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Greatest Nintendo Games

200 Best Nintendo Games (Part 1) Now You’re Playing With Power

Nintendo is celebrating what is arguably one of its greatest years in the company’s history and so what better way to celebrate Goomba Stomp’s Two Year anniversary than with a list of our 200 favourite games released exclusively on a Nintendo console.

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It’s not easy making a list of the 200 Best Nintendo Games…

Nintendo is celebrating what is arguably one of its greatest years in the company’s history and so what better way to celebrate Goomba Stomp’s Two Year Anniversary than with a list of the 200 best Nintendo games. The list started with roughly 500 titles, and after careful consideration, we trimmed it down to 300 based on the following criteria. Of the 300 remaining titles, we voted multiple times, slowly eliminating 100, and arguing extensively as to what should and shouldn’t qualify. For a game to be eligible for inclusion on this list, it had to be developed by an internal Nintendo studio, or developed by a second-party developer and released exclusively for Nintendo platforms.

We also included Nintendo-owned brands handled by a third party, in close cooperation with Nintendo itself and any video game that was exclusive to a Nintendo console during its first year of release. Games such as Beyond Good and Evil, Shovel Knight or even The World of Goo were eliminated since gamers were able to play those titles at home on other platforms. There are three exceptions which you will notice while browsing the list, but we felt we had a solid argument as to why the ports of these three games had to be included. We’ve also decided to put the list in chronological order based on the release date of each game. In other words, think of this as a timeline listing just some of the amazing games exclusive to Nintendo console, and not so much a ranking. However, for those of you curious, we do mention the top ten games as voted by our staff at the very end of the list.

GreatestNintendoGamesDKPart One: 1980–1990

The Japanese video game giant Nintendo emerged as a global leader in the video game industry when it unveiled the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. The NES went on to become the best-selling gaming console of its time, and decades later the NES still exerts a major influence on the entire industry. We’ve heard the argument that the admiration toward the NES is largely due to nostalgia, but one can make that very same argument towards anything we hold dear. The fact of the matter is, the 1980s are arguably Nintendo’s greatest and most influential decade, and of the 300 games we had to eliminate, I would estimate a good 50% of those titles were released during this time. The NES alone boasts a grand total of 826 titles to choose from (713 licensed and 113 unlicensed games), including a number of groundbreaking hits, so trust us when we say it was really hard to choose what and what not to include.

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1) Donkey Kong
Developer(s) Nintendo Research & Development 1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Arcade/NES
Release: July 9, 1981
Genre(s) Platforming

This classic launched the careers of Donkey Kong and Mario (here named Jumpman), but nobody ever bothered to ask what happened to the beautiful Pauline, who is trapped within the paws of the giant ape. The game was the latest in a series of efforts by Nintendo to break into the North American market, and was developed by first-time video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. The rest, as they say, is history. Drawing from a wide range of inspirations, including Popeye, Beauty and the Beast, and King Kong, Miyamoto developed a critical and commercial success that helped establish him as a key player in the industry. If you happen to be a nostalgic gamer — or even a huge Nintendo fan who wants to explore the company’s back catalogue — this is essential to your collection. (Ricky D)

2) Mario Bros.
Developer(s) Nintendo Research & Development 1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Arcade/NES
Release: June 1, 1983
Genre(s) Platforming

The origin of what later evolved into the iconic 2D gameplay of Super Mario games, Mario Bros. holds its own and stands today as possibly one of the most terrific titles Mario has had his name put on. Here you play as a rather slippery-on-his-feet Mario (and Luigi, when playing two players), who is tasked with banishing baddies from the sewers by striking the ground beneath them, then running into the enemies to kick them off the screen, all the while platforming on floating…well, platforms. Enemies include Koopa Troopa prototype turtles, angry crabs named Side-Steppers, and fly things that make a horrible sound effect that is nostalgic for me at this point. If it all gets a bit too much, you can always hit the POW button to shake the ground under your enemies’ feet, but the amount of times you can use this is limited.

The NES was home to many great remakes and ports of classic arcade games, and Mario Bros. is no exception. While the arcade version is technically superior to the NES release, offering better graphics, enemy AI, and gameplay physics, the NES version is perhaps second-best (and for many, the best) we had available at home. This is a game I have very strong fond memories of, and one I go back to often. It’ll never age, never feel outdated, no matter how much Mario evolves and advances in the present. These are his true platformer beginnings. (Maxwell N)

Duck_hunt3) Duck Hunt
Developer(s) Nintendo Research & Development 1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) NES, Arcade
Release: JP: April 21, 1984 / NA: October 18, 1985
Genre(s) Light Gun Shooter

For the unfamiliar, Duck Hunt sees players use the NES Zapper to shoot ducks that appear on the television screen. The ducks appear one or two at a time, and the player is given three shots to shoot them down. If the required number of ducks bite it in a single round, the player will advance to the next round; otherwise, the game will end. It sounds simple enough, but the further you advance, the faster the ducks move across the screen, and the harder it gets.

Duck Hunt has been around as long as the NES itself. It was originally packaged with the NES console for some years, even sharing a game cartridge with Super Mario Bros., and for many gamers, Duck Hunt — alongside Super Mario Bros. — was their introduction to gaming. While the light gun shooter may seem dated today, in all honesty, it’s just as fun and challenging as it was when first released. In fact, this is one of the few NES games to make good use of the Nintendo Zapper, and in my opinion, one of the best launch games ever made. Almost everyone can agree that the pack-in cartridge was monumentally influential for the entire video game industry, and Duck Hunt, along with its colorful visuals, catchy soundtrack (by legendary Zelda composer Koji Kondo), and adorable mascot, holds a special place in the hearts of many old-school Nintendo fans like myself. (Ricky D)

4) Excitebike
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) NES
Release: November 30, 1984
Genre(s) Racing

Have you ever popped a wheelie with your bicycle, avoided a disastrous wipeout on a patch of gravel with a sweet maneuver, or built ramps to jump Evel Knievel-style over the stretched-out bodies of your overly trusting friends? Who am I kidding — if you grew up on a BMX then of course the answer is yes, and this mysterious childhood draw may explain some of the appeal of a game so simple and addicting as Excitebike. Arena motor bikes careening over dirt hills, dodging each other and the various oil slicks that dot the track, all while furiously pushing an engine that’s always on the brink of overheating will always be awesome, even if the 8-bit visuals and two-button controls Excitebike sports don’t exactly simulate the complexities of the real thing.

But realism doesn’t matter when you’re hypnotized by the whiny hum of your wobbly hog, weaving in and out of traffic, sticking a perfect landing after flying off a mountainous mound before coasting to victory with a one-wheel taunt. Hell, even if you spend most of your time mashing the A button after crashing for the thousandth time, spurring your racer back onto his seat while offering up a profane tongue-lashing as extra motivation, the temptation to give the chaos one more go is ever-present, a clear sign of design success. Excitebike made a living off of taking 80s racing fantasies to Napolean Dynamite levels, and validates its impressive longevity by still doing so today. (Patrick Murphy)

5) Super Mario Bros.
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: September 13, 1985
Genre(s) Platforming

It’s hard to imagine a video game industry today without Super Mario Bros. Here’s the title that single-handedly revitalized the gaming industry and solidified Nintendo as the King of the video game market. While the vast majority of early video games at the time were largely designed by the programmers coding them, Super Mario Bros. was instead made by Shigeru Miyamoto, an artist first and foremost, who graduated with a degree in industrial design. As with Donkey Kong, character mattered most. Players would control Mario, accompanying him on his journey through the Mushroom Kingdom on his quest to rescue Princess Peach from the vicious Bowser, King of the Koopas. It quickly became synonymous with the Nintendo Entertainment System, and helped the NES become the top-selling console of its time. The video game crash of 1983 was officially over, and the famous brick-busting duo became household names.

Super Mario Bros. is one of the most iconic video games ever conceived due to the sprawling level design, clever enemy placement, hidden secrets, optional sub-routes, superb physics, legendary soundtrack and gorgeous sprite-work. Without it, the video game industry wouldn’t be the same. (Ricky D)

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6) The Legend of Zelda
Developer(s) Nintendo Research & Development 4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Famicom Disk System/Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: February 21, 1986
Genre(s) Action-Adventure

Shigeru Miyamoto’s masterpiece laid the groundwork for almost every action-RPG that came after it, and has become a staple franchise for Nintendo that decades later is still going strong. When it was released, The Legend of Zelda was a first in so many categories. Not only was it an early example of open world and non-linear gameplay, but it also introduced a battery backup to save your progress. Serving as the foundation of many modern adventure games, it introduced now-basic concepts like dungeon maps, utility equipment, and boss formulas that we still see used today.

Zelda can be cruel and often bewildering, but it’s also mysterious and beautiful, and every accomplishment you make in-game, no matter how small, is legitimately satisfying. I would argue that its unapologetic open-world approach and lack of hand-holding are what makes it special. More importantly, The Legend of Zelda has aged surprisingly well thanks to a brilliant soundtrack, creative visuals, and a masterfully layered adventure. It is, without a doubt, one of the most influential games of all time, and one of the greatest games ever made. It was ahead of its time and it stands the test of time. Very few games can make that claim. (Ricky D)

7) Dragon Warrior
Developer(s) Chunsoft
Publisher(s) Enix/Nintendo
Platform(s) Famicom/NES
Release: May 27, 1986
Genre(s) Role-Playing

Many will argue that at its core, Dragon Warrior (originally released in Japan as Dragon Quest) is the quintessential JRPG, and set the template from which nearly every Japanese role-playing game drew inspiration. It came out long before Final Fantasy, and at the time of release, it was one of the early smash hits for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Dragon Quest was so popular in fact that it became a national phenomenon in Japan, and at one point was dubbed Japan’s national game. You’d be forgiven for never once playing the game given that it is indeed dated, but regardless, this may be one of the ten most influential games featured on this list. (Ricky D)

8) Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Famicom Disk System
Release: JP: June 3, 1986
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (known as Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan) gets a bad wrap outside its original market. The game was a true sequel to the original Super Mario Bros., and naturally unable to live up to the impact of its predecessor. When the game was shown to Nintendo of America’s Howard Philips, he declared it too hard for release in North America, later saying that “Not having fun is bad when you’re a company selling fun.”

Philips was probably right to hold off on the release of The Lost Levels, but he is incorrect about the game not being fun. It’s a delight to play and master, truthfully not much more difficult than the original Mega Man games. While Super Mario Bros. 3 rightfully gets credit for evolving the Mario franchise, The Lost Levels was the first Mario game to require exploration. Finding hidden boxes makes the seemingly impossible jumps doable, and after beating the main game, several bonus worlds unlock. The difference between Mario and Luigi’s jumping and weight began here as well.

It’s unfair that countless deaths and poison mushrooms take the headlines when talking about Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. It’s a fantastic platformer that anyone who enjoys the challenge of Odyssey‘s “The Darker Side of the Moon” is sure to love. Truthfully, if I had to play one Mario game for the rest of my life, Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, I’d choose Lost Levels. (Tyler Kelbaugh)

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9) Metroid
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1
Intelligent Systems
Platform(s) Family Computer Disk System, Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: JP: August 6, 1986 / NA: August 15, 1987
Genre(s) Action-Adventure, Platforming

For Metroid, director Yoshio Sakamoto chose to combine elements of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda — with a clever twist. Yokoi wasn’t interested in creating anything groundbreaking, but he did want to experiment with what had made Nintendo’s two biggest franchises a success. Metroid fused ideas from both to create something new and offbeat. Like Super Mario Bros. it adopts a side-scrolling perspective and puts a large emphasis on platforming. Unlike Super Mario Bros., it allows players to scroll either left, right, up and down, instead of forcing them into constant forward motion. And like Zelda, Metroid places an emphasis on nonlinear gameplay, weapon upgrades, and a decidedly darker tone and atmosphere.

Of course, one of the most notable aspects of the original Metroid is the simple decision to make Samus Aran a woman. It wasn’t planned that way, but one casual remark helped give birth to one of gaming’s first leading ladies, and one of gaming’s most beloved protagonists, male or female. While Metroid is groundbreaking in many ways, it would be nothing without its gender-role trailblazing. That famous unexpected reveal at the end of Metroid proved women could be more in gaming lore than eye candy, and regardless if Ridley Scott’s Alien was a clear influence or not, it was at the end of Metroid that a gaming legend was born, and one who would help pave the way for more female characters in gaming.

For a game of its era, Metroid’s graphics and sound also truly hold up. Anyone who tells you that it’s dated clearly doesn’t understand the meaning of the phrase. Metroid is not a product of its time; it was ahead of its time in every way, and boasts one of the best soundtracks of any NES title. Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka, the composer of the original Metroid, aimed to create a score that made players feel like they were encountering a “living organism” and had no distinction between music and sound effects. In fact, the only time the main Metroid theme is heard is after Mother Brain is defeated. Metroid created an audio experience like no other, and the game’s soundtrack helped to create the ambiance through music that detached itself from other soundtracks of the era. Tanaka’s contribution defined the music for the series and became a huge step for the video game industry as a whole. (Ricky D)

10) Kid Icarus
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1 / TOSE
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Family Computer Disk System, Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: JP: December 19, 1986 / NA: July 01, 1987
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Kid Icarus was directed by Satoru Okada, and produced by the general manager of the R&D1 division, the same team who developed Metroid a year earlier. Both games ran on the same engine, shared similar level designs and even a few notorious enemies, and so one of the most striking aspects of Kid Icarus is how similar it feels to its sister game. Yet Pit has always been overshadowed by Samus Aran, making Kid Icarus something of a black sheep among all of the NES classics. While this game has a devout legion of followers, there are just as many people who dislike it, and after its debut in 1986 (and a lone sequel for the Gameboy), Nintendo made the decision to clip Pit’s wings. The series lay dormant for 21 years — a baffling choice, considering Pit is one of Nintendo’s most iconic protagonists. Every system out there has at least one wildly underrated game, and on the NES it’s Kid Icarus. It may not be on the same level as its first-party NES peers, but it shares a lot in common with Nintendo’s ‘Big Three’ — and thanks to Super Smash, the Nintendo icon finally got his dues. (Ricky D)

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11) Castlevania
Developer(s) Konami
Publisher(s) Konami
Series Castlevania
Platform(s) Family Computer Disk System, NES
Release: September 26, 1986
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

There was a time when video games were simply played for the enjoyment of reflexively pushing buttons to get a high score, but who knew these things could actually give off vibes? Though the console landscape had for some time been populated by alien invasions, pursuant ghosts, and murderous giant apes, isn’t wasn’t until 1986’s Castlevania that a successful attempt was made at giving off an air of horror. Sure, Oregon Trail made many players cringe from grisly deaths by drowning or (ugh) dysentery, but the Gothic setting and classic monsters of Konami’s breakthrough title (released on the 90th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s Dracula) made an even deeper impression, opening up future possibilities in immersion and storytelling. Throw in satisfying gameplay, a steep challenge, and an iconic, whip-wielding hero in Simon Belmont, and that’s a good recipe for a classic.

Right off the bat Castlevania sets a moody scene, with Simon’s approach to the titular fortress ensconced in gloomy fog and eerie moonlight, heralded by grave tune. Or maybe I just remember it that way — such is the power of the minimalist visuals and an ominous score. He is there to defeat Dracula, and must climb to the highest stone tower to meet that mythic goal. Along the way there will be fights against hyper hunchbacks, maddening Medusa heads, and the scythe-swinging danger of Death itself, all set against a creepy castle decaying from the inside out. It’s a grueling journey that demands both fortitude and plenty of wall meat, and after surviving the monstrous onslaught and numerous pitfalls, the long stairway to fate is full of the kind of anxiety and dread not seen before. Emerging victorious in the final vampire fight is among the many sources of bragging rights from the NES era, in no small part due to the platforming skill required to get there.

The linear layout and unforgiving nature of Castlevania might bear little resemblance to what the franchise has since become, but its solid gameplay and masterful presentation ensure that this platforming monster lives on. (Patrick Murphy)

12) Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Famicom Disk System/Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: January 14, 1987
Genre(s) Action-Adventure, Role-Playing

The second installment in The Legend of Zelda series is often considered the black sheep of the family. Despite being one of the best-selling games in the entire series, many fans hate it, and with good reason. The game is tough, and I do mean tough. Anyone who has played Zelda II can tell you how difficult beating the simplest of enemies can be, nevermind the boss battles. Players must be prepared for repeated failure when sitting down to play Zelda II, but that is kind of what makes the game so great. The sense of accomplishment a player feels when finishing Zelda II is unmatched by any other game in the series.

The Adventure of Link was an incredibly assured attempt to rewrite the rules of the entire series back in 1988. It introduced elements like Link’s “magic meter” and the Shadow Link character that would become commonplace in future Zelda games, while role-playing elements such as experience points, as well as the platform-style side-scrolling with multiple lives, were never used again in canonical games. In addition, Zelda II introduced a number of Zelda standards, including a larger focus on storytelling, as well as sidequests. Yes, it is difficult, and yes, it is different, but for better or for worse, that is what makes it stand out from all the other entries in the series. Zelda II is unique but frustrating, flawed but brilliant, and without question an important game that helped define what the Zelda games would ultimately be. (Ricky D)

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13) Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D3[1]
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) NES/Famicom
Release: NA: October 18, 1987
Genre(s) Sports, Fighting

Punch-Out!! isn’t your traditional boxing game — the gameplay design is all about pattern recognition, fast reaction times, and some patience. Little Mac has 5 different punches at his disposal, the most powerful being the star punch uppercut, and his opponents each have their own unique bag of tricks. In order to defeat each member of the rogues’ gallery, players must figure out how to counter their special moves. What makes Punch-Out!! such a success is that each match plays like a mini-boss battle — and every opponent has different boxing styles. In each fight, the opponent has certain mannerisms that act as clues to when he will perform his special move. Because of this, in some ways Punch Out is like a puzzle game — the major key to beating it is recognizing patterns. Time is also a major factor, since each fight consists of only three rounds that are each only three minutes long, which doesn’t allow players to waste any time.

Each opponent is increasingly difficult to beat, but if there is any boss that plagued gamers back in the days of the NES it had to be Tyson. Tyson doesn’t use the same rules as the other fighters; there is no pattern to his attack, no method to his defense, and no obvious way to know when he is going to strike. Mac can duck, dodge, jab, hook, and uppercut his way through the match, but one punch from Iron Mike and you’ll find yourself down on the mat. Mike Tyson was an extremely difficult boss for the time, and players couldn’t rely on straight button mashing to defeat him. Beating him not only gave you bragging rights over your friends, but was one of the most satisfying game accomplishments back in the day. While he may have been removed from future installments of the series, Mike Tyson remains one of the best boss battles in Nintendo history, and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! may still be the best boxing game ever made. (Ricky D)

14) Mega Man
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: December 17, 1987
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Before Mega Man, Capcom primarily made arcade games, and their console releases were mostly ports of these titles. In the mid-1980s Capcom made plans to develop a new franchise specifically for the NES, and hired a small, young, talented team of six people — including artist Keiji Inafune — to develop an action-platformer, then known as Rokkuman, the first installment in what would go on to become one of the gaming industry’s most prolific series of all time. Of all the games released on the NES, the Mega Man series is the one that never feels dated. Featuring amazing visuals, charming characters, amazing music, and most importantly, near-perfect gameplay Mega Man nonlinear approach, which allows players to choose the order in which to complete its initial six stages, was a game-changer.

Each level culminates in a boss battle that awards the player/character a unique weapon. Gamers could then figure out which weapon to use against which boss, giving the game great replay value. The original Mega Man is best-known, however, for its difficulty. It remains the hardest game to beat in the franchise, and one of the hardest NES games to finish. Some have criticized the series for failing to evolve throughout the years, but I believe there is a simple and logical explanation for this: the first entry started out with such a perfect template — why change? Mega Man may not be the best in the franchise, let alone the best released for the NES console, but it is the first, and beating it remains one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my NES days. (Ricky D)

15) Final Fantasy
Developer(s) Square
Publisher(s) Square
Platform(s) NES
Release: December 18, 1987
Genre(s) Role-Playing

The game that started it all, Final Fantasy was a bit of Hail Mary when it was released for the NES by Squaresoft, with the developer and publisher facing financial ruin. Spurred on by the sales of the recently released Dragon Warrior, they decided to take a punt on another role-playing game, and one of the most beloved franchises in video game history was born. Going back to Final Fantasy today isn’t as jarring an experience as you might assume, given the many advances made in the series in the subsequent fourteen proper entries; the combat system is surprisingly well thought-out, and the simple, linear storyline could even be considered preferable to the labyrinthine narratives of some of the later games in the franchise.

Mechanically, Final Fantasy is a little sluggish, and there’s way too much grinding required later on in the game, but as a time capsule to an era, before the series was famed for anime haircuts, teenage angst, and protracted development cycles, the title has lost none of its potency. Many of the conventions that would become staples of the series were started right here in the 1987 game, including some recurring musical pieces, like the iconic victory fanfare that plays at the end of a battle and the opening theme that has been featured in numerous other titles since. It doesn’t hold up as well as other games in the long-running series, but fans who are willing to persevere with some of the more clumsily implemented systems in play will likely find their time spent with Final Fantasy a worthwhile exercise in nostalgia, and an adventure that exists as a reminder of an inescapably vital moment in video game history. (John Cal McCormick)

16) Blaster Master
Developer(s) Sunsoft[a]
Publisher(s) Sunsoft
Platform(s) NES
Release:  JP: June 17, 1988 / NA: November 1988
Genre(s) Action, Platforming, Metroidvania

Blaster Master was once the most underrated game to be released for the NES, but thanks to a dedicated cult following and positive word of mouth, it managed to spawn two sequels (Blaster Master 2 and Blaster Master: Blasting Again), two handheld spin-offs (Blaster Master Boy and Blaster Master: Enemy Below) and even a recent remake on the Nintendo Switch (Blaster Master Zero). The game about a boy named Jason, his pet frog named Fred and a tank named Sophia that Jason uses to battle radioactive mutants, is without a doubt, one of the best games of the 8-bit era. The game was praised for its smooth play control,  impressive level designs, detailed graphics, and a stellar soundtrack, and it was criticized for its high difficulty level and lack of passwords or save points. Blaster Master’s bosses are some of the largest seen in a game at that time as they take up a good portion of the screen and offer a pretty big challenge in later levels, that is, if you even make it that far. Trust me when I say, this is one of the toughest games of that generation and left many players frustrated. There are many great games from the NES days but Blaster Master was a game ahead of its time and for the time, it was absolutely brilliant. (Ricky D)

17) Bionic Commando
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Famicom/NES
Release: JP: July 20, 1988
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Loosely based on an arcade game of the same name, Bionic Commando is another Capcom classic that every self-respecting old-school gamer has fond memories of playing. A side-scroller with an interesting slant, Bionic Commando is best known as the unique platformer that actually removes the feature of jumping, and forces you to instead use a grappling hook to swing and climb through every level. At first, the game’s emphasis on swinging seems counterintuitive and frustrating, but those who spend the time needed to really master its controls will feel ultimately rewarded. Taking cues from open-ended adventure games like Metroid, Bionic Commando is more about exploration and combat than running from one side of the screen to the next. There’s an assortment of weapons and equipment your main character picks up along the way, and sometimes you’ll find yourself returning to a stage to complete your mission.

In the Famicom incarnation, a group of modern-day Nazis attempts to resurrect Adolph Hitler and take over the world, but in the US release, all references to Nazism in text and imagery were removed, and the Imperial Army’s Swastika insignia was changed into a new one resembling an eagle. Of all the games I own on the NES, Bionic Commando is one of my favorites, and one of the toughest to finish. (Ricky D)

18) Ninja Gaiden
Developer(s) Tecmo
Publisher(s) Tecmo/Atari
Platform(s) NES
Release: October 1988
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Ninja Gaiden originally debuted as a two-player arcade beat-’em-up back in 1988, but this isn’t that game. The NES version is instead a follow-up, released about a year later, that follows a six-act story of Ryu Hayabusa, a rising warrior in his family’s clan whose main role in the world is to protect the Dark Dragon Blade from getting into the hands of evil. Ninja Gaiden (known as Shadow Warriors in Europe) amazed gamers with the degree of control it allowed over the main character and was praised for its deep control mechanics, despite needing just two buttons. Players are able to pull off wall jumps, super-swift attacks, and backflips, as well as pick up an assortment of weapons — including ninja stars — as they make their way through more than 10 grueling levels filled with various enemies and unique bosses. As the game progresses, the story unfolds using cinematic cut-scenes that make it feel like you’re watching a movie. These were a major innovation for the time, and the musical score is one of the finest to be found on the NES. In terms of NES platform action, it doesn’t really get much better than this; the game went on to win several awards in 1989, and ranks as one of the finest ninja-style games ever made (Ricky D)

19) Super Mario Bros. 2
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) NES
Release: October 9, 1988
Genre(s) Platforming

There are several design changes that make Super Mario Bros. 2 so different from its predecessor, starting with the pick-up-and-throw gameplay. The second difference is the elimination of the timer; this means players are no longer racing to the end, and therefore have plenty of time to fully explore each and every level. In addition, players can travel backward in a level if needed. However, the biggest change and improvement in this sequel is that Super Mario 2 opens up vertical gameplay. Whether it’s jumping up onto platform after platform or climbing vines and ladders, Super Mario Bros. 2 encourages players to move vertically just as often as they scroll to the side. Usually, when making sequels, game designers don’t like to make too many big changes, but with Super Mario 2 the gameplay was completely different, and the setting and enemies were totally unfamiliar. In fact, the game doesn’t even take place in the Mushroom Kingdom, and there are neither Goombas nor Hammer Brothers anywhere in sight. Shy Guys and Bob-ombs are the most notable common enemies, and Birdo is the recurring foe this time around. Super Mario Bros. 2 was also the first Mario game to allow players to choose from multiple characters (Mario, his brother Luigi, the mushroom retainer Toad, or Princess Peach), each with their own unique abilities.

But there’s a good reason why Super Mario Bros. 2 is so different from all the other games in the series: originally, it was not intended to be a Mario game at all. What became Super Mario Bros. 2 started out as a prototype for a vertically scrolling, two-player cooperative action game called Yume K?j?: Doki Doki Panic, a Family Computer Disk System game meant to tie-in with Fuji Television’s media technology expo, called Yume K?j?. The real sequel to Super Mario Bros. is actually quite similar to the first game, only more difficult to beat. All that aside, Super Mario Bros. 2 is a solid side-scrolling platformer that experimented in many new and daring ways — and thankfully for Nintendo, those risks paid off in spades. Super Mario Bros. 2 sold ten million copies, and was the third highest-selling game ever released on the Nintendo Entertainment System at that time. Nintendo Power listed Super Mario Bros. 2 as the eighth-best NES video game, mentioning that regardless of not being originally released as a Mario game, it was able to stand on its own merits and a unique take on the series’ trademark format. (Ricky D)

20) Mega Man 2
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) NES
Release: December 24, 1988
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

If the first Mega Man is the alley-oop, then Mega Man 2 is the slam dunk. It captures so many things about the quintessential Mega Man experience: interesting thematic level design, memorable boss fights, and a catchy-as-heck soundtrack. Its impact on the series at large can’t be overstated. Mega Man 2 introduced so many staples of the franchise, such as the Energy Tank item, special movement items, the teleporter room, the 8-boss stage select screen, and the password system. Still, when looking at the change between 1 and 2, it’s clear to see that what truly stands out about Mega Man 2 is the simply fantastic level design.

