4. Beanbean Kingdom
While not the first role-playing game to star the popular plumber, Superstar Saga did something completely different than Super Mario RPG, taking elements from the Mario universe and perfectly translating them into unique RPG mechanics. And it all happened first in the memorable Beanbean Kingdom.
This all-new land was based on goofy puns (now you see where Pi’ilo Island gets it from), taking the brothers through locations like Teehee Valley and Joke’s End. Staples like Cheep Cheeps and Goombas appeared, accompanied by their Beanbean counterparts like Blurps and Beanies. Combat included the expected fireballs and hammers as weapons, but exploring the kingdom utilized these powers as well. Mario could flame Luigi from behind, causing the duo to dash forward; Luigi could hammer Mario into a mini form, letting him access new areas. And then there’s the dashing prince of the land. The Beanbean Kingdom didn’t just provide new places to see, but new tools to help you explore them.
With over 100 games to his name, Mario has enjoyed a number of strange adventures, yet it’s safe to classify Super Mario Land as “the weird one.” And even then, he only visits Sarasaland in the first game in the series. Why so few trips, dude? Don’t you like the pyramid-y Birabuto Kingdom? The tropical Muda Kingdom? The tribal Eaton Kingdom? The ancient Chai Kingdom, featuring one of the greatest Mario tunes ever?
Those are four radically unique areas we just don’t see any more: Sarasaland is all but forgotten. On the other hand, its denizens are not. The name Daisy ought to sound familiar, and guess what? She’s Sarasaland’s princess, a perfect parallel to Peach. In a way, you have to thank her kidnapper, Tatanga, for dragging Mario away for a bit, because Wario – in his first ever appearance – took over the castle while the overall-wearing hero was away. Now we just need to bring Tatanga the alien back…
2. Dinosaur Land
Super Mario World on SNES was a game of firsts – the series’ debut on a new console, bonus worlds, never-before-seen power up, a certain green reptile – and it all happened in Dinosaur Land. The infamous 90s cartoon? It totally took place in Dome City, found here. The game is also Miyamoto’s favorite in the franchise, which should tell you something about its quality.
If you couldn’t tell by the name, Dinosaur Land is also host to one of the series’ most iconic characters (technically a species, but whatever), Yoshi. He’s appeared in pretty much every Mario game since – not to mention starred in his own series of titles – and it’s all because we visited his homeland. Other parts of the island like Donut Plains and Chocolate Island are home to other dino species like Rexes and the oft-forgotten Reznors, which you may be disappointed to learn have nothing to do with Nine Inch Nails.
You could almost write a Top 7 on why Subcon is the best non-Mushroom Kingdom world. What’s fascinating is that this wasn’t originally a Mario world at all. We all know the story of Doki Doki Panic being re-skinned as Super Mario Bros. 2, so no need to retread it here – there’s Wikipedia for that. And even though the whole world is inside (spoilers) Mario’s sleeping mind, much of what we see in his subconscious (see what they did there?) lasted throughout the franchise.
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Keys. Bob-ombs. Pokeys. Shy Guys. Birdo. Even Peach’s ability to float began here (this was also the first time the former Princess Toadstool was ever playable). Pretty much everything except Subcon’s evil ruler Wart are now series staples. Pretty crazy for a setting that wasn’t originally Mario’s to begin with. Of course, that begs a question: if this is all a dream, how does it exist in other games? Perhaps the red hat-wearing brother was just dreaming of creatures he’d actually seen. Or is every game a dream?!?!
Do you agree with our list? Maybe you prefer Bowser’s insides to the Beanbean Kingdom? Let us know!