The world’s favorite plumber is also a huge sports fan. When he’s not busy stomping goombas, you can find Mario hitting the links, swinging his tennis racket, or playing some street soccer with his pals.
Mario sports games have a long history, dating all the way back to the original NES. Some have been home runs. Others were a swing and a miss.
These are our favorite Mario Sports games ranked from worst to best.
Mario Tennis (Virtual Boy) Is the Worst Mario Sports Game
Mario Tennis for the Virtual Boy ranks lowest on our list for a few reasons. First, the game was released as a pack-in for a system notorious for causing headaches and illness in children. Second, the game has no multiplayer mode, a crime for a Mario sports game. And finally, the game is just boring.
With no power-ups, limited character differences, and no story mode, Mario Tennis on the Virtual Boy was a big miss. Nintendo has a knack for making great tennis games, but their first foray into the sport was pretty rough.
Fortunately, they improved on the formula and have released some great games on much better systems.
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash (Wii U)
Remember when I said Nintendo made some tennis games on much better systems? This isn’t it. The Wii U had some great games for it, and a tennis game seems like it would be right at home on the Wii U’s gamepad.
The real problem with Ultra Smash is that it was preceded by some stellar Mario tennis titles, and Ultra Smash just couldn’t hang.
Having only one stadium, an embarrassingly difficult to parse roster of characters, and only four game modes, Ultra Smash felt like a step back from its previous entries.
It made matters worse that Nintendo tried to shoehorn in Amiibo support, which just felt like an additional cash grab for a bare-bones Mario sports game.
Mario Super Sluggers (Wii)
The Wii was undeniably a smash hit console. And a baseball game felt right at home on the console. Super Sluggers isn’t a bad Mario sports game, but it does suffer from difficult controls and no online play. It was also hard to justify its existence since everyone already had the best baseball game on Wii.
The best thing about the Wii was also at times it’s worse. The Wii controller was great for easy familiar movements, like say, swinging a baseball bat. But the Wii controller’s simple design made it difficult to nail down the more complex aspects of baseball.
Super Sluggers gave you three different ways to use the Wii controller, and each one came with advantages and disadvantages. If you want to crack some home runs with your friends with a Wiimote, Wii sports is still your best bet.
Mario Sports Superstars (3DS)
Mario Sports Superstars for the 3DS took a little bit of Mario sports and a little bit of Mario party and mixed them together. Mario Sports Superstars contains five full games; golf, tennis, soccer, football, and horse racing. They’re not mini-games either, they are full games, just not up to par with their full fledge soccer and tennis counterparts.
On paper, Mario Sports Superstars should be a home run. All of these games packed into one seems like a killer value. But each game feels like a shell of its big brother. Golf only has 3 courses to play, tennis lacks any themed courts, and horse racing is, well, horse racing.
There’s fun to be had here, but for the full Mario sports experience, you’ll have to pick up something higher on our list.
Mario Tennis Open (3DS)
Mario Tennis Open had a lot of potential. It was developed by Camelot, arguably the best Mario sports game developer. It featured online support, the first for a handheld Mario tennis title. And the 3DS’s unique 3D and dual-screen setup seemed like a matchpoint made in heaven.
But Nintendo being Nintendo, just couldn’t give us everything we wanted.
The first glaring omission is any sort of RPG elements, a staple of handheld Mario sports games. Mario Tennis Opens next major crime is the roster. Twenty-four characters are playable in the title but eight of those need to be unlocked by scanning QR codes with your 3DS. Oh, and seven of those eight special unlockable QR code characters are just different color Yoshi’s.
If you can get past the lack of an RPG mode and the QR code tactic for unlocking different color Yoshi’s, Mario tennis open is a really fun game. The addition of online play is fantastic and the tennis play is as fun as it’s ever been. It could have been higher on the list, but frankly, there are just too many better Mario tennis games out there.
Mario Sports Mix (Wii)
Mario Sports Mix is such an interesting sports title in the Mario sports library. Mario Sports Mix feels like a sequel to Wii sports with the Mario family instead of Mii’s. It features four sports; basketball, hockey, volleyball, and dodgeball. Each sport is relatively easy to pick up and play, but unfortunately, there is little to master.
Where Mario Sports Mix misses the mark is their lackluster single-player campaign. Acting as a party game, Mario Sports Mix is pretty rad. But the title gave us bosses from the Final Fantasy universe.
Why not throw in some RPG elements, and a better story to really set this title apart. Still, Mario Sports Mix is the best Mario sports compilation title you can play today.
Mario Golf Super Rush (Switch)
If you’re like me, Mario golf super rush was a day one buy. After a years-long hiatus, we were finally getting another Mario golf game, this time with an RPG-like story mode, online play, and frequent free updates.
The true disappointment came when we realized those free updates, just meant that Nintendo shipped an unfinished game and wanted to continue working on it after we had already given them our sixty dollars.
