Super Mario Bros. Crossover Characters… Ranked

Super Mario Bros. Crossover has quickly become one of my favorite games. The ability to choose between seven other 8-bit icons breathes new life into this old classic.

But not all characters are created equal. Here’s a ranking of the eight in terms of how well-suited they are to the levels and how fun they are to play — at least as far as I’m concerned.

8) Mario

Sorry, big guy. It might be your game, but you’re not the star of the show this time. Mario’s fireballs are still the strongest power-up in the game, and he’s the fastest character on land, but my word is he boring. If you wanted to play vanilla Mario Bros., you can get it from any number of sources. No, if you seek out Super Mario Bros. Crossover, it means you want to play as the other guys.

I still use him on the Cheep Cheep stages (2-3 and 7-3), though, where speed is paramount and extra abilities are near useless.

7) Mega Man

I liked Mega Man more in the first version of the game, where he had doubled jumping to compensate for his weak jump height in his own games. The revisions of the game reverted his jumps back to standard but gave him Rush Coil to compensate, but that’s not a fair trade as far as I’m concerned. In a game like Mario Bros., you need to be able to make your jumps on demand, and that extra second it takes for Mega Man to jump a slightly-too-high pipe is murderous.

His pellets are also pretty weak, although his charged shots can rip through the stages. He’s also got a slide, but I forget it’s there half the time. Megs is best used on stages that are thick with enemies but thin on tough jumps, like most of World 3.

6) Ryu Hayabusa

Man, this guy looked absolutely dominating in his debut trailer, scurrying all over the levels with his wall-clinging ability and shredding enemies with his whirling shurikens. What a disappointment.

So what went wrong? The problem is damage. If you want to damage enemies with Ryu, you’ve got your choice of short-range katana with a crappy damage rate, long-range shurikens with crappier damage rate, or (with a power-up) pinwheel shuriken with decent damage, but which is difficult to control. The trailer shows the pinwheel shuriken destroying levels and taking out whole rows of levels, but these shots are pretty painstakingly choreographed. Even at Fire Flower level Ryu requires three or four hits to take out even the lowliest enemies, and forget about taking down Bowser in a far fight. Ryu is perhaps the only character for whom stomping enemies is a more effective offense than using his native weaponry.

But okay, Ryu’s a ninja. He’s not supposed to be facing his enemies head-on — he’s intended to sneak around, climb walls, and evade them. For a ninja, though, he feels kind of slow (playing him on the Cheep Cheep stages is absolutely painful, because he can take a hit at any time), his hitbox is large, and his jumps are pretty squirrelly. It’s a good thing he’s got the wall cling because he can’t make many of the jumps otherwise. Playing Ryu is fun in the indoor stages where there’s lots of stuff to climb on, but keep him away from bad guys.

5) Bill Rizer (aka The Contra Guy)

What? Bill R., all the way down here? Has Tanto gone insane?

Apparently. Common consensus is that Bill R. is ludicrously overpowered and the strongest character in the game, but I’ve never been a big fan, for three reasons:

  1. Crap jumps. See Ryu re: “squirrelly”.
  2. He’s a pretty bad character without his Fire Flower power-up, the Spread Gun. The Spread Gun is pretty dominating, I’m forced to concede, but without it he’s stuck with a pea shooter that can only shoot in one direction at once, has a pretty low damage rate, and requires ducking to hit one-frame enemies like the omnipresent Goombas.
  3. He’s only good in certain levels. He annihilates underground levels, Lakitu levels, and levels with lots of enemies… but his huge frame and imprecise jumps make him a poor choice for the outdoor “athletic” levels and the castles. (Which, I hasten to remind you, comprise half the game.) I just don’t think a character who is only fun half the time can really be the best character in the game.

4) Simon Belmont

Simon is kind of like the anti-Mega Man. Where Mega Man was fun in the first version but nerfed on revisions in order to make him more accurate to the source, Simon started out source-accurate and was a terrible character, but became both better and more fun when his strict Belmont jumping was relaxed in the updates.

Simon’s a pretty versatile character, these days… his weapons (whip and axe) allow him to attack from a variety of angles and at range, while his double jump makes him a pretty solid platformer character as well. I’ll never go out of my way to pick Simon, but I’m never disatisfied when random mode hands him to me.

3) Sophia the 3rd

The new girl on the block is the tank Sophia the 3rd from Blaster Master, complete with aimable shots, homing missiles, wall and ceiling cling, hovering, and a separate underwater mode (the only character besides Mario to have one). Unlike Ryu, Sophia easily lived up to her trailer billing, and is able to effortlessly dominate any stage in the game with her versatile skills.

…But then, that’s the problem, isn’t it? Sophia’s so powerful that it kind of feels like cheating. Sophia surgically extracts anything remotely resembling challenge from the game. The other characters have powers, but they compensate somewhat by having quirks or drawbacks that you have to get used to in order to use them at full effectiveness, so the game is still challenging. That’s not so with Sophia.

Also, I think Sophia has the worst selection of music in the game. And not being able to open blocks by jumping is very annoying.

2) Samus Aran

Samus Aran doesn’t have any frills in this game — she’s just another “run, jump, shoot” character. She’s got the Morph Ball and Bombs, but they’re near-useless. In the most recent update she gained Missiles, but since she loses her entire stock whenever she dies, you can’t count on having them. She doesn’t have anything cool to fall back on like double jumps, wall climbing, or hovering.

No, I like Samus because her floaty physics seem extremely well-paced for Mario, and her high jump is borderline game-breaking. I’m also a huge fan of the way her gun stuns most enemies — with someone like Mega Man or Bill, you usually have to fire off two or three shots, then back off a few steps and finish the job, because the enemy is still coming while they’re firing. Samus doesn’t have that problem, because her gun stops foes in their tracks. You hardly ever have to stop (which is good because Samus is a fairly slow runner). I dunno, it just seems like Samus is closest to being the ideal run/jump/shoot character without going over.

1) Link

To all those people who think Link should become Zelda 2 Link whenever he picks up a Mushroom… no fucking way. Link is great just the way he is. He’s the smallest character other than small Mario (who you basically never want to be), which means he sneaks into the small spaces easily and has the best hitbox.

Link doesn’t jump at all in his home game, so it’s a bit odd that in SMBC he has the tightest and most precise jumps in the game. None of this spinning somersault nonsense that Ryu, Bill, and Samus have to deal with, and he doesn’t even have to build up speed like Mario. Short of a hover-abusing Sophia, Link is the character for precision platforming in this game.

His tools are also great — the upward and downward thrusts from his sword are abusive, and the boomerang is useful in a wide variety of situations, from collecting coins and too-high up Fire Flowers to stunning Hammer Bros. Link is perfectly balanced for almost every single stage, is by far the easiest solo game (at least short of Sophia, again), and is the most useful character on the harder difficulties. In short, Link is great and everyone should play as him forever. The end.

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