The world of ROM hacks can be a scary place. Diving head first into the community with little prior knowledge is a frustrating experience. There are tons of hacks for just about every popular series and platform out there, with vastly varied quality and goals. Luckily for you, your old pal Casey is here to help you out. So far we’ve talked about Metroid and Pokemon. If you missed those or the guide on how to play ROM hacks, check it out!
Alright, it’s Super Mario Bros. time! The OG of ROM Hacks. The first Super Mario Bros. game may very well be the first game to ever be hacked. Since then, a thriving community has sprung up around the entire series, stretching from the NES classics to the DS and Wii’s New Super Mario Bros. series. Even the 3D games have seen some fantastic fan work in the last decade.
Let’s get started with a very cool hack of the original game called Extra Mario Bros. This game, while rooted in classic Mario platforming, strays pretty far from the formula. Extra Mario Bros. adds in Metroidvania-esque elements, even using sprites from the original Metroid at times. There’s new artwork, expansive levels, redesigned physics, the whole works. If you’re a fan of the moustachioed plumber who’s looking for something a bit different, this game is for you.
If you’re looking for a more traditional Mario Bros. thrill, there are quite a few options here. First up is Super Mario Bros. Rebirth. This game has 5 worlds full of new levels based on the original SMB1 formula and artwork. The difficulty is spot-on, comfortable for just about anyone with platforming experience.
How about some Super Mario Bros. 3? Super Mario Bros 3mix is fantastic. Brand new art and playable characters (Toad!) mix with some excellent level design resulting in an excellent game. Oh, and Yoshi is in the game; from SMB3 on the NES. This game runs just fine on original hardware if you’ve got a flashcart, as do the rest of the games on this list.
We can’t talk about Mario ROM hacks without bringing up a Kazio game. The expert difficulty and inventive use of game mechanics have grabbed a lot of attention since the release of Super Mario Maker. There are countless Kazio style levels to be had there, but we’re talking about full-on hacks here, so let’s look at Super Panga World. You may have seen this game at the recent Summer Games Done Quick speedrunning event. Super Panga World is a newer release with some incredibly well-designed challenges. This ROM is not for the faint of heart by any means.
If Kaizo isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty of SNES Mario out there. Games like Return to Dinosaur Land and Super Demo World contain some high-quality level design and new artwork while retaining the source material’s difficulty level for the most part. Both of these games are great fun and chocked full of content.
We can’t leave Yoshi’s Island out of the mix! There’s a few good Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island ROM hacks out there. My go-to is GoldenYoshi’s Super Mario World 2+2. A full on hack, this game has 5 worlds of brand new levels, new Yoshi colors, and more secret levels than even the original game. If you like egg-shooting and fluttering, 2+2 is right up your alley. The difficulty is just a bit above what the source material demands, so players of most all skill levels should be just fine. Here’s a video of notable Twitch streamer and Yoshi’s Island speedrunner Trihex doing a run of the game.
The 2D games aren’t the only entries to get some love here. 3D game hacking has come a long way in the last 5 years or so. If you’re going to hack into a 3D platformer, why not choose one of the best? Super Mario Star Road does just that, completely changing up the original Super Mario 64. There are 15 new stages to traverse, with some very clever use of the original game’s assets and physics. It gets a bit frustrating at times, but it’s worth the effort. There’s tons of content here, with a nice difficulty curve If you’re interested, watch the trailer below.
If that’s not enough for you, may I suggest giving Super Mario 74 a whirl. There’s a full 151 stars just waiting to be found across 15 levels and even more secrets. This one has an excellent difficulty curve, as the wiki points out. If you want more of a challenge, there’s also the Super Mario 74 Extreme Edition variant out there.
For those of you with a modified Wii at home (or the excellent Dolphin emulator on Windows/Mac/Linux), check out Newer Super Mario Bros. This fan-made sequel adds 120 new levels to the original game, along with new and updated graphics, new powerup items, and full 4 player co-op support. The official YouTube channel has tons of in-game footage.
Well, there you have it! Mario games for all ages and skill levels. As usual, there are tons more hacks out there for pretty much every Super Mario game there is. Check out the forums at SMW Central for more. The site is pretty primitive, but trust me there is plenty of great information there on what games are worth playing and even how to make your own ROM hack. If you do, you best send it to me! What Super Mario ROM hacks do you enjoy? Let us know here in the comments.