day, your overall experience is absolute frustration (and not in a good or fun way). Hopefully every other 1-Up you earn in the game can make up for more than enough of the ones you lost in this trainwreck of a level.

N2PachinkoGame.png

Some people would argue that these pachinko machines in Japan were boring and finicky, not to mention luck-based most of the time as a major gamble. Allow Mario to fortify that statement. Mario must enter the inside of a pachinko game from a trampoline-esque launcher within the machine, much like a pinball game. His only real way of reaching those holes is to use F.L.U.D.D. to hover into some of them if possible, but the pegs surrounding them really don't help just like the physics of the luckiest way to win a real pachinko game. And on the flip side of the machine (pun intended) for a relief, Mario slides all the way back down to the outside of the machine from where he started right next to the launcher.

This level was really unfair due to how unlikely it was for Mario to reach all those holes with the red coins, and because the pegs break the laws of physics and are luck-based as I said, you can only hope that you'll fall on the correct side of them. And even though you have F.L.U.D.D. to help you with that, the camera is really messed up depending on where you land within' the machine. So yeah, it's finicky but the other way from the ones in Japan.

And yet this isn't Mario's worst 3D level as other people claim it to be...

Before I unveil my top pick, here are a few

TopTenWorst3DSuperMarioLevelsDishonorableMentions.jpg

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N1CoronaMountain.png

Yup. I hate this more than the Pachinko Game level. You probably noticed a pattern with the levels on my list here and why I have criticism for them; dull design, frustration or how short they are - but admittedly for all of the previous entries, none of them have ended on a slightly sour note. With Corona Mountain however, it has all three of these problems I mentioned. First off, Mario must jump on and pass over numerous square platforms with either fire he must spray with F.L.U.D.D. or ones where spikes pop out every few seconds. They might be as easy as reacting fast with hovering once the spikes rise, but the fire platforms won't stay doused forever. Another lackluster aspect of the level is that it features no enemies other than the Fire Cheep-Cheeps.

That brings me to my next problem with the level; controlling that small boat at the other half of the level. I could find it forgiving if steering the boat across was easy, but it doesn't help that spires within the lava area could make the mud boat sink, and the controls to it are complete crap. Not even the sprinkler in the middle of the second half is a relief when you're already having trouble getting the boat all the way across. Even worse, collecting all those blue coins around the circular platform is an even bigger frustration than trying to get the mud boat across to the platform. And let's not forget that the camera in the cloud section that you must blast upward with the Rocket Nozzle in order to reach the final boss fight with Bowser & Bowser Jr. is broken to say the least.

And even though I can't necessarily count bosses as a part of this list, the... Hot Tub(?) fight with Bowser and Bowser Jr. can be summed up best by former YouTuber Alex Rochon (aka the Autarch of Flame): "This battle only poured salt on the wounds you've probably earned from Corona Mountain just before it." And don't get me started on that horrendous dialogue in both the cutscene before the final boss fight, and of course the ending what with the so-called "death" of F.L.U.D.D. once the fight with both Bowsers is done with. So even when you complete the game, Corona Mountain gives you an infectious flu bug while the final boss fight only gives more sickness added to your flu to make you throw up.

With nuisances like Pachinko Game and Lily Pad Ride you can at least walk them off with a Shine Sprite and forget them overtime, but with Corona Mountain, I'm afraid you can't really say the same, no thanks to its crappy final boss and cutscenes no less. Even worse, slipping through the cracks of the boss's hot tub weak spots once you land a powerful ground pound on them (which obviously recycle the pathetically obvious weak spots cliche ungodly) and sinking the boat right by the sprinkler practically guarantee you a 1-Up loss or two regardless if you love lava levels a lot, or even half decent build up to a game's final boss. There is no other Mario level that could literally have frustrated me more. And yes, I can forgive the rest of the entries on this list that grind on me, but there is no real good taste within this mess of a course whatsoever, and not even Corona's admittedly cool & tense albeit forgettable music helps either. This final level is completely loathsome in every imaginable way. All I can say is, thank goodness that every 3D sequel after this had better final levels and boss fights with Bowser (albeit Galaxy 2's 2nd phase of him which is almost as bad as Sunshine's final showdown with him).

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Agree with my list? What's your worst 3D Mario Level? (Comment below... or not. I don't care too much, but without going all toxic, it'd be nice if I heard a few other thoughts)
 
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Kersti

YoshiFlutterJump
Awards Committee
Poll Committee
I'd say that Lily Pad Ride should be above Pachinko Game, Corona Mountain should be below both, and Grand Finale Galaxy simply should not be here period (especially since you praise Odyssey's Mushroom Kingdom in comparison, which seems hypocritical to me). Grand Finale was never trying to be a real level, simply a nostalgia trip; Odyssey's Mushroom Kingdom was also just a nostalgia trip and isn't much deeper than Grand Finale at all.
 

NinTylo

Goomba
I'd say that Lily Pad Ride should be above Pachinko Game, Corona Mountain should be below both, and Grand Finale Galaxy simply should not be here period (especially since you praise Odyssey's Mushroom Kingdom in comparison, which seems hypocritical to me). Grand Finale was never trying to be a real level, simply a nostalgia trip; Odyssey's Mushroom Kingdom was also just a nostalgia trip and isn't much deeper than Grand Finale at all.
The thing is LPR and PG are easy to walk off when you get a Shine Sprite, but with CM - what do we get? A horrendous final boss, awkward voice acting and unemotional cutscenes before the end credits and Shine Sprite. And I'll explain why I love Mushroom Kingdom so much in my Top Ten FAVORITE 3D Mario Levels some other time...
 

Kersti

YoshiFlutterJump
Awards Committee
Poll Committee
I like Mushroom Kingdom too, but I also like Grand Finale and I simply do not understand your reasoning for putting it on this list. My issue is with this last part:

I know it's trying to show off nostalgia via Super Mario 64, but seriously - why should this be made in Super Mario Galaxy when we can just revisit it as a hub in 64 where I can enter the inside of it to access other levels via its paintings? Come on, add more depth next time, Nintendo. (Wait, nevermind; you already did that with Odyssey. And for that matter, I'll just say "thanks for Mushroom Kingdom")
You first mention that you don't like the concept of Grand Finale because the original rendition is far deeper a level. But then you praise Odyssey's rendition, saying it's far better at doing what Grand Finale tried to do. But...what? If you don't like Grand Finale because it's very shallow compared to the original, then why do you like Mushroom Kingdom, which is also very shallow compared to the original? It doesn't make any sense. You say you can just experience a better Grand Finale in Mario 64...you can also experience a better Mushroom Kingdom in Mario 64.

These are simply nostalgia nods. They're not supposed to be real levels, and I really can't understand why one of them qualifies for the list because of it while the other...doesn't.
 

Kersti

YoshiFlutterJump
Awards Committee
Poll Committee
Everyone hates on Luigi's Purple Coins but nobody even bothers to mention the far more evil Luigi's Purple Coin Chaos.
 

NinTylo

Goomba
I like Mushroom Kingdom too, but I also like Grand Finale and I simply do not understand your reasoning for putting it on this list. My issue is with this last part:


You first mention that you don't like the concept of Grand Finale because the original rendition is far deeper a level. But then you praise Odyssey's rendition, saying it's far better at doing what Grand Finale tried to do. But...what? If you don't like Grand Finale because it's very shallow compared to the original, then why do you like Mushroom Kingdom, which is also very shallow compared to the original? It doesn't make any sense. You say you can just experience a better Grand Finale in Mario 64...you can also experience a better Mushroom Kingdom in Mario 64.

These are simply nostalgia nods. They're not supposed to be real levels, and I really can't understand why one of them qualifies for the list because of it while the other...doesn't.
If I need to point it out, since I forgot when I originally posted all this on DA (with a few minor changes), I LOVE the concept of GF Galaxy, but unfortunately, for lacking much of an accomplishing task to do other just collect purple coins for the last power star for both Mario & Luigi each, I'm afraid it only STARTS OFF my top ten least favorites, so I just hate how you don't get much else to do in it - unlike Mushroom Kingdom in Odyssey (even though most of its kingdoms are like big hubs to roam around in)... so really, nostalgia is the mercy that keeps GF Galaxy from ranking any worse. Numbers 5-1 are those I actually hate, while 9-6 are dislikable... and for GF Galaxy? It feels slightly wasted in terms of potential.
 

