I played the 3 latest Mario games on Nintendo Switch for Mario Day — and there's a clear winner

Super Mario Bros. Wonder on a Nintendo Switch with a Mario-themed wall in the background
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you didn’t know that today was Mario Day, I wouldn’t blame you as it’s still a relatively new holiday. However, fans of the iconic Italian plumber and even Nintendo itself have been celebrating Mario Day for almost a decade now.

So what does the date March 10 have to do with Mario? Well, when written like this “Mar10”, today’s date reads like Mario. In fact, since 2015, Nintendo has officially celebrated Mario Day each year. 

This year is no different and in the video embedded below from Nintendo of America, you can see how Mario has changed throughout the years. From 2D to 3D, Nintendo’s most popular character has been in over 200 games since he first made his debut all the way back in 1981 in the arcade version of Donkey Kong. Mario then starred in his first game alongside his brother Luigi in Mario Bros. in 1983 before introducing the world to the 2D Mario gameplay we know and love today in Super Mario Bros. in 1985 on the NES.

Whether you’re a fan of the games, the character or even the Super Mario Bros. Movie, Mario Day is the perfect time to pick up your Nintendo Switch and play some of Mario’s most popular games. Nintendo is even running a Mario Day sale where you can get Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Mario Golf Super Rush, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope and a ton of other Mario games at a steep discount.

For Mario fans looking for something new to play though, you’re in luck as Nintendo recently released three Mario games in a row for the Switch over the past few months. I’ve personally played them all and here’s what you need to know if you’re considering picking up one of these recent releases to play on Mario Day.

Reviving a forgotten puzzle-platformer

Mario and Donkey Kong in Mario vs Donkey Kong

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Mario and Donkey Kong have one of the longest-standing rivalries in video game history dating all the way back to the first game in the Super Mario franchise. In 2004 though, Nintendo decided to bring this rivalry back with a brand new game on the Gameboy Advance. Over the course of the next 11 years though, there were a total of six games in the Mario vs Donkey Kong series on the Nintendo DS, 3DS and even the Wii U.

Last month saw a remake of the original game launch on the Nintendo Switch with updated graphics, two new worlds and for the first time, local co-op so that two people can play together with one taking on the role of Mario while the other plays as Toad. If you missed out on the original game or subsequent games in the series, Mario vs Donkey Kong is a puzzle-platform game that from my experience, plays a bit like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: $49 @ Amazon

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: <a href="https://target.georiot.com/Proxy.ashx?tsid=45724&GR_URL=https%3A%2F%2Famazon.com%2FMario-Vs-Donkey-KongTM-Nintendo-Switch%2Fdp%2FB0CJ3DTSRD%3Ftag%3Dhawk-future-20%26ascsubtag%3Dhawk-custom-tracking-20" data-link-merchant="Amazon US"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">$49 @ Amazon
The beloved Game Boy Advance original has been reborn in this full remake of Mario vs. Donkey Kong on Nintendo Switch. The classic puzzle-solving gameplay and zany story have been left untouched, but vibrant new visuals bring Mario's quest to reclaim a collection of Mini-Mario toys from his primate rival to life in a whole new way. Mario vs. Donkey Kong launches on Feb. 16. 

The premise is simple enough and after watching a commercial about some hot new Mario toys, Donkey Kong heads down to the toy store to pick up his own Mini-Mario. However, when he finds they are all sold out, he goes to the Mario Toy Company and steals all of the Mini-Marios. It’s up to Mario to get them all back and deliver justice to Donkey Kong.

Mario vs Donkey Kong is a fairly easy game compared to other, more difficult Mario games but its puzzles can be challenging. Fortunately, the remake adds a new casual mode that gives players a bubble to be able to take damage instead of just dying immediately. On the normal mode though, there’s still a timer and if it runs out, you have to start from the beginning of the level.

Mario doing a handstand in Mario vs Donkey Kong

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Mario does control a bit differently in this game compared to other 2D Mario games. His movement is a bit slower and his moveset has been changed significantly too. For instance, you now have the ability to do handstands to protect Mario from falling debris but you can also do a double handstand jump to leap even higher. 

