Best Super Monkey Ball Games
Image: Nintendo Life

The years straddling the turn of the millennium were tumultuous for Sega and its fans. The launch of the Dreamcast in 1999 following a series of hardware missteps and company infighting was exciting, but the system failed to gain sufficient traction despite its innovations and array of patented blue-sky software. News in early 2001 that Sega would quit the hardware business to develop games on other platforms rocked fans to the core, but within a matter of months the company's debut GameCube title — adapted from the arcade original that debuted in June '01 — would demonstrate that, despite Dreamcast's demise, Sega's inimitable arcade style and spirit was alive and well.

Super Monkey Ball felt like a mission statement when it arrived as a GameCube launch title. With a premise as zany as it was instantly understandable, you shift a free-floating course below the feet (well, ball) of your monkey to guide them to a goal while collecting bananas. Simple! The game was a blast of colourful arcade fun from Sega veteran Toshihiro Nagoshi and signalled to fans not to worry, everything was going to be just fine.

The Monkey Ball series has grown to well over 20 titles and around half of those have come to Nintendo platforms. But what's the best Super Monkey Ball game? We asked Nintendo Life readers to rate the ones they've played and the ranked Monkey Ball list below is the result! Ordered from worst to best for the sake of bananadrama, it's time to find out which one's the highest roller.

Remember: the order below is updated in real-time according to each game's corresponding User Rating in the Nintendo Life game database. Even as you read this, it's entirely possible to influence the ranking below. If you haven't rated your favourites yet, simply click the 'star' of the game you wish to rate below and assign a score right now.

So, while we await the launch of the upcoming Switch exclusive, Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble, in June, let's take a look back at the best Monkey Ball games on Nintendo systems, starting at the bottom. GO...

10. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (Switch)

Bringing the Wii launch game back with a lick of HD 13 years later, Banana Blitz HD featured more refined controls — or more specifically lets you control the mazes with the analogue stick — to help you enjoy this batch of 100 levels, but the wider game was still let down by weird leaderboard decisions and some lacklustre minigames. The best monkey-in-a-ball game since Super Monkey Ball 2, perhaps, but not quite a return to the series' heyday.

9. Super Monkey Ball Step & Roll (Wii)

Super Monkey Ball Step & Roll was a decent addition to the franchise, but it simply set the bar too high in the difficulty stakes to have long-lasting appeal. It had plenty of minigames on offer, though there were inevitably a few duds and games that would have benefited from being a bit more fleshed-out. For the solo, more experienced gamer, there was nothing approaching the genius of the original Super Monkey Ball to be found here — Sega had clearly moved on into the expanded marketplace with this franchise. If you did want to make the leap into this motion-controlled monkey balling (that didn't come out right), then best check your blood pressure and practice some zen meditation first.

8. Super Monkey Ball 3D (3DS)

The tame level designs and lack of the fan-favourite Monkey Target minigame came as a major disappointment back in 2011, but if you were ready to accept something a bit different, Super Monkey Ball 3D offered up a fun experience. The game's toned-down difficulty opened Monkey Ball up to a wider audience, and the flashy 3D visuals, fun multiplayer, and gyro controls delivered enjoyable moments, even if many veterans found their attention wandering and pined for Monkey Target.

7. Super Monkey Ball Adventure (GCN)

Taking Super Monkey Ball and rolling it up into a story-based platforming 'adventure,' Traveller's Tales developed this entry in Sega's series. It's entirely natural to want to expand the Monkey Ball world beyond the confines of simple, abstract gauntlets and explore other possibilities, but there's something joyously 'Sega' about an engaging yet zany premise presented without context — just get in there and have some blue-sky fun! Without the controls and refinement to make the platforming gameplay shine, Super Monkey Ball Adventure, with its expanded story and lore, felt like a roll in the wrong direction.

6. Super Monkey Ball Jr. (GBA)

Essentially a GBA port of the original Monkey Ball, nobody is suggesting that Super Monkey Ball Jr. is the best way to play the game. However, that developer Realism was able to reduce the original down sufficiently to run this well on this hardware is still impressive to this day. The frame rate isn't all that (and could actually be improved if you entered a code on the main menu to enable 'Super Blocky Mode') but again, you're getting a pleasantly playable version of Super Monkey Ball on a 16-bit handheld in 2002. Significantly better than a kick in the..., er, shins.

5. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz (Wii)

One of the Wii's very first games, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz introduced the requisite waggle of the era into its mix of simian-sliding and minigames and, as with many a motion-controlled game, it proved to be love-'em-or-hate-'em divisive. Boss battles and ability to make your monkey jump debuted this time around and, as an early-period Wii game, it served as a fun introduction to the console and its quirks for the time when you weren't busy getting your ass handed to you by your grandparents in Wii Bowling.

4. Super Monkey Ball: Touch & Roll (DS)

It's Monkey Ball, on the DS. You roll around a monkey in a ball while collecting bananas, using your stylus or D-pad, if you prefer. It's got a 'Main' mode and a 'Party' mode with the minigames. Yadda yadda. Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll does pretty much exactly what you expect it to, offering up another round of perfectly portable Monkey Ballin', this time with a second screen displaying a cute image of your chosen primate. Curiously, while the worlds and courses are presented in 3D, the monkeys in the balls on the top screens are flat sprites, but the effect is pleasant enough. Not the highest of rollers, but a solid returner.

3. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania (Switch)

It may not be saying much but Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is the best the series has been in almost two decades and newcomers are bound to find a lot to love. Clearly the team has true passion for the franchise and it's packed full of content, new ways to play, and there are so many extras and improvements that never existed in the original. Unfortunately, the engine beneath it all isn't quite up to the job. What they've achieved with Unity simply isn't on par with the originals and while the main game is still enjoyable, many of the party games are severely hindered. For us, this one is feature-packed, but not top banana.

2. Super Monkey Ball (GCN)

Times they were a-changing back in the early 2000s and for gamers there was no surer sign than a Nintendo console launching with a game from its arch-rivals. Fortunately, Sega hit the ground running (or should that be rolling?) on other companies' hardware with Super Monkey Ball, a fantastically surreal and vibrant new series that had you tilting the terrain to guide a monkey in a ball to a goal. Natch.

As it has been for years now, it really is all in the title, and while Sega fans might have felt blue at the time, this was a great indication that the company's spirit would live on.

1. Super Monkey Ball 2 (GCN)

Super Monkey Ball 2 saw original developer Amusement Vision adding something that was lacking in the original game: a Story Mode. Yes, if you were wondering how or why these simians were trapped inside transparent balls and being flung around on surreal floating stages, this sequel now provided a much-needed narrative context and Monkey Ball lore was born.

Joking aside, it offered more of the same great gameplay from the original and proved to be just as brilliant a party game. There's nothing not to like! Did the Monkey Ball series really peak with the second game? Quite possibly.

Surprised by the result? Feel free to let us know your thoughts on the ranking above and share a comment about your personal favourite Monkey Balls below.