The hardest pill to swallow for Mario Golf Super Rush is how genuinely fun the gameplay is. The courses it launched with were great and varied, and the addition of courses like New Donk City has only increased the value.
It’s just hard to get over the abysmal single-player story and launch state. We’re hoping this game continues to get updates and move higher on our list.
Mario Strikers Battle League (Switch)
Mario Strikers Battle League is the latest addition to the Mario sports games lineup. We loved the minute-to-minute gameplay of strikers but found it to otherwise be lacking in content.
The hope with this title, as with the other Mario sports titles released for the Switch is that support continues and we eventually receive enough updates to justify the price tag. That doesn’t keep this from being the most fun you’ll have playing soccer on the Switch.
NES Open Tournament Golf (NES) Has the Worst Mario Sports Games Name
NES Open Tournament Golf definitely wins the title of worst Mario sports game name. Mario isn’t even in the name. But this is the original, the one that started it all. And it’s still one of the best games ever made for the original NES.
Featuring only three courses and two playable characters, NES Open Tournament Golf still manages to capture the feeling of hitting the links with your old pal Mario.
Its easy-to-understand controls and varied course layout make it a fun game to revisit or introduce to your kids. It’s available now via switch online and features online multiplayer.
Mario Tennis Aces (Switch)
Mario Tennis Aces finally brought the incredibly fun Mario tennis formula to Nintendo’s immensely popular Switch console. Mario tennis and Switch are a dream together, and it brought (almost) everything we wanted in a Mario tennis to the console.
Like its golf counterpart, Mario Tennis Aces has a fairly disappointing single-player mode. But what it lacks in story it makes up for in gameplay. The art style is beautiful, plays well on the Switch, and the ever-expanding roster of characters has made this a must-have for family game nights.
With an abundance of trick shots, the different character playing styles, and online functionality, Mario Tennis Aces looks to be the Mario tennis title Nintendo wants you to play for a long time.
Super Mario Strikers (Gamecube)
Super Mario Strikers has the distinct honor of being Mario’s first foray into soccer, and the last title released for the Gamecube. Super Mario Strikers pits Mario and other Mushroom Kingdom inhabitants against each other in a 5v5 soccer match.
The 5v5 style creates a more arcade feel to the action, which is exasperated by your usual host of power-ups like stars and banana peels.
5v5 soccer turned out to be a perfect fit for the Mario sports franchise. Coming so late in the Gamecube life cycle, it was overlooked by many but remains a favorite for the faithful.
We’re happy to see the series return with Battleleague, but there’s more fun to be found with the original. Especially using the fantastic Gamecube controller.
Mario Superstar Baseball (Gamecube)
Mario Superstar Baseball was released only a few months before Strikers, reminding of us a time when Nintendo released Mario sports games at a fast clip. Like Strikers, this was the first time the Mushroom kingdom picked up their gloves and hit the baseball diamond.
Mario Superstar Baseball and Mario Strikers are so close in quality, that it’s hard to rank either one higher than the other. The Gamecube was a perfect fit for these titles and gave us a glimpse of the innovation to come. Where Superstar Baseball edges out Strikers is in its challenge mode.
Challenge mode was the single-player campaign that allowed you to select from a pre-designed team and battle your way through the Mushroom Kingdom league. It culminated with a faceoff against Bowser’s team. It wasn’t as deep as some of the RPG-heavy earlier Mario Sports titles, but it scratched that itch enough that it’s worth playing through as all of the six teams.
Mario Golf World Tour (3DS)
The Mario Golf series is a series that was made for handhelds. The slower play of the sport, mixed with the ability to pause the game after each hole, makes the sport feel at home on portable devices.
Mario Golf World Tour had some pretty big shoes to fill, and for the most part, it did an adequate job. Adding online and a plethora of game modes is certainly the highlight, but the super short campaign comprising only three courses left a lot to be desired.
The beautiful graphics and classically fun gameplay helped this title rise above some of the other golf entries, but there are plenty of better golf games in the Mario Sports series.
Mario Strikers Charged (Wii)
When Nintendo announced that another installment in the Strikers series was going to be released on Wii, I was a bit skeptical. Baseball, golf, and tennis, these sports are built for the Wiimote, but soccer just didn’t seem like it would translate well to Nintendo’s remote-shaped controller.
Fortunately, the game decided to forgo most of its motion control functionality and when playing with the nunchuck attachment, it’s a pretty solid experience.
Like the first Strikers, Strikers Charged consists of 5v5 soccer. It didn’t grow leaps and bounds above its predecessor, but the improvements it made were concrete and added to the experience.
Adding new move sets like skill shots and mega strikes that could only be performed by the captain, added a layer of skill that was absent from the original. Mario Strikers Charged may not be the best game in the Mario Sports franchise, but it is the best soccer game of the bunch.
Mario Tennis Power Tour (GBA)
With the console market going 3D, the Gameboy Advance ended up becoming home to some of the best 2D games ever made. It also gave us some of the best Mario sports games.
