It’s next to impossible for most mortals to collect every Mario game, but Nintendo has made it easy for fans to put together a pretty impressive selection of Mario titles on Nintendo Switch. In fact, Nintendo’s portable/console hybrid is home to perhaps the most, and best, Mario games that have ever been offered on a single piece of hardware before. The Switch is a Mario beast!
The bad news is that some of the best Mario games on the Switch are on their way out at the end of March, so we thought it was important to take a look at every single Mario game available on the platform and rank them, using advanced scientific algorithms that exist on the blockchain, so you know this list is 100% objective truth.
Except the ranking is based on our opinions and no actual science, but I feel like if you say something is on the blockchain people care more? We also had to put some ground rules in place so we weren’t overwhelmed with games; the rules are that Mario has to either have his name on the game, or he must be the lead character. The only exception made was for Luigi’s Mansion 3, because c’mon, that’s a Mario game, right? It’s just green Mario!
So here we go! Starting from the worst and working our way upward, here is every Mario game currently available on Nintendo Switch, in order of quality. I’ve also labeled which titles are available with your Nintendo Switch Online subscription, and which will be going away at the end of March 2021.
28. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Summer or winter, the Olympics have never translated well to video games. Even with the rival mascots anchoring a party-game series of events, they’re still the most underwhelming, unanticipated adaptation among major sports licenses. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is the same kind of button-mashing gimmickry for which its forebears were also known, but it has the distinction of being the only way to experience the 2020 Games to date.
The games of the XXXII Olympiad were, of course, postponed for a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, and though the Tokyo Games organizers have pegged July 23, 2021, for the opening ceremonies, who can say, really, when the games will go on until they actually do?
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 does try something novel, by sucking the characters into a time vortex and spitting them out in the 1964 Tokyo Games, which are played as 8-bit throwbacks with a CRT filter. But without much public demand for this kind of minigame anthology, it all comes off like Nintendo and Sega’s civic obligation to support a local economic development project. —Owen Good
27. Arcade Archives Vs. Super Mario Bros. / Wrecking Crew
An arcade game that launched after the original home console release of Super Mario Bros., the Vs. version of Super Mario Bros. is much harder, more mean-spirited, and more frustrating in ways that aren’t fun. I wasn’t inspired to keep going. I accepted that I don’t like it when games continue to punch me in the face, so I quit and now I’m putting it second to last on this list.
I’m glad you can buy it and play it, because it’s a part of Mario history, but if you’re not a historian, you can safely avoid this whole mess.
Wrecking Crew is a completely different game in which Mario and Luigi are demolition experts and have to take down buildings. I’ve included these two games together because both are available via the Nintendo Switch Online service, both are more curiosities than anything, and I’m looking forward to moving on to discussions of better games.
26. Dr. Mario (Online)
I did a science, and at least some people agree with the idea that this was not a fun game but we love it due to nostalgia and the inclusion of Mario. You can see the numbers for yourself right there at that link. This isn’t just me being grumpy! More and more people are seeing the truth: Dr. Mario is not, and was not, a good game. I’m sorry I have to bring this hard truth to you, but you deserved to hear it from a friend.
25. Super Mario Party
There is no god in Super Mario Party, which is precisely why it’s my go-to video game in social gatherings.
The ability to practice the minigames before each competition means that anyone can pick up the game and learn on the go — plus, even folks who aren’t capital-G gamers still know a Mario character or two. Turning this game on guarantees that the night will devolve into hooting and hollering, usually because I’m losing to the person who never plays video games. Or maybe because the computer awarded someone a star for having terrible luck, allowing that player to take home the gold at the very last minute.
There is only one truth in Mario Party: Chaos reigns. —Patricia Hernandez
24. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (Online)
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels was actually Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan, while the Super Mario Bros. 2 we were given in the U.S. was Doki Doki Panic in Japan, because Nintendo was just as lost as everyone else in the ’80s.
We got the better end of the deal here, as the American Super Mario Bros. 2 was a surreal, literally dreamlike adventure and The Lost Levels was aimed at players who had mastered the first game, so the difficulty was increased substantially. If you want a super-difficult take on the original Super Mario Bros., though, here you go. The mushrooms can kill you now, by the way.
23. Paper Mario: The Origami King
Why are the boss battles so hard? Without that issue, this game might have been at least a little higher on our list. As it stands, this is a fine but quirky RPG with some ridiculous difficulty spikes. Good luck.
22. Mario’s Super Picross (Online)
A sequel to Mario’s Picross, a game that didn’t sell very well outside of Japan, Mario’s Super Picross on Nintendo Switch is the first time the game has been made available in the U.S. If you haven’t played any games in the series, imagine a mixture of sudoku and maybe Minesweeper, in which you’re trying to reveal a Mario-themed image hidden in each puzzle.
