Lego Mario is here - but which sets are most worth your money?
To buy the entire 2020 line-up of the new Lego Super Mario toys gets expensive. While the initial starter set which includes Mario himself is decently priced, to get everything else would run into the hundreds. Every set offers something different, too - and in the shop, staring down ten different boxes of Lego Mario expansion packs, it can be hard to know which to choose.
Lucky for you, there's a resident Lego nerd on VG247. I know all about the optimum Lego pricing, set size and the elusive ideal price-to-part ratio - and finally I get to apply that knowledge at work. Below, all of the Lego Super Mario Expansion Sets are ranked - so you can decide which you want to grab.
Before we start, I want to say as a rule that you should consider theming your expansion grabs. If you're buying a Lava set with the red plates as a basis, you might want to pick up a few so they naturally string together into a cool lava level, for instance.
We don't cover the Character Packs (#71361) or various Power-Up Packs in this article - they're pretty self-explanatory, adding enemies and power-ups you can use in your custom stages. But we rank everything else...
0. Adventures with Mario Starter Course #71360
Before we get to the actual expansion set ranking, it's important to briefly talk about the core of Lego Mario: the Adventures with Mario Starter Course. This course isn't just key to the Lego Mario experience - it's required.
The set gives you everything you need to get going, including three vital pieces of the puzzle for creating interactive Lego Mario stages: the Warp Pipe start point, the Flagpole stage end and Mario himself. These three pieces are required to use the digital and play features of any other set.
Alongside this, the starter kit includes a bunch of stage elements. These make up one basic stage to start you off, but they'll also form crucial linking elements when you start adding expansion packs. So if you're new to Lego Mario, start here. After this? Well, these are our favourite expansion packs...
1. Thwomp Drop Expansion Set #71376
For our money, the Thwomp Drop set is the best bang-for-buck expansion for the Lego Mario series so far. At £34.99 it sits in the middle spot of the expansion prices - but it offers a surprising amount for that entry price.
The Thwomp Drop basically revolves around one main action feature: a classic skeletal moving platform as found in Super Mario World, and a Thwomp. You put Mario on the platform and he plays dramatic boss music to represent the encounter with the Thwomp. When you move the platform back and forth across the long base, the Thwomp will drop down, which also triggers a platform to send a Lava Bubble enemy to fly in Mario's direction. It's a cool play action that'll satisfy kids.
But also, crucially, the Thwomp Drop is also a great build. The mechanism to hold the Thwomp in place and then drop it to the stage is easy enough for kids to understand, but complex enough to be an interesting build. For the price, it's our favourite expansion set of the lot. Depending on your territory, it might be exclusive to a specific retailer.
2. Desert Pokey Expansion Set #71363
Of the cheaper expansion sets, the Desert Pokey is our top pick. It's built around a four-part Pokey that can be defeated one chunk at a time just like in the games - drop Lego Mario into the little cart and them smash the hammer back and forth to defeat the Pokey.
It also comes with a Monty Mole enemy, which other than in a rare promotional mini-set, is currently exclusive to this set. The desert terrain is cool-looking, and this generally feels like a good value set.
3. King Boo and the Haunted Yard Expansion Set #71377
One of the larger Lego Mario expansion packs, this spooky set nabs a high spot on our list because of how unique it is. Where almost every other expansion set is built around Lego Mario's three default terrain types - Grassland, Lava and Water - this set is unique, with brown base plates to represent the grounds of a haunted house in the style of those found in various Mario games.
The set comes with a strong assortment of enemies - 2 Goombas, 4 Swoops and a King Boo boss - and also features some unique play action terrain where you have to defeat the other enemies in a certain way to topple the boss. This set is perhaps less suited as an expansion where you swap its pieces in and out with the others, but is a strong stand-alone piece.
