Hey friend! Have you been feeling nostalgic for those classic Mario games from your childhood lately? Want to play Super Mario Bros on your PC, but don‘t want to pay for Switch Online or buy a Nintendo console? Well you‘re in luck!
In this complete guide, I‘ll show you multiple free methods to play any 2D and 3D Mario game on your Windows or Mac computer. Whether your favorite is Super Mario World on the SNES, Mario Kart 64, or even new mobile games like Mario Kart Tour, you‘ll learn how to access them all without spending a cent.
Use Browser Emulators for Instant Access
The quickest way to get your Mario fix is directly through your web browser using browser emulators.
These handy sites allow you to play original Mario games like the NES and SNES classics directly in your browser window, no installation or setup required! Just open the site and use your keyboard or tap the on-screen buttons to control Mario. It‘s great for a fast gaming break at work when you want to relive some childhood memories without committing to a full emulator setup.
Some of the best browser emulators out there for Mario include:
Super Mario Emulator – Play the original Super Mario Bros from 1985 right in your browser! The graphics and sounds are exactly as I remember from my NES days.
Play Retro Games – This site has the full library of NES Mario games playable in-browser, including the Japanese "Lost Levels" version and Mario Bros arcade game.
Virtual NES – My preferred browser emulator for quick Mario sessions. It has save states so I can pickup where I left off later.
The major downside to browser emulators is that most don‘t work well on mobile devices, so I prefer to play them on a laptop or desktop computer. But hey, it beats lugging the old NES out of my parent‘s basement when I get a Mario itch at work!
Download Emulators for Advanced Features
For the ultimate retro gaming experience, downloading a full emulator program unlocks way more options for customizing and enhancing your playthroughs.
Unlike simple browser emulators, standalone programs let you do cool things like:
- Save game progress at any point
- Rewind and slow down gameplay
- Upgrade graphics with HD filters
- Use any modern or classic controller
- Hack games and activate cheats
It brings that nostalgia rush while making the games feel new again!
Here are the top emulators I recommend for playing Mario games, based on each Nintendo console generation:
RetroArch – My #1 choice! It‘s an all-in-one emulator that supports every Nintendo system by downloading "cores". Has every enhancement feature you could want.
Snex9x – Specialized SNES emulator for buttery smooth Super Mario World action.
Nintendo 64 Era
Project 64 – The gold standard for N64 emulation. Mario Kart 64 plays perfectly!
RetroArch – Also supports N64 games well through the Mupen64Plus core. More customizable than Project 64.
Dolphin – Stunningly accurate emulator for GameCube and Wii. I play Super Mario Sunshine in HD graphics with this!
RetroArch – Again, can emulate these systems via the Dolphin core but requires a strong computer.
Citra (3DS) – Open source 3DS emulator with consistent updates. Works with the later portable Mario games.
BlueStacks (Android) – Let‘s you download Mario mobile apps from the Google Play Store. Mario Kart Tour plays great on PC!
With a good standalone emulator, you can play any generation of Mario games while enhancing them in ways not possible on the original systems. Well worth the setup time!
Explore Mario Fan Creations
Beyond official Mario games, there is a huge world of fan-made ROM hacks and tribute games to discover on PC for free.
These are passion projects where creators mod existing Mario games or build new adventures using the iconic characters and worlds. The results can be amazing!
Some of my favorite Mario fan creations to check out include:
Super Mario Crossover – Plays like original Super Mario Bros but you can swap in characters from Zelda, Metroid, and more. So creative!
Super Mario 64 Last Impact – A massive fan-made expansion for SM64 adding 130 new stars and levels. I‘ve sunk hours into this thing!
Mario Fan Games Galaxy – Hub for every kind of 2D Mario fangame imaginable. Lots of great new concepts and levels!
Fan developers pour their hearts into these projects, so I like to show my support. They often surpass official Mario games in creativity and fun!
Use Launchers for Convenience
Managing all your different emulators and ROMs can get chaotic fast. To keep my library organized, I recommend using an all-in-one game launcher.
These launchers neatly centralize access to your games in one dashboard-style app. They automatically import and track your ROMs with handy features like:
- Unified search across all games
- Custom tags and rich metadata
- Cool themes and artwork
- Controller mapping
- Scrape box art and info
- 1-click launching of games
Some of my favorite free launchers for easily accessing Mario games include:
LaunchBox – The most full-featured launcher with BigBox mode for couch gaming.
Pegasus – Slick open-source launcher for organizing huge ROM collections.
EmulationStation – Interface made to look just like game console menus. Nostalgic and easy to use!
With an organized launcher setup, I can instantly search and boot up any Mario game from a centralized hub. It turns my PC into an all-in-one Mario machine!
Play Popular Mario Games on PC
Now let‘s look at the most common options for playing major Mario series on a computer:
Super Mario Bros (NES)
- Browser – Super Mario Emulator or Virtual NES
- Emulator – RetroArch/QuickNES core or standalone Nestopia
Super Mario World (SNES)
- Browser – Limited options, use emulator instead
- Emulator – RetroArch/SNES9x core or standalone SNES9X
Mario Kart 64 (N64)
- Emulator – Project64 or RetroArch with Mupen64Plus core
Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube)
- Emulator – Dolphin Emulator or RetroArch/Dolphin core
New Super Mario Bros (DS)
- Emulator – RetroArch/DeSmuME core or standalone DeSmuME
Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
- Emulator – Cemu or experimental Yuzu emulator
Super Mario Run (Mobile)
- Android Emulator – BlueStacks, Nox, LDPlayer
This covers the most common emulation solutions for each major Mario release. With the right program you can play anything from the classic 2D platformers to newer 3D worlds.
Use Proper Controls for Best Experience
To truly relive the magic of these retro Mario masterpieces, you need tight, responsive controls.
Gaming with a keyboard just doesn‘t cut it for the precise running and jumping Mario requires. Here are my recommendations on controllers for PC:
Wired Gamepad – Any wired USB controller like the Xbox 360 pad replicates the classic Mario feel.
Wireless Gamepad – Bluetooth controllers like the PS5 DualSense work great wirelessly and are rechargeable.
Adapter – Use a adapter like the Mayflash Magic NS to connect Switch Pro or Joy-Cons to your PC.
Remap Buttons – For any modern controller, remap buttons to match original Nintendo layouts in emulator settings.
No matter your budget, there are solid options for controlling Mario games on PC like a pro. It makes all the difference in gameplay responsiveness compared to a cramped keyboard!
Thanks for taking this nostalgic journey with me through the world of Mario emulation and fandom! I hope these tips help you re-experience the magic of Mario on your Windows PC, Mac, or even mobile devices completely free.
With the right emulator picked for your favorite Mario title, a nicely organized game launcher, and a proper controller in hand, you‘ll be stomping goombas and saving Princess Peach in no time. Here‘s to many more virtual adventures with our favorite suspender-wearing plumber! Let‘s-a-go!