It’s fine. (And there are far better Picross games on Switch.)
21. Super Mario Bros. 35 (leaving March 31, 2021)
Every game seems to get a battle royale version these days, and Mario is no different. In Super Mario Bros. 35, 35 players race to the end of the same level, sending defeated enemies to the boards of their competitors and trying to collect power-ups to give themselves an edge. It was a fun diversion that Nintendo has said is coming to a complete end on March 31, when the company will pull Super Mario Bros. 35 from the Nintendo Switch eShop and take the game’s servers offline.
20. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
One of the joys of covering Nintendo is that you never know what the company is going to do next. One week, it’s another sequel in a long-running franchise; the next week, it may be ... folding cardboard, I don’t know.
You play Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit by controlling a physical toy car around your living space with your Switch, and viewing everything from the point of view of the car itself, as if your physical home had been turned into a Mario Kart track. Which is pretty much the reality of the situation!
It’s been a blast creating courses with my kids, or just using the car to harass our cats. Mario really can go anywhere, and now he’s in a game, in your house, on your Switch, and the good news is that it’s delightful.
19. Arcade Archives: Mario Bros.
For some reason, I’ll always remember that I first saw Mario Bros. at an outdoor arcade in Manhattan’s Battery Park, waiting for the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty on my family’s big station-wagon vacation in 1983, shortly after the arcade game launched.
But the Good Bros. wouldn’t see a Mario Bros. cabinet in our small town in North Carolina for another two years. It was, conceptually, Nintendo’s answer to Williams’ Joust, and yet somehow even harder. Having to hit the Sidestepper crabs twice to flip them over introduced me to the term “difficulty spike” at a very tender age.
This game was not only the debut for Mario’s sibling, Luigi; it also established the two as plumbing professionals, and made turtlelike beings their mortal enemies for the next four decades. —OSG
18. Super Mario Bros. 2 (Online)
Did you know that Super Mario Bros. 2 is actually based on a game called Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic? Of course you did. Just like telling people there’s an arrow in the FedEx logo or that Pac-Man’s creators had to change the character’s name from Puck Man for Western audiences, this detail about the second numbered Super Mario Bros. entry is inescapable.
Despite being what amounts to a sprite edit of another game, Super Mario Bros. 2 solidified some enduring changes to some of the most important characters in the franchise. Luigi was no longer a carbon copy of Mario; he became tall and could jump higher. Peach was a playable character who could float. Toad was adorably stout and speedy.
These qualities became mainstays for each character’s portrayals to this day, informing how they perform in their own platforming games, sports titles, brawlers, and more. —Jeff Ramos
17. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
“It’s Mario, but he has a gun” almost sounds like a shitpost, or an impossibility at the very least. Somehow, though, the folks at Ubisoft convinced Nintendo that this would be a good idea. And you know what? It is.
Think XCOM, but cuter and sillier, and with an added focus on movement. Through the use of warp pipes, dashes, and team jumps, you can chain together elaborate turns that take you all over the map in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, often nailing multiple enemies in one go.
Just getting to see major Mario characters like Peach get the Rabbids makeover is worth the price of admission, as your favorite characters will get endlessly clowned here. But hey, that’s love, isn’t it? —PH
16. Mario Tennis Aces
I was not expecting to enjoy Mario Tennis Aces as much as I did when it launched in 2018. Some of this is my own sports snobbery, where I prefer simulation-quality realism to cartoony, arcade-style goofing around.
But Camelot’s newest racquet racket delivered the easy-to-learn/hard-to-master challenge I enjoy facing in all kinds of sports titles, and a cast of characters 29 strong provided a lot of depth and variety to local or online multiplayer.
Let’s not forget the fact that this thing has a story mode, too. Simulation sports are a staple genre of video gaming, but they need variants like Mario Tennis Aces every now and again, to approach their well-known rules and their play strategies with fresh humor and imagination. I’m a video game golf nut, and I can hardly wait for Camelot’s Mario Golf: Super Rush, building on what worked well in Mario Tennis Aces, later this summer. —OSG
15. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
Another updated version of a game that was first released on Nintendo Wii U, the Deluxe version of New Super Mario Bros. U throws in the New Super Luigi U expansion and ups the resolution from 720p to 1080p when the Switch is docked.
Even if you’ve played it before, it’s worth revisiting what may be some of the best 2D Mario design ever created. This game also proved that the New Super Mario Bros. series does best when put on a portable system; after all, this offshoot franchise began on Nintendo DS. If you want a more modern take on the classic Mario play that made you fall in love with the series during the NES and Super NES eras, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a must-buy.
14. Super Mario Maker 2
Super Mario Maker 2 is an endless Mario game, and you get to contribute to it. How cool is that?
You can play through the campaign, begin creating your own levels to share, or try the best levels from other players. The playfulness, dedication, and sometimes sadism of the community can be found in some of the hardest, or weirdest, levels out there, including many that seem to delight in punishing the player.
Everything can be beaten, though; creators can’t upload their levels without playing them through to completion at least once. If you want to see how much work goes into making that Nintendo magic, here’s your shot to try it for yourself.
13. Super Mario 3D All-Stars (leaving March 31, 2021)
High-resolution versions of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy make this a Switch collection of Mario games with two utter classics that also includes Super Mario Sunshine.
It’s an important reminder that Nintendo hits much more often than it misses, but it does miss from time to time. Of course, it’s easier to forgive those rare mediocre games if they’re sandwiched between two of the franchise’s best works. This bundle is also one of the Mario games going away on March 31, so grab a copy while you can.
12. Luigi’s Mansion 3
I think Luigi and I feel the same way about being scared.
Every new room in a horror game sends my heart into my throat. Every tiny movement could be something waiting to jump out and grab me. My imagination is often more vivid — and terrifying — than any actual monster I end up facing.
In Luigi’s case, the ghosts haunting him in Luigi’s Mansion 3 are quite real. His panicked muttering as he turns a doorknob and his habit of jumping at every little bump in the night are justified. He never becomes less terrified, even as he clears floor after floor of ghosts in a haunted hotel.
This is our scaredy-cat hero’s best adventure yet, and it’s made even better by just how much he dislikes being in it. —Chelsea Stark
11. Super Mario All-Stars (Online)
This collection of four classic-but-updated Mario games from the NES era consists of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros. 2, and Super Mario Bros. 3.
The graphics have been given a spit shine with the power of the Super NES — the collection’s original home — and cheats, tricks, and glitches were looked at on a case-by-case basis to see how they hurt or helped, or gave the game flavor. Some of these secrets were kept in and others were adjusted, but the entire package is the rare chance to see Nintendo go back and release a director’s cut-style version of some of its older games. It’s not to be missed, and it’s currently available through Nintendo Switch Online.
10. Donkey Kong (Online), Arcade Archives Donkey Kong
To be sure, the “free” version that comes with your Nintendo Switch Online subscription is the NES port, not the arcade original. But prior to the NES’ launch, Donkey Kong was my childhood’s gold standard for console gaming. A woeful bleeping-and-blooping port to the Atari 2600 was almost as bad as the Pac-Man adaptation that shares the blame for console gaming’s crash. That version was made by Coleco, actually, suspected of sandbagging its own effort on a rival platform to drive fans to its arcade-quality ColecoVision.
Yet somehow, even with Nintendo-made hardware that was light years beyond what we’d been hooking to our wood-paneled, Curtis Mathes living room autoclaves, Donkey Kong NES still doesn’t have the Pie Factory! Donkey Kong’s fourth level was the true differentiator, whether you were actually playing Donkey Kong or just plinking around with a knockoff.
To my knowledge, the only in-home version of Donkey Kong that had the Pie Factory was the Atari 800 home computer cartridge, and I had to get Mom to drive me way the hell out to Craig’s place in State Road if I wanted to play that. Then, in 1986, Craig ditched his 800 for an NES, and we were back in the dark ages, playing Donkey Kong without conveyor belts or platters of concrete mix.
The good news is that for $7.99 you have the option to buy the arcade version on your Nintendo Switch, which makes up for things a little bit. The Arcade Archives version also, in fact, comes with the pie level. That fix came too late for my childhood, but at least you don’t have to suffer the same way. —OSG
9. Super Mario Kart (Online)
Super Mario Kart is the first game in the Mario Kart series — the success that likely inspired just about every game company on the planet to put its characters in karts at least once in the past 30 years, and one of the first games to show what Mario could bring to genres far outside of his platforming origins.
Super Mario Kart also showed off the 3D capabilities of the Super Nintendo by using its Mode 7 technology, which kept the characters in the middle of the screen and moved the world around them to simulate movement. None of this would have mattered if the game hadn’t been a blast, though, and Mario Kart came out of the gate with confidence and plenty of the most important aspects of the series already in place. Some characters only change the face of gaming once, but Mario has done so for more genres than I can count.
8. NES Open Tournament Golf (Online)
This early golf game stars Mario, even if his name doesn’t appear in the title, so it fits. Those are the rules, and I can’t even say I’m upset, because I’m the one who made them. And I made them while making sure I had a way to keep NES Open Tournament Golf on this list.
Nintendo has put Mario and his friends and enemies into sports games multiple times, with mixed results, but this rather straightforward golf game proves that Mario can also star in games that just nail the fundamentals. At the time, this was about as good as golf games got, and it remains fun in shorter doses today. It was Mario in a golf game, and Nintendo knew how to pull that off without distracting from the golf or Mario.
