It’s Monday morning in the middle of June and that can only mean one thing. Ok, there’s the NBA Finals but also there’s E3, the biggest video game trade show of the year and where thousands of gamers, journalists and business types all gather to the Los Angeles Convention Center to see the latest and greatest. You might not necessarily think of E3 as being the place where you might see some heat on the feet of gamers, but with the huge crowd that it attracts, we’ve seen everything from Chucks to Jordans to Yeezys on the show floor.
Maybe to coincide with the big show, Nintendo and Vans have teamed up for an epic collaboration of nearly two dozens sneakers that bring Mario and his buddies to the canvas. Kicks On Fire will be on the show floor and for sure we are going to see a number of these kicks on Nintendo fans for the next few days.
As you might expect from such a huge roster of kicks, not all of them are going to be bangers so let’s power rank them from not so great to straight fire.
22Vans Chukka Low – Wait, What?
Kicking things off is the shoe that barely belongs on this list because there’s nary a visible nod to Nintendo from the outside. All of the graphic prints can be found in the innards of the shoe and we don’t even get the “Game Over” message on the sole. You’re only buying this if you’re a collector who needs to have every piece in the collection or you’re a Sega fan that wants to be part of the zeitgeist but can’t be seen in public wearing anything Nintendo.
21Vans Old Skool – Pixels
It sounds great in theory – make a pixelated version of the Old Skool stripe – but the execution is lacking. The pattern suggest maybe an overworld map to a game like Simon’s Quest or Metroid or it could be an enemy blast. The lack of clarity really hurts the shoe in my opinion. Like, how cool would this pair had been if there was a Samus on the tongue badge?
20Vans Slide-On – Game Over (Men’s)
It gets to the point. But wouldn’t somebody who knows nothing about video games possibly connect this to an iconic quote from Aliens?
19Vans Slide-On – Game Over (Women’s)
Ditto, but I prefer the white contrast over the all-black slide.
18Vans SK8 Hi Slim – Gold Pixels
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. It would have been so much cooler and appropriate if the golden blocks were coins instead since Mario is on the badge, but that’s a little nitpicky on my part now. It’s a great, clean pair.
17Vans Authentic – Controller
This is Famicom bias on my part because if the controller was the vibrant red, black and gold of its Japanese counterpart, this and the SK8 Hi would be near the top of the list. As such, I can’t get behind the cold and dull colorway of the US NES controller. Doesn’t mean it isn’t a historic part of gaming culture., it’s just not that interesting to look at.
16Vans SK8 Hi Reissue – Controller
See previous ranking. The graphic behind the stripe is a nice touch but it’s still not doing anything for me.
15Vans Slip-On – Yoshi (Kid’s Sizes)
The less we hear from the many Yoshis and the weird vacuum sounds they make, the better off we all are. Kudos on Vans to use old Yoshi from the Super NES days instead of today’s Epic Yarn and Woolly Word cousins. Wait, I take that back. A slip-on made out of yarn with Yoshi would be awesome.
14Vans Chima Ferguson Pro – Mushroom
I would love this more if they had used a deep cut and added the evil mushroom from the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (aka The Lost Levels in the US) as a one-off on the upper, which would either be brown and black or purple and white depending on which version you played.
13Vans Authentic – Princess Peach
Don’t worry, there’s a way better Princess Peach pair in the later parts of this list, but if you’re looking for a safe option that highlights the boss of the Mushroom Kingdom, this is the one to go with.
12Vans SK8 Hi Reissue – Mario Party
It looks like somebody’s Nintendo wallpaper set on tile was slapped onto the side panels of the shoe. There’s actually a surprising number of characters featured on here, with Bowser Jr. makes an unwelcome cameo because Bowser Jr. is the worst #koopakids4life. Basically Bowser Jr. holds this back from being a classic.
11Vans Hanelei – Mario Tie Dye
Copping this just to have something new to walk around the house in. Is it weird if I wear this while I’m playing on my Xbox One or PS4 since they’re in the family room with the wood floor and the Wii U is upstairs with carpet?
10Vans Authentic – Dunk Hunt Camo
Now we’re getting to the cream of the crop. I’ve never been a fan of camo print, but the inspiration for using it on this Dunk Hunt is absolute genius. They could have just used the regular grassy background but the Vans team went above and beyond to make this an instant classic.
9Vans Authentic – Donkey Kong
Who knew that the limited color palette of a static Donkey Kong stage would produce one of the most vibrant sneakers in the entire collection? Multiple DK games are referenced as the iconic Nintendo anti-hero is shown trying to take down Mario because why wouldn’t he try to take down a plumber that’s constantly on his ass?
8Vans Authentic – Princess Peach x Mario Kart (Kid’s)
Mario Kart is sadly underrepresented in this collection. It makes logical sense since Mario Kart did not appear until the Super NES days, but thankfully Vans snuck in this pair that features Princess Peach and the famous item block that has caused so much joy and heartache to Mario Kart players for over two decades. I wouldn’t worry about why Peach is on a bike – which didn’t make an appearance in the Mario Kart series until multiple games later.
7Vans Slip-On – It’s Dangerous Out There
Somebody played The Legend Of Zelda a lot because only those who got deep into the game would have been able to break out the multiple references in the shoe besides the “It’s Dangerous Out There”. I kind of wish the upper wasn’t leather and kind of detracts from the beautify of the kicks.
6Vans Authentic – Mario Tie Dye
It reminds me less of a tie dye shirt design and more of a random glitch in the game that would cause all sorts of stuff to go awry. It’s the “requires a few blows on the cartridge just to make it work” kind of glitch.
5Vans Slip-On – Mario Party
Damn you, Bowser Jr., stay away from my awesome Slip-On. I was this close to copping it when I saw them this past weekend, but that awful Scrappy Doo of a side character just has to ruin it for the rest of us. We basically have the near complete Super Mario Kart roster in there and that thing has to ruin it.
4Vans Era – Mario And Luigi
Now that’s better. Sub out Yoshi for Peach and we’ve got the Super Mario Bros. 2 US roster.
3Vans Authentic – Villains
The Mario franchise has some of the most iconic villains in all of the gaming so having a good chunk of them all in one place in a monochromatic noir style is brilliant and inspired. From Chain Chomps to Bullet Bills to Shy Guys, it’s all of bad guys who frustrated you when you were younger all in one place and that’s actually a good thing.
2Vans Chukka Low – Bob-Omb (Kid’s)
Oh, there needs to be a grown-up version of this pair at some point. The Bob-Omb isn’t the most famous Mario bad guy that it doesn’t beat you over the head with the reference but anybody who gets it will appreciate it greatly.
1Vans Slip-On – Legend Of Zelda
It looks like tapestry on your feet and that’s meant to be a compliment. It looks like a Zelda dungeon that’s been transposed from your old CRT to a pair of Vans Slip-Ons. Bonus points for the Triforce appearance.