NinTylo

Goomba
Everyone hates on Luigi's Purple Coins but nobody even bothers to mention the far more evil Luigi's Purple Coin Chaos.
I could've posted those, but I already said I'm looking at levels with EVERY line of missions, not just one in particular. (Like Luigi's Purple Coins - which is only a MINOR issue I have with Toy Time Galaxy, meaning at the end of the day, TT Galaxy is easily (SPOILER ALERT!) a part of my Top FIVE Favorite 3D Mario Levels)
 

Ray Trace

You Can Tick Off Birds If You Follow My Advice
I despise the Perfect Run, as well as a good portion of the finale levels in the 3D games recently, such as World 8 Crown and Champion's Road and the Farther Side of the Moon. A good chunk of them are a bunch of tiny platforms in a void, and they're all heavily padded out long levels to give a false sense of challenge and no checkpoints, by being Frankensteined from a bunch of different levels with no actual defining cohesive theme to them.

Look at how barely designed this fucking level is, they shat out a bunch of floating, recycled objects from earlier in the game, glued them together in these segments, have no checkpoints at all, and called it a day.




And what you get rewarded with when you slog through this poor excuse of a level?



Rosalina randomly standing there on a desolate, generic, out of nowhere planet on a featurlessly cloudy skybox on a shabby slum of a house.

Champion's Road from 3D World suffers through this abysmal level design, sure, but I feel like the Grandmaster Galaxy and the Perfect Run started this trend of having barely designed, glued together artificially long levels composing of little platforms and only recycled assets, and I want them to stop making those types of levels before and actually put thought and design into your finale levels rather than whatever the hell this is.
 

Kersti

YoshiFlutterJump
Awards Committee
Poll Committee
Rosalina randomly standing there on a desolate, generic, out of nowhere planet on a featurlessly cloudy skybox on a shabby slum of a house.
Worth mentioning that that planet is actually a replica of the Gate Planet from the Comet Observatory in Galaxy 1, and that is where Rosalina is in the game's secret ending. I think it's a rewarding end to the merciless brutality of The Perfect Run.

But yes, I agree that The Perfect Run is Not Great™️, but The Ultimate Test (Grandmaster's first mission) is a well-designed final level with genuine challenge (and it has checkpoints too).
 

NinTylo

Goomba
Worth mentioning that that planet is actually a replica of the Gate Planet from the Comet Observatory in Galaxy 1, and that is where Rosalina is in the game's secret ending. I think it's a rewarding end to the merciless brutality of The Perfect Run.

But yes, I agree that The Perfect Run is Not Great™️, but The Ultimate Test (Grandmaster's first mission) is a well-designed final level with genuine challenge (and it has checkpoints too).
I don't care for Grandmaster Galaxy either to be honest, and for companies like WatchMojo... that's what their Top 10 is all about, isn't it? That's what their entries have mostly been about! Challenge and iconic-ness!
 

Eric B

Monty Mole
Was this the thread originally titled something like "What in a 3D Mario level were you troubled by?" or something like that? (Which I clearly remember from within the last couple of weeks, but can't find now).

One YT'er is running gameplay videos of the entire SMG series (I skipped over that one, and went straight to SMG2, when I entered the Nintendo fray with the Wii, and wanted my first 3D Mario), and there's a galaxy with three apple planets, and when you pound on one of the stumps in the first one, a huge hideous looking worm (said in the wiki to be a caterpillar) bursts out, and then eventually, has to plow through the other two apples, so you can climb up it to the next launch star.
I found that just disturbing, I guess for a deeply archetypal feeling. It's like something looking innocent, peaceful and whole, but it has this hidden corruption inside, that erupts and even spreads to the others.

I wouldn't call it the "worst" level; just found it symbolically troubling, the way it was animated, to answer the other thread title I remembered.
 

NinTylo

Goomba
Was this the thread originally titled something like "What in a 3D Mario level were you troubled by?" or something like that? (Which I clearly remember from within the last couple of weeks, but can't find now).

One YT'er is running gameplay videos of the entire SMG series (I skipped over that one, and went straight to SMG2, when I entered the Nintendo fray with the Wii, and wanted my first 3D Mario), and there's a galaxy with three apple planets, and when you pound on one of the stumps in the first one, a huge hideous looking worm (said in the wiki to be a caterpillar) bursts out, and then eventually, has to plow through the other two apples, so you can climb up it to the next launch star.
I found that just disturbing, I guess for a deeply archetypal feeling. It's like something looking innocent, peaceful and whole, but it has this hidden corruption inside, that erupts and even spreads to the others.

I wouldn't call it the "worst" level; just found it symbolically troubling, the way it was animated, to answer the other thread title I remembered.
No. This is very much my own post. I did not rip this off from anyone else. This is my personal list...
 
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