Mario sports titles felt right at home on the handheld, and Mario Tennis Power Tour was no exception. The game delivers great tennis action while giving us that RPG fix we love.
The sprites are beautiful, the music is superb, and the gameplay fits perfectly on the device. It’s a testament to how great the Mario tennis games are that this one doesn’t rank higher.
Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour (Gamecube)
Mario golf and tennis, the two staples of the Mario Sports franchise, started to take differing approaches to their console and handheld titles. The console titles would focus on multiplayer and new game modes, while the handheld titles would deliver an RPG-style story.
Toadstool tour hit when Nintendo was really figuring out these formulas and delivered the console golf experience we all wanted.
The biggest fault of Toadstool Tour is that it didn’t innovate over its predecessor in any tangible way. It prettied up the graphics for Gamecube and the controls were a little better but other than that, this was the same Mario Golf console title we’d played before.
Even with that, the game was a blast to play and a stellar Mario Golf title for the Gamecube era.
Mario Power Tennis (Gamecube) Is a Mario Sports Game With Amazing Gameplay
Mario Power Tennis, an arguably worse name than Mario Tennis: Power Tour, was the Gamecubes Mario tennis iteration. Mario Power Tennis did a better job than the Gamecubes golf iteration of adding new features, but it still falls short of some of the tennis titles that came before.
The gameplay was still second to none, and the varied modes offered more value to those upgrading over the N64 version. The biggest gripe we have against Mario Power Tennis is the frustrating special courts, where traps can unfairly cause you to lose a game, set, or match.
Despite its worse name, The Gamecube version delivers more fun, especially when friends are in the mix.
Mario Golf (N64)
It’s difficult to overstate how iconic Mario Golf on the N64 has become. It was the first true iteration of the Mario Sports franchise and paved the way for all the titles to come. Its little brother counterpart would arrive on the GameBoy Color a few months later, but this title made Mario Sports games become the must-own Nintendo titles.
Golf is golf, and Mario Golf doesn’t mess with that formula too much. Really all it does is put our favorite Mushroom Kingdom pals on the course and give them different attributes.
It won’t be until later when we start to see power-ups and really crazy courses, but Mario Golf for the N64 doesn’t suffer for that. It delivers exactly what we want in a console Mario sports game.
Mario Golf: Advance Tour (GBA)
Mario Golf Advance Tour introduces two new characters to the series, Neil and Ella. At the start, you are asked to pick your golfer of choice and level them up enough to beat the Mushroom Kingdoms’ star golfer, Mario.
The only real complaint we have with Advance Tour is the music is a little lacking when compared to other entries in the series.
The RPG leveling-up system is addicting, the courses are all varied and fun, and the gameplay is classic Mario golf. Advance Tour is peak Gameboy Advance, and close to peak Mario Golf.
Mario Tennis (Gbc)
Mario Tennis for the Gameboy Color was released a few months after its console counterpart and brought with it the RPG-style gameplay we would come to expect from handheld Mario sports games.
The story mode has you pick between Alex or Nina, and level your way up until you’re strong enough to take down the greatest tennis player of all time. Mario of course.
Mario Tennis for the N64 may have the 3D graphics and easy couch co-op, but the Gameboy Color’s RPG elements made grinding for XP fun. The minigames included we’re a blast, and the ability to link to an N64 system was revolutionary at the time.
This title still holds up today if you have an old Gameboy Color lying around.
Mario Tennis (N64)
The Nintendo 64 version of Mario Tennis beats out the GBC version, but just barely. This was the first time Mario hit the clay courts, and also the introduction of our favorite purple menace, Waluigi.
The N64 version of Mario Tennis provided a twitchy gameplay element that was missing from Mario Golf. Tennis required white knuckle grips and diving hits in order to defeat your teammate. The N64’s four-player set-up felt like it was built for doubles matches.
This game was just released on Nintendo Switch online and can still end some friendships if you decide to have three of your pals over.
Mario Golf (Gbc) Is the Best Mario Sports Game
Mario Golf for the Gameboy Color came out three months after the N64 version and is a rare example of the handheld iteration being better than the console one. The N64 version is a classic for sure, and a blast to play with friends, but without a story mode, it can become a lonely experience. Mario Golf for the GBC fixes that by introducing us to the RPG sports game.
Before Mario Golf on the GBC, most sports games were simple and involved nothing more than playing smaller versions of the games it was trying to imitate. Mario Golf gave us the choice of choosing between four different characters and building them up along their golf journey to beat the world’s top golfer. Again, it’s Mario.
The GBC version of Mario Golf isn’t just our favorite because it was the first to do this. It’s our favorite because all these years later, a Mario sports game still hasn’t done it better. If Nintendo ever brings Gameboy games to Switch Online, this is the first one were picking up.
Agree with our picks for the best and worst Mario Sports games of all time?? Mad we left out the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic games? Want to challenge us for Boss Level supremacy in Mario Golf? Let us know in the comments.