Mega Man 2 was one of the few games that I couldn’t successfully beat as a child. It’s fairly demanding of the player, as it calls for quick reflexes and a cool head. However, the game is more than fair; if you die, it’s your own fault. Far from angering the player, it inspires them to do better. Once you’ve mastered the enemy patterns, know where platforms move, and start jumping and shooting to the beat, successfully completing the stage is all the more gratifying. To this day, Mega Man 2 remains a game that is satisfying to lose — and get better at. (Kyle Rogacion)

21) River City Ransom
Developer(s) Techn?s Japan
Platform(s) Family Computer/NES
Release: April 25, 1989
Genre(s) Beat ’em Up

More often than not, when people list off the best Beat ’em up games of the 8-bit generation, River City Ransom is often overshadowed by the likes of Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Streets of Rage, but River City Ransom remains one of the best, most overlooked games on the NES — and a favorite for those of us who played it back in the days. What elevates River City Ransom above most old-school Beat ’em ups how it incorporates RPG elements into the action and allows players the complete freedom to wander the streets, back alleys, and vacant lots of River City as you see fit. It helps too that for the time, River City Ransom featured colorful 8-bit sprites, a catchy soundtrack, and an art direction heavily influenced by Japanese manga, but what I remember most fondly about the game is how it allowed my friends and I to play cooperatively as Alex and Ryan. Many gamers will prefer Billy and Jimmy Lee, but for my money, they were the kings of side-scrolling brawlers. (Ricky D)

22) Tetris
Developer(s) Bullet-Proof Software/Nintendo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy
Release: JP: June 14, 1989 / NA: July 31, 1989
Genre(s) Puzzle

It’s safe to assume that almost every video gamer has heard of Tetris, and most of us associate it with Nintendo, specifically their portable Game Boy system. Yes, Tetris had already existed in various incarnations since its creation in 1984, and was sold for both a range of home computer platforms and the arcades long before Game Boy ever existed, but the hugely successful handheld version for the Game Boy — which was launched in 1989 — is arguably the ultimate version of the perfect puzzle game. The famous puzzle game from creator Alexey Pajitnov is not only brilliant, but extremely addictive thanks to its simplistic design. With this particular version of Tetris came a competitive two-player mode made possible with the link cable, as well as an instrumental version of the Russian folk song “Korobeiniki.” Nintendo has made some of the best partnerships in the history of the gaming industry, and pairing Tetris with their new greyscale portable system back in the day is one of their best decisions in the company’s 125-plus years in existence. Tetris was a phenomenon, and literally laid the bricks for the foundation of the handheld gaming industry that Nintendo has continued to dominate ever since. (Ricky D)

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23) Super Mario Bros. 3
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: JP: October 23, 1988 / NA: February 12, 1990
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario Bros. 3 was critically acclaimed, and with reason — there is not a fault to be found anywhere in the game. For the time, it was beyond anything you could ever dream. Super Mario Bros. 3 is a masterpiece, a perfect video game with eight worlds and 70-plus ingenious levels of side-scrolling awesomeness. One world is packed with giant renditions of every character, others feature underwater adventures, and some take you through spooky castles and dungeons. As you move ahead, you’ll discover that each level contains optional paths leading to shortcuts and extra lives hidden away. The best things are the power-ups and various suits you can use inside the levels. Mario can now slide down hills, knocking down enemies who get in his way, and the powerups from the original game also make an appearance.

Also new to the series are mini-games and an overhead map screen to track progress and collectible warp whistles (much like the one Link used in Zelda II) that teleport you to later worlds in the game. In addition, there is the music box that puts enemies on the map to sleep, as well as the anchor to stop the Koopaling’s airship from flying off around the map so that you don’t have to chase it. Juergen’s Cloud allows you to skip a level, and Kuribo’s shoe, easily one of the most beloved power-ups in Mario history, can be found in only one level! The familiar Mario sound effects are present and accounted for, along with a batch of new musical compositions concocted by Koji Kondo, and dozens of new enemies like Boom Booms, Boos, and Chain Chomps make their very first appearance in the Nintendo universe. Super Mario Bros 3 is often considered to be the best video game of the 8-bit generation. In my opinion it is, and it is also the best game in the Super Mario series. It’s a timeless masterpiece, full of innovation and surprises, one that will forever stand the test of time. (Ricky D)

24) Baseball Stars
Developer(s) SNK
Publisher(s) SNK
Platform(s) NES
Release: JP: May 19, 1989 / NA: July 1989
Genre(s) Sports

The game of baseball garners devoted fans for many reasons, and with its multi-faceted approach to offense and defense highlighted by the pitcher vs batter duel, as well as an emphasis on stats, it has long been a perfect fit for video games. Rarely, however, have any truly captured that pure feel of the sport with as much joy and balance as the NES’ Baseball Stars. What makes it stand out from the rest of the top gaming prospects is not only the careful way in which it approaches the many aspects of the sport, but also its heart; Baseball Stars understands what makes taking the field or stepping into the batter’s box magical, and that happens during innings, not in menus.

While obviously a limitation of the console it was released for, the beauty of Baseball Stars‘ two-button system is that the player’s focus can stay where it belongs, on the game, instead of half-concerned with worrying about input combinations. Throw the ball with A, run to a base with B; swing the bat with A, steal with B — easy as a 4-6-3. That doesn’t mean a high baseball I.Q. won’t help catch your buddy straying too far off the bag, though; the tools just don’t bog down the action. Whether jumping at the fence to rob a friend’s go-ahead homer or executing a flawless suicide squeeze with a perfectly placed bunt down the third base line, Baseball Stars is about great moments, the sort that kids dream of while they work on their curveball against a chain-link fence. Smashing that walk-off home run or picking your buddy off at second brings the sort of gleeful smile that reminds one of why we love this game in the first place. I’ve never played a video game that captured my favorite sport better than Baseball Stars. There’s something about strapping on a dusty leather mitt or digging my cleats into the gravelly dirt that simply feels right, and the same can be said for SNK’s original NES release, even after all these years. (Patrick Murphy)

25) Tecmo Bowl
Developer(s) Tecmo
Publisher(s) Tecmo
Platform(s) NES
Release NES: February 1989
Genre(s) Sports

I cannot stress the importance of Tecmo Bowl. Originally an arcade game, Tecmo Bowl was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System by the makers of such classics as Ninja Gaiden, Mighty Bomb Jack, and Solomon’s Key, and it took everyone by surprise by just how good it was. Nobody expected the Japanese developers of puzzle games and 2D platformers to succeed in creating a sports game, much less an American sports game, but they did. Named NES Sports Game of the Year, Tecmo Bowl provided players with the best football experience found on the NES console back in 1989, and it paved the way for what became the biggest trend in sports games to this day.

Tecmo Bowl is a seemingly effortless game in which everything falls neatly into place as if ordained by nature. It stripped football down to its basic elements and created a fun arcade experience anyone can enjoy. Tecmo Bowl was Madden before Madden was a household name. It’s the game that started the football franchise craze in video games, and laid the groundwork for the even better Tecmo Super Bowl. American football games have come a long way over the years, but what hasn’t changed is the sheer enjoyment any football fan can have when playing Tecmo Bowl.

Tecmo Bowl is without a doubt the granddaddy of football games, and there’s something to be said for the back-to-basics formula that Tecmo Bowl employed. With technological enhancements in gameplay, graphics, power, and speed, the original Tecmo Bowl seems incredibly dated in 2016, but surprisingly the gameplay holds up nearly three decades later. (Ricky D)

26) Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
Developer(s) Konami
Publisher(s) Konami
Platform(s) Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: JP: December 22, 1989 / NA: September 1, 1990
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Having tasted critical and commercial success with the original NES outing, Nintendo took a big risk in giving its direct sequel an entirely different spin. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is a game which is fondly remembered by some fans and hated by others (including myself). Thankfully, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse reverts back to the platform game roots of the first Castlevania title, keeping every fan happy. Unlike Castlevania, however, Castlevania III is non-linear, set 100 years before the first installment. Players once again assume the role of a vampire hunter extraordinaire, only this time it’s Simon’s ancestor, Trevor Belmont. In addition, Trevor can be assisted by special companions that he can switch places with at any time — Sypha Belnades, Grant Danasty, and Alucard — who have since become part of the fabric of Castlevania lore.

Konami spent a lot of time fine-tuning the gameplay here, and the result is almost perfect. Musically, Dracula’s Curse also improves on its prequels dramatically, offering up some of the best songs you’re likely to hear in any game, period. Many devoted followers will argue that this NES game is the best in the franchise, while others will be split between Symphony of the Night and Super Castlevania IV. Either way, I think we can all agree that Dracula’s Curse is one of the finest NES titles ever made. (Ricky D)

27) Ninja Gaiden 2: The Dark Sword of Chaos
Developer(s) Tecmo
Publisher(s) Tecmo
Platform(s) NES
Release: April 6, 1990
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Ninja Gaiden 2 is everything a sequel should be and more, improving on the original’s faults while pushing the gameplay forward. Ninja Gaiden 2 features far better graphics, better sound, and slightly less frustrating gameplay than its predecessor. The Nintendo Entertainment System was home to many punishing games, and Ninja Gaiden was one of those games but this sequel isn’t as unforgiving. That’s not to say this game is a walk in the park because it still is difficult but it is much more balanced than in its predecessor, making it more fun to play from start to finish.

The sequel also manages to surpass the original with better level design and allows Ryu the ability to climb walls, run faster, jump further, wield his blade with exceptional speed, and use other special weapons as throwing stars or flame attacks. And let’s not forget the new power-up that creates clones of Ryu who mimic his every action, making him even deadlier. Last Christmas I revisited Ninja Gaiden 2 and despite the amount of time that has passed since the game was first released, it was still a joy to play. Here’s just one of many, many NES games that stand the test of time. (Ricky D)

28) Dr. Mario
Developer(s) Nintendo Research & Development 1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) NES
Release: 27 July 1990
Genre(s) Puzzle

There have been quite a few incredible platforming feats over the many years of Mario games, but his attainment of a license to practice medicine may be the most impressive logic-defying leap the little-mustachioed man has ever pulled off. Dr. Mario is essentially just an attempt at injecting some Nintendo charm into a Tetris-type effort, but its weird concept keeps the derivative gameplay feeling hale and healthy if a little odd. After all, this is a game about a former plumber who somehow became a doctor that fights angry viruses with a variety of multi-colored capsules. How the little misshapen beasties got into his oversized bottle is anyone’s guess, but those pixelated globs look ready to start some trouble, and who better at dealing with mutant weirdos than the guy who stomps sentient mushrooms and flying turtles?

So it’s up to Nintendo’s very own Dr. House to save the day by throwing as many pills at the problem as possible until something sticks, matching the color of the capsules with those of the viruses, which somehow causes them to disappear. It may sound like quackery, but it works, and most importantly is plenty of chaotic fun. However, the real lifeblood of Dr. Mario comes from the multiplayer mode, where two aspiring physicians offer competing treatments, shaming any misdiagnoses with an increase in their opponent’s pill supply. The pace is fast and furious, the premise is absurd, and Dr. Mario is still a great cure for puzzle fans. (Patrick Murphy)

29) Duck Tales
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) NES
Release: September 14, 1989 / JP: January 26, 1990
Genre(s) Platforming

Produced by key personnel from the Mega Man series, DuckTales would go on to sell over a million copies worldwide on both the NES and Gameboy, becoming Capcom’s best-selling title for both platforms. Of all of the games built on Capcom’s famous Mega Man blueprint, Duck Tales is the absolute best, and one of the must-have games in any collector’s library. With Mega Man veterans like Keiji Inafune and Yoshihiro Sakaguchi involved, each level has a unique theme and feel to it, and the controls are easy to master. Gamers take the role of Scrooge McDuck, who travels around the world in search of five treasures to further increase his fortune. If the gamer manages to finish with $10 million in funds, and collects two special hidden treasures, an additional bonus ending can be unlocked.

Furthermore, much like the Mega Man series, you can choose between stages in any order, and with three difficulty settings to choose from, it’s always fun to revisit Duckberg again and again. But seriously, this game is so much fun to play and still looks amazing to this day — without a doubt, it is the best looking game released on the NES. (Ricky D)

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PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice.Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

Greatest Nintendo Games

200 Best Nintendo Games (Part 7) Switch and Play

We finish our countdown the 200 greatest Nintendo games released between 1978 and 2018.

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Here we are, at the tail end of this enormous list. It’s crazy to think that while we came up with a list that features a whopping 200 games, there are still so many games we wish we could have included. As mentioned at the start of this seven-part series, while we did decide to order this chronologically, we did say we would reveal the ranking of the top 20 games as voted by our staff. You can find that ranking down below. Enjoy!

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Part Seven 2010 – 2018

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165) Super Mario Galaxy 2
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: NA: May 23, 2010
Genre(s) Platforming

Few sequels can quite capture the brilliance of their predecessors. Many thought that Nintendo had caught lightning in a bottle when they released the original Super Mario Galaxy in 2007, but 2010’s Super Mario Galaxy 2 set a new bar of excellence for the plumber’s adventures. By incorporating classic elements such as Yoshi, and by creatively imagining new elements such as the Cloud Flower, Nintendo breathed life into the Galaxy series while also maintaining the quality present in the original.

In many ways, Super Mario Galaxy 2 surpasses the original Galaxy. The levels are more creative, the power-ups are more interesting, and the introduction of Yoshi adds creative flair to the level design. The music is equally stunning, matched only by the original Galaxy in its brilliance. Mahito Yokota, Ryo Nagamatsu, and Koji Kondo’s soundtrack embodies the wonder and thrill of space while excellently incorporating classic Super Mario themes.

While some may call it nothing more than DLC for the original, Super Mario Galaxy 2 improves on the first game dramatically while also adding enough inventive, fresh content to make this game the definitive Galaxy experience. (Izsak Barnette)

Characters166) Xenoblade Chronicles
Developer(s) Monolith Soft[a]
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: JP: 10 June 2010 / NA: 6 April 2012
Genre(s) Role-playing

By 2012 the JRPG genre was in steep decline. Intensely rebuking Final Fantasy XIII, fans of the genre looked for a new series to become the standard by which other JRPGs were judged. After an intense localization battle that saw Nintendo recognize consumer demand for Xenoblade Chronicles in North America, the JRPG fanbase was given that chance.

Despite launching while the Wii was being not-so-quietly put out to pasture, Xenoblade Chronicles was a critical hit (pun intended) that shattered expectations and put unknown second party developer Monolith Soft on the map. Headed by famed Japanese game developer Tetsuya Takahashi, Xenoblade Chronicles manages to take Takahashi’s famed talent with exposition and control it, producing one of gaming’s most finely crafted stories in the process.

Whereas Takahashi’s previous titles such as Xenogears and Xenosaga completely embrace the traditional nature of previous JRPGs, Xenoblade took emphasis from Western MMOs, added a finely tuned story, and integrated what ranks as one of gaming’s greatest soundtracks into a hundred hour long epic, refocusing the entire JRPG industry in the process.

From its impressive setting upon the bodies of two deceased titans to its impressive art direction and expressive characters, Xenoblade Chronicles is a masterpiece that needs to be savored from beginning to end, and is well worth the time it takes to uncover its mysteries. (Izsak Barnette)

167) Pokemon Black and White
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) The Pokémon Company
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
Release: JP: September 18, 2010 / NA: March 6, 2011
Genre(s) Role-playing

Pokémon Red and Blue had been fourteen years ago, and since then there had never been a Pokémon game that presented an unpredictable adventure. This was about to change with the release of Pokémon Black and White — a fresh canvas, a new map to explore, and every pokémon on your adventure had never been discovered before.

