The Very Best Mario Game for Each Nintendo Console and Handheld

Featured Image
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Mario is the most recognized and well-known video game character in the world. He has been an icon and primary mascot for Nintendo for the last 35 years. Every Nintendo console has featured at least one (usually more though) Mario game. Here is our list of the best Mario game for each console and handheld device.

NES – Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros 3
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Bros. 3 was not just a great Mario game, it was also one of the best games on the NES. It had all of the usual Mario game elements with Bowser kidnapping Peach, but now Mario had the ability to fly. By picking up a Super Leaf Mario dons the Tanooki Suit which turns him into a raccoon and gives him a tail so he can fly…(?) Why a raccoon? Your guess is as good as ours, but nevertheless, the game was so much fun.

It also introduced new characters that would be used in future games. Bowser’s seven children, the “Koopalings” were among the newly introduced characters. Each Koopaling stole a wand from the area’s king which turned them into a different animal. Mario had to defeat each Koopaling to get the wand and change the king back.

It also featured a world map that allowed players to (somewhat) pick and choose their own path to each castle. The non-linear gameplay was a big hit with critics and players alike.

Game Boy – Super Mario Land

Super Mario Land
Photo Credit: Nintendo

There weren’t many Mario-specific games on the Game Boy. It seemed that in 1989 players were more interested in playing on their home consoles, but Nintendo wanted to try anyway and you can’t have a new Nintendo console/handheld without Mario. Their attempt paid off, players loved it, and it sold more copies than Super Mario Bros 3.

At only twelve levels it’s a pretty short game compared to other Mario games. It was the typical same story with some characters changed out. Mario is now in search of Princess Daisy in Sarassaland who has been captured by the evil spaceman Tatanga. This was the first game with Daisy and the first without Peach.

Super Nintendo – Super Mario World

Super Mario World
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Super Mario World is the greatest selling Super Nintendo game, it was also the first Mario game for Nintendo’s new console. Some hail this as the best Mario game of all time. Its secret levels, paths, and exits are just another feature that makes this game so special.

Yoshi, Mario’s dinosaur friend, was first introduced in Super Mario World. He assists Mario on his journey to rescue Princess Peach. Yoshi will eat enemies and spit them out as projectiles to help clear the path. He can even help Mario achieve new heights, sometimes to his own demise. What a friend…

Nintendo 64 – Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64
Photo Credit: Nintendo

A lot of games featuring Mario were released on the N64, but only one truly deserves the title of best on the console. Super Mario 64 was a revolutionary title for Nintendo, although it wasn’t their first official 3D game, it laid the groundwork for many more to come.

It followed the typical storyline of Mario rescuing Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser. The adventure of getting there though was different than any other Mario game. Mario had to collect stars to unlock doors to reach new levels. Most Mario games up to this point were very linear, so players had to follow a set path. In Super Mario 64 if the player had collected enough stars to open a door, they could do it.

The game wasn’t perfect, as most people who played the game can remember the terrible camera controls. That paled in comparison though to how incredible the rest of the game was. Players were just excited to see Mario and his world in 3D, after only seeing one side of him (literally) for over 10 years.

Game Boy Color – Super Mario Bros. Deluxe

Super Mario Bros Deluxe
Photo Credit: Nintendo

For the most part, Super Mario Bros Deluxe was the exact same game that was released 14 years earlier on the NES. There are some minor bug fixes and little things added to make the game more appealing to a new, younger audience. The game added several unlockables as well as the Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels.

For older audiences who played the original Mario on their NES, they could now take it with them and play wherever they wanted.

A few changes such as the ability to save at any point and starting the game with five lives instead of three were welcomed additions. Minor things such as water and lava animations, and Peach and Toad talking animations give the game just a little more charm.

Gamecube – Super Mario Sunshine

Super Mario Sunshine
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Sunshine was Mario’s second 3D outing and it was beautiful. It was also one of the most difficult and frustrating Mario games ever. Some of the camera issues from Mario 64 were addressed and mostly fixed, but certain angles still plagued the game.

Mario finally tries to go on vacation only to be wrongfully accused of vandalism as soon he lands on Isle Delfino. A shadow version of himself has graffitied the island and it’s now up to Mario and his new counterpart F.L.U.D.D to clean it up.

Even though the F.L.U.D.D mechanic was somewhat gimmicky it added new gameplay elements that hadn’t been seen in a Mario game before. F.L.U.D.D held a tank of water which Mario utilized to clean paint off of walls, hover in the air and over gaps for a short amount of time, and even launch way into the air with the right attachment. Other attachments could be found around the island that gave Mario different abilities as well. Overall the game was inventive and fun, with some of the best music in a Mario game yet.

Game Boy Advance – Mario vs. Donkey Kong

Mario vs Donkey Kong
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Mario is now in the toy-making business, making miniature toys of…well, himself. Donkey Kong wants one but since all the stores are sold out he goes on a rampage and steals them all from the factory. Now Mario must rescue all of his toys and defeat Donkey Kong in the process.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong was a great mixture of puzzle game meets platformer. It still had all of the usual known abilities of Mario with the added puzzle element of unlocking pathways to find keys and unlock doors. It was awarded Game of the Month by Gamespot in 2004 and had many honorable mentions from other sources.

Ds – New Super Mario Bros.

New Super Mario Bros
Photo Credit: Nintendo

New Super Mario Bros is the best-selling game on the DS with over 30 million units sold, and for good reason. Nintendo went back to their roots with this one making the game very similar (and yet so different) to the original Mario formula. Mario plays the same old story with the same powerups, except there are a few extras this time around.

Aside from the three powers that Mario always has three more have been added. The Mini-Mushroom shrinks Mario down to a tiny size but allows him to run on water and jump to incredible heights. The Blue Shell allows Mario to retreat inside for protection. Lastly, the Mega-Mushroom makes Mario a giant and he can destroy anything in his path.

These additions were minor but made the game feel fresh while still feeling like the Mario games that we’ve grown to love.

Wii – Super Mario Galaxy 2

Super Mario Galaxy 2
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Yes, 2. One was amazing, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 took everything that was great about one and made it even better. More levels, more powerups, and Yoshi! A better multiplayer feature was also added that gave player two the ability to control the orange Luma to attack enemies and collect items.

There is so much gameplay and so much to do in Super Mario Galaxy 2. There are over 240 power stars to collect across 49 different galaxies. There are new powerups added including Cloud Mario, Spin Drill, and Rock Mario. The inclusion of Yoshi adds new challenges not seen in the predecessor. Yoshi was also given three abilities including the Blimp Fruit, the Dash Pepper, and the Bulb Berry which allows him to see hidden passages.

3DS – Super Mario 3D Land

Super Mario 3D Land
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Super Mario 3D Land was the very first Mario game released on the 3DS. It was also the first time you could play in what Nintendo called “true 3D”. While the game didn’t require the 3D functionality to play it did make some puzzles and obstacles easier to clear when it was on.

The game feels as if you’re playing a 2D version of the game but in a 3D world. Mario has more new powerups this time around including the Boomerang Flower which allows him to throw boomerangs, the Prize Box which drops coins as he runs around, and the Propellor Box which launches Mario way into the air. The Tanooki suit also makes its first return since Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES.

Wii U – Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D World
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Up to four players can play Super Mario 3D World at once. Either in a group effort or in competition for the high score and the privilege of wearing the crown. This was a great family game with upbeat music, bright levels, and a welcoming atmosphere.

Bowser got tired of kidnapping Peach after so many years that he decided to kidnap fairies instead. That means that Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach need to rescue each one. The game is a direct sequel to Super Mario 3D Land and plays the same way in the 3D environment. There are only a few minor differences aside from the simultaneous four-player campaign. The most notable is the ability to turn into a cat. Each character can collect a bell and be transformed into a cat version of themselves. The cat moves faster, can climb walls, and scratch enemies as an attack.

The game won Game of the Year from several media outlets and received no lower than a 90% from the majority of reviewers. It is the second best-selling Wii U game with over 5.8 million copies sold.

Switch – Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey
Photo Credit: Nintendo

There are a lot of Mario-themed games on the Switch. And most of them are great, but a lot of them are sequels or remakes. Odyssey was the best on the Switch because it was a brand new adventure. The game was beautiful and so creative in design.

The introduction of Cappy changed the way we have ever played Mario. Throwing Cappy at an enemy (or another object) allows Mario to take control of them to complete certain tasks and continue on their quest.

Mario must collect Power Moons to power up his ship the Odyssey to travel to new areas. Each area requires more Power Moons than the last to advance and has numerous Power Moons hidden throughout. Some Power Moon collections are as straightforward as going from point A to point B, and others are as simple as buying a new outfit.

Super Mario Odyssey is a massive game with over 500 Power Moons to collect across 17 unique kingdoms. It was a joy to play, and this game truly showed what Nintendo does best, create fun.


  • Donny Long

    Donny has been in the game design industry for over 15 years. Starting in QA he’s worked his way up to Game Design. He’s played video games since he was old enough to hold a controller and has passed that passion on to his daughters. While a Nintendo fanboy at heart and grew up only playing Nintendo consoles, he has since expanded his horizons.

Donny Long

Written by Donny Long

Donny has been in the game design industry for over 15 years. Starting in QA he’s worked his way up to Game Design. He’s played video games since he was old enough to hold a controller and has passed that passion on to his daughters. While a Nintendo fanboy at heart and grew up only playing Nintendo consoles, he has since expanded his horizons.

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