Few video game characters are as iconic as Nintendo's mustached mascot, Mario, nor are there many who are quite as recognizable. That's because the Italian plumber has appeared in countless video games over the years, including numerous spinoff series that are incredibly successful in their own right. Most of these were developed back in the 1990s, or, as some prefer to refer to it; the golden era of gaming.

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Not content with having created one of the greatest platforming series on the market, Nintendo began experimenting with other formats for the Mario characters. This led to Mario Kart, Mario Party, Mario Golf, and Mario Tennis. Fast forward two decades and each of these series are still going strong, with the latter fast approaching its tenth installment. It hasn't all been plain sailing for Mario Tennis, however, with just as many faults as aces over the years.

9 Mario's Tennis

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Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Virtual Boy
Release Date: August 14, 1995

Mario's Tennis was one of only 14 games to be released for Nintendo's ill-fated Virtual Boy console in North America. As it happens, it was actually one of the better games for the system, but, given the overall standard, that's not really saying all that much.

The game is incredibly basic when it comes to actual gameplay and in many ways feels more like a tech demo designed to showcase the capabilities of the Virtual Boy than a fully-fledged title. There are seven different playable characters though, which was fairly impressive for the era, with the game's data even suggesting that Birdo was at some point planned to be the eighth.

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8 Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash

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Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: November 20, 2015

The Virtual Boy is widely regarded as having been Nintendo's worst-ever console, but there are some who consider the Wii U to be a close second. The system sold poorly when compared to its predecessor and doesn't feature too many standout titles. Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash definitely isn't one of them.

Although it does a perfectly serviceable job in terms of its core gameplay, the lack of variety when it comes to characters, courses and game types is incredibly underwhelming. The only notable addition is the Mega Battle game mode, which, like the game as a whole, offers nowhere near enough to keep players engaged for any substantial amount of time.

7 New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis

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Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Release Date: March 9, 2009

Rather than developing a brand new Mario Tennis title for the Wii, Nintendo and Camelot instead opted to release an enhanced port of the series' previous installment, Mario Power Tennis. Given the popularity of Wii Sports and the success of the original game, this seemed like a good idea on paper. Unfortunately, however, the execution left a lot to be desired.

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Though there were also a handful of smaller changes, the biggest difference between the Wii port and its predecessor was the introduction of motion controls. Sadly, these were poorly implemented, making the game incredibly difficult to play when compared to the GameCube version. This, together with people's disdain for Nintendo's decision to repackage an old game, led to a poor reception from both players and critics.

6 Mario Tennis Open

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Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: May 20, 2012

Mario Tennis Open is a bit of a mixed bag. It has numerous flaws, the most notable of which is the newly introduced Chance Shot mechanic. Rather than enhancing the experience, it can often leave players waiting around for their opponent to make a mistake rather than winning a point due to their own skill or strategic superiority. The game's not all bad though.

Camelot's experience with the series over the years has allowed the developer to master the basics of video game tennis, and that much, at least, is definitely evident here. The way that the game utilizes the 3DS' second screen improves the overall experience too and some of the special games are actually a lot of fun.

5 Mario Tennis Aces

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Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: June 22, 2018

Mario Tennis Aces includes an awful lot of content and, for the most part, is able to deliver on its obvious potential. The game modes are well thought out, the courts all feel unique and the huge amount of unlockables should be more than enough to keep players around long after they've completed the main story.

Where the game falls a little short, however, is in its single-player campaign and online capabilities. Adventure mode, while fun, to begin with, can start to feel a little repetitive long before the story's climax. The online issues, on the other hand, are more to do with the limitations imposed by the Switch itself and Nintendo's lackluster online infrastructure.

4 Mario Power Tennis

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Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: GameCube
Release Date: October 28, 2004

Much like Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, Mario Power Tennis serves as a solid sequel to its N64 predecessor, with Camelot opting to refine the series' core mechanics rather than attempting to reinvent them. As a result, general gameplay is much improved, while the additional processing power of the GameCube allows for far better visuals and more fluid animations.

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Had the developer stopped there, Mario Power Tennis would likely be regarded as the series' best offering, but, perhaps for fear of being criticized for laziness, Camelot instead decided to add in some new features as well. Some of these weren't all that bad, but most, like offensive and defensive power shots, altered the pace and tempo of matches a little too much for some players' liking.

3 Mario Tennis: Power Tour

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Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release Date: December 5, 2015

The handheld offerings in the Mario Tennis series have often outperformed their home console counterparts and that is once again the case with Mario Tennis: Power Tour. It builds upon everything that made the Game Boy Color release of Mario Tennis so enjoyable, while managing to avoid some of the pitfalls that caused its big brother on the GameCube to stumble.

The game looks great for a handheld title and manages to squeeze an awful lot out of the system's four main buttons when it comes to controlling characters; of which there are once again an impressive amount. It also features some of the best mini-games to have ever graced the series, many of which remain enjoyable to this day.

2 Mario Tennis

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Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 64
Release Date: August 28, 2000

Mario's Tennis may have been the first game to see the Italian plumber take to the court, but it would not be until some five years later and the release of Mario Tennis for the N64 that the series really came into existence. The game also marks the debut of Waluigi, who has since gone on to become a fan-favorite character.

Where Mario's Tennis feels more like a concept than an actual game, Mario Tennis instead comes across as a fully fleshed-out and well-realized idea. The game modes are fun and the gameplay is tight, making it an incredibly enjoyable title and the perfect foundation onto which future entries of the series could be built.

1 Mario Tennis

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Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Game Boy Color
Release Date: January 16, 2001

It's not often that a handheld title outperforms its home console counterpart, and yet this is something that we've seen time and time again from the Mario Sports series. Of course, it definitely helps that video game representations of sports like tennis and golf aren't all that graphically demanding and instead rely on precise controls and innovative game types to really impress players.

The Game Boy Color release of Mario Tennis features both of these things, as well as an impressive amount of playable characters for a handheld title. There are 29 of them in total, which is more than have featured in any of the series' home console releases since. There are only five mini-games, however, although they're all pretty fun, particularly Fruit Factor and Boo Blast.

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