Game Freak didn’t take this task lightly; around 150 pokémon were added in this generation, some particularly weak in design, but others some of the best in the whole of the franchise. It was a mixed bag, and that’s where it drew its best comparisons with Red and Blue. While the previous generations had attempted to build on top of each other, Black and White began from its own foundations, starting a new era of Pokémon entirely.

Black and White was the first Pokémon game to be inspired by a region outside of Japan — New York to be exact. It was in a sense the first Pokémon game to realize how far the Pokémon franchise had come, and how popular it was worldwide and beyond. While on a technical level it isn’t the strongest generation of Pokémon games, it has a special place in the Pokémon collection for its tenacity to be entirely original from its predecessors. (James Baker)

168) Super Mario 3D Land
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: November 3, 2011 / NA: November 13, 2011
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario 3D Land represents the first 3DS title to make full use of the system’s array of capabilities. With an expertly balanced difficulty progression, dazzling level design, and masterful Power-Ups, this is the ideal 3DS experience. As an experience, Super Mario 3D Land gets deeper the longer you play, as you sink into its particular groove and learn to appreciate it as a unique title — one that is separate from yet beautifully derivative of the entire Mario franchise. As a whole, 3D Land is brilliant and addictive, and does for 3D-enhanced platforming what the original Super Mario Bros. did for 2D platforming. (Katrina Lind)

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169) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: NA: November 20, 2011
Genre(s) Action-adventure

Fans had to know that Nintendo was up to something truly special when they announced that Skyward Sword would officially become the first game in the Legend of Zelda timeline. Fortunately, Nintendo delivered on all of those expectations and more with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. A game that took the revolutionary/gimmicky motion controls of the Wii to their fullest extent, Skyward Sword is almost worth playing as much as a proof of concept as it is for its breathtaking adventure and wholly original take on the Zelda mythos.

Set among a series of floating islands that eventually give way to a shattered world below, Skyward Sword both echoes the world design of one of the best Zelda titles in history in the form of The Wind Waker, and calls to mind the scale of the Final Fantasy series in equal measure. Throw in some gorgeous art design and one of the most concise plots in the franchise, and you’re left with a truly underrated classic, easily one of the best games in the series. (Mike Worby)

170) Pushmo
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Taku Sugioka
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release:  JP: October 5, 2011 / NA: December 8, 2011
Genre(s) Puzzle

Pushmo seems like any other cutesy puzzle game you’d see on the eShop. While that’s true, that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. The best puzzle games are the ones that leave you pondering in enjoyment, rather than frustration, and Pushmo does just that.

The basic objective of Pushmo is to move around blocks in order to rescue the little kids hidden within them. There are a given set of rules and limitations that the player must work in: you can only push or pull blocks, and you can only move up one block space at a time. Pushmo is chock-full of brain-scratching spatial reasoning puzzles. The real difficulty comes from figuring out which order you must move the blocks in order to ascend. Pushmo is simple in concept, but delightfully challenging in practice. (Kyle Rogacion)

Dark_Pit_(Kid_Icarus_Uprising)171) Kid Icarus Uprising
Developer(s) Project Sora
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: 22 March 2012 / NA: 23 March 2012
Genre(s) Third-person shooter

“Sorry to keep you waiting!” With those words Pit jumps on screen with his trusty bow and starts blasting away at Medusa’s Underworld Army. Kid Icarus: Uprising was the first Kid Icarus game released in 25 years, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Masahiro Sakurai, best known for his work on the Super Smash Bros. and Kirby franchises, delivered a gem of a title that’s quirky, silly, and, most importantly, fun.

There’s so much life bursting from the 3DS’ screen when you’re playing Uprising. Pit, Palutena, and the rest of this massive cast are constantly chatting about one thing or another while you fight, with truly hilarious dialogue and occasionally emotional moments. The high speed action can also make you miss out on it, as enemies are always about trashing away at our hero.

Pit is no slouch, however, and he comes prepared with an insane arsenal of customizable weapons that range from massive clubs for melee fighting to long distance staffs. He can use short but powerful claws, versatile blades, and futuristic orbitars as well. In the weapons forgery he can merge different weapons together to create new ones with different special effects, and with a game this tough he’ll need to.

Kid Icarus: Uprising’s control scheme gave some players trouble, but once mastered, using the stylus to both spin the bottom screen and aim becomes second nature. It’s definitely worth taking the time as well, as Pit’s welcome home party is one of the best games Nintendo has released this century. (Tyler Kelbaugh) 

172) Fire Emblem Awakening
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems Nintendo SPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: April 19, 2012 / NA: February 4, 2013
Genre(s) Strategy

Fire Emblem: Awakening could have been the last entry in the Fire Emblem franchise. Intelligent Systems was told that if the game didn’t sell over 250,000 copies, the niche strategy series would have its plug pulled. With that in mind, the team decided to throw every new idea they had out there when developing Awakening, while also paying homage to past entries.

The result was one of the best games ever made, along with over two million copies sold. Fire Emblem: Awakening made smart additions to the tried-and-true formula to make the game appeal to casual and hardcore fans alike. This blend can be seen in all facets, be it story beats, character archetypes, or gameplay mechanics. While retaining series staples like the Weapons Triangle, support conversations, and permadeath, Awakening simplifies things for new players through the addition of casual mode. This mode turns permadeath off, and lets players focus more on the story and character development.

More than any Fire Emblem game before it, Awakening focuses on character development. It brings back Genealogy of the Holy War‘s marriage system, letting players marry their soldiers off to one another, which results in their child joining the army. These bonds between characters and player make each risky maneuver in battle that much more difficult to go through with. However, even this system toed the line between casual and hardcore, as players could marry based on which couples they thought went well together or on how they could maximize the stats of each child character.

After Fire Emblem: Awakening, the series became one of Nintendo’s most prized IPs. Since its release in 2013, the franchise has seen several highly successful releases and spin offs. It’s one of the 3DS’ greatest success stories, as well as one of its very best titles. (Tyler Kelbaugh)

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173) Animal Crossing: A New Leaf
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Isao Moro
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: November 8, 2012 / NA: June 9, 2013
Genre(s) Social simulation

Animal Crossing as a whole is a marvel. A celebration of the mundane, it’s an impossibly gripping, quirky, and quaint franchise in which you move to a new town, expand a house, pay off a mortgage, make friends, make money, and ultimately make merry in a charming beyond reason, microcosmic escapade where all neighbors and natives are animals. Full of life and heart, its easy to get lost in the world of Animal Crossing, a world where every day feels new, that persists on its own, and provides an escape into a second home for the player, where trivial tasks and chores are fun and there’s always something to do. Animal Crossing: New Leaf provides all of this in spades, handily rebottling the lightning of its predecessors, while adeptly earning its subtitle, in particular, the “new” part. New Leaf simultaneously refines enormous quantities of the Animal Crossing experience, making for one of the least obtrusive, thoroughly appealing games of our time, easy to play and impossibly difficult to find fault with. The franchise’s historical hiccups have been halted with New Leaf; fruit can be stacked, fossils can be donated in bulk — almost every minor grievance I can think of has been ironed out and removed. New Leaf is Animal Crossing at its finest, while providing much more of what players love, with more to collect, decorate with, and achieve.

As mentioned, New Leaf earns its adjective. By allowing the player to act as mayor, players can not only inject their personalities into their home and decorations, but can customize the town they inhabit as well. From the town layout, including the location of the player’s home, to town projects and sights, to the implementation of expected establishments like a police station, players can have a hand in it all, giving one more avenue of growth and customization, all while preserving the simplicity and painlessness of play Animal Crossing is known for. The door to customization has been opened wider than ever before, inside and out. The exterior of player’s homes can be altered beyond just paint jobs, and certain interior furniture can be customized and reupholstered by the alpaca Cyrus at the Re-Tail store. There are more furniture sets to collect and clothing to adorn than ever before, including Nintendo items stored within fortune cookies. No house is complete without a Master Sword, Tri Force, and Majora’s Mask. There’s also more to do than ever before, with players now open to go swimming and diving for more species. Perhaps best of all, the world of New Leaf is a semi-shared world in which players can visit the homes of other players thanks to the 3DS’ StreetPass function, and even order evasive catalogue items they see within. The world of Animal Crossing: New Leaf is truly the player’s oyster, with limitless things to do and collect, something new to discover every day, all tailored to the player fulfilling the fun role of mayor. Endlessly entertaining and unbelievably ironed out, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is not only the best Animal Crossing title, its one of Nintendo’s best games plain and simple. (Tim Maison)

174) Bravely Default
Developer(s) Silicon Studio
Publisher(s) Square Enix
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: October 11, 2012
Genre(s) Role-playing

Back in the early days of the 3DS, Square Enix announced a brand new title called Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies, a title that had even the most ardent of JRPG fans scratching their heads. The title was eventually given the slightly less confusing moniker Bravely Default: Flying Fairy and released for the West in 2014. Once in the wild, Bravely Default proved, convoluted title or not, to be a return to form that JRPG fans had been wanting.

Bravely Default takes many cues from classic Final Fantasy games, such as a job system for each character, and a story that heavily revolves around crystals and light vs. dark. The titular Brave and Default system allows players to stock turns in favor of unleashing a flurry of actions in a single phase, allowing for the setup of devastating combos, and combined with the expansive job system, also allows for a flexibility that encourages the player to actively seek ways to break the game with various party set ups and turn combos.

While opinions on the story are highly polarized, it is one that is arguably unique from its JRPG compatriots. The characters are dynamic and likeable, and are crafted in such a meticulous manner you can’t help but cheer them on through all their trials and tribulations. The inspiring soundtrack further emphasizes the feelings of being on a heroic adventure to save the world.

Bravely Default is like coming back to vanilla ice cream after many years of eating anything but. After trying the increasingly complicated flavors on the market, the simplicity of vanilla is refreshing and a solid reminder of why it’s the king of ice cream to begin with. (Matthew Ponthier)

175) New Super Mario Bros. U
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s)) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: NA: November 18, 2012
Genre(s) Platforming

Released as a launch title for the Wii U in late 2012, New Super Mario Bros. U seemed destined to disappoint gamers eagerly awaiting a third entry in the Super Mario Galaxy series. As the fourth New Super Mario Bros. game in six years, and with the least amount of new content, New Super Mario Bros. U has faced an uphill battle to gain the recognition that it rightfully deserves. Shunned by the public and decried by gamers as Nintendo simply cashing in on existing assets, New Super Mario Bros. U is well worth the time and energy it takes to recognize its greatness.

While it may lack originality, New Super Mario Bros. U more than makes up for it by executing what is perhaps Mario’s most tightly constructed 2D platforming adventure yet. Balancing expertly the scales of difficulty and accessibility, the game manages to appeal to newcomers and veterans alike, and the Star Coin challenges are some of the finest in the New Super Mario Bros. series. That, coupled with a truly beautiful HD and sixty fps presentation, cement this as not only the best traditional New Super Mario Bros. game, but also one of the Wii U’s best outings. (Izsak Barnette)

176) Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
Developer(s) Next Level Games / Nintendo SPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: March 20, 2013 / NA: March 24, 2013
Genre(s) Adventure, Horror

The main idea that Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon brought to the forefront is the idea that Luigi and other Mario Bros. characters aren’t forgotten. Mario tends to overshadow Luigi quite often, and Luigi is left being the “lesser brother.” Even when Luigi set off on his own adventure in Luigi’s Mansion over a decade ago, he still was defined by Mario, somehow capsulized with an entire button dedicated to calling out Mario’s name.

Dark Moon is important because it shows gamers and Mario Bros. fans that Luigi is an important character on his own. What’s fun about Luigi is not just that he’s important, but that he is distinct. He has a personality and is afraid of ghosts, and in addition to rescuing his brother, he overcomes his own fears. That in itself is the closest Nintendo gets to personal journeys and character arcs.

Dark Moon also contains non traditional gameplay that doesn’t operate like typical Nintendo games. The use of gadgets and tools that are very nontraditional, primarily the use flashlights and vacuums, and they help make this game also extremely replayable. While the first Luigi’s Mansion had you play through the entire game only to grade you (which was frustrating for completionists), Dark Moon is split into much more manageable missions. You get graded for what are more like 10 or 20 minute chunks. It does a really good job of converting a home console experience to a portable system without sacrificing the gameplay that made it fun in the first place. It actually gives the game a bit more focus and momentum than it’s predecessor. Dark Moon is also the closest Nintendo will ever get to making a Resident Evil game.

177) Pikmin 3
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: July 13, 2013 / NA: August 4, 2013
Genre(s) Real-time strategy

Gorgeous greens and subtle blues paint the beautiful world of PNF-404, an emotionally aggravating planet of wondrous wilderness filled with exotic life forms. As an alien that’s exhausted all resources on your home planet, you visit merely to exploit it. The incredibly cute but helplessly naive creatures called Pikmin follow you curiously like you’re their messiah sent from the heavens. They will fight for you, protect you, and sometimes even die for you and your selfish cause. The poignant connection you establish with the Pikmin only make the game more uneasy, as you watch them often be devoured by the predators of the planet. Your march through the luscious forests and the ponderous ponds, in search of the cosmic drive key to send you and a bountiful of fruit back to your home planet, is a treacherous task; you’ll need the Pikmin help to solve the puzzles. The addition of more species of Pikmin, with new abilities such as flight, create much more complicated puzzles than the previous installments. (James Baker)

SI_3DSDS_ShinMegamiTenseiIV

178) Shin Megami Tensei IV
Developer(s) Atlus
Publisher(s) Atlus
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: May 23, 2013 / NA: July 16, 2013
Genre(s) Role-playing

Shin Megami Tensei IV brings demon taming on the go in what is without a doubt one of the biggest adventures on the 3DS. ATLUS had been putting spin-off titles and remakes of older MegaTen titles on the DS and 3DS for a while, but SMTIV’s reveal was met with mixed reaction. Having a mainline MegaTen on a portable seems like a cheap cop-out, especially when the last numbered game on the PlayStation 2 still looks pretty good almost a decade and a half later. Platform is not a testament to quality though, and Shin Megami Tensei IV feels perfect on the 3DS.

