Nintendo may be known for its seemingly endless supply of recognizable characters and long-lasting franchises, but it’s also the source of some particularly excellent sports games. Whether you’re into racing around the track in Mario Kart or getting some souped-up tennis in, there’s a Nintendo sports title (probably starring Mario) for you.
So if you’re in a sporting mood thanks to Nintendo Switch Sports, or you’re feeling like getting up off the couch and heading out to get some physical activity in, we’ve got 20 of the best Nintendo sports games of all time for you to chill out with.
From Mario Golf to Super Punch-Out!!, there’s a little something here for everyone. As the weather heats up, get ready to bust these out for a burst of sports-centric fun. Check out the 20 best Nintendo Sports games of all time, conveniently categorized below for your perusing pleasure.
Mario Golf’s Nintendo 64 debut was a game-changer. It brought classic Nintendo golf to the 3D space while letting familiar characters from the Mario universe duke it out on the green. The first installment of the Mario Golf series, this game also marked the first title in the “Mario Sports” lineup, which spawned quite a few of the Nintendo Sports classics we know today. As far as the best Nintendo sports games are concerned, this lighthearted take on golf deserves top billing.
Mario Super Sluggers brings the Mario crew together for America’s favorite pastime. The Wii sequel to Mario Superstar Baseball features a wide roster of characters to join up and hit some home runs. It makes copious usage of the Wii Remote for batting, which makes the arcade nature of running the bases and knocking one out of the park a lot more fun than it might normally be with just a regular controller. With Star Skills characters can pull off, powerful pitches, and a story mode well worth exploring, this is a deep Mario baseball adventure.
Mario Strikers Charged is the Mario version of soccer, which brings together the Mario gang for a wild, high-octane soccer game. This arcade version of the classic sport features souped-up kicks including the “Mega Strike” as well as “Skillshots” that see Mario and the other familiar faces using power-ups like red shells and bananas to come out on top. There are multiple gameplay modes to make the game feel much less like a “typical” soccer game and plenty of wacky touches that keep the action flowing. Oh, and there are quite a few challenges and cups to compete in, too.
As with many of the Mario sports titles, the Nintendo 64 versions are often the best. Mario Tennis is not only the first 3D version of the team’s next tennis outing but is widely considered one of the best, with a Game Boy Color companion as well. It’s also the first game that introduces Waluigi, a Mario series mainstay that everyone knows and loves now. Plus, this entry is responsible for spawning some of the coolest versions of tennis you’ve ever seen this side of video games, with plenty more in the same universe to enjoy either on your console or handheld.
Wii Sports is responsible for moving a ridiculous amount of Wii consoles, and for good reason. It’s a pack-in that came with the console if you purchased a brand new one. It marked the first sports game included as a launch title since Mario’s Tennis for the Virtual Boy, back in 1995. It comes with five sports: baseball, bowling, golf, boxing, and tennis. You use the Wii Remote to play each sport, mimicking the movements required for each activity in real life. While many attempts ended with broken televisions for many users, many players look back on this game quite fondly, as it was one of the best ways to hang out with friends and family and vibe with games when it debuted. And it still is!
Years after Wii Sports first hit the scene, the Nintendo Switch got its own compilation of sports activities, including tennis, bowling, swordplay (chambara), association football, volleyball, and badminton. It’ll also include golf in a future update later in 2022. It works much like its predecessor, but it’s the first entry on the Switch, and the newest title to incorporate the motion controls that the Joy-Con controllers are capable of, like the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. It also includes enhanced avatars like Miis called “Sportsmates”, so you can further customize your players.
The original Punch-Out!! is a classic, but the fourth game in the series, Super Punch-Out!!, is the best by far. It follows boxer Little Mac, who’s working to become the World Video Boxing Association champion. You’ve got to help Little Mac launch an offensive on a variety of opponents to make sure he comes out on top. It’s colorful, cartoony, and easy to pick up & play. If you only play one entry in the series, this should be the one you choose, especially since it’s such a versatile title and one that basically anyone can enjoy. With enough practice, it’s easily mastered as well, which makes it appealing for even players who have little or no gaming experience.
The original Wii Sports was such a big hit that Nintendo knew it needed a follow-up. In 2009, it debuted as one of the first games on the console to use the Wii MotionPlus accessory, and as such came bundled with it. It remains the third best-selling game on the Wii even today. It also comes with a wide variety of sports to choose from, including swordplay, wakeboarding, Frisbee, Frisbee golf, archery, basketball, and six other activities to take part in. It invites players to come to a resort island and enjoy all of these activities alone or with friends. It’s a full-featured standalone release that’s still an exciting way to while away the hours, especially since it comes with so many different sporting options.
This is where it all started for Mario’s golfing career. Known in Japan as Mario Open Golf, NES Open Tournament Golf lets players take on the role of Mario or Luigi as they hit the green. Caddies Princess Toadstool and Princess Daisy impart important tips and tricks as the game wears on, and NPCs like Donkey Kong handle prize money for the duo. There are three different courses to choose from, with twisting, challenging holes that will test even the most adept player. It’s an oldie but a goodie, and the blueprint for the Mario golf we know today.
When it comes to sports with Mario and the gang, you know you’re in for fun. From golf to baseball to tennis, when the crew from the Mushroom Kingdom gets involved, it’s gonna be a blast. That’s why the Nintendo Switch’s Mario Tennis Aces is still one of the greatest sports games on the console! Complete various stages of challenging tennis as you work to capture the legendary tennis racket Lucien, who’s possessed both Wario and Waluigi. When you’re done checking out Adventure Mode, you can challenge friends online and test your tennis skills against other Mario Tennis Aces players to see who comes out on top. It’s an action-packed twist on the world of tennis you’ve gotta play.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is the sixth entry in the Mario Golf series, and the first one on the Nintendo Switch. Developer Camelot Software Planning returns for an encore with this flashy golf story, with traditional golf gameplay that’s married with fun and exciting special abilities each character can use. The Shot Gauge helps players check the curve of their ball against the terrain, while Special Shot and Special Dash abilities give golfers a unique way to combat against expert players with Mario-centric powers. There’s also a fantastic story mode called Golf Adventure, with RPG elements that keep you coming back for more, game after game.
If you liked Mario Kart 8, or any other entries in the Mario Kart franchise, you’ll love Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It’s the ultimate distillation of the simple to pick up, hard to master formula that has mesmerized fans since the original Mario Kart was released in 1992. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has the same fast-paced action and responsive controls as the original. The big draw here is the ability to take the full console experience with you on the go and play the game either on TV or anywhere in the world you want. Four-player split-screen is available even in tabletop mode on the Nintendo Switch, and the ability to bring Mario Kart to your friends instead of being tied to the bulky Wii U makes this version a must-buy for fans of the series. This addictive kart racer is undeniable when it comes to the best Nintendo sports games ever concieved.
Ring Fit Adventure is an action role-playing game that comes with a Ring-Con peripheral, or Pilates ring that lets you slot one Joy-Con controller into. It also comes with a leg strap that you can drop the other Joy-Con controller into so it can track your movements. Jump into a colorful, exciting world where you take control of a young athlete who travels with a sentient Ring just like your own in the real world. Together, the athlete and Ring team up to defeat a bodybuilding dragon named Dragaux. But you won’t do it by sitting idly on the couch.
This perfectly portable golf adventure made its debut on the Game Boy Advance back in 2004. It’s the sequel to the Nintendo 64’s Mario Golf, but don’t discount it just because it’s a handheld title. Not only does it feature an overworld for players to explore, but it has a variety of tournaments to master, plenty of different characters to choose from, side courses, special clubs, and multiplayer game modes. It still remains the premier title to reach for if you need golf that fits in your pocket — even better than the Nintendo Switch, too.
Ever since Mario and Sonic teamed up for the Olympics, they’ve been inseparable from the event. This officially licensed game is the third crossover to bring both mascot characters together, and it’s also the best. It lets players control their favorite Mario or Sonic characters while they compete in a variety of games taken from the Olympics. With competitive and co-op gameplay, it’s great for both solo players and groups who want to enjoy the Olympics with their favorite video game characters. It may seem like a strange match, but it’s really more of a peanut butter and chocolate situation.
It’s not often we get to see Mario and the crew joining forces to enjoy America’s favorite pastime. Like the other Mario sports that debuted over the years, baseball is specially tailored to the gang’s special abilities. Challenge Mode lets you choose a prebuilt team to match up against others, with team captains like Mario, Peach, and Yoshi and secondary captains like Waluigi and Bowser Jr. There are also plenty of Star Skills for players to smash balls into oblivion and tear into the potential for home runs. If you love Mario and baseball, you’re going to have no trouble falling in love with this GameCube adventure.
Mario and the crew slam, and then you welcome them to the jam in the Nintendo DS title Mario Hoops 3-on-3 for a dunkin’ good time. Not only does it feature Mario characters, but it also includes Final Fantasy mainstays as well, which makes it worth checking out all on its own. It also makes copious usage of the touch screen for a rousing basketball tournament that anyone who loves the sport will find they can enjoy, especially with the signature Mario moves that come along with the players who join the game. It’s such a unique departure from typical Mario sports that it has to be seen to be believed. And it’s not that expensive to pick up now if you managed to hang on to your DS.
One of the best games the GameCube has to offer, Mario Kart: Double Dash is a fantastic kart racer and one of the best Mario Kart entries as well. Except there’s a major difference in this game that might make you want to give it a try over the typical Mario Kart entries: each kart has two riders instead of one. One drives and one uses items, which makes for some interesting gameplay tweaks. It’s mostly similar to the other racers you’ve likely played before, but it’s also the only game in the Mario Kart line to force you to drop your items if you get hit by a weapon. Its willingness to change up the formula makes it an interesting contender for best kart racer, even if you’ve “been there, done that” with the series.
Camelot knocked it out of the park once more for tennis fans on the GameCube with Mario Power Tennis. the sequel to the Nintendo 64’s Mario Tennis and the fourth overall Mario Tennis game, this game includes both standard and “Gimmick” courts with special setups as well as 18 playable characters. Power Shots make for intriguing ways to get one over on your opponents, and alternative game modes like “Ring Shot” options are great ways to extend replayability. It was such a hit on GameCube that it later made its way over to Wii, where it was able to reach an even wider audience. It also introduced Wiggler as a playable character for the first time.
Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour is the third game in the Mario Golf series, and the sequel to Mario Golf on the Nintendo 64. It includes 16 playable characters, as well as a special mode called “Ring Attack” that asks players to hit the ball through a variety of differently-sized rings. It’s your average tennis game, with a selection of unique ways to change things up just enough to keep things interesting. As such, it made quite the splash when it debuted on GameCube.