Gaming’s golden boy is a man of many talents. Of course, we all know him for his famous exploits of Goomba and gorilla-stomping and princess rescuing throughout the years since his emergence back in 1981’s Donkey Kong. However, the famous plumber is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to his athletic abilities.
We’ve seen the Italian take his talents to the tennis and basketball courts, the soccer and baseball fields, and even the Olympic games against a familiar blue hedgehog. Mario is gaming’s most well-rounded protagonist and he often brings his friends along for the ride. While many of his titles are fun and provide great times at group hangouts with a bunch of friends, other titles leave the player feeling unimpressed, bored, or just burned out of that particular franchise.
Some sports, Mario has played way more than others, which kind of seems unfair in the long run especially if you’re not a fan of a particular sport. He has seemingly done it all, yet he keeps doing more.
With this list, we'll take a look at the best and the worst of Jumpman’s sports titles that featured the plumber, his brother and all his friends (and enemies for some reason). We are going to take a look and see which ones made us keep coming back to play one more game and which ones made us put the controller down and retire from that sport forever... or at least until the next installment came out.
15 Best: Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Winter Games
The first follow-up to 2007’s Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, this title differed from the previous title as it took place at the 2010 Vancouver Winter games. This title used took advantage of the Wii’s newly released balance pad accessory for sports like snowboarding and skiing. This game would not have gone over as well if it was just another Summer Olympic game.
This title was a nice addition to the series as it wasn’t a carbon copy of its predecessor since it featured a completely different line-up of events. It also was only the second entry in the series, but now the familiar formula has become stale and the bi-annual release just isn’t doing it for gamers anymore.
14 Worst: Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix
A strange idea for a crossover title to say the least, this game featured the familiar rhythmic dance gameplay seen in the DDR series, but with a fresh coat of Mushroom Kingdom paint on it.
It’s also the first and only time in Mario’s history that he faced off against Waluigi as the primary antagonist. Which was a small but nice change of pace from it always being a horned, fire-breathing turtle king. As far as gameplay goes, it is exactly the same as any other Dance Dance Revolution game aside from the inclusion of some mini-games. All in all, this just seemed like a bad idea from the get-go and it doesn’t really make any sense why this one was made.
13 Best: Mario Golf
Released back in 1999 on the N64, Mario Golf was the first golf entry to feature Mario’s name in the title and it was certainly a step in the right direction for Mario’s days on the fairway. Even today, it is the best entry in the golf series and, despite numerous new iterations, it still is loved to this day.
Despite the dodgy graphics and the unorthodox controller that the N64 had, the game received pretty much universal acclaim and went on to spawn several follow-up titles that failed to surpass this entry in the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere.
It is a testament to the N64 era that it seems to feature some of the most enjoyable Mario games in existence and this game certainly ranks among them.
12 Worst: Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
Nintendo has been on a run of making pretty crappy Mario sports titles over the last few years and Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash certainly finds itself in that particular group of games. The lack of content in this game is laughable and the game relies way too heavily on its Ultra Smash gimmick. Growing huge isn’t anything new in Mario games and it may have been cool if the game felt like it had anything to offer outside of it.
This installment lacks any stadiums, game modes, or anything to really keep you engaged for any meaningful amount of time. It’s a shame that after 11 years of waiting for another console Tennis game, this is what we got. It was a huge step backwards to say the least.
11 Best: Mario Hoops 3-On-3
Though it was somewhat of a hidden gem, Mario Hoops: 3-on-3 was the first time that Mario and his friends took it to the hardwood for a game of basketball. It had it all: fun courts, lots of characters, challenging AI, punishing tournaments, and even guest characters from the Final Fantasy series. What else could you want from a handheld sports title?
To this da0,y many people aren’t even aware that this game even came out and it really is a shame. This is the only title where Mario exclusively plays basketball and I am still baffled how that’s so. Maybe someday it will get a sequel that isn’t watered down and thrown into a compilation sports game with four other sports.
10 Worst: Mario & Sonic At The London 2012 Olympic Games
We've arrived at an Olympic title that was a total cash grab. Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games was the first title to feature the year and host city of the following year's Olympic games.
This is the game that started the trend of releasing another installment forevery Winter and Summer games. The biggest problem with this is that every installment from this one on has done little to change the formula or the events, for the most part resulting in incredibly similar games. Since this game’s release, they have done one for the Sochi Winter games and the Rio Summer games, all of which have received the same criticisms, citing their similarity to previous titles.
9 Best: Super Mario Strikers
The world’s favorite sport finally saw the plumber lace up his cleats in 2005’s Super Mario Strikers and it did not disappoint. The game received mostly very positive reviews and it was just another great example of a non-realistic sports game done right.
Choose Mario or any of his friends as your team’s captain and a bunch of sidekicks and go up against your opponents by trying to score goals using your Super Strike to add a little extra “oomph” into it. Even the unlockable Super Team consisting of all robots are fun to play as (probably because they are the best by a huge margin). Plus, you can use items to screw your friends and the computer over, which makes it even more fun!
8 Worst: Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour
So, take what made Mario Golf on the N64 so good and then make it somewhat worse. This game is essentially the old game with better graphics and a different controller. While the N64 gold game is beloved for its formula and execution, Toadstool Tour has received criticism for feeling like a recycled version of it. It didn’t really do anything to add to the formula or really take any chances to excite players.
The game lacks a decent amount of game modes to help keep players interested and help to break up the monotony of playing regular games of golf. Plus, the game suffers from a numerous amount of very basic and simplistic course designs that don’t really equate to a fun time for players.
7 Best: Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games
The first in what would become a very exhausted game series, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games brought two of the greatest gaming characters ever together to participate in athletic events. Sure, it made no sense for Sonic the Hedgehog to lose the 100m dash to a chubby plumber, but that’s not what mattered. Sonic and Mario had finally met in a video game.
The game’s many events were fun to play against friends and see who was the true virtual Olympian. The game also had a large selection of characters to choose from as both Sonic and Mario brought their friends along for the challenge. The novelty of this game was a large part of its success and, even if the game wasn’t perfect, it was still a fun time.
6 Worst: Mario Sports Mix
Mario Sports Mixs take four sports that people enjoy, and would love to see in their very own Mario sports title, and shoves them all into one game while watering them down. Sadly, this game didn't please gamers one bit. Every sport feels cheap and bare bones with little variation in gameplay.
The game’s over-simplicity and the ease of the computer opponents were its downfall for sure, as it can become repetitive and lose its luster very quickly. Even with Dodgeball included, it wasn’t enough to make this game have any significant impact with gamers, both young and old. But seriously, how do you make Dodgeball boring? That’s actually kind of an achievement!
5 Best: Mario Tennis
Probably the best Mario sports game to ever be released on the N64, Mario Tennis was a true marvel. The gameplay was smooth, the characters were enjoyable and the game modes were challenging. The game brought a ton of new characters to the forefront like Waluigi and Princess Daisy, to name a few. This game was far ahead of tis time and created a game that is remembered for its intricacy, execution and character. Keep in mind, in terms of sports games at the time, there wasn’t much of that going around.
The game was released back in 2000 and, even all these years later, it is still one of the best sports titles to ever feature Mario and friends. This is one of those games that all other sports games should aspire to be.
4 Worst: Mario Sports Superstars
Mario Sports Superstars is essentially a sequel to Mario Sports Mix and features five different sports, along with the same issues as Mario Sports Mix. The games are watered down and don’t have enough depth to them to be truly enjoyable.
They are so half-baked and mediocre that they never really provide a fun experience. So, all-in-all, it is pretty much a handheld version of the previous title, along with new sports that deliver the same bland and joyless gameplay that plagued the previous installment. I don’t see this series going anywhere positive anytime soon. This is probably a series that should not be continued.
3 Best: Mario Power Tennis
This was one of the pinnacles of Mario sports games and can be considered the best Tennis game in the series, although the argument can also be made for Mario Tennis to hold this title. This game features a large roster of 18 characters to play as in either singles or doubles and each with their own special moves.
It features numerous courts to play on as, well as a handful of fun mini-game modes such as Artist on the Court and Gooper Blooper Volley. The smooth and engaging gameplay make it one of the easiest for anyone to pick up play. If you’re looking for something challenging then this game has that as well, as the later tournaments are sure to challenge you.
2 Worst: Mario & Sonic At The Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Talk about beating a dead horse. When the first of these games were released, it was a cool idea, bringing together two of gaming’s biggest icons for a friendly, yet competitive run in the Olympic games. Fast-forward to today and now they make one for every single Olympic Games, both Summer and Winter.
If I haven’t ragged on this series enough on this list by this point, then be glad that this is the last possible point to bring forth. As with many other game companies out there today, when they see something works, they “Call of Duty” the hell out of it and start making one every chance they get until people don’t want to play it anymore.
1 Best: Mario Super Sluggers
Of all the sports games that have featured Mario, Mario Super Sluggers is without a doubt the most immersive and impressive one to date.
Released on August 25th, 2008, no other game has the sheer amount of content that this game offered and it was accompanied by a bevy of great gaming mechanics, a slew of savory characters, and not to mention a story where you must travel to different baseball parks and assemble a dream team from the Mushroom Kingdom’s many inhabitants.
It’s a blast to play by yourself or with friends and is filled to the brim with bonus game modes to play if a regular game of Mario-style baseball isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. As far as Mario’s athletic exploits go, there is no better game out there then Mario Super Sluggers.