SMTIV is good 30-40 hour adventure through the hellscape of a demon-ravaged Tokyo. It’s a concept almost every MegaTen game has used, but IV still finds a way to make it feel unique. Past games have had the player in true isolation, with humanity almost completely wiped out, but IV sticks you in a world where humans have found a way to stay alive and struggle. This translates well with the social aspects of the 3DS, and it makes sense that you can bump into other demon tamers and exchange creatures through street pass. Side quests have you exploring alternate plotlines and discovering difficult moral situations. Shin Megami Tensei IV is a wonderful 3DS RPG, and it serves to show exactly what the upcoming MegaTen game on the Switch could potentially deliver. (Taylor Smith)

Wonderful 101

179) The Wonderful 101
Developer(s) PlatinumGames
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: August 24, 2013 / NA: September 15, 2013
Genre(s) Action-adventure

Few games symbolize the Wii U experience better than The Wonderful 101. Charming in its joyful exuberance, yet occasionally clunky in execution, this gonzo action-spectacular from Platinum Games tries a bit of everything, assaulting the player with eye-popping sensory overload while experimenting with a variety of gameplay options made possible by the gamepad. Inspired by tokusatsu, the story has players in control of an ever-expanding team of color-coded superheroes known as The Wonderful 100 (guess who the extra hero is), each with a special power that allows them all to unite like Voltron into a larger form, usually a powerful weapon of some sort, and take on the bad guys. When a race of hilariously evil lizard aliens (cheesily named GEATH JERK) attempts to invade Earth, the United Nations secret service, CENTINELS, tasks a mild-mannered school teacher also known as Wonder Red with leading the group in defense of a planet under siege.

The main draw of The Wonderful 101 is the sheer zaniness of it all, with epic battles against armies of giant robots laying waste to isometric cityscapes by blowing up everything they come across in truly spectacular fashion, panicked citizens fleeing like ants in every direction who must be corralled and rescued, and outrageous set piece after outrageous set piece, from leading kids through a train of flaming school buses under attack by a mechanized three-headed dragon, to getting shrunk and going full-on Innerspace before squashing a malicious bug atop a keyboard. It’s as weird to describe as it is to play, but the fun Platinum clearly had making this game is infectious. Heroes and villains are portrayed in such slapstick broadness that even silly stereotypes can elicit a grin, and dialogue is a nice combination of stupid and witty. The action suffers some from awkward symbol drawing that doesn’t work smoothly no matter how one does it, and when the camera switches to the gamepad it’s easy to get lost, but at least The Wonderful 101 tries for something new, even if it doesn’t always succeed with flying superhero colors. With a full complement of characters onscreen, the chaos can sometimes be overwhelming, but those having problems with the sometimes finicky touch controls or Bayonetta-like combos can simply tone down the difficulty level and enjoy the dazzling fireworks show. For fans of B-movie insanity, it’s completely worth it. (Patrick Murphy)

180) Pokemon X & Y
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) The Pokémon Company
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: WW: October 12, 2013
Genre(s) Role-playing video game

Pokémon X and Y is perhaps one of the most underrated Pokémon titles. Much like Pokémon Gold and Silver, it did much work in balancing out the mechanics in the strategy aspect of the game. The introduction of the Fairy-type really helped weaken the dominance of the Dragon-type, and strengthened the offensive abilities of Steel and Poison types, which are both usually used defensively. This, coupled with the introduction of Mega Evolution, shaped a different kind of competitive Pokémon scene.

The storyline is typical of Pokémon from the last few generations: a gang of misguided thugs want to destroy and create a new world in their own image. While that’s its weakest contribution, Pokémon X and Y introduces some of the best new pokémon designs to the franchise, including some of the mega evolutions. Greninja has become one of the most popular, confirmed by its inclusion in the Super Smash Bros. franchise. Hawlucha is a firm fan favorite, and as for a personal opinion, Goomy is the cutest Dragon-type of all time. Mega evolutions also really help change the dynamics of battle. Suddenly, a Mega-Venusaur with its ability Thick Fat would be able to wipe out Fire-types without too much of a struggle. Mega-Ampharos has the additional Dragon-type added and its strategy changed with it.

Pokémon X and Y was a quiet revolution within the franchise. While the storyline didn’t change and the journey followed the same formula, there were subtle changes brought in that would pave the path to Pokémon Sun and Moon. In effect, X and Y gave Game Freak the confidence to experiment with the formula further, something that the Pokémon franchise had needed for a long time. (James Baker)

181) The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: EU: November 22, 2013 / NA: November 22, 2013
Genre(s) Action-adventure

Nintendo has always been skilled at linking to the past while looking to the future, creating a bridge to franchise evolution, and that philosophy has rarely been better realized than with the 3DS’ The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. A sequel of sorts to the seminal SNES classic, this adventure covers basically the same physical ground, but takes much of the established franchise elements of the last 20 years and chucks them out the window. By ditching dungeon rewards and instead allowing players to rent (with the later option to buy) the hookshot, bow, boomerang, three magic rods, and every other weapon or tool usually reserved as a prize, Nintendo was able to concentrate on what the beloved series used to do best: exploration. The freedom to go wherever one wanted in a Zelda game was a concept so old that it was almost novel, and A Link Between Worlds was a breath of fresh air — at least before the next one came along.

Thanks to impeccable puzzle designs, a lively world full of character, and a brilliant mechanic that sees Link turn himself into a 2D painting that can traverse walls in order to solve puzzles and reach new areas, the game still is. A Link Between Worlds invokes nostalgia in order to mess with fans’ minds, using its new gameplay concepts to twist them into thinking outside the box, producing some of the best “aha!” moments in the series. Gorgeous top-down visuals make the old new again, tight controls are ever-so-satisfying, and a clever story plays on expectations, but The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds best lives up to its title by bridging the gap between the comforting formula of days gone by and the promise of exciting things to come for Nintendo’s hallowed franchise. (Patrick Murphy)

Super Mario 3D World182) Super Mario 3D World
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Tokyo / 1-UP Studio
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: November 21, 2013 / NA: November 22, 2013
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario 3D World had a lot to live up to at its launch. The previous three 3D Mario titles on N64, GameCube, and Wii had all cleverly innovated on (or in Super Mario 64’s case, even invented) the traditional 3D platformer. As a follow-up to the critically acclaimed Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3DS, Super Mario 3D World wasn’t the 3D Mario game that gamers expected, but it proved subtly brilliant, providing the Wii U with one of its finest titles in the process.

From the adorable Super Bell, which transforms Mario and Co. into lovable catsuit-wearing adventurers, to the story-book plot involving Bowser kidnapping the Sprixies, every aspect of Super Mario 3D World feels cozy. Expertly designed landscapes beautifully rendered in high definition complement the charm evident from the game’s inception. Such beautiful design, combined with a spectacular jazz-inspired score and excellent controls, cement what is one of the best 3D Mario games to date. (Izsak Barnette)

donkey_kong_country_tropical_freeze_conceptart_jLF12183) Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze
Developer(s) Retro Studios
Monster Games
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: February 14, 2014 / NA: February 21, 2014
Genre(s) Platforming

Good things do come in big packages. The trick for any game developer is to find the small game within the big one, which is exactly what Retro Studios did with Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. Tropical Freeze is the fifth Donkey Kong Country sidescroller, the second made by Nintendo’s Austin, Texas-based studio, and some would argue the best of the bunch. The game doesn’t deviate much from the established formula, but Retro Studios has done more with this latest DKC than a simple change of scenery. The most striking improvement is that Donkey Kong is in HD for the very first time, and he looks great. But don’t be fooled by its beauty; Tropical Freeze is a tough platformer, seemingly designed to frustrate even the most gifted gamers. Here is a game made with wit and excitement, boasting plenty of moments of visionary beauty, but also a game that will drive you mad. I lost count keeping track of the number of times I died while playing, but it was all worth it.

Tropical Freeze‘s six islands contain some tense challenges and lots of unique level ideas. Each level delivers a sense of scale that feels bigger than most two-dimensional games, and the constant switches and level variety keeps it fresh and interesting throughout. Tropical Freeze is full of astonishment, thrills, chills, spills, kills, and ills. The lengthy boss fights and the multitude of well-placed secrets and collectibles stand out as some of the best parts of the game, and like many Wii U titles, Freeze also features a couch multiplayer mode where player two can choose between Diddy, Dixie Kong, and Cranky Kong. Meanwhile, original series composer David Wise returned to create one of the best video game soundtracks of this generation. Brawling, magnificent, heroic: that’s Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze. (Ricky D)

184) Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
Developer(s) Level-5
Publisher(s) JP: Level-5
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: February 28, 2013 / NA: February 28, 2014
Genre(s) Puzzle, Adventure

Given that Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy was the sixth and final installment of this wonderfully unique series, you’d be forgiven for supposing developer Level-5 would have run out of ideas by the time The Azran Legacy released in early 2013. However, while it’s true it wasn’t quite as challenging as some of its predecessors, The Azran Legacy nevertheless marks the high point of the amiable archaeologist’s string of whimsical, puzzle-fuelled adventures. The story is more compelling than ever, with a mysterious ancient civilisation, a cast of quirky yet endearing characters, an all-powerful crime syndicate, and the threat of humanity’s imminent destruction providing a level of intrigue never before seen in a Professor Layton game. And it’s this, combined with an utterly gorgeous cel-shaded art style that’s every bit as beautiful as a Studio Ghibli film, as well as a handful of quality of life enhancements, that makes The Azran Legacy such a joy to play.
Indeed, as much as I love Pandora’s Box and The Spectre’s Call, The Azran Legacy exemplifies everything that’s brilliant about the Professor Layton series. (John Websell)

185) Mario Kart 8
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Release: NA: May 30, 2014
Genre(s) Kart racing

Despite being an old dog with few new tricks, the Mario Kart formula is inherently fun, still consistently entertaining after all these years, and while Mario Kart 8 doesn’t try to shake anything up too much, it refines those elements to create one of the best entries the franchise has to offer. Building upon successful elements of its predecessors, Mario Kart 8 delivers a slew of fantastic courses — half new and half remastered from previous titles, each designed to perfection and shown off via some of the most beautiful visuals to be found on the Wii U, or anywhere else. Thanks to a seemingly endless amount of customization available for karts, power sliding through the deliciously caked roads of Sweet Sweet Canyon or across the neon keys of the Electrodrome feels as smooth as silk, and new anti-gravity boosts help turn an otherwise fairly superficial addition into something strategic.

Any tactical advantage will be necessary when going head to head with the top drivers in Mario Kart 8‘s robust online community, even with the sometimes crazy nature of lead changes the series is known for. Luckily, a local friend can be brought along to help (or fire a red shell into your back), extending the options for couch co-op and highlighting even more what makes Mario Kart so special: local multiplayer. Using lightning to shrink up to three of your pals, then mercilessly running them over and seeing their obscenity-laced reactions because they’re actually in the same room doesn’t get any better. This party aspect remains a huge part of why the franchise has had such lasting appeal after seven sequels, and the near-flawless experience provided here surely guarantees that streak will continue. Gorgeous, precise, maddening, joyous, with one of the catchiest soundtracks around and incredible DLC, it’s no wonder that Mario Kart 8 is one of the best games on the Wii U. (Patrick Murphy)

SuperSmashBros5186) Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Developer(s) Bandai Namco Games / Sora Ltd.
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS, Wii U
Release: JP: September 13, 2014 / NA: October 3, 2014
Genre(s) Fighting

Masahiro Sakurai really outdid himself with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, giving fans of the series just about everything they could want and more. It’d be easy to criticize the Super Smash Bros. series for having changed so little since its debut three console generations ago, but putting aside the problematic online mode, Smash delivers more fighters, more stages, more songs, more moves, more modes, more everything! There is a laundry list of things to love about Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and topping the list is the game’s confidence, which allows it to cater to anyone who might be interested in duking it out with Nintendo’s beloved character roster. This version is perfect for beginners and experts alike, and features a lineup of more than 50 mascots from Nintendo, Sega, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Square-Enix, and more.

Just as impressive as the character roster is the arena line-up, with over 50 beautifully crafted stages (counting DLC) from which to choose. These stages provide the perfect battling ground, and in some cases, the arena will fight back. Smash Wii U is the great equalizer of games — one that embraces the series’ hyper-competitive side, all the while still managing to deliver one of the most enjoyable party games in years. It’s a bottomless toy box, never getting old, and much like the very best Wii U games, Smash is the best game to play with family and friends. And this time around, you can play with up to eight players. What more can you ask for? (Ricky D)

Bayonetta3

187) Bayonetta 2
Developer(s) PlatinumGames
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Yusuke Hashimoto
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: September 20, 2014 / NA: October 24, 2014
Genre(s) Action, Hack ‘n’ slash

One of the most un-Nintendo games to be published by Nintendo also just happens to be one of the best. Platinum’s Bayonetta 2 came to the Wii U with both boot-guns ablaze, showing the family-friendly console how to let its hair down and have a sexy good time, in the process improving on nearly every aspect of the original (which was included as a bonus in 1st edition physical copies). Taking on the cherub-faced archangels of heaven and the twisted demons of hell never looked or felt so good, and though the story is full of just as much intelligible nonsense as the warrior witch’s first go-around, there’s a certain charm in the supremely confident, wink-wink attitude in which Bayonetta struts through the ridiculousness. She may have a new haircut, some gruesome new Torture Attacks, and the ecstasy of the Umbran Climax, but that same rebellious spirit and penchant for wanton destruction remain.

Bayonetta 2 feels like a fireworks grand finale from start to finish, a gleeful celebration of bonkers action and cheeseball dialogue. Razor-sharp gameplay finishes it off, allowing both skilled veterans and first-timers alike to derive as much pleasure from the combat system as they’d like. If you’re looking for an action-spectacular full of insane battles atop speeding jet fighters, panther-surfing through a tidal wave, demigods duking it out like Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, peppered with chuckle-worthy double entendres throughout, Bayonetta 2 cannot be missed. One of the best titles on Wii U, and on any Nintendo console, period. (Patrick Murphy)

188) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Release:  JP: November 13, 2014
Genre(s) Puzzle

It speaks to the quality of Super Mario 3D World that a series of puzzles within the game would be brilliant enough to deserve their own standalone title. Far from something that could’ve been DLC, however, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker completely overhauled the concepts found in 3D World to form its own fully realized puzzle experience.

What most noticeably separates Treasure Tracker from any of the mainline Mario games is the Captain’s inability to jump. This limitation manages to give birth to some truly creative and varied level design. Be it having to time movements to musical cues or needing to have a perfect run across crumbling platforms while avoiding enemies, Treasure Tracker manages to keep players on their toes across the entirety of its 70 or so puzzles. Nintendo also smartly implemented its difficulty scaling measures from the 3D Mario games, making each level simple enough for a beginner to beat, while providing a serious challenge for more seasoned gamers via hidden collectibles.

