Ranking Every Main Super Monkey Ball Game For Home Consoles & Handhelds

an image of two super monkey ball game cases

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Get ready to spin and roll around your living room, the park, the train, or even a plane as we check out AiAi and the gang’s back catalogue of games! Can you believe that the first game dropped back in 2001? I remember getting it at the same time as my GameCube and reveling in how bizarre it was, playing the mini-games with my parents and friends, and falling off the edge of the course more times than I could count.

But how many of the games in the series are worth checking out today? With the imminent arrival of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble on the Switch, I’m taking a look back at the entire series and listing the games in order of simian superstar brilliance.

N.B – I’ve chosen to omit iPad and Nokia N-Gage versions of previous games, focusing on single-release titles and collections.

Classic Collection
Super Monkey Ball Deluxe

The Deluxe version of Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2, complete with 47 original levels added into the mix. This was the first time that both games came off the GameCube for non-Nintendo owners to play.

Portable Champion
Super Monkey Ball Jr.

This GBA game has impressive depth and graphics, providing portable fun on Nintendo's ingenious indigo powerhouse. Take AiAi and the gang out of the living room and out into the world with you!

The Epic Sequel
Super Monkey Ball 2

The second game in the series dropping one year after the first GameCube title, Super Monkey Ball 2 added more mini-games and tumbling madness to what was fast becoming nine-year-old-me's favourite series!

1. Super Monkey Ball Deluxe (2005)

Rob holding a copy of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe for the PS2

We’ve got to start things off with the Deluxe Monkey Ball experience; it’s Deluxe for a reason, after all. Super Monkey Ball Deluxe is a collection of the first two Monkey Ball games, combining all of the tracks from both titles as well as some original levels. If you’ve never played a Monkey Ball title or want to go back and relive some of the best moments from the first two games, then this is definitely the way to go.

Before the Deluxe edition, the games were only available on the GameCube, so this marked the first time Sony and Xbox gamers could get their hands on some tumbling action. Some of you might say that it’s a cop-out to put a collection at the top of a best-of list, but the 47 original levels included in the game take the total of stages all the way up to 310, giving you some serious value for money and plenty of stages to hone your monkey rolling craft. All of the mini-games have been unlocked for you to play too, so you don’t need to put the work in to get your party going.

2. Super Monkey Ball Jr. (2002)

Rob holding his copy of Super Monkey Ball Jr

I know a lot of you probably think of Super Monkey Ball as a console title, but Super Monkey Ball Jr for the GBA is one of the best portable titles to kick back and… well, I won’t say ‘relax’ with because these games sometimes make me want to pull my own beard out, but to enjoy at your own fast and frantic pace.

It looks great on the GBA too, largely due to the fact that it’s not a graphically demanding game, with nice backgrounds that boast some impressive depth (especially when you fall off into them!). All of the original suspects from the GameCube games make an appearance. Four people can play mini-games via link-up, or just tackle the 60-plus arenas for you to play in solo mode. The mini-games don’t look as impressive on the GBA (I’ve gotta be critical, it’s my job), but the controls are pretty fluid and they’re still fun if you’re gaming on the go).

3. Super Monkey Ball 2 (2002)

The game cover for Super Monkey Ball 2

The amount of time I put into Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 on the GameCube probably doesn’t bear thinking about. It was the mini-games in the second GameCube title that grabbed me the most; the Story Mode wasn’t as shiny and new as it had been when the first title dropped, but with the addition of Monkey Soccer, Baseball, Dogfight, Tennis, Boat, and Shot along with the updated six mini-games from the original title, I was absolutely hooked!

I spent a lot of time playing Monkey Tennis with my Mum as a 12-year-old gamer; we loved the Monkey Ball series and spent a lot of time enjoying these mini-games over the years, so writing this article isn’t exactly what I’d class as work. Challenge Mode provides a bit more of a… well, a challenge from the Story Mode, with players having limited time and lives. Story Mode is more chilled (or as chilled as Monkey Ball can be) as you can just repeat the same level over and over until you reach the goal or smash your controller.

If you were an iPad user back in 2010, then you might remember Super Monkey Ball 2: Sakura Edition, the expanded version of the game that brought the Far East world into the equation. It was re-released in 2018 just as Super Monkey Ball: Sakura Edition, getting rid of the ‘2’, and both releases had four Monkey mini-games in the form of Golf, Bowling, Base, and Target

4. Super Monkey Ball (2001)

Seb holding a copy of Super Monkey Ball for the GameCube

Here it is, the first title to kick off the Monkey Ball console bonanza with possibly some of the most nostalgic game art from my gaming past. I picked GonGon every single time, purely because I thought he would have the most power, which could be the reason why I spent most of my time flying over the edges of courses. I never played the arcade variant; the GameCube was where I had my first Super Monkey Ball experience, another reason why I love that console so much.

