15 Hardest Mario ROM Hacks Worth Trying

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One of the main reasons to play through hacked ROMs of your favorite Mario games is for new levels and increased difficulty – and I’m not talking about a few extra enemies or fewer power-ups.

Mario ROM hacking has given birth to a wealth of sadistic, seemingly unbeatable games.

Anyone can play them, but clearing them takes a special kind of gamer.

Are you up for that challenge?

Then here are some truly amazing Mario ROM hacks that’ll test your skills – and your patience. If you clear even one of these, you’re probably in the top 1% of fans for sure.


15. Super Mario Bros. 2: Master Quest

SMB2 64 Master Quest Hack

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This ROM hack by Alex No offers both greater difficulty and some interesting aesthetic changes that help set it apart from the vanilla SMB2 game.

The hack features a bold color palette that gives every level a somewhat menacing look.

And this game is intense from the very beginning.

By the time you clear the first level, you’ll have dealt with locked doors, avoided countless spikes, and fought Mouser at least once.


14. Super Mario 64: The Black Virus

Super Mario 64: The Black Virus Hack

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Not all hard-as-nails hacks belong in the 2D realm.

There are plenty of challenging options for Mario’s first 3D adventure on the N64 – and few are as absolutely unfair as SM64: The Black Virus.

It’s a sequel to Super Mario 76: Nightmare Edition designed to be even harder than the hardest known hack before it.

As such, it’s basically impossible to beat without external tools like savestates.

Trying to clear this game – even with savestates – is an exercise in masochism.

Not only are the levels ridiculously hazardous, but they’re incredibly long.

Good luck collecting even a fraction of its 134 stars.


13. Super Dram World 2

Super Dram World 2 ROMhack Preview

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I love ROM hacks that change the game’s look and feel – but for others, vanilla Super Mario World looks beautiful as is.

Super Dram World 2 is an entry-level Kaizo hack that respects vanilla SMW’s design principles to protect the old-school nostalgic appeal.

A lot of work and love was put in by creator PangaeaPanga to create a challenging but enjoyable hack anyone can play.

It’s also perfect for speedrunning.

And this even has a built-in death counter to keep track of how much you suck – or to help you brag about having “zero deaths” like a certain well-known YouTuber.


12. Kamikaze Bros. 3

Kamikaze Bros. 3 ROM Hack

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My favorite way to inflict excruciating psychological pain on myself in the context of SMB3 is Kamikaze Bros. 3 by Barbarian.

What makes this hack so enjoyable is the well-planned difficulty curve.

It gets harder the more you progress, but it’s gradual enough to allow for growth rather than frustration.

By tackling this challenge, you’ll learn advanced techniques and how to abuse the game’s mechanics – skills you’ll need for any other Kaizo-level hack you play.

It’s pretty fun, but make no mistake – it’s brutal for anyone who isn’t an expert platformer.


11. Kaizo Mario World 2

Kaizo Mario World 2 Hack Screenshot

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Discussion about Kaizo Mario generally focuses on the first or third entries of these hacks.

Kaizo Mario World 2 tends to slip under the radar, despite being even harder than the original.

It probably has to do with the fact that T. Takemoto’s creativity wasn’t exactly at its best while developing this game.

It’s just as intense as the other two, if not more, but it really doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Playing through this game is just self-inflicted torture at this point.

Still, if you want to become a true platforming legend, you need all three under your belt. I don’t make the rules!


10. Breakfast Kaizo 2: Elevensies

Breakfast Kaizo 2: Elevensies Hack

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As its title may suggest, Breakfast Kaizo 2 was meant to be a light meal – something to get your day started. According to creator GlitchCat7, things got a little out of hand.

Most levels are pretty short, which will work in your favor since they lack any sort of checkpoint. Other than that, the hack is devastating.

Basically, Breakfast Kaizo 2 is a gorgeous-looking ROM hack that I’d recommend for experienced players who are looking for a quick fix to keep their skills sharp.


9. King Boo’s Revenge 2

King Boo’s Revenge 2 ROM Hack

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Bowser may look menacing, but can he make you pull out your hair in real life?

The original King Boo’s Revenge by TheBloody7 was already one of the most brutal hacks in existence.

And its successor takes it to the next level.

King Boo’s Revenge 2 features 182 stars of pure pain.

Unlike lesser hacks that focus their difficulty on just a couple of levels toward the end, this one is intense right from the beginning – and it stays hardcore throughout the whole thing.


8. Storks and Apes and Crocodiles

Storks and Apes and Crocodiles Hack

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Creator Morsel brings us one of the most attractive and actually fun difficulty hacks available for Super Mario World.

Storks and Apes and Crocodiles features 17 brutal levels of absolute chaos.

