Mario’s 35th anniversary has come and gone, but there’s never a bad time to play the best Mario games on Nintendo Switch. While the Switch lacks the deep Virtual Console library that defined the retro offerings of the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo’s hybrid console has built up a solid catalogue of Mario games over the years. Some of those are completely new games that are still receiving support. Some are Wii U games that got the port treatment. And many are NES or SNES games available through Nintendo Switch Online.
If you’re just getting into the overall-clad plumber’s oeuvre, we’ve got the biggest hits. And, if you’re looking for deeper cuts, we’ve got you covered. Nintendo has been making Mario games for nearly four decades, and many of the mustachioed Italian’s best games are available on Switch–if you know where to look.
If you’re a fan of one of Nintendo’s other big franchises–The Legend of Zelda–we have a roundup of every Zelda game on Switch, too. And for even more Switch game suggestions, check out our lists covering the best Nintendo Switch games and best Nintendo Switch games for kids.
Super Mario platformers
The Nintendo Switch is home to some of the best Mario platformers, including the superb Super Mario Odyssey and enhanced ports of earlier greats like New Super Mario Bros. U.
Super Mario Odyssey
Four years into the Switch’s life cycle, Super Mario Odyssey remains the only entirely new 3D Mario platformer available on the platform. And that’s okay because it rules. In Super Mario Odyssey, the lovable plumber swaps out his standard red cap for Cappy, a living hat that can take control of anything Mario chucks him at. As a result, Super Mario Odyssey has terrifically varied gameplay. In any given level you could be playing as a T-Rex, a frog, a 2D version of Mario, a Goomba or a Chain Chomp (and many more). Add in the fact that the ability to throw Cappy greatly increases Mario’s roster of jumps and moves and you have a Mario platformer for the ages.
See our Super Mario Odyssey review.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Released earlier this year, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury combines an excellent 3D platformer that was previously Wii U-exclusive with a bold new open-world take on the Mario formula. Originally released back in 2013, Super Mario 3D World is maybe the most underrated 3D Mario game. With a lengthy campaign that works just as well in single-player as it does in four-player co-op, Super Mario 3D World is tons of fun. Bowser’s Fury is significantly shorter and some of its ideas feel a little half-baked, but it’s a fun and interesting experiment that’s well worth checking out.
See our Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury review.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe offers a pretty traditional Mario experience, carrying on in the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” tradition of the New Super Mario Bros. games available on DS, Wii and 3DS. Basically, as we noted in our review, there isn’t much new here. But, it’s still a strong entry in a series with one of the most consistently high bars for quality in gaming.
See our New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe review.
Super Mario Maker 2
Super Mario Maker 2 does what it says on the tin: it lets you make Super Mario levels. This sequel builds out the scale of creation, allowing players to move beyond individual levels in favor of entire worlds. Plus, an update added Zelda characters and art, as well.
See our Super Mario Maker 2 review.
Mario sports and racing games
The Nintendo Switch is home to a pair of Mario Kart games as well as a couple of fun Mario sports titles.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Like a kart boosted by triple mushrooms, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe just won’t stop. Despite being a port of a game already available on the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the top-selling Nintendo Switch game, and only Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes close. It’s one of the best racing games of all time, and the fact that it stars Mario and friends is just an added bonus.
See our Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit isn’t a traditional Mario Kart game. Instead, the 2020 racer takes the action into the real world, requiring that players assemble their own tracks, which they then can use to race RC Mario cars around their home. The game trades in the pulled back perspective of previous Mario Kart games for a behind-the-back camera positioned on your plastic car. It’s a unique experiment that isn’t quite as successful as the other Mario Kart game on this list, but still might be worth checking out if–for some reason–you find yourself spending a lot of time at home.
See our Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit review.
Mario Golf: Super Rush
The newest game on this list, Mario Golf: Super Rush is a fun take on the sport, but doesn’t introduce too much that’s novel (aside from Speed Golf, which is pretty cool). But, if it’s your first time playing Mario Golf? This is great fun in single-player and multiplayer, though not as action-oriented as other games on this list.
See our Mario Golf: Super Rush review.
Mario Tennis Aces
The debut of the Mario Tennis series on Switch is a marked step up from 2015’s poorly received Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. Aces offers deep tennis mechanics, a suite of modes, and competitive multiplayer.
See our Mario Tennis Aces review.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
This Nintendo/Sega collab was released way back in November 2019, half a year before COVID-19 made it to the States and nearly two years before the real-world Olympics actually happened. Despite the weirdness around its name, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is a pretty traditional entry in the long-running series. That said, it’s the best entry yet, with a slew of simple yet fun minigames and accessible design that makes this an easy game for people of all ages and skill levels to pick up and play.
See our review of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Plenty of great Mario spin-offs have released for Switch, including turn-based tactics games, role-playing games, fighting games, and more.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
This Ubisoft Milan-developed crossover event is a surprisingly great tactics game in which players assemble squads of Mario characters, Rabbids, and Rabbids who look like Mario characters for kinetic turn-based battles. A Donkey Kong Adventure expansion launched a year later, so there’s plenty of content here for strategy fans. Plus, a sequel, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, is due out next year.
See our Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle review.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
Some longtime fans of the Paper Mario series were disappointed that, with The Origami King, Nintendo refused to return the series to its RPG roots. The Thousand Year Door this is not. But what this game does have is clever, funny writing and a unique ring-based battle system. The mechanics aren’t as deep as in early entries, but this game is far from paper thin.
See our Paper Mario: The Origami King review.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Mario’s brother and perennial sidekick takes on a leading role in this ghost-hunting adventure, wielding a vacuum he can use to suck up ghosts. Rescue Mario for a change in this well-received 2019 Switch exclusive.
See our Luigi’s Mansion 3 review.
Super Mario Party
Whatever your opinion of Mario Party–the series in which the mustachioed plumber and friends take turns rolling dice, hopping around a board, playing minigames and collecting stars–Super Mario Party is unlikely to change it. The series’ 2018 Switch debut is pretty similar to previous entries in the series, but if you like what the series is, or, at least, think it’s a fine-enough time while hanging out with friends, it’s a good one of those.
See our Super Mario Party review.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a Mario game in the same way Avengers: Endgame is an Ant Man movie. Sure, he’s there , but it’s not really about him. Mario’s relative unimportance to the series notwithstanding, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is one of the best multiplayer games of all time, with the most expansive roster of any competitive game ever. Part party game, part museum tour, part action-oriented fighter, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is action-packed fun that can liven up any get-together.
See our Super Smash Bros. Ultimate review.
Arcade Archives Vs. Super Mario Bros.
A significantly more difficult arcade version of Super Mario Bros., which we discuss in more detail below.
Arcade Archives Mario Bros.
This is the arcade game Mario Bros., which we discuss below. You can pay for this version, or play it as part of Nintendo Switch Online’s collection of NES titles.
Nintendo Switch Online Mario games
There are tons of classic Mario games available to play for free for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. Switch Online costs $20 per year for an individual membership or $35 per year for a family account that supports up to eight users. If you’re in a nostalgic mood, check out all of the SNES and NES Mario games you can play on the service below.
SNES Online Mario games
There are five Mario games available on Switch Online that originally debuted on Super Nintendo, including the wonderful compilation Super Mario All-Stars.
Super Mario World
Mario’s Super Nintendo debut boasted a generational leap forward in graphics, introduced Yoshi and the spin-jump and is just a ton of fun to play. Plus, it’s got save functionality built in, which sure is nice compared to its NES predecessors.
Super Mario Kart
The first Mario Kart game feels pretty different from every Mario Kart game that followed. While Mario’s racing adventures have been rendered in 3D since Mario Kart 64, Super Mario Kart fakes 3D with Mode 7–an effect used in a variety of SNES games to create faux 3D on a 2D sprite-based plane. As a result, rather than feeling like you’re driving through a 3D space, it kind of feels like you’re steering a toy car around a paper map. If you love Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and want to see the roots of the series, it’s worth checking out. Thankfully, you can do so at no added cost if you have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription.
Mario’s Super Picross
This game, a sequel to Mario’s Picross, was originally released only in Japan and the Switch version, puzzlingly, remains untranslated–despite being available on the North American eShop. The tutorial and all text are presented in kanji, so this one is a little difficult to get into unless you can read Japanese or already know how to play Picross.
Super Mario All-Stars
A remaster collection from decades before remaster collections became a common thing, Super Mario All-Stars gathers the NES Mario games (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels and Super Mario Bros. 3) and gives them a SNES coat of paint, with new graphics and music.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Despite the name, Yoshi’s Island is more spin-off than sequel. As Yoshi, the green dinosaur introduced in Super Mario World, you platform through colorful stages while caring for Baby Mario. Basically, the game is one long escort mission, but through inventive level design, gorgeous pixel art that foreshadowed the arts-and-crafts style of games like Paper Mario and Yoshi’s Wooly World, a killer soundtrack and exceptional controls, it manages to be one of the best games in the series.
NES Online Mario games
There are even more Mario games (including some you may not recognize) on NES Online.
Super Mario Bros.
The game that started it all. While Mario was introduced in Donkey Kong, and appeared alongside his brother, Luigi, in Mario Bros. and Wrecking Crew, Super Mario Bros. set the template for every 2D platformer that would follow. Aside from the one-off gimmickry of World 7-4, which requires extensive guesswork or an Internet walkthrough to complete, Super Mario Bros. still holds up and Nintendo Switch Online’s suspend save functionality means that you can much more easily see it through to completion.
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
Originally released in Japan as Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levelsplays a dark joke on players who think they know what to expect from a Mario game. With extreme difficulty and in-game tricks (like poison mushrooms that look like power-ups), Nintendo decided the game was too difficult for North American audiences. As a result, players in the United States got the next game on this list instead, and had to wait until 1993 to play The Lost Levels as part of the Super Mario All-Stars collection.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Instead of Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, North American audiences got this series outlier as the sequel to Super Mario Bros. This sequel isn’t really a sequel at all. Worried that Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels wouldn’t go over well with Western audiences, Nintendo altered an existing Famicom game, Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, by adding Mario characters. The resulting game has mechanics, like picking up and throwing vegetables to hurt enemies and extensive vertical platforming, that would not be iterated on in successive entries. Instead, Super Mario Bros. 2 stands as a bizarre one-off, a numbered Mario game that wasn’t really a Mario game at all.
Super Mario Bros. 3
Platformer fans have long argued over which 2D Mario–Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. 3–is truly supreme. But if you have Nintendo Switch Online, you can play both superb titles at no extra charge. Problem solved.
While younger fans likely know Dr. Mario from the Super Smash Bros. series, the character’s 1990 debut is a magnificent puzzle game that’s well worth checking out. Gameplay will be familiar for anyone who’s tried their hand at Puyo Puyo or, to a lesser extent, Tetris. Dual-colored medicine capsules fall from the top of the screen and must be arranged by color at the bottom to destroy sets of pre-arranged viruses. Match four and they disappear. To complete a level, you need to destroy all the viruses, and in later levels, those viruses venture much closer to the top of the screen. It’s a frantic puzzler with the perfect soundtrack for virus extermination.
NES Open: Tournament Golf
This NES golf game, starring Mario, is a little more difficult to parse than the mascot’s modern outings on the links. Picking this title up after spending some time with the recent Mario Golf: Super Rush, it’s striking how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. Play switches between an overhead perspective, which gives you a sense of the hole in its entirety, and behind Mario’s back, where you line up your shot and hit the ball in time with a moving meter; all pretty similar to the modern game. But completing a hole is much more confusing and there’s no tutorialization to help you understand the rules. If you end up checking this one out, be sure to also look up gameplay videos on YouTube.
These days, Mario is significantly more famous than his giant gorilla frenemy. But Donkey Kong gave Mario his big break. This proto-platformer cast players as Mario (then called Jumpman) on a quest to save Pauline (not Peach). As you might expect from an arcade game made in 1981, it’s tough as nails. But, thankfully, Nintendo Switch Online lets you create save states so you can topple Donkey Kong regardless of your skill level.
The first game to feature “Mario Bros.” in the title, this 1983 arcade game looks a little different than the platformers bearing those words today. Like Donkey Kong, all the action is confined to one screen, as opposed to the side scrolling action of Super Mario Bros. It’s a fine game, but in the Mario series, it’s a bit of an evolutionary dead-end; mostly worth checking out for historical curiosity.
A fun early Mario spin-off–and the origin of Mario wielding a hammer–Wrecking Crew is an action-oriented puzzle game in which Mario must destroy blocks and breakable ladders while avoiding enemies and fireballs. It’s pretty fun and figuring out how to navigate each space–you may actually need that ladder you just destroyed–is an engrossing challenge.
Discontinued Mario games
Didn’t see a game you were looking for in the list? Unfortunately, it may have been discontinued. In celebration of Mario’s 35th birthday, Nintendo launched a pair of limited time games on Switch: Super Mario 3D All-Stars, which collected Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy; and Super Mario Bros. 35, a free battle royale take on Super Mario Bros. World 1-1. As of March 31, 2021, neither is available anymore, though you might be able to find physical copies of Super Mario 3D All-Stars online or in the wild.
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