Again, even though I enjoyed the main solo-player mode, it’s the multiplayer that sticks in my mind the most. Monkey Billards, Golf, and Bowling were three of the go-to games I’d play with my Mum after we’d finished our dinner. Monkey Fight felt like a bit of a knock-off Mario Party game that didn’t make the cut, Target was over pretty quickly, and Race could never compete with Mario Kart Double Dash, but the three unlockable Mini Games were brilliant.

The graphics were so refreshing back in the day too; even though when your ball started spinning and you sometimes felt a little nauseous, everything still looked crisp and clear. I like the level of thought that goes into getting from top to bottom too; it’s not just getting from A to B as fast as possible like an old-school Sonic game, you’ve got to have skill and patience despite the insane speeds.

5. Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD (2006/2019)

Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD Switch game case
Credit: Sega/Nintendo

Back in 2006, the Wii received its first Monkey Ball title in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz and saw the classic characters arriving for some Wiimote tilting action. If you want to make Super Monkey Ball harder, then all you need to do is add motion controls into the equation, and away you go! Doctor and YanYan also entered the fray, giving us two new faces to play with (you can’t always use GonGon, after all).

The Wiimote controls were fun, but man did it make gameplay more tense. One slight twitch or a sneeze and bang, you’re off the edge of the track. The HD edition on Switch made things a little easier as I felt that the controls were more refined, giving me more maneuverability on each stage. Apart from that, the HD version just brings the same 12 worlds to the Switch with enhanced graphics! Plus, it meant that PlayStation and Xbox users could get in on the action too!

This was the first Monkey Ball game that required players to fight bosses too; before that, we just had to collect bananas on each stage and move on to the next, but in this game, there are evil villains to defeat as you try to stop a Space Pirate Monkey from stealing all of your bananas.

I liked the fact that each monkey finally had their own characteristics too; remember I said that GonGon always felt more powerful in my head, well now the monkey’s build and speed really came into account and mattered when playing solo mode. These don’t matter when taking part in the 10 multiplayer mini-games, however – consider that a monkey mini free-for-all.

6. Super Monkey Ball: Touch & Roll (2005)

Super Monkey Ball: Touch & Roll DS game case
Credit: Sega/Nintendo

Touch and Roll; you just knew that the DS variant of Monkey Ball was going to incorporate the stylus in some shape or form, right? I do think that using the stylus gives you a little more control over proceedings and allows for some more precise tilting of the courses to get your chosen monkey to the finish line.

Monkey Air Hockey is what I love the most about this game; I don’t know what’s so addictive about a game I can play in real life down at the local bowling alley, but I just couldn’t get enough of it. There’s also an FPS-style game called Monkey Wars which didn’t really hit the mark with me, but the fact that Golf and Bowling make a comeback on the DS version, as well as the inclusion of Fight, provide some light relief from navigating the game’s tumbling madness.

7. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania (2021)

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania game art for the Nintendo Switch
Credit: Sega/Nintendo

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania brings all of the courses from Super Monkey Ball Deluxe to modern consoles, giving 300 stages the motion control treatment (which depending on your dexterity could be a good or bad thing!).

On the other hand, however, I’ve chosen to put this title in 7th place because it is an updated version of a previous collection of two games. The game feels easier than the previous titles thanks to a more balanced difficulty setting across many of the stages, which again might be a good or bad thing depending on how much of a challenge you found the original games. You can, however, play the original difficulties along with other modes to spice things up a bit – trying not to hit any of the Rotten Bananas in Dark Banana mode makes things much trickier, for example.

I guess my biggest gripe here is that there’s not enough new material on offer. Sure, you can purchase Sonic, Tails, and a whole host of other characters to play as from earning in-game points, but this is the second iteration of a collection that focuses on the first two games ever released with extra story plot points added in. The comic-book-esque story mode is fun and does provide some nostalgic retro moments for me while playing, but it’s a case of ‘more of the same with some added ‘bells and whistles’ for me.

8. Super Monkey Ball Bounce (2014)

Super Monkey Ball Bounce game art
Credit: Sega

While no longer available to download from the App Store or the Google Play Store, this game was an amazing little mobile title that we all loved. If you loved Peggle and got a kick out of puzzlers, then you would have loved it. It was mildly frustrating, but all Monkey Ball games are at some point!