Perhaps even more than the smart puzzle solving gameplay and impressive level design, Treasure Tracker oozes polish and charm. The game’s visuals continue to rival some of Nintendo’s current offerings, and the character animations are so well done that one can’t help but fall in love with Captain Toad and Toadette. If you enjoy a smart puzzler with cute characters and plenty of content, you owe it to yourself to try this gem of a title. (Brent Middleton)

Splatoonfggdfdsdf189) Splatoon
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: 28 May 2015
Genre(s) Third-person shooter

An untraditional console needs an untraditional standard-bearer, and so Splatoon just may end up being the game that most defines the Wii U. Instead of racking up kills, the goal of regular battles is to cover as much of the area in your team’s ink as possible, while preventing the opposing side from doing the same. Leave it to Nintendo to create not only an online multiplayer shooter where aiming your gun at another player isn’t the way to win, but also generating some refreshing inclusiveness in a genre noted for being harsh on newcomers. Part of this brilliance lies in the game’s accessibility: though some players may not have the precision sniping skills to pick off their half-squid/half-human mutant opponents one by one, reveling in the gurgling death throes, anyone can pick up a paint roller and cover the ground in inky goodness. This doesn’t mean that smart tactics and expertise aren’t rewarded, but instead that no one is useless, coldly abandoned by their mates to simply become stats for the enemy. Technique still reigns supreme on the battlefield, but at least rookies aren’t simply relegated to cannon fodder. Quick matches also keep things moving along, ensuring that those getting painted into a corner won’t have to endure the punishment for long, and a wealth of other modes cater to all skill levels and play types. Anyone can have fun making a glorious mess in Splatoon, and this philosophy is a huge part of what makes it so special.

The rest of the credit goes to some of the most satisfying gameplay found this side of a Mario game. Rarely does the simple act of controlling a game’s avatar feel this good, but the intuitive controls in Splatoon entice players to keep running, jumping, and swimming through globby battle after globby battle long after bedtime. The ability to dive into the murky splatter to cruise underneath fences and up walls, creating one’s own path with nothing more than the standard ammunition, opens up arenas to all sorts of approaches, providing big payoffs to those who ink outside the box. This freedom of movement, coupled with the multiple weapon types with strengths and weaknesses that all feel distinct, leads to a sense of gleeful liberation, turning matches into less a predatory competition than delightful chaos, where surprises lurk under the surface and the restricting rules of “hardcore” gaming are thrown out the window in favor of utter enjoyment. In the end, Splatoon is destined to be looked upon as the hallowed beginning of a (non) killer franchise, an experience that ranks among the best on the Wii U. (Patrick Murphy)

190) Fire Emblem Fates
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo SPD
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: June 25, 2015
Genre(s) Strategy

The brutality to the battlefield returns, and the side you choose determines your fate. Your soldiers are ready, your swords sharpened, and your arrows are plenty. All that awaits is the decision of defense or conquest. Whatever you decide, the kingdoms of Hoshido and Nohr will change forever. Fire Emblem: Fates brings some of the most compelling stories to the franchise, boasting three different games with three different scenarios. Birthright is seen as the best of the three for a beginner, with a much easier playthrough. Conquest is the most challenging, and the DLC Revelations lies somewhere in between.

The complex moralities surrounding the three games leave you with more questions than answers, participant in a tale of clashing bloodlines where the uncomfortable middle is your unfortunate situation. Conquest remains the better of the three games, with its darker shade of gray tone that uncomfortably leads you to follow the bloodthirsty King Garon, whose missions seem to punish rather than test you.

The turn-based style of battle remains its biggest strength. The game of chess absorbs you into a perfectionist’s nightmare, with one wrong move able to cost you the entire battle. This endearing style of strategy game has kept Fire Emblem alive and well for over three decades, and the intricacy of the battle leaves a devastating beauty to each critical moment. There’s no right or wrong adventure; each journey will leave you wanting more. (James Baker)

Super Mario Maker 2191) Super Mario Maker
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: September 10, 2015 / NA: September 11, 2015
Genre(s) Platforming

As the name might suggest, Super Mario Maker allows players to make their own Super Mario Bros. levels — specifically, levels that fit within the aesthetics of four games in the series: Super Mario Bros.Super Mario Bros. 3Super Mario Worldand the recent New Super Mario Bros. U. Creating levels can be a daunting task, but what helps Super Mario Maker stand apart from other games like LittleBigPlanet is how easy it really is. Super Mario Maker keeps things simple by removing complicated elements like logic programming, and features an incredibly accessible level construction kit that anyone can easily enjoy.

The well-designed interface makes learning easy, and once you are finished, you can share your creations online with a passionate community of fans from around the world. And that is what makes Super Mario Maker so great — the play hub, where you can simply enjoy Mario Maker levels made by other people. With such an active and passionate community, Super Mario Maker has provided Wii U owners with countless hours of gaming. Whether creating, exploring, watching others play and create, or just playing other people’s levels, Mario Maker has provided us with an exceptional experience, all while offering insight into three decades of platforming brilliance. (Ricky D)

192) Xenoblade Chronicles X
Developer(s) Monolith Soft
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: April 29, 2015 / NA: December 4, 2015
Genre(s) Role-playing

Arriving some years after the acclaimed Xenoblade ChroniclesXenoblade Chronicles X sees Monolith Soft throwing a curveball, combining the fantasy lore of its predecessor with a slick science fiction narrative that puts lasers and giant robots in the spotlight. Whilst many disapprove of such a direction, those that are on board with the alteration in formula can discover an expansive world that is begging to be explored, overflowing to the brim with an eclectic variety of creatures and environments. The addictively satisfying combat of Xenoblade Chronicles makes a much welcome return, alongside the brand new addition of Skells, ginormous mecha that can be piloted by your team of characters.

Being useful for fast paced exploration (including vertical traversal that is otherwise impossible on foot) of the aforementioned expansive world, alongside launching preposterously powerful attacks upon your opponents, the fully customisable Skells transform Xenoblade Chronicles X, an already enjoyable experience, into a truly wonderful one. Whilst it may stumble along the way due to its mediocre narrative, an overabundance of forgettable side quests, and various technical issues, Xenoblade Chronicles X scores top marks in the categories of ambition, creativity, and playtime (sinking one hundred hours into its wealth of activities is a breeze). (Harry Morris)

193) Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Developer(s) Atlus
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: December 26, 2015 / NA/EU: June 24, 2016
Genre(s) Role-playing

What makes Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE so special is the fact that it merges two of Japan’s biggest RPG franchises, Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei. Both series have had success on Nintendo consoles, and watching them come together masterfully in one game is something truly special.

The story of Tokyo Mirage Sessions is at its core very reminiscent of previous Atlus titles, with a focus on teens, relationships, and otherworldly monsters and demons.  However, Fire Emblem‘s hand in the narrative is never put in second place, as both franchises share the spotlight. Fan favorites like Chrom and Tharja make appearances as the protagonists summon (or as they’re called in the game, mirages). These mirages help develop the plot as well as provide an interesting dynamic in combat. What’s more, the game’s focus on pop stars and the entertainment industry means that every attack is attached to some dance move or musical note. This creates a vibrant, exciting, and engaging battle system that is both unfamiliar and oddly reminiscent of previous Atlus RPGs.

As with the Fire Emblem franchise, crafting and acquiring new gear both play pivotal roles in progressing through Tokyo Mirage Sessions. This also allows the player to tailor their team’s combat skills to their liking. Every member of the player’s party fights differently, but by utilizing newfound gear and abilities, the characters can play off each others’ strengths and weaknesses. As with most Japanese RPGs, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE takes a decent amount of time to get into, but the slog through the first few hours is well worth what comes after. With a diverse cast of characters and the intriguing backdrop of the Japanese entertainment industry, it’s hard for Mirage Sessions to disappoint. (Carston Carasella)

194) Pokemon Sun and Moon
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) The Pokémon Company
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: November 18, 2016
Genre(s) Role-playing

The formula for every Pokémon game before had been the same. Ten-year-old kid goes to the professor to get his/her first pokémon, challenges eight gyms, defeats an evil gang and then becomes league champion. The latest generation, Pokémon Sun and Moon, was the first to deviate from the traditional narrative and became a successful experiment within the franchise.

This time, Pokémon introduced trials whereby the player has to defeat a totem pokémon to earn a z-crystal. The trials were actually much more challenging than the gyms – other than Whitney – in the last Pokémon games. The difference was Pokémon Sun and Moon introduced the ability for wild pokémon to call for help. Totem pokémon count as wild pokémon, just the player is unable to catch them. This meant on the second turn, the totem pokémon would call for help and would often capture the attention of a pokémon that can really assist its strengths. This put strategy at the heart of the storyline for the first time, where sweeping gyms with an over-powered Blastoise wouldn’t cut it.

The z-crystals had an actual use other than entry to the Pokémon League, initiating a powerful move that could be used once per battle. This essentially replaced Mega Evolution from Pokémon X and Y as the gimmick of the generation, a gimmick that was admittedly a bit of a novelty and didn’t have the same strategic effect as Mega Evolution did. The other change was the introduction of Ultra Beasts, pokémon from another dimension. The added to the complexity of the Pokémon World as a whole, setting the scene for endless creativity in the next generation. Pokémon Sun and Moon won’t be the most iconic Pokémon title, but it was the most ambitious at changing the routine. (James Baker)

195) Fire Emblem Heroes
Developer(s) Nintendo EPD, Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) iOS, Android
Release: February 2, 2017
Genre(s) Strategy

While Pokémon Go wasn’t strictly a Nintendo game, and so couldn’t be included on the list, it seemed to inspire Nintendo to enter the mobile market. First came Super Mario Run, which was a steady start to their mobile ambition, but then came Fire Emblem Heroes, and it leapt Nintendo into new territory entirely.

In reality, Fire Emblem Heroes simplified the franchise to make it available for everyone, which (to be honest) was the perfect strategy for a mobile game. Introducing the basic Fire Emblem mechanics to a wider audience helped draw new people to one of Nintendo’s less well known franchises.

Fire Emblem Heroes works on a ‘gacha’ system; essentially obtaining a new hero is determined by a vending machine, meaning what hero you get is completely luck based. The player earns orbs, which can be spent on the random generating of a new hero, each with a different skill and leveland therefore varying degrees of usefulness. In many ways this a typical mobile game with its addictive nature, keeping the player gambling on obtaining a useful hero; however, this is not Fire Emblem Heroes’ legacy. Its legacy is the newfound popularity of the Fire Emblem franchise, introducing a world of new people to its rock-paper-scissors style strategy. Fire Emblem Heroes is just a spectacular start into Nintendo’s mobile ambitions. (James Baker)

bOTW

196) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developer(s) Nintendo EPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo Switch, Wii U
Release: WW: March 3, 2017
Genre(s) Action-adventure

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterclass in open-world design, and with its release comes a true watershed moment in gaming history. The result is nothing less than magical. It artfully blends the best bits of the franchise’s thirty-plus year history and produces a sandbox so full of mystery and so full of adventure, it could take you well over 100 hours to uncover most of its secrets. What we have here is the most ambitious title in the history of the franchise, an epic journey that quivers with anticipation, wonder, surprise and excitement. It never gets old. It never gets tiring. There’s not a minute that goes by in which you’ll want to put down the controller, because Breath of the Wild keeps players constantly curious and fascinated by the world around them. There’s truly something unusually haunting and engrossing about the game, and whatever your opinion on the Nintendo Switch, Breath of the Wild is arguably one of the greatest games ever made.

Since its arrival in 1986, the Zelda series has always pushed the technical boundaries of whatever console it has graced, and Breath of the Wild continues this tradition (times two). Epic, mythic, and simply terrific, Breath of the Wild brings a new kind of experience to fans across the globe. In return, it demands your attention. It’s a landmark in video games such that labeling it a masterpiece almost seems inevitable. In the end, however, most of what makes Breath of the Wild so beloved is Nintendo’s determination to constantly challenge themselves while crafting an unforgettable experience that also doubles as a commentary on the freedom of playing on the Switch. That a game of this magnitude can be playable anywhere you go is a remarkable feat. (Ricky D)

197) Splatoon 2
Developer(s) Nintendo EPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo Switch
Release: July 21, 2017
Genre(s) Third-person shooter

The first Splatoon gave us a new way to play multiplayer shooters, a genre that sometimes feels stale. Two years later, Splatoon 2 doesn’t revitalize shooters all over again, but instead refines Nintendo’s unusual, brilliant take. Splatoon 2 carries with it the brightly inked world design and amazingly fluid mechanics of the first game. Nintendo could have simply ported the original game to the Switch, but they decided to build upon that for the game’s release on the Switch. What the first Splatoon did so well is still built into the sequel’s mechanics and gameplay, but now the game is wholly available on a system that you can play on the couch or on the go, which is a great way to play Splatoon.

It’s baffling that Splatoon 2‘s best feature is held back by a frustrating lack of proper online support, and in many ways it’s the same game with some new tricks, but there are still enough imaginative additions for anyone who played the first game to death. Another reason the game still continuously feels fresh is the added additions by Nintendo that are growing more substantial in each update. It may be much more of the same, but Splatoon 2 is wholly addicting, fun, and still fresh. (Katrina Lind)

198) Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Developer(s) Ubisoft Paris / Ubisoft Milan
Publisher(s) Ubisoft
Platform(s) Nintendo Switch
Release: 29 August 2017
Genre(s) Turn-based tactics

Mario has been relying on his feet for decades, and the precision gameplay behind the high-jumping, goomba-stomping action rarely disappoints. However, for the Switch Ubisoft had a different idea (so different that it was initially met with a chorus of internet boos), and instead decided to give Mario’s dogs a rest while putting the power in his hands — and players’ minds. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle might go against the grain a bit for those who never imagined concocting a strategy for anything outside of tricky platforming, or that their favorite former plumber would wield a firearm, but somehow it came together and worked beautifully. The X-COM gameplay translates amazingly well to the Mushroom Kingdom’s core characters, where Mario, Luigi, Peach must team with Rabbid lookalikes and a talking Roomba named Beep-O in order to stop a maniac bunny that can’t control his VR goggles. Or something. Like with the best Mario games, plot doesn’t matter that much; gameplay is where it counts, and Mario + Rabbids does not disappoint.