4. Piranha Plant Power Slide Expansion Set #71365
If you're looking for a set with cool play value, The Piranha Plant Power Slide set adds one of the most simple-yet-fun play features in Lego Mario in the see-saw ride - place Mario in the cart (which triggers music) and then see saw him back and forth without hitting the Piranha Plants!
Beyond the action feature this set is relatively run-of-the-mill, but it includes some useful desert terrain that links well with the Desert Pokey set. It also has a Time Block, a great accessory if you want to build particularly long Lego Mario courses.
5. Toad’s Treasure Hunt Expansion Set #71368
This expansion set would be higher up if not for the price: it's the second most expensive set in the Lego Mario range so far, and with 464 pieces the price-to-part ratio isn't great - but it does have one of the most unique set ups in the Lego Mario range.
This expansion provides plenty to do outside of fighting bad guys - there are puzzles, hidden surprises and wholesome interaction with Toad and Toadette. There's also a few enemies too, of course, and a whole lot of level part elements that make this a great set for expanding your modular Mario adventure. That sort of makes up for the price and it's a must-own set, though you also might want to try to grab this one on a sale.
6. Bowser’s Castle Boss Battle Expansion Set #71369
Here it is, the big one: the largest, most expensive Lego Mario expansion pack. Naturally, it contains a showdown with Bowser - but there's no Peach in sight! This whole set is built atop a lava base, making it an ideal ending for a red lava section, making it a great pairing with the Whomp and Thwomp expansions. This is the only set with Bowser or indeed with a regular Boo, who strangely isn't available in the blind enemy bags.
It's a large, intricate set of over 1000 pieces. It's designed to be placed into a layout whole rather than broken up and used in a modular fashion. Despite that, the core action is all built around defeating Bowser - and the play feature to do so isn't all that reliable. The impressive size and design of the set makes it particularly attractive, however.
7. Whomp’s Lava Trouble Expansion Set #71364
Whomp's Lava Trouble contains one of my favourite Mario enemy builds in Lego - the titular Whomp. He looks just like in the games, as the blocky shape is well suited to Lego.
Beyond that this set is relatively simple, however - there's a platform where you have to carefully move Mario across the deadly lava, and a Pow Block for help taking down baddies. It's fine, especially for the price, but this set needs to be used alongside others - like the excellent Thwomp Drop expansion - to create a daunting lava level for Mario to beat.
8. Guarded Fortress Expansion Set #71362
Having this set so low actually feels a little bit harsh, as it's still a set we'd heartily recommend. Featured here is a classic Mario overworld castle, just like in the NES original - plus a raisable flag that means this could function as the ideal mid-point of a stage.
The play functions are decent, as is the large Piranha Plant enemy - but the other enemies are found elsewhere, and we can't quite get over that basic, hollow-backed castle build - which is a shame, because otherwise this is a very sharp expansion.
9. Mario’s House & Yoshi Expansion Set #71367
Yoshi is obviously the best secondary Mario hero (sorry, Luigi), and so any set including him was bound to be popular. Unsurprisingly, Yoshi is the star of this set - but not just because of his star power - the rest of the set is a little bit bland.
You do get a Paper Mario reference in Mario's house, and a cute play function in the form of a hammock where Mario can sleep. There's a power-up hidden in the roof of his house and a Goomba enemy - but it's all rather basic. This is a solid set, but only when used in conjunction with others - it'd pair with the Toad's Treasure Hunt expansion brilliantly.
10. Boomer Bill Barrage Expansion Set #71366
On paper the Boomer Bill Barrage should be a top Lego Super Mario expansion set; it gives you a couple of iconic Mario enemies, a power-up, and a play function. It's by no means a bad set, especially at its price point, but it's definitely the weakest available in 2020.
Ultimately it's the play function that lets this set down: the transparent pipe pieces that hold the Boomer Bill baddies are screaming out to be snapped and broken, while the mechanism that makes the Boomer Bills turn around is fairly basic in nature, which lets the play function down. Even at this low price point, there are better options.