Trial and error are critical to progress through this ROM hack. You won’t clear it in one try, or two, or twenty – if you clear it at all.

Despite the extremely hazardous levels, the game remains fair.

You won’t find any post-goal traps or ridiculous hidden blocks in this hack. This makes each section you clear feel deeply rewarding rather than frustrating.

Something else I love about this hack is the variety of puzzle levels that challenge your mind rather than your reflexes.


7. Super Mario 74: Extreme Edition

Super Mario 74: Extreme Edition ROM Hack

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Back when this extremely hard version of Super Mario 74 came out, Kaizo-level hacking of SM64 was still a relatively new hobby.

For years, this remained the most brutal hack ever made – and people thought it could never be cleared without using external tools.

In reality, every single one of its 157 stars can be acquired normally – there just wasn’t anyone good enough to do it yet.

Years of practice have created a community of insanely skilled players to tackle this hack. And you can join them.

Now, SM74: Extreme Edition by Lugmillord sits comfortably among the average-difficulty kaizo hacks.


6. Grand Poo World 2

Grand Poo World 2 ROM Hack Screenshot

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If you know Barb, you know GPW2.

Anyone can make an ultra-hard hack with a bit of effort. But it takes a master like BarbarousKing to deliver a hack that’s truly hard, but also fun to play.

Grand Poo World 2 brings together extremely tight platforming with unique level design, gorgeous visuals, and catchy custom music that’ll keep you focused on the task at hand.

I mean really, even if you’ve never played the game, check out the music. If you’re into SNES-era music you’ll probably enjoy the soundtrack.

And the bosses here are designed to surprise you from a technical perspective, right before they crush your soul – and your character – over and over again.

This isn’t the hardest hack around. But it’s one of the most high-quality Kaizo games you’ll ever play.


5. Kaizo Mario World

Kaizo Mario World Romhack Screenshot

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Nowadays, ROM hacking aficionados use the world “Kaizo” to describe challenging fan-made games.

That all started thanks to Kaizo Mario World – popularly known as A**hole Mario.

This downright cruel ROM hack of Super Mario World was created by T. Takemoto just to torture a close friend by having them play through an absurdly complex set of levels that no average human could overcome without savestates.

It isn’t the most polished hack around.

But it’s a great challenge, and a piece of Internet history.


4. Item Abuse 3

Item Abuse 3 ROM Hack Screenshot

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Item Abuse 3 is the last entry in a renowned line of short Kaizo hacks where you’ll have to exploit every single item in the game in ridiculous ways just to make it through.

Creator Panga expects you to get very familiar with every little glitch and item interaction in Super Mario World.

Basically, sink or swim.

In this ROM hack, it’s not always about what the item does. It’s more about how the game reacts to Mario picking them up, throwing them, or stepping on them.

Stuff like bouncing an item off a wall so you can catch it again in mid-air to reset your jump will be your bread and butter while playing Item Abuse 3.


3. Super Mario Treasure World

Super Mario Treasure World ROM Hack Screenshot

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One of the most famous and influential SM64 ROM hacks is Super Mario Treasure World by Rambi_Rampage.

Nowadays, it’s considered an “introductory hack” in the world of extreme SM64 modifications.

But back when it came out, some people called it the hardest hack ever made.

This hack was so impressive that it inspired countless others to start making their own gruesome ROM hacks – and it was quickly surpassed in terms of difficulty.

More specifically, this one was followed by Treasure World: Dream Edition, which remains seemingly unbeatable by normal means.


2. Invictus

SMW Invictus Hack Screenshot

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Invictus by creator Juzcook is pretty well known, and for good reason.

It’s an unusual kaizo-level hack because its extreme difficulty isn’t even the main feature.

This ROM hack introduces 20 challenging levels with lots of custom assets, visually striking graphics, and a captivating soundtrack that’ll help keep you focused on the task at hand.

It’s difficult, but fair, and it lacks some of the cheaper shots taken by some extreme hacks – such as hidden blocks.

What it does have is a fierce final boss that was coded from scratch just for Invictus.

This hack will both challenge and entertain you for hours – unless you’re some sort of platforming god.


1. Kaizo Mario World 3

Kaizo Mario World 3 ROMHack Screenshot

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As the third entry in the famous Kaizo Mario series by T. Takemoto, this game brings a ton of new ideas to the 16-bit torture simulator.

Among other things, this expansion on the original sadistic ROM hack introduces a Boss Rush mode – so you can skip straight to getting your soul crushed by specific entities rather than the world around you.

The only way to get through this game is to abandon all hope and be reborn as an unthinking, unfeeling machine.

By the end you’ll be a well-oiled Mario player, always ready to try levels again for hours on end until you can see invisible blocks with your third eye.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely playing games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.