I’ve only played through the first couple of worlds in Mario vs Donkey Kong but I’ve enjoyed getting to experience a classic Mario game that I missed out on back on the Game Boy Advance. It’s worth noting that this is a relatively short game that can be finished in just over five hours. However, if you go for all the extras it takes 10 and the addition of co-op also makes the game a bit longer. If you’re looking for a more relaxed puzzle-platformer instead of a fast-paced 2D or 3D Mario game, playing Mario vs Donkey Kong could be the perfect way to spend Mario Day this year.

One more turn for the RPG that started it all

The cast of Super Mario RPG in a cutscene

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Before there was Paper Mario or the Mario & Luigi games, there was Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the Super Nintendo. Besides being the first role-playing game (RPG) starring Mario and his friends, what made it a bit different was that it was developed by Squaresoft (now Square Enix) and published by Nintendo.

While Squaresoft is known for pioneering the modern RPG with its insanely popular Final Fantasy series, the company did things a bit differently with Super Mario RPG. For starters, it uses an isometric 3D look that was quite revolutionary during the final days of the Super Nintendo. Likewise, although it is a turn-based RPG, there’s a bit more action as Mario and his allies can time their attacks and blocks to be more effective by hitting a button right before them. Super Mario RPG also eschewed random encounters in favor of having all of the game’s enemies visible in dungeons and out in the field.

Super Mario RPG: was $59 now $49 @ Amazon

Super Mario RPG: <a href="https://target.georiot.com/Proxy.ashx?tsid=45724&GR_URL=https%3A%2F%2Famazon.com%2FSuper-Mario-RPG-Nintendo-Switch-Version%2Fdp%2FB0C8VKNJ1B%3Ftag%3Dhawk-future-20%26ascsubtag%3Dhawk-custom-tracking-20" data-link-merchant="Amazon US"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">was $59 now $49 @ Amazon
A full remake of the original Super Mario RPG released in 1996 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), this role-playing game sees Mario, Bowser, Peach and some new friends embark on an adventure to repair a wish-granting star. With updated graphics, gameplay and new cinematics, Super Mario RPG has never looked (or played) this well, but the original game's charms have been carefully retained as well. 

Due to licensing arrangements and other complications, it used to be quite difficult to play this classic Mario RPG. While Super Mario RPG was available on Nintendo’s Virtual Console and then later on the SNES Classic, the game didn’t come to the Switch until late last year. Nintendo has completely remade the game from the ground up with new visuals along with a few modern conveniences to make things easier.

Super Mario RPG’s Timed Hits from the original game have made a return but this time around, there’s a “!” indicator to let you know exactly when you’re going to need to press a button to attack or block more effectively. Once you get this rhythm down though, these indicators disappear until your timing is off several times in a row. There’s also now an autosave feature to make sure you don’t lose any progress while playing the game.

A screenshot showing how battles work and look in Super Mario RPG

(Image credit: Nintendo)

I’ve been working my way through Super Mario RPG after playing the original game a bit on the SNES Classic and while it now has a very modern look with impressive visuals, everything that made it stand out as much as it did when it was first released in 1996 is still there. The quirky writing and comedy of the original still hits quite well and it’s interesting to see the influence this game had on the Mario RPG games that came after it.

These days, most RPGs range anywhere from 40 to 100 hours which can be a big time sink, especially when you have other games you want to play. Fortunately though with Super Mario RPG, the game is on the shorter side and can be finished in 12 hours though it will take you up to 20 if you want to see and do everything it has to offer.

Turning classic 2D Mario on its head

Super Mario looking up at a Wonder Flower in Super Mario Bros. Wonder

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Whether you grew up playing Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES or Super Mario World on the SNES, you’ll be right at home with Super Mario Bros. Wonder even if you haven’t played a 2D Mario game in years. What makes the latest 2D Mario game so special is that it manages to take the series in a whole new direction without losing what made the original games great.

With a total of 152 different levels across seven worlds (and a bonus one), there’s plenty to do and experience in Super Mario Bros. Wonder. However, each stage also contains a Wonder Flower that can completely transform the level you’re currently playing. For instance, you may find yourself transported to a new location or even transformed into one of the game’s enemies just like in Super Mario Odyssey. You’re still collecting coins, defeating enemies and making your way from the left side of the screen to the right but these Wonder Flower stages really gave Nintendo a chance to experiment and try new things without breaking what makes 2D Mario games so special among other platformers.

Mario Wonder: was $59 now $49 @ Amazon

Mario Wonder: <a href="https://target.georiot.com/Proxy.ashx?tsid=45724&GR_URL=https%3A%2F%2Famazon.com%2FSuper-Mario-Bros-TM-Wonder-Nintendo-Version%2Fdp%2FB0C8VHZR14%3Ftag%3Dhawk-future-20%26ascsubtag%3Dhawk-custom-tracking-20" data-link-merchant="Amazon US"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">was $59 now $49 @ Amazon
Mario's latest side-scrolling adventure is a wonderfully refreshing spin on the classic formula. Venturing to the Flower Kingdom, you'll discover stage-altering Wonder Flowers which can warp levels, create new platforming challenges and even turn Mario into an elephant. Playable in up to four player co op, Mario Wonder is a platforming marvel for the entire family, and one of the very best Nintendo Switch games you can play now.  

In my Super Mario Bros. Wonder review for instance, I praised how its gameplay feels both familiar and novel at the same time. As there’s four-player local co-op, this is really the kind of game where a whole family or even a large group of friends can sit down and play together on the same couch. It’s easy to pick up and play — especially with characters like Nabbit and Yoshi that don’t take damage which are great for younger gamers — but there are some difficult stages sprinkled throughout the game and the bonus stages at the end are quite challenging.

Using the Parachute Cap badge in Super Mario Bros. Wonder

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Besides Wonder Flowers, Super Mario Bros. Wonder also adds a new badge system to the mix that provides Mario with new abilities, passive effects like starting a course with a Super Mushroom power-up and powerful effects that change the game entirely such as invisibility. These badges need to be collected by doing challenges but you can swap them out easily at the beginning of each level.

If a brand new 2D Mario game wasn’t enough, the visuals in Super Mario Bros. Wonder are stunning with loads of color and detail. For instance, each stage is multilayered and while you may be focusing on the foreground, there’s also quite a lot going on in the background. Super Mario Bros. Wonder runs at a steady 60 fps and looks great either in docked mode or when played on a TV.

There’s never been a better time to be a Mario fan

LG G3 OLED TV playing Super Mario Bros. Wonder

(Image credit: Future)

Of these three games, which one you decide to pick up and play this Mario Day is entirely up to you. If you’re looking for a thoughtful yet relaxed puzzle-platformer, then Mario vs Donkey Kong is right up your alley. For RPG fans that haven’t had a chance to experience the Mario RPG that started it all, it’s worth giving Super Mario RPG a try even if it plays quite a bit differently than other RPGs you’ve played.

For most people though, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the best recent Mario game to play this Mario Day. Whether you’re playing it on your own like I did or with a group of friends, it’s a fun game that shows you can still teach a 43-year-old Italian plumber a few new tricks. It’s also one of the best Nintendo Switch games overall as well as one of the best Nintendo Switch multiplayer games.

a screenshot from Super Mario 3D World Bowser's Fury

(Image credit: Nintendo)

If none of these three games strike your fancy, I highly recommend checking out Super Mario 3D World on the Switch and especially the standalone Bowser’s Fury campaign. Like Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Bowser’s Fury shows that Nintendo is more than willing to experiment with the traditional Mario game formula. Though this time around, it’s with a 3D Mario game as opposed to a 2D one. Bowser’s Fury is also the first open-world Mario game and if you liked seeing Mario as a cat in Illumination’s Super Mario Bros. Movie, this game tasks Mario with collecting Cat Shines to take on the gargantuan Fury Bowser. 

At the same time, you don’t want to overlook all of the classic Mario games you can play with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription as well as the newer ones available as part of Nintendo’s Expansion Pack for its online service. 

If you’re as much of a Mario fan as I am, you’re guaranteed to find something to play on your Switch this Mario Day whether it be a 2D, 3D or even a sports-based Mario spinoff. And with the Switch, you can take your favorite Mario games with you wherever you need to be.

More from Tom's Guide

Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.