Mario is ranked 15th on the current tier list in the E tier, four places below his clone. This is a noticeable change between his previous ranking in Smash 64 where he was ranked 7th, and it also places him four places lower than his clone Dr. Mario. Mario acts as a well-rounded character, with average weight, falling speed and other such attributes. Mario has above-average comboing ability, and a very versatile grab game; his powerful back throw can gimp recoveries, and his up and down throws can chain-grab. Mario also has decent edge-guarding, with Fireball (a solid projectile), and his Cape which can easily and efficiently gimp almost every other character's recovery. Mario, however, lacks a reliable finisher, and his recovery is predictable and short, though he can extend it. He also has trouble against characters with disjointed hitboxes due to his mediocre range (especially against Marth).
As a character, Mario falls under the archetype of being of an average character, with no particularly strong or weak traits; Indeed, in terms of weight, falling speed, air speed, size, and dash speed, Mario tends to fall in the middle of these attributes.
One of Mario's strengths is his rather good combo ability. While not having an extremely high air or falling speed, Mario can easily and efficiently combo most other characters in the air; Mario has plenty of low-lag, low-knockback aerials, and the addition of a long wavedash and fast ground attacks give Mario plenty of combo potential. Mario also has a good SHFFL.
Mario also has an above average approach. Despite an only average air speed and dashing speed, Mario still has good options for getting closer to opponents. His Fireballs have good range and can disrupt opponents at a distance; differing terrains such as slopes and platforms can also give the Fireball many options. Mario, due to his average attributes in traction and falling speed, has a rather long and floaty wavedash; coupled with decently ranged smash attacks, Mario has good wavesmashing abilities.
Mario is also a surprisingly good edgeguarder. He has a meteor smash in his forward aerial, albeit it having high startup and ending lag and not being too powerful, and his back aerial sends opponents on a decent angle for edgeguarding. Mario's Fireballs can also gimp recoveries; its low knockback makes it effective in the regard. Most notably, however, Mario has what is likely the absolute best edgeguarding weapon in all the game: his Cape. When used, it can effectively and quickly gimp almost every recovery in the game; it's especially useful against linear recoveries, such as Fox's Fire Fox or Luigi's Green Missile.
Mario also has a surprisingly good grab game. Despite a rather poor grab range, Mario's throws are notable for their versatility; his forward and backward throws can easily set up gimp KOs, especially the latter, while his up and down throws can act as combo starters, as well as very effective chain grabs: Mario's up throw can chain grab fast fallers such as Fox, Falco, and Captain Falcon, while his down throw can chain grab heavy characters, as well as being able to chain grab Pikachu and Pichu up to high percents, if not to a KO.
Mario, however, suffers from some KOing problems. As he is designed to be a beginner character, Mario lacks particularly powerful or reliable finishers; while his forward smash has good range, coupled with a very visible and easy to land sweetspot, his other smashes are rather short ranged. Additionally, while Mario's back throw is strong, it requires grabbing the opponent first; this can be a challenge, due to Mario's poor grab range. Mario's single meteor smash is also rather unwieldy and risky to use.
Mario also suffers from a below average recovery. Super Jump Punch only grants average to slightly below average horizontal and vertical distance, while Mario Tornado can only grant vertical distance if the B button is tapped quickly. Mario, however, does have some options to improve his recovery; Mario's Cape can allow him to recover from the sides, and he has the ability to wall-jump, which can act as a help on stages such as Final Destination.
Overall, Mario could be considered to be a poor-man's Marth. While both characters have great combo ability and a similar recovery, Marth has a much easier time finishing off opponents as well as having longer range in his attacks and his grab range making it much easier for Marth to chain-grab fastfallers compared to Mario.
Changes from Smash 64 to Melee
When making the transition from Smash 64 to Melee, Mario was neither strongly buffed nor strongly nerfed. Overall, Mario is largely a much weaker character, proof as many of his previous killers, such as his up and down smashes, can no longer KO under 90-120%. However, his attacks are much faster, giving him better combo ability.
Grabs and throws
For a gallery of Mario's hitboxes, see here.
In Competitive play
Mario has an above-average matchup spread, as he is not as harshly countered by top tier characters like other mid-tiered characters are. He is countered by two characters (Marth and Jigglypuff) soft countered by eight characters, has four even matchups, soft counters three characters, counters seven (including Pikachu, despite Pikachu being 6 places higher), and hard counters one, Pichu. Mario tends to struggle against characters who can space him easily or edgeguard him, such as Marth and Jigglypuff, and tends to do well against characters who he can combo or chaingrab (especially Pichu). Overall, Mario has the tools to take on most of the cast.
Tier placement and history
Very early in the Melee metagame, when few players knew the potential of now-top tier characters, Mario was considered one of the best characters in the game, ranking as high as 5th on the first tier list. This could be attributed to Mario's simple but effective combo setups, strong attacks, low learning curve, and lack of any outstanding drawbacks due to being well-rounded, as well as his extendable recovery. As the metagame advanced, however, Mario's average statistics were magnified as the potentials for many other superior characters, such as Peach, Captain Falcon, and the Ice Climbers, were discovered. This caused Mario to slowly slip down the tier list as time progressed, as well as lose significant placing in large tournaments; eventually, Mango (under the alias "Scorpion Master") was the only person who placed anywhere significant with him, but even he rarely placed high enough to earn money from playing Mario, cashing in at 25th place at Apex 2010 instead of his usual top 8 placements when using better characters. On the current tier list, he ranks 15th place in the E tier; on the other hand, his clone Dr. Mario and semi-clone Luigi, who were once widely considered worse than Mario, have surpassed him in ranking.
In Classic Mode, Mario can appear as an ally in team and giant fights, a solo, team, giant, multi, and metal opponent. In Mario's appearances, he either appears on Princess Peach's Castle or Rainbow Cruise. On a team with Bowser, he appears on Battlefield and with Peach, he appears on Mushroom Kingdom II; during the battle against Mario + Bowser on Battlefield, the stage will play the Princess Peach's Castle track.
Mario is one of only two characters who can appear twice in Adventure Mode, alongside his brother Luigi.
In the game's Adventure Mode, Mario teams up with Peach against the player in the second part of the first stage, taking place on Princess Peach's Castle. If the player finished the previous segment, Mushroom Kingdom, with the remaining time registering 2 in the seconds digit, Luigi will take his place in a cutscene that will trigger right before this battle.
Later on, in the second half of Stage 11, Metal Mario will fight the player's character on the Battlefield stage, where he functions as simply a Mario permanently under the influence of the Metal Box item. If the player unlocked Luigi, Metal Mario will be joined by Metal Luigi, and they both team up on the player, making for a harder fight.
In All-Star Mode, Mario and his allies are fought on Rainbow Cruise.
Mario is featured in the following event matches:
In addition to the normal trophy about Mario as a character, there are two trophies about him as a fighter, unlocked by completing both Adventure and All-Star modes respectively with Mario on any difficulty: