Mario is the king of platforming games and this title extends to pretty much every console format out there, including handhelds. The franchise has many successful games on Nintendo’s handheld consoles such as the Game Boy and Nintendo 3DS. Fans around the world enjoy playing Super Mario in the palms of their hands. The best handheld Super Mario games are some of Nintendo’s greatest games.
While Nintendo has typically stuck to the tried-and-true formula established by Mario’s first outing on the NES for his handheld games, there are occasions when the handheld games take different concepts and spin them into blockbusters or even revive old Mario gameplay styles in a new way.
As you can imagine, coming up with any top 10 list of Mario games is tough and it’s not made any easier by the constraints of just looking at his handheld games.
But we’ve tried to come up with a varied list that touches upon all of the high points of Mario’s career on Nintendo’s handheld consoles as well as highlighting the games that have stood up to the test of time.
That said, here are the top 10 best handheld Super Mario games:
10. Yoshi’s Island DS
The first game on this list actually doesn’t bear the Mario name at all but features him and his universe of characters in a direct sequel to the SNES classic Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.
Faithful to the SNES game right down to the feel of the gameplay and the graphical style, Yoshi’s Island DS takes advantage of the console’s unique dual-screen format while evoking the nostalgia spirits of the past. All of this comes together in an awesome experience that tries new things without alienating fans of the original.
9. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga
The first game in the Mario and Luigi series of role-playing titles, Superstar Saga is spiritually linked to the collaboration between Square and Mario that produced Super Mario RPG for the SNES back in the day. That said, Superstar Saga does things differently and mixes up the RPG action you would expect in such a game with some platforming elements that call back to Mario’s platforming heritage.
Known for their quirky stories and interesting takes on Mario lore and gameplay, the Mario and Luigi series is an established staple of Nintendo handhelds and a reliably good time.
8. Super Mario Land
How do you bring Mario to the portable space, particularly when your handheld doesn’t even have nearly the graphical capabilities of the popular NES nor even color for that matter? You do what you can and you make what you create the best it can. That’s how we imagine the thinking went behind Super Mario Land, Nintendo’s first portable Mario platforming game.
The game doesn’t attempt to be anything other than a Mario game within the rules established by the NES game but constrained by the small screen and graphical capabilities of Nintendo’s new handheld. The result is not only a title that stands firmly on its own but also competently lives up to the lofty expectations of a fan of Mario’s games.
7. Mario and Luigi Dream Team
The Mario and Luigi games offer fans a unique glimpse into the world and lore of Super Mario Bros. in ways that the traditional platforming games cannot and probably never will. From writing to presentation to overall execution, these titles stand out from the pack of Mario games because they give gamers something new from something old.
Fans of Mario who want something more without getting into something strange and unfamiliar is the audience for this game but, as with all things Nintendo, the universal appeal can’t help but be there.
6. Super Mario 64 DS
A port of the Nintendo 64 classic, Super Mario 64 DS is not entirely the same game. Nintendo elevated the original game on the Nintendo DS. The developers added Luigi, Yoshi, and Wario to the game. Players can enjoy playing as their favorite characters in the franchise. It includes an additional 30 Power Stars to collect for a total of 150 Power Stars!
5. Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
Bowser’s Inside Story is the perfect illustration of why the Mario and Luigi games are their own thing. To give you an idea of how out there these games can be, our heroes have to alternate between a top-down overworld and a side-scrolling 2D world – inside of Bowser’s own body. Oh, and Bowser is a playable character in this game.
You see, after getting a power similar to Kirby’s, Bowser goes to the castle and inhales his enemies including Peach, Mario, and Luigi. If that doesn’t show you how “out there” these games can be, nothing will. Yet, when added to Nintendo’s penchant for turning out classic games, it all comes together in a magical concoction perfect for the handheld.
4. Mario Kart 7
What is a “best of” Mario portable games list without one (or all) of the Mario Kart titles? Mario Kart 7 is a mind-blowing experience when you consider where portable gaming began and where it is now. It captures everything you want about Mario in a racing video game, and puts it all into one game that will steal countless hours of your life away.
Furthermore, Mario Kart 7 elevates the experience from the series on a portable console. The game improves many areas in the gameplay from the series. The AI (artificial intelligence) has greatly improved for a fun experience. Players can use weapons to attack their competition, and grab first place at the last moment of a race.
3. Super Mario 3D Land
This game is Nintendo’s attempt at bringing something different to the 3DS in the tradition of Mario’s earlier portable efforts. Built for the 3DS from the ground up, Super Mario 3D Land uses the console’s oft-mocked 3D visuals bar as well as Nintendo’s established formula for Mario games to produce something that is both unique and perfectly adapted for the handheld format.
2. Super Mario Land 2
Whereas Super Mario Land is a story about compromise and expectations met, Super Mario Land 2 is about having it all and going above and beyond. Without even playing the game, Game Boy owners knew that Super Mario Land 2 was going to be something special.
The graphical art style improved by leaps and bounds over the first Super Mario Land game and sported a distinct look that spoke volumes to 1980s NES gamers: It looked like Super Mario Bros. 3. The best thing is that the game played like SMB3, too. A demonstration of how far Nintendo had come with its Game Boy, Super Mario Land 2 is an exceedingly solid game on any format. It showed that you could have NES Mario on-the-go but also that portable games need not be afraid to do their own thing.
1. New Super Mario Bros.
Finally, what is old is new again, and New Super Mario Bros. is a great game from Nintendo. New Super Mario Bros. shows that the classic NES-style gameplay that put the plumber on the map still has what it takes to wow audiences and please critics.
New Super Mario Bros. is, as the name promises, a new take on the classic game that uses modern gameplay elements mixed with a good old fashioned 8-bit aesthetic to produce a game that looks back but also looks forward.
In other words, this game isn’t afraid to innovate and that spirit carries the game all the way through.
Breaking out of expectations and shattering preconceptions about older gameplay styles are just two things that make this the best Mario handheld game ever, but most compelling of all is the title’s ability to demonstrate and make history at the same time.
Super Mario Is Amazing On Handheld Games!
All in all, Nintendo has created many awesome games with everyone’s favorite plumber. I look forward to future Super Mario games on handheld consoles. Nintendo will surely deliver more great titles in the future. Please share your best handheld Super Mario games in the comments! I look forward to reading your list!