Once the oddity of not directly controlling Mario wears off, players are treated to a surprisingly deep and engaging level of turn-based strategy, as well as a variety of maps and enemies that constantly challenge one to rethink tactics from battle to battle. Those new to the genre might feel a bit intimidated at first, but like a typical Nintendo game, the difficulty is paced to perfection, never suffering from intense rises or falls, all the way through to the end. In fact, Ubisoft has done an incredible impersonation of Mario’s makers, nailing the colorful look and feel of the franchise so well that those unaware of the game’s actual developers could easily be fooled. A lot of love was put into Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and the results amount to one of the best “Nintendo” games not made by Nintendo — ever. (Patrick Murphy)

199) Metroid: Samus Returns
Developer(s) MercurySteam / Nintendo EPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release 15 September 2017
Genre(s) Action-adventure

After years of waiting with baited breath for a new Metroid game, fans were finally met with Metroid: Samus Returns earlier this year, and while calling the game entirely “new” might be a bit of a stretch, Nintendo and Mercury Steam have done enough new things with Samus Returns to justify its existence. As a remake of the Game Boy game, Metroid: Return of Samus, Samus Returns has seen a huge and favorable upgrade in the looks department first and foremost.

Another new addition comes in the fast and frenetic combat which the game boasts, thanks to it’s new counter attack system. Though the mechanic feels a bit over-used toward the beginning of the adventure, the gameplay grows more and more balanced as Samus Returns marches onward to the extinction of metroid-kind. Though it takes some effort to adjust to this new playstyle, by the time your super-powered Samus is approaching the end game, you’ll be right at home with this latest iteration of Metroid, and truly sad to see those credits roll.

With a few new surprises for even series veterans who have played the original and the unsanctioned AM2R remake last year, Samus Returns is one more reason to hold onto Nintendo’s fledgling handheld, and its success may even lead to a remake of another classic Metroid title if fans are lucky. (Mike Worby)

Super-Mario-Odyssey-Hats200) Super Mario Odyssey
Developer(s) Nintendo EPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo Switch
Release: October 27, 2017
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario Odyssey is arguably the most important Super Mario game since Super Mario 64 launched on the N64. I personally may not like it more than the incredible 3D World released on the Wii U, but Odyssey is guaranteed to help Nintendo sell even more Switch consoles over the next six months, while simultaneously reinventing the series for a whole new generation.

What makes Odyssey special is that it isn’t so much a sandbox game as it is a toy box. When it came to creating Odyssey, instead of making a vast open world, the creators decided to make the levels in Odyssey smaller but packed them with as many characters, puzzles, hidden secrets, call-backs and various obstacles for you to discover. The whole game is basically structured like a giant playground and the more time you spend messing around, the more likely you’ll be rewarded for it. Not since Super Mario 64 has a Mario platformer placed such a heavy emphasis on exploration, and boy is it ever fun running around these breathtakingly gorgeous, intricately designed levels that are oozing with style. Odyssey encourages players to explore every nook and cranny, and it helps that Mario now has Cappy to use as a standard throw attack. That possession power, embodied by Mario’s new sidekick is what makes Odyssey stand out from every other entry in the series. It’s a brilliant idea that allows for dozens of additional playable characters, all with different powers, abilities, and ways of getting around. Professionally, Mario has always worn many hats but in this game, he’s anything and everything he wants to be.

For every new idea Odyssey throws at you, this is also a game filled with nostalgia and it’s worth noting just how many amazing references there are, both big and small, to the series’ past. You’ll encounter familiar characters, challenges, music cues and more from past games, and there are even moments when Mario even transforms back into his 8-bit self! These 2D segments where Mario enters a warp pipe and is transported to a world that precisely recreates the 8-bit Super Mario Bros’ mechanics and visual style may be the game’s biggest surprise and sometimes, it offers the hardest challenges. And for those of you who have finished the game, I’m sure you’ll agree that the New Donk City music festival, which recreates the stages from the original Donkey Kong, might be the biggest gaming highlight of the year.

The finale is a brilliantly executed sequence as well, letting Mario hop inside Bowser’s mind and body and rampage through a dying moon. That particular turn of events feels poetic and an ingenious way to celebrate one of the longest running franchises in gaming. It’s also a testament to the sheer creativity underlying Odyssey that, even after watching the credits roll, there’s so much left to discover. They say it’s all about the journey and not about the ending, but with Odyssey, the journey continues on. (Ricky D)

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And in terms of the ranking, below are the top 20 games as voted by our staff. It is also worth mentioning that Ocarina of Time took first place by only one point.

  1. Ocarina of Time
  2. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  3. Super Mario Bros. 3
  4. Super Mario World
  5. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  6. Metroid Prime
  7. Resident Evil 4
  8. Majora’s Mask
  9. Super Mario 64
  10. Super Metroid
  11. Super Mario Galaxy
  12. Chrono Trigger
  13. Super Mario Odyssey
  14. Pokemon Gold and Silver
  15. Super Smash Bros. Melee
  16. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
  17. Mario Kart 8
  18. Super Mario Bros.
  19. Tetris
  20. Pokemon Red and Blue

PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN

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Greatest Nintendo Games

200 Best Nintendo Games (Part 6) – Touching is Good

We continue our countdown of the 200 greatest video games exclusive to Nintendo consoles. In this part we list all the games released between 2006 and 2010.

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Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 were massive hits, and had taken the lion’s share of the market. Nintendo couldn’t compete with them directly anymore, and had to change their approach — enter the Nintendo Wii. The idea of gaming had changed forever, as the Wii introduced a remote controller that detected movement in three-dimensions, producing games that relied on the player’s physical motion rather than button pressing. It was a massive success: the Nintendo Wii outsold both its console rivals. The legacy of the Wii lives on in Nintendo consoles today, with the Nintendo Switch using similar motion detection technology.
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250px-Wii_Fit_Trainer_SSB4Part Six: 2006 – 2010

143) New Super Mario Bros. DS
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
Release: NA: May 15, 2006
Genre(s) Platforming

Nobody does a throwback quite like Nintendo and New Super Mario Bros. is no exception. This game is packed with all of the lovely Mario-isms that properly filled any happy childhood, but with a little more graphical panache. It also adds two great new power-ups to the fold in the Mega Mushroom (which appropriately enough makes Mario into a massive, screen-shaking, Goomba-crushing colossus), and the Mini Mushroom (which has the opposite effect of shrinking Mario into a pint-sized plumber). New Super Mario Bros. also gets bonus points for having one of the coolest Bowser encounters ever during the finale. All of the addictive platforming action that made the NES and SNES iterations so memorable returns in a game that reminds you that sometimes the best way to move forward is by going back. (Mike Worby)

144) Wii Sports
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: NA: November 19, 2006
Genre(s) Sports

It’s not often that a launch game does such a stellar job of showing off new hardware that it becomes the primary reason people want to buy the system. The beauty of Wii Sports lies in its simple, incredibly accessible design. At the heart of this is the first major implementation of motion controls in a video game. Gone was the seemingly insurmountable barrier of learning button layouts for those without prior gaming experience. Instead, all one had to do was mimic the motion of hitting a baseball or throwing a punch, and the game (usually) registered the player’s inputs.

The base concept of Wii Sports was later copied countless times by multiple third-party developers (and even Sony and Microsoft themselves). However, there were a few enduring design decisions that still make Wii Sports a blast to play today. For one, Wii Sports introduced the world to Miis — customizable character avatars that allowed players to insert a cartoony version of themselves into a game in a matter of minutes. Being able to play the sports as yourself and challenge the virtual representation of your friend, mom, brother, grandma, or whoever else makes the game that much more fun.

While motion controls have advanced considerably since Wii Sport‘s introduction in 2006, those first experiences of swinging the Wiimote like a golf club, or swiping it along the ground like a bowling ball, felt simply magical. Even when players eventually realized that the system could be cheated by using minimal hand motions, the fact that whole families could get together and have a blast playing virtual bowling was a true feat in both game and hardware design. Wii Sports managed to appeal to more non-gamers than any game ever has before, and continues to be used for therapeutic purposes to this day. In terms of cultural impact, it’s tough to argue against Wii Sports’ importance. (Brent Middleton)

145) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii, GameCube
Release: NA: November 19, 2006
Genre(s) Action-adventure

The adult Link portions of Ocarina of Time got gamers’ appetites whetted for a more badass version of the green tunic-wearing hero, one who could stand tall against the inevitable evil forces, and whose sword slashed viciously, cutting a swath through them. Wind Waker was not that, and though looked upon now as a masterpiece, its seemingly lighter tone at the time sparked a little rebellion. Fans of Nintendo’s legendary series were growing up, and just like with Star Wars or comic books, they wanted to hold onto their innocent past while also having it reflect their pragmatic present — they wanted something that kept in tone with their rising adult pessimism, something truer to the gloomy outlook that only comes with maturity. In short, as eventually happens with everything fun or innocent that fans go crazy for, they wanted something darker.

I was no different in those days, and so when the first images surfaced of Link wielding his blade from atop his trusty steed, surrounded by grossly disfigured moblins and bathed in eerie twilight, I was instantly sold. Twilight Princess is no kiddie quest with bright flowers and snot-nosed munchkins; there is war, pain and suffering, noble sacrifice, and trippy weird visions of greed, death, and super-creepy-looking laughing girls slowly descending headfirst from the sky. The land has been poisoned, and the people that populate it struggle against the shady sickness taking hold. A somber tone pervades throughout to the melancholy end, with few moments of true happiness relaxing in the goat paddock found in between.

Never has a Zelda game relied so much on imagery to set its tone, never have the dungeons been so vast and monstrous, and never has the journey seemed so mythic. Twilight Princess feels like everything Ocarina of Time wanted to be, a fulfillment of years of fan expectations. It hosts the best sidekick in the series, the widest assortment of attacks, some of the most clever dungeons (Snowpeak’s crumbling mansion, the Gerudo desert’s Arbiter’s Grounds) and unique items (magnetic boots = awesome, spinner surfing = sweet), and a massive amount of gameplay for those willing to explore every nook and cranny tracking down Poes and bugs. I personally have never bothered with Agitha or the golden Jovani on any of my many playthroughs, but it’s nice to know that there’s more going on in Hyrule than just the main quest.

With an epic setting accompanying the tragic feel, Twilight Princess gave fans exactly what they wanted, and in doing so delivered one of the most powerful entries in the franchise. (Patrick Murphy)

146) Elite Beat Agents
Developer(s) iNiS
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
Release: NA: November 6, 2006
Genre(s) Rhythm

The early years of the original DS were the Wild West. It was a time before developers had figured out that most people like playing games traditionally, so everyone had to find a way to incorporate the touch screen into everything. A lot of interesting and great games came out of this short period of time, and Elite Beat Agents is one of those.

Elite Beat Agents is a spiritual successor to the Japanese DS title Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. Both games star cheer groups that help people with their problems by encouraging them through song. The primary difference is that Ouendan uses Japanese pop music, and Agents uses Western pop and rock. Both games are strictly about using the touch screen the to tap colored hit markers in order to build up combos. It looks and feels unique from other rhythm games, especially those that were out around 2005/2006.

Elite Beat Agents is a cult classic for sure, but its influence (or rather Ouendan’s) is huge. Ouendan had a sequel that came out following EBA, and there’s also a popular free-to-play PC game called Osu! that lets users make and share their own EBA-style levels with each other. Maybe one day Nintendo will take the dive back into music games, because the Switch seems like a perfect place for a new Agents or Ouendan title. (Taylor Smith)

147) Super Paper Mario
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems Nintendo SPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: NA: April 9, 2007 / JP: April 19, 2007
Genre(s) Action role-playing, Platforming

Even if the idea to enmesh a strangely tragic love story into a Mario game doesn’t necessarily work terribly well with the general light-heartedness of the series, Super Paper Mario still manages to circumvent this handicap via sheer gameplay prowess. The notion of taking an inherently 2D series and introducing it to the 3rd dimension is inspired, and one that remains silly and charming even as the plot takes a series of predictable and overzealous turns toward its conclusion. While the story may suffer at times, the gameplay is only strengthened by the introduction of a screen rotation mechanism, which allows you to literally see the world in an entirely new way. Multiple playable characters and a lovable art style only add more value to this somewhat underrated gem. (Mike Worby)

Mother3148) Mother 3
Developer(s) Brownie Brown/HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: April 20, 2006
Genre(s) Role-playing

Mother 3, like its predecessors, is a game out of time and place. Its pixelated graphics and standard turn-based battle system betray its 90s development roots, while its evocative script is more reminiscent of the heartfelt and contemplative indie games from the 2010s. What makes it a timeless classic, however, is its razor-sharp focus on our most universal sentiments and values that tie us all together, regardless of our superficial differences.

Starting off with a burning village and the death of a set of twins’ mother, Mother 3 takes the player on a grand external and internal journey. Playing the roles of lead designer, director, and writer, this is clearly the brainchild of auteur Shigesato Itoi. Like all his work, this third entry in the Mother series straddles the line between the dark and the whimsical. But this is arguably Itoi’s darkest game, telling a story of meaningful character growth versus selfish (and often ruthless) industrial and capitalistic “progress,” and in its nitty-gritty attention to detail, clearly communicated worldview, and empathetic style of play, it can almost feel like a “game for change,” with actual narrative depth and nuance. To this day, it remains an influential game even to Western developers. Games like Undertale play similarly with JRPG norms to show how much life there can still be in the supposedly stale genre if their creators are bold, brilliant, and deeply human enough.

This Japan-exclusive GBA classic from 2006 has yet to see a Western release, much to the chagrin of its diehard fanbase. Instead, those craving an end to the Mother trilogy have had to rely on an outstanding (but unofficial) fan translation online. Only time will tell whether or not we’ll ever see a proper Stateside release, but Nintendo has been on a hot streak lately, giving fans almost everything they’ve been asking for. Perhaps 2018 will finally be the year Reggie breaks out that Porky pin he’s been polishing for over a decade. (Kyle Rentschler)

149) Pokémon Diamond and Pearl
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) The Pokémon Company
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
Release: JP: September 28, 2006 / NA: April 22, 2007
Genre(s) Role-playing

Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire almost took me out of the game. With too much water, too many HMs, little in the way of new mechanics, and my least favorite Pokémon designs up to that point, I thought that my time with Pokémon had come to an end. I had caught all of ‘em that I was ever gonna catch. Then news of Diamond and Pearl started to get out. As excitement built, I still felt my time with Pokémon was over. Cover art was teased, and people were selecting their game, but I still didn’t budge. Finally, my brothers told me to give it one more shot. They both wanted Diamond; they needed someone to help them complete the Pokédex by picking up Pearl. I eventually consented (I liked Palkia better anyway), and I am glad that I did. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl completely revitalized my love and fervor for the series. Five time periods of the day kept everything feeling variable, while the second screen Pokétch app, made possible by the Nintendo DS design, added a layer of convenience, not to mention that these games had Wi-Fi functionality for the first time. On top of the same great, addicting gameplay, an engaging locale, and some of the most inspired Pokémon designs since the franchise started, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl not only reinvigorated my interest in the series, but also rapidly became one of my favorite Pokémon titles of all time. (Tim Maison)

150) WarioWare: Smooth Moves
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems Nintendo SPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii, Wii U (Virtual Console)
Release: JP: December 2, 2006 / NA: January 15, 2007
Genre(s) Party, Rhythm

WarioWare: Smooth Moves takes the fast-paced gameplay and bizarre aesthetic found in previous titles and improves upon it with fantastic motion controls and an addictive multiplayer suite. Each of the game’s 200+ microgames feels amazing using the Wiimote, especially when they are completed in rapid succession. While the single-player mode brings all of the creativity and the charm that fans of the series have come to expect, it’s the multiplayer mode that sets this title apart. As a party game, Smooth Moves gets everything right. The rules are kept simple and the gameplay remains just as engaging, making it a breeze for players of any skills level to jump in and have a blast. The microgames themselves are so random and strange that they are bound to elicit laughter after only a few rounds of play. It’s a title that is sure to be on rotation at social gatherings for many years to come. (Zack Rezak)

151) The World Ends With You
Developer(s) Jupiter/Square Enix
Publisher(s) Square Enix
Director(s) Tatsuya Kando
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
Release: July 27, 2007
Genre(s) Action role-playing

Bizarre doesn’t even begin to describe The World Ends With You. Developed by the Kingdom Hearts team at Square Enix, with character designs by the (in)famous Tetsuya Nomura, came a game set in modern day Shibuya, Tokyo of all places, where the stats of your gear are affected by the current fashion trends of the populace. It sports a mind-boggling battle system that not only requires the simultaneous use of touch and button inputs, but also simultaneous monitoring of both of the original DS’ two screens. Combine this with a hip-hoppin’ soundtrack that can only be remotely compared to the Persona franchise, and you have a game that sounds more myth than real.

But The World Ends With You is real, and the JRPG genre is better for it. While the battle system is akin to learning how to pat your head while rubbing your stomach while playing the xylophone with your feet and a harmonica with your mouth, it is an immensely rewarding experience once mastered that is entirely unique from any other game. Players can also manually lower their levels from their current max, making them weaker but able to reap better item rewards from battles in turn. This allows for a degree of flexibility in difficulty not seen in many other games.

The story is a topsy-turvy, twisty, roller-coaster of a ride that never once becomes predictable or bland. The colorful characters — both aesthetically and personally — and downright infectious soundtrack instill life and passion into the beating heart that is Shibuya. The World Ends With You is bizarre, but it’s that bizarre nature that makes it stand out from the crowd in the best way possible. (Matthew Ponthier)

152) Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Developer(s) Retro Studios / Nintendo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: NA: August 27, 2007
Genre(s) Action-adventure, First-person shooter

The release of a new Metroid is usually an event, but after the resounding success of the first two entries in the Prime series, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was anticipated with a little more hype than even Samus may have been used to. Touted as an experience to compare with mega-shooters like Halo, developer Retro Studios definitely went bigger for the end of their saga, with more action, scripted events, actual character interactions complete with voice acting, and a planet-spanning story involving phazon infection and the return of the legendary bounty hunter’s darker twin. Despite the emphasis on the epic, however, the game still feels like a Metroid should, with atmosphere and puzzle-solving taking center stage in a meticulously crafted universe. Wii games are rarely praised for their beauty, but the skill of the art design behind Prime 3‘s gorgeous planets, from the ancient mechanical sky city of Elysia to the bristling thorn jungle of Bryyo, nearly makes one forget they are playing on an under-powered system. Loaded with details that breath life into the varied environments, scanning every inch of these bizarre alien worlds tells the story better than any cutscene could.

The console’s unconventional controllers meant developers had to rethink how to handle certain genres, but thankfully for first-person shooter fans, Retro Studios provided a handy tutorial for classic running-and-gunning remote-and-nunchuck gameplay that proves to be not only a decent substitute for traditional methods, but in some ways superior. Simple and intuitive, pointing the Wiimote allows for the quicker precision aiming necessary to penetrate armor and find those glowing weak spots, while other motion-based actions help cast the illusion that players are actually inside Samus’ power suit. Tossing out the grapple beam and ripping away a Space Pirate’s laser shield feels awesome, soldering maintenance panels with the plasma beam satisfies a mechanical urge, and pushing back and forth to activate a pump switch..well, maybe satisfies another urge. Regardless, it’s easy to see why Nintendo adopted the scheme for the series’ compilation release. Blasting away as a badass intergalactic bounty hunter never felt better, and Metroid Prime 3 is a fantastic sendoff for an incredible trilogy. (Patrick Murphy)

153) The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Daiki Iwamoto
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
Release: JP: June 23, 2007 / NA: October 1, 2007
Genre(s) Action-adventure

After the initial backlash that Toon Link wasn’t the strapping bad-ass that fans had been hoping to see in their new Legend of Zelda game, folks actually began to warm up to the little guy, which is why it wasn’t too terribly surprising to see him get a spin-off set in the same timeline as The Wind Waker, and following on the events of that game directly. The Phantom Hourglass keeps the sailing mechanics and a few of the items from the previous adventure, but changes things up dramatically in many respects.

First and foremost, the game can be played almost entirely using the stylus of the Nintendo DS. Though this is initially jarring, credit must be given for how organic this choice feels after the initial shock of the change wears off. Speaking of the stylus, players can also use it to mark their map and even make notes on it to help them with side quests and cartography. Lastly (and most impressively), during certain events — like boss encounters — both screens will be utilized simultaneously, creating the unique experience of fighting a boss across two visual plains, with no lag or faltering in the mechanics of the game.

Though Phantom Hourglass‘ reputation is somewhat marred by its insistence that you return to a central dungeon several times throughout the adventure for some repetitive exploration, it still holds up remarkably well otherwise, and is rightly remembered as one of the best titles on the Nintendo DS. (Mike Worby)

Super Mario Galaxy

154) Super Mario Galaxy
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: JP: 1 November 2007 / NA: 12 November 2007
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario Galaxy is not only the best title on the Nintendo Wii, it is the single greatest example of what the entertainment medium of gaming has to offer. It is the definition of a masterpiece: unprecedented level design, an endless stream of imaginative and creative ideas, and (most importantly) a rock-solid gameplay system that stands head and shoulders above every other 3D title, period. Galaxy is the culmination of everything Nintendo EAD Tokyo has learned from years of game development. The awe-inspiring orchestral soundtrack and second-to-none visuals create an experience that simply does not age. All of this is backed by a staggering amount of content in the form of collectible stars that are represented as completely unique challenges. Nintendo has once again succeeded in highlighting the best of what games have to offer. There is no over-reliance on narrative, no over-complicated gimmick that tries too hard to be unique; it is the quintessential gameplay experience, perfected. (Zack Rezak)

No-More-Heroes-Travis-Strikes-Again-4

155) No More Heroes
Developer(s) Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher(s) Marvelous Entertainment / Ubisoft
Platform(s) Wii
Release:  JP: December 6, 2007 / NA: January 22, 2008
Genre(s) Action-adventure, Hack-and-slash

Through much of its life cycle, the Wii was erroneously labeled a “kiddie console.” While the designation is somewhat understandable with Nintendo’s family-friendly history, the Wii housed some exceptional mature titles. Admittedly there weren’t many, and while consequently many of the earliest M-rated games on Wii stood out like a blood splatter on a white sheet, none did so quite like Grasshopper Manufacture’s No More Heroes. Not only was the game one of the earliest M’s on the Wii (which certainly drew attention), but it’s the sort of hard-M, hyper-violent, ultra quirky type of title that only auteur game director Suda51 (Killer7Shadows of the DamnedLollipop Chainsaw) could come up with.

The game follows Travis Touchdown, a huge anime and wrestling nerd who finds himself a ranked assassin in the United Assassins Association after taking a hit job for some quick cash from the attractive Sylvia. Left to fight for his life, the top-ranked assassin position, and an after party with Sylvia, Travis has to rise to the occasion and ascend from typical otaku to badass to survive. By making Travis a gamer/anime nerd, he’s immediately one of the most relatable protagonists in all of gaming, and I’ve never felt like such a badass vicariously while playing a game. Part of that shared experience comes from the brilliant blend of typical button controls and motion controls. Swinging the Wiimote when prompted results in satisfying, gruesome death blows, and grabbing enemies and then making a tossing motion with Wiimote and Nunchuk executes a stunning wrestling move. No More Heroes was designed very specifically for the Wii, and it works in the best possible way.

While an unnecessary, sparse open world and repetitious side missions slow some of the game’s pace down, the standard level designs and boss battles are designed stupendously, all brought to life with the gorgeous, cell-shaded art direction. Many of the game’s weaker moments — such as side missions — help establish the game as a celebration of cinema and gaming, and create the hysterically stark contrast between Travis as an assassin and Travis as an asinine average Joe. The only thing NMH has more of than blood is humor — not only in dialogue and suggestive content, but also in small touches, like saving the game by using the toilet. Vibrant, hilarious, with plenty to unlock and achieve, the ridiculously fun, blood-soaked missions make No More Heroes one innuendo-fueled fight you won’t soon forget. (Tim Maison)

SMASH BROS 5

156) Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Developer(s) Game Arts / Sora Ltd.
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: JP: January 31, 2008 / NA: March 9, 2008
Genre(s) Fighting

The third installment in the Super Smash Bros. series of crossover fighting games is the first game in the series to expand past Nintendo characters by allowing players to control third-party icons such as Snake, the gritty soldier from Konami’s hugely popular Metal Gear series, and Sega’s longtime unofficial mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. Among the other new characters playable in the game are Meta Knight (the sword-wielding nemesis of Kirby), Pit (the angelic archer from Kid Icarus), Zero Suit Samus, and Wario, who surprised everyone with his incredibly deadly attacks. But Brawl‘s biggest addition was its Wi-Fi Connection support, which surprisingly functioned really well at the time. Add on the introduction of the level editor, the gorgeous full-motion cut-scenes, and the utterly astounding soundtrack (which will probably go down in history as one of the greatest), and you have yourself a game that is completely engrossing and wholly entertaining from beginning to end. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is one of the great multiplayer titles of the generation, and a game that will forever stand the test of time. (Ricky D)

157) Mario Kart Wii

Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: JP: April 10, 2008 / NA: April 27, 2008
Genre(s) Kart racing

While not ranked in the pantheon of amazing Mario Kart games, there’s something to be said for how fluid and streamlined Mario Kart Wii is. The first game to incorporate motion controls into gameplay, this entry utilizes the Wii’s primary gimmick to great effect. Controlling the karts feels natural and doesn’t inhibit the game as many initially suspected. Visually, Mario Kart Wii is beautiful and boasts updated graphics compared to those found on the GameCube installment. While the cast of playable characters grew to 24 and included familiar faces such as Rosalina and Dry Bowser, Mario Kart Wii also brings in 16 new tracks to race across, as well as updated versions of some of the older tracks. An updated progression system makes it more challenging to unlock all 36 karts and motorcycles. Furthermore, any Mii created on the system can be used as a character. I was especially fond of watching Jesus or The Joker tear up Rainbow Road. The addition of online play was a welcome feature, as players could now test their racing skills on the world stage.

From a commercial standpoint, Mario Kart Wii did quite well. Fans both old and new flocked to the game for simple and pure fun. The Mario Kart name already carried weight in the gaming community, but this Wii version modernized the classic series for the then current gen system. Sales for Mario Kart Wii were staggering in the months after its release, with over 1 million copies moved in Japan alone by early May of 2008. More than anything, Mario Kart Wii showcased the true strength of Nintendo’s 1st party games, and along with Twilight Princess, helped skyrocket the Wii into being one of the best-selling consoles of all time. (Carston Carrella)

NintendoGames

158) Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
Developer(s) AlphaDream
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
Release: JP: February 11, 2009 / NA: September 14, 2009
Genre(s) Role-playing

Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is an engaging, hilarious experience, whose charm never wears thin. Released in 2009 at the height of the DS and Wii’s mutual success, Bowser’s Inside Story inverts the traditional Mario RPG archetypes by having Bowser serve as one of the game’s main protagonists. Such an inversion, coupled with the game’s excellent battle system, laugh-out-loud dialogue, and superb, sprite-based visuals makes Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story an amazing experience that shouldn’t be missed. (Izsak Barnette)

159) New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: NA: November 15, 2009
Genre(s) Platforming

In a shocking turn of events, a princess is kidnapped by a bunch of adolescent reptiles, spurring her blue-collar boo to run from left to right a bunch of times in order to knock the reptiles’ father/uncle into lava. As the tenth installment in the long-running Super Mario Bros. series, New Super Mario Bros. Wii isn’t very new at all. Indeed, it’s easy to look back at it now as “just another Mario game,” and part of the subpar “New” subseries at that. But at the time, New Super Mario Bros. Wii was the plumber’s grand return to home consoles — the first of its kind in nearly twenty years.

Though it might lack the genius of its legendary predecessors, the game was, by and large, a success. It was generally well-received by critics and went on to sell over 30 million units to become the fourth highest-selling Wii game. Even if longtime fans might have felt the game catered too heavily toward the Wii’s casual audience in its difficulty and blasé art style, it was more classic Mario platforming, with the intuitive controls and mechanics that make its gameplay so accessible, deep, and universally beloved.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii also introduced four-player simultaneous cooperative play and a Super Guide video showing how to beat a level, both of which have become series staples and make the game approachable for a wider audience. It also premiered the penguin and propeller power-ups, and brought back the fan-favorite Koopalings. Though it might not stand out from its New Super Mario Bros. series brethren, it remains a strong outing, and among the best 2D platformers on Nintendo’s highest-selling home console. (Kyle Rentschler)

160) Monster Hunter Tri
Developer(s) