Retro Gaming

From Bob-ombs to Bowser: The 10 Best Levels in Super Mario 64

Get ready to triple-jump back into the action-packed paintings as we revisit the levels that made Super Mario 64 an instant classic.


Updated on:

Super Mario 64 start screen with Mario's face on a Nintendo 64 system

From frosty flips to lava leaps, each world in Super Mario 64 brims with charm and challenges. Grab your wing cap—we’re soaring through the skies of nostalgia and Mario magic. Let’s count down the very best Super Mario 64 levels that not only defined Mario’s first 3D adventure on the Nintendo 64, but also set the bar for what we should expect from a Mario title. Here we go!

#10. Lethal Lava Land

Best Mission: Hot-foot-it into the Volcano
Difficulty: 5/10; quick reflexes are a must.

Step into the sizzling world of Lethal Lava Land, where every leap could land you in hot water—or rather, lava. This mid-game level turns up the heat with its fiery pits and precarious platforms. Players feel the tension as they hop over lava lakes and dodge flares. The landscape is a volcanic playground, with a sea of lava to navigate and fire-spitting statues.

New enemies like the Bullies push Mario around, aiming to send him into the molten danger below. Use the green shells to surf across the lava and grab those tricky stars. For those tough puzzles, remember: patience is key. Lethal Lava Land is a thrilling test of agility and a true gateway to the challenges ahead, making it a no-brainer to kickoff our 10 best Super Mario 64 levels.

#9. Whomp’s Fortress

Best Mission: Chip off Whomp’s Block
Difficulty: 3/10; it’s a gentle nudge into the world of puzzles and foes.

Climb to new heights in Whomp’s Fortress, the second Mario 64 that’s a vertical journey, ascending a fortress in the sky. Stone enemies called Whomps lumber around, waiting to crush our hero flat. The mechanics of climbing are introduced, equal parts precision and timing.

Watch for rotating platforms and elusive secrets, like keys to a hidden castle chamber. To defeat the Whomp King, wait for his fall, then strike from above. Whomp’s Fortress balances challenge with charm, and trains the player to better time jumps for the adventures yet to unfold in more advanced parts of the Castle.

#8. Tall, Tall Mountain

Best Mission: Mysterious Mountainside
Difficulty: 6/10; precise movements make or break success on this towering climb.

Ascend the dizzying peaks of Tall, Tall Mountain, a level where the sky’s the limit. Slippery mushrooms and mischievous monkeys add to the level’s unique mountainous charms and challenges. Positioned mid-game, it’s a vertical marathon filled with leaps of faith and narrow paths. The atmosphere buzzes with high-altitude tension, each jump a heart-pounding step in thin air.

Navigate this terrain like a careful mountain goat, wary of each step. Breeze past the tricky gusts of wind with well-timed jumps and confidence. The slide hidden within the mountain is a mini-level that’s a ton of fun. Keep an eye out for the monkey; he’s more than just a playful distraction. Tall, Tall Mountain offers a thrilling blend of bravery and balance for those chasing the summit.

#7. Bowser in the Fire Sea

Difficulty: 7/10; the environment is ever-changing, demanding adaptability and quick thinking.

Dive into the searing depths of Bowser in the Fire Sea, the second of Bowser’s three menacing domains. This mid-game boss level escalates the challenge with a fiery industrial setting.

The heat is palpable, with Bowser’s lair exuding a sense of imminent peril and intense focus. Navigate moving platforms and avoid the lava’s kiss, much like crossing a river on floating logs. The introduction of tilting platforms adds a dynamic twist to your fiery dance.

Bullies and flame throwers emerge as new obstacles, testing your reflexes and resolve. Patience is key; wait for platforms to align, like watching for the right wave to surf to shore. To defeat Bowser, spin him with precision into the explosive mines surrounding the arena. Bowser in the Fire Sea is a heated ballet, where every step and leap is a battle against the blaze.

#6. Wet-Dry World

Best Mission: Go to Town for Red Coins
Difficulty: 5/10; the puzzle-like nature requires thought and exploration.

Plunge headfirst into the shifting tides of Wet-Dry World, where water levels rise and fall at your command. Positioned in the later stages, it offers a refreshing blend of aquatic and terrestrial challenges. The level’s mood swings like a pendulum with the water—calm at low tide, tense when high. The unique tide switch mechanic alters the landscape, turning a dry city into a submerged maze.

Master the art of controlling water to access new areas, much like opening gates to explore a castle. To reach high places, raise the water to have Mario swim to new heights. Lower it again to reveal hidden areas, and repeat to complete every mission. Wet-Dry World tests your wits and agility, providing a cerebral twist on platforming fun.

#5. Rainbow Ride

Best Mission: The Big House in the Sky
Difficulty: 9/10; precision and a cool head are essential amidst the dizzying heights.

Embark on a whimsical voyage in Rainbow Ride, the sky-high finale to the main courses of Super Mario 64. This level is a kaleidoscope of floating platforms, magical carpets, and endless blue. The penultimate level evokes a sense of wonder, mixed with the thrill of high-altitude acrobatics. Traverse the sky as if walking on rainbows, where every step is both a risk and a delight.

Beware of the Lakitus and tricky jumps, like navigating clouds on a windy day. The carpets require patience; jump off and on to avoid obstacles, as if hopping between stones in a stream. Navigate mazes of platforms, finding paths as complex and shifting as a puzzle box. Look for shortcuts; sometimes a well-timed leap can cut corners in the sky. Rainbow Ride invites brave explorers to dance among the stars, offering a fitting crescendo to Mario’s adventure.

#4. Tick Tock Clock

Best Mission: Get a Hand
Difficulty: 8/10; the ever-moving environment demands focus and impeccable timing.

It’s not too late to mention the relentless ticking of Tick Tock Clock, where time itself is the terrain to conquer. As one of the final levels, it tests your mastery of Mario’s moves. The gears and hands of the clock move in real-time, setting a rhythm of precision and patience. The mood is intense, with the constant motion creating a dynamic dance of jumps and runs.

Enemies like the Thwomps and Bob-ombs tick away like living timepieces, each with their own tempo. Time your movements with the pendulums, as if matching your steps to the beat of a drum. Special mechanics involve the clock’s hands, which act as platforms leading to dizzying heights. Enter the level when the minute hand points to 12 for a still clock, making your ascent less daunting.Tick Tock Clock is a race against time, where every second counts in the thrilling climb to the top.

#3. Bowser in the Sky

Difficulty: 8/10; it’s a culmination of all you’ve learned, a true test of skill.

The third and final battleground of Super Mario 64 also happens to be our #3 pick for the game’s best levels. Here, the atmosphere crackles with anticipation, like the quiet before a storm. Spiraling pathways in the clouds demand expert jumps and sharp turns as some of the game’s toughest challenges. The layout is a dizzying array of platforms, each a stepping stone in the sky.

Enemies are the gatekeepers here, from fire-breathing statues to cunning Bullies. Use long jumps to bridge gaps, akin to skipping across rooftops. The wind howls, testing your resolve as you inch closer to Bowser. Bowser in the Sky is where legends are made, a fitting finale to a grand adventure.

#2. Cool, Cool Mountain

Best Mission: Big Penguin Race
Difficulty: 3/10; the slick terrain tests your control.

Slide into the winter wonderland of Cool, Cool Mountain, an early level that introduces chilly thrills. It’s a playground of snow and ice, where every step can be a slippery slope. The mood is playful, with snowmen and penguins adding to the frosty charm. Traverse slopes like a sled dog, swift and sure-footed. Beware of the icy water—it’s as unforgiving as a frozen lake.

Rescue the lost penguin chick, returning it like a holiday gift to its mother. Race a penguin down the mountain’s elaborate indoor snow slide, following the coin path to a Power Star. Use the cannon to reach new heights, like a snowball flung into the air. Cool, Cool Mountain is a delightful romp through a snowy paradise, where laughter is as abundant as snowflakes.

#1. Bob-omb Battlefield

Best Mission: Footrace with Koopa the Quick
Difficulty: 2/10; the challenges are simple, to teach the basics of the game.

Our list of the best Super Mario 64 levels concludes with Bob-omb Battlefield, the first level that sets the stage for Mario’s 3D adventure. It’s a vibrant battlefield teeming with friendly Bob-ombs and rolling green hills. The atmosphere is inviting, like the first page of a storybook, full of promise and excitement.

This level is your playground, introducing mechanics like cannon travel and chain chomp dodging. Enemies like the Big Bob-omb await atop the summit, a king guarding his turf. Use the cannons to blast off to distant lands, akin to a bird taking flight for the first time. Conquer the mountain, navigating it as if climbing a gentle hill. Chase down the quick-footed Koopa the Quick, swift as a rabbit. Bob-omb Battlefield is a welcoming entrance into Mario’s world, where the adventure begins with a leap.