The 15 Best Handheld Mario Games, Ranked

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Everyone has played Mario at least once. It’s one of the most well-known and widely appealing video game franchises ever created.

And every time a Mario game gets released, there’s a fair chance it’ll revolutionize the gaming landscape forever.

Handheld Mario games shine for taking the plumber out of his comfort zone. It’s a proving ground where Nintendo tries out new ideas, and they often hit it out of the park.

Whether it’s on the Game Boy, the GBA, the DS, or the 3DS – there’s plenty of mobile handheld titles worth trying.

Let’s take a look at the ones that true Mario fans absolutely cannot miss.


15. Mario’s Cement Factory (1983)

Mario’s Cement Factory / Game & Watch series

What? You’ve never heard about Mario’s Cement Factory?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

This game was part of the Game & Watch series, and only a few copies were sold.

The player helps Mario funnel cement down a series of pipes as efficiently as possible, taking special care not to crush his fellow workers.

Development was led by Gunpei Yokoi – the man behind the Game Boy and the WonderSwan – and it’s one of the few times you’ll actually see Mario doing something related to plumbing.

Check out this review to learn a bit more.


14. Mario vs. Donkey Kong (2004)

Mario vs. Donkey Kong GBA screenshot

Mario and Donkey Kong have been butting heads since the arcade days.

If you liked the somewhat puzzle-like action of climbing up a set of ramparts to reach the crazed primate in Donkey Kong (1981), you’ll love to see them clash on its GBA successor.

The game follows Mario as he leads a group of Mini-Mario toys through 96 increasingly challenging puzzle levels reminiscent of Lemmings.


13. Yoshi’s Island DS (2006)

Yoshi’s Island DS gameplay

I know this game doesn’t have Mario’s name in the title.

But considering Yoshi’s Island DS is a sequel to Super Mario World 2 that came out way back in 1995 on the SNES, I think this definitely counts.

In this fantastic title, a group of Yoshi put their lives on the line to rescue a bunch of newborn children from the evil Magikoopa Kamek.

These include Baby Peach, Baby DK, and even Baby Wario.

The title features varied gameplay that makes excellent use of the system’s dual-screen, and it’s easy to get into for newcomers who aren’t platforming experts.

This can also work great on an emulator if you’re patient enough to learn the controls.


12. Super Mario Land (1989)

Super Mario Land Game Boy Screenshot

Mario’s first handheld adventure after Super Mario Bros. brought the seminal platforming action to the Game Boy – with some nice twists on the classic formula.

The console’s limited processing capacity and lack of color led the developers to take a minimal approach.

It pushed them to create a truly unique game, replacing the Mushroom Kingdom with the desert realm of Sarasaland, and introducing Princess Daisy.

The graphics are black-and-white, but they’re charming and full of life.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that the level design was treacherous. So if you like challenging platformers, this is a must-play.


11. Super Princess Peach (2006)

Super Princess Peach for Nintendo DS

Ok, this one is even more of a stretch than Yoshi’s Island DS – but it’s too iconic to leave out.

After all, it was the first time Princess Peach got to prove she could take care of herself without her mustached protector.

The game is very approachable for newcomers, so that’s a plus. And it features remarkably bright and colorful graphics that make it a visual pleasure.

Peach’s emotion-based powers made for unique gameplay mechanics, though I feel they send a weird, slightly sexist message about women and mood swings.


10. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem (2010)

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem game screenshot

Mario vs. Donkey Kong has received many sequels since its GBA inception.

My favorite is definitely Mini-Land Mayhem on the Nintendo DS.

It’s the fourth game in the series, and as such, it has perfected the formula.

It also lets you create your own levels, although online sharing services have been discontinued (which is fair).

Something I love about this game’s plot is just how petty the conflict is.

All it takes for Donkey Kong to fly into a rage and kidnap Pauline is simply failing to get a special edition Mini-Pauline wind-up toy. No joke.

I guess wars have been fought for less.


9. Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (2005)

Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time gameplay

Super Mario RPG proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that Mario and role-playing games are a match made in heaven.

And the Mario & Luigi series has carried on its legacy on handheld consoles.

And the Mario brothers give a whole new meaning to the phrase “I’m baby” by traveling to the past and meeting their younger selves in M&L: Partners in Time.

Developer AlphaDream crafted a series of fantastic puzzles that require the squad to split up and act independently toward a common goal.


8. Super Mario 64 DS (2004)

Super Mario 64 DS on Nintendo DS

Super Mario 64 was the first game I ever sunk my little baby teeth into. And its remake on the Nintendo DS was a great way to re-live the magic of exploring Peach’s Castle.

Other than updated graphics, this handheld release brought with it a lot of new content that justify getting it even if you know the original inside-out.

Among other things, it makes Yoshi the initial main playable character. And you’ll unlock Mario, Luigi, and Wario as you progress through the game.

There are also 30 new Power Stars to collect, taking the total up to 150, so there’s lots of stuff here to keep you busy.


7. New Super Mario Bros. (2006)

New Super Mario Bros. (2006) game screenshot

If you’re looking for classic Mario platforming, it doesn’t get much more authentic than New Super Mario Bros. on the DS.

Rather than trying to fix what wasn’t broken, the Big N decided to give the series a face-lift and delivered the updated classic people had been clamoring for.

The game does feature some new elements, though.

I especially like the new Mega Mushroom that makes Mario go full Attack on Titan and destroy everything on his way to the goal – including the goal post itself!


6. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey (2019)

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey gameplay

The original Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story on the NDS was the best-selling title in the series.

I mean, it’s a great game.

And it’s unusual to see the Mario Bros. teaming up with King Koopa himself – even if it’s not exactly by choice.

I’m listing the 2019 3DS remake instead of the original due to its updated graphics, remastered music, and QoL improvements – as well as the fantastic side-story that explores the father-child relationship between Bowser Jr. and his father.

Fun fact: Remember how I said the original was the best-selling title in the franchise? Well, the remake is the polar opposite. It sold terribly and probably put developer Alpha Dream out of business.


5. Super Mario 3D Land (2011)

Super Mario 3D Land Nintendo 3DS

The first Mario game released for the 3DS also happens to be one of the most creative titles on the handheld.

Much like the 3DS added depth to its graphics, this title adds new depth to Super Mario’s classic gameplay – literally!

It brings together the best parts of 2D and 3D by showing you Mario’s classic platforming levels from a new perspective, and letting you move back and forth, not just left and right.

Of course, there are new mechanics, challenges, and power-ups that play into these new elements.

It’s a weird and creative way to bridge the gap between 2D and 3D that only Nintendo could have pulled off so exquisitely.


4. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (1992)

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins for Game Boy

I love the minimal art style and creative gameplay elements found in Super Mario Land.

Still, its sequel blew it out of the water with a full-fledged Mario adventure that’s got nothing to envy its full-color counterparts.

It does almost everything better than the original.

The graphics are more detailed, the animations are incredibly fluid, and despite being much longer, it’s much less repetitive.

This game is also home to some unusual enemies that were never featured again, such as giant ants, armored beetles, and a shark with boxing mitts – because the big sharp teeth weren’t enough.


3. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (2013)

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team 3DS gameplay

Upon arriving at Pi’llo Island for a well-deserved rest after Bowser’s Inside Story, the Mario siblings get roped into a quest for a powerful artifact known as the Dream Stone.

This title was released during the Year of Luigi, and celebrates the green-coded plumber by letting you explore his dreams.

It’s a very trippy experience, but that only makes it more memorable and just plain fun.

While making your way through Luigi’s dreamscape, you can actually mess with the sleeping hero on the touch screen – which directly affects what happens on the top screen. Definitely a creative idea.

And on handheld consoles, creativity really makes a difference.


2. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions (2017)

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions screenshot

The original Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was the series’ inception. And it was fantastic.

But there’s always room for improvement.

This 2017 remake gives the classic GBA title a boost with revitalized graphics and an entirely new adventure – Minion Quest: The Search for Bowser – as a side story.

Unlike subsequent titles in the series, there are no time-traveling Bowser-inhaling Luigi-dreaming gimmicks in Superstar Saga.

It’s just you, the Mario Bros, and an excellent RPG that rewards skill along with smarts.


1. Mario Kart 7 (2011)

Mario Kart 7 mobile gameplay

Mario Kart 7 is hands-down the best racing experience you can have on the go.

It features the same excellent fast-paced gameplay that the series is known for. And MK7 was the first Mario Kart to include hang-gliding and underwater segments.

There are also plenty of unique power-ups to ruin your friends’ racing careers, including some new ones like the Fire Flower and the Lucky Seven, which grants you a whopping seven items at once!

Despite its age, this is a title worth checking out – especially if you’ve ever enjoyed any other Mario Kart title before.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely playing games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.