Mario is best known for curb-stomping monsters into dust, consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms in order to “become taller” and saving the most danger-prone princess in existence over and over and over. But, sometimes Mario takes a break from his traditional escapades and when he does, fans go crazy for it. Mario’s spin-off games are some of the very greatest Nintendo games that have ever graced our consoles. From the slew of Mario sports games, to the RPGs and even to the party games, it was hard to choose our top ten Mario spin-offs, but we managed to narrow it down to the true creme de la creme.
-(Disclaimer: The Mario franchise is an anomaly when it comes to the term “spin-off.” The universe in which Mario exists has spawned multiple franchises based on the Mario characters; franchises based entirely around specific characters such as: Wario, Yoshi, Luigi, et cetera. We decided to pick only from Mario (the character) centric spin-offs, save for one: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Captain Toad was allowed into the lineup only because he has not yet gotten his own individual franchise.)-
10. Super Mario Strikers
The year is 2005. The Mario franchise has had a massive slew of sports games enter its library between golf, tennis, baseball, racing and now soccer. While it seemed like oversaturation of Mario themed sports games would be detrimental to their quality, that was proven wrong time and time again. Mario’s first foray into soccer was an impressive title, especially compared to the annualized “god of soccer” FIFA. Super Mario Strikers managed to bring something refreshing to the genre. Between the appeal of lobbing balls down the pitch as your favorite Mario characters, using an array of items, a la Mario Kart, to boost your team’s defense or impede the opponent’s offense and performing powered up “super strikes” to drive a charged ball at the goal, granting two points instead of the typical one, Strikers brought a lot of flavor to the Mario sports series. It’s a shame that it isn’t around today to compete with FIFA and PES.
9. Mario Party 2
Oh, the beauty that once was couch co-op. Nintendo and their Mario games have always encouraged local playing between friends, families, frenemies and total strangers in my orthodontist’s waiting room, all in the name ofcollaborative “couch co-op.” No game screamed “party game” like Mario Party. With their 3D, pseudo-boardgame look, Mario Party filled a similar role as a family game night and offered friends the ability to completely throw each other under the bus and hold grudges for decades. Mario Party 2 came along a few years later and expanded upon what Mario Party was trying to do. It added a ton of board variation, like a horror themed board, a western board, a space board, etc. Mario Party 2 also added collectible items to change the gameplay in sundry ways as well as tons of those fantastic minigames. This game solidified the long-running Mario Party series into pop culture.
8. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Toad has always been somewhat of a background character in the Mario franchise. Recently though, he’s come more into the forefront by being a playable character in some of the newer Mario titles. Now, however, he has his own game; a spin-off of a few of the special levels from Super Mario 3D World. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker takes that special formula from those levels and expands upon them in fun and exciting ways. The sense of discovery you’ll feel while you explore these levels is unmatched, and you will revel in the joy of clearing each stage after collecting all the hidden gems!
7. Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour
Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour may very well be the most fun I’ve ever had with anything even remotely related to the sport of golf. When I was young my friends and I would gather around the “big” CRT television in my parents bedroom, boot up the Gamecube, and proceed to play hours upon hours of a few select games. Not surprisingly, Toadstool Tour was in that rotation of games. On top of a relatively large and lovable cast of characters, Toadstool Tour has a standard course, as well as a good few unique courses to add some variety. The game is by no means complex, but it does offer different clubs, spins, and special shots. There are also some other fun game modes, such as club shots, ring shot, and skins match, to put you and your friends’ golfing prowess to the test.
6. Mario Power Tennis
Remember that sport called “tennis”? Neither do I! Every once in awhile I hear about Wimbledon or something, but I always like to pretend that tennis is just based on the Mario Tennis series. The Mario Tennis games were some of the very best in Mario’s incursion into sports; specifically the Gamecube’s Mario Power Tennis. This game is honed and evolved from the Nintendo 64’s Mario Tennis. The character roster has grown significantly, each of them possessing unique traits and specializations from each other, offering countless distinct playstyles. Not to mention, you can play doubles now, giving some amazing couch co-op potential. The court variation was very appealing as well, drawing from many different settings in the Mario franchise, and offering court specific “gimmicks” that can potentially impede the player or their opponent, such as: ghosts from Luigi’s Mansion tampering with the ball on the mansion court. Mario Power Tennis was a bona fide hit in the Mario sports series.