Now if we could just get a port of the ridiculously good Mario Golf: Advance Tour on Nintendo Switch ...
7. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Super Mario 3D World for Wii U was already one of the least-appreciated Mario games, although its blinding level of shine and near-perfect mixture of elements from past Mario games made it an instant classic to most folks who played it.
The addition of the open-world, chaotic, and somewhat experimental Bowser’s Fury also helped move this package near the top of the list. If you missed Super Mario 3D World because you didn’t buy a Wii U, you now have the perfect excuse to catch up on the Switch.
6. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Leave it to Nintendo to make an escort mission actually enjoyable, as Yoshi takes center stage as the hero in this Mario game — and Mario himself is turned into a baby who must be kept safe.
It’s a sentient dinosaur and a small Italian plumber instead of a bounty hunter and a baby Yoda, but this is basically the Mandalorian prequel no one was looking for.
It’s also one of the best-crafted platformers of all time, bested only by the other games higher on this list. Yoshi’s Island looks like it was drawn and colored by hand, and the whimsical tone hides how every aspect of the game seems to have been fussed over and perfected. This was a huge departure for the Mario franchise at the time, but it’s only gotten better with age.
5. Super Mario Odyssey
The 3D Mario game that launched the Nintendo Switch, and helped Nintendo sell all those units. Featuring a hat (Cappy) that gives Mario control over a wide variety of enemies and background characters — including a freakin’ T. rex — and an open-world design where the hub world exists entirely inside a single small spaceship, Super Mario Odyssey is one of the most inventive, goofy, and brilliant takes on the Mario formula in some time.
Nintendo is still cranking out classics in the Mario line, and still finding new places to take the platforming genre.
4. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart takes characters from the Mario series and other Nintendo games and puts them in go-karts to race around Nintendo-themed locations. The franchise has been around forever, but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe took the bones of the already great Mario Kart 8 from the Wii U and brought it to the much more capable Switch hardware while adding more weapons, tracks, modes, and characters.
Who knows where the series goes from here, but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the game to buy if you haven’t played Mario Kart in a while and want to see what the series has to offer these days. This is a “simple” racing game that many of us have been playing for years, and it’s still one of the best games to bring out if you want to liven up a dreary Saturday.
3. Super Mario World (Online)
Nintendo used the familiar trappings of a Mario game to show off what the Super NES could do, while also offering plenty of innovation in the play itself. Super Mario World gave us Yoshi, and it also gave us the ability to spring off Yoshi after jumping to get a little extra height and send our dinosaur pal to his death.
There was a world map that reacted to what you did inside each level, widening the game’s space for secrets and surprises. The battery backup inside meant that you could save your game and come back later, building on the version of the world map you were creating with your chosen path through the game. The Mario games always reward players who aren’t afraid to try new things, but Super Mario World expanded the scope of the game’s world and proved that Nintendo wasn’t done experimenting with its own formula.
2. Super Mario Bros. (Online)
The big question for a list like this is whether you prioritize the entries in the series that helped to invent the overall genre, or the ones that push the Mario franchise itself forward. That’s not a problem many other franchises can claim to have, except for (possibly) Doom. But the No. 2 Mario game is a stone-cold classic of the franchise and the genre, so it was pretty easy to put it in a slot this high.
Maybe Super Mario Bros. came with your NES, or maybe you’re too young to have played it upon release and only discovered it later in life. But its combination of running, jumping, items, coins, points, secrets, levels, worlds, and bosses all seemed perfectly balanced at the time. Super Mario Bros. was also a complicated game, filled with its own arcane rules that often weaponized assumptions about past games against the player. The places that other games taught you you couldn’t go? You could get there. Seeing the later levels either required a lot of practice, or knowing where the warp pipes were if you didn’t mind skipping ahead. The first level is a master class in tutorials, giving you everything you need to know to learn how to play the game without becoming a bore.
This is the game that made Mario a legend, and helped an entire industry come back to life after the video game crash of 1983.
1. Super Mario Bros. 3 (Online)
Super Mario Bros. 3 is the perfect mixture of innovation and execution of Mario’s core attributes.
This was the actual sequel to the original Super Mario Bros. NES game for folks who saw through the paint job of Doki Doki Panic and were hoping for more of the Nintendo magic. You could fly, you could turn into a statue, and there were secrets galore. The game’s release was a cultural event, complete with one of the most memorable video game commercials ever created.
This is the best Mario game you can play on your Nintendo Switch. We’ll be taking no further questions at this time.
Update (March 26): The original version of this article did not include the Arcade Archives version of Donkey Kong, and the game has since been added to the original Donkey Kong entry.