Players shot AiAi and the gang from a canon at the top of what looks like a Pinball Machine. The idea was to make your monkey bounce and collect as many bananas as possible before hitting a target at the bottom of the screen to get the most points. There were boss battles to tackle, new characters to unlock along the way, and it made train journeys from my city back to my Mum’s village much more bearable.

9. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz (2012)

PS Vita game case for Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz
Credit: Sega/sony

Banana Splitz dropped on the PS Vita and immediately into the hearts of handheld gamers. I was always more of a PSP fan, but the Vita had its place for a short time, and seeing AiAi and the crew on there certainly put a smile on my face.

Sadly, even though it was a good game, it just didn’t do well commercially. Maybe people were just a little ‘done in’ with the Super Monkey Ball formula by 2012, or perhaps they just didn’t gel with the Vita. Banana Splitz was the last ‘traditional’ game in the series that promoted new content, with Sega choosing to focus on remakes of older titles and playing the nostalgia card from here on out. That’s going to change when Banana Rumble enters this list later this year, however.

Using the Vita’s motion controls, players manipulated levels just like on previous games. I really liked having the ability to make your own levels too, really making a challenge for hardcore Monkey Ball fans. Using real-life photos to create a maze out was pretty exciting back in 2012!

Rodeo, Bingo, Pixie Hunt, and Number Ball join Target, Billiards, and everyone’s favourite ‘Monkey Bowling’ in the mini-game department. There’s also one called ‘Love Maze’ where players have to get two monkeys (controlled at the same time) to each other from different sides of the screen, a game that I certainly didn’t love. Pixie Hunt was a little drawn out and laborious, and attacking people in Rodeo felt chaotic. Still, you couldn’t go wrong with a bit of Bingo!

10. Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll (2010)

Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll game case for the Nintendo Wii
Credit: Sega/Nintendo

Without even seeing the game cover, you just know that ‘Step & Roll’ is going to use the Wii Balance Board. That thing caused me so much stress over the years, and while it was an amazing peripheral to get out at parties after a few drinks, it certainly wasn’t a good mix for a game as wild as Monkey Ball.

The idea was for this game to feel more like an immersive party, but having one player using the balance board and the other three using Wiimotes in multiplayer mode didn’t really sit well with me. There was never a feeling of ‘true multiplayer’ in this game as one person was always ‘the odd one out’.

I can see the idea behind creating a new way to explore the Monkey Ball formula, but this wasn’t for me. The levels had impressive depth and graphics, but this was one game that I just didn’t gel with, and I wasn’t alone in thinking this. Critics struggled to get on board with it (literally), with mixed reviews across the board (that’s enough joke recycling now).

11. Super Monkey Ball 3D

Super Monkey Ball 3D Nintendo 3DS game box
Credit: Sega/Nintendo

I’m putting Super Monkey Ball 3D so far down for one reason and one reason only – Monkey Race is just a pointless version of Mario Kart. I don’t know why that was included in this game or why Sega thought that we needed this.

The only thing that could make Monkey Ball more mind-bending was seeing elements popping out of the screen in 3D too. That’s a combination that gives me a bigger headache than playing the Virtual Boy. The gyroscope function worked well and I appreciated the circle pad controls, but the ‘Puzzles’ mode was the only one I really valued in this game. Monkey Fight has never really been one of my favourites as you’ve no doubt picked up throughout this article, so naturally it didn’t get much play time.

If I were to give a succinct round-up of this game, it’s that it lacks substance. It’s a little bit ‘bleh’ with not a lot going on in it and doesn’t really have enough new ideas to merit spending your cash on it.

12. Super Monkey Ball Adventure (2006)

Rob holding his copy of Super Monkey Ball Adventure

AiAi and the crew might want to close their cute little ears here because I’m not going to be complimentary. Mixing up the formula worked for Bomberman when Bomberman 64 came out, but it didn’t work for Banjo-Kazooie when Nut’s & Bolts came out. It doesn’t always work, and it definitely didn’t hit the mark when Sega added adventure elements into the Monkey Ball world.

Collecting bananas as currency has a DK64 feel about it, but it fell rather short of the mark of one of my favourite N64 games. There are missions to complete and challenges to finish, making it feel a little like Spyro at times. But again, it just can’t compete with games of that caliber.

There will be people out there who loved the change from the norm in this title, but for me, it was just a bit of a flop. It received average reviews from other critics of the day too, another case of trying to reinvent a wheel that didn’t need it. I’m not mad at Sega for trying to see if this would work; Sonic Adventure is one of my favourite games after all. I’m just disappointed with the fact that It could have been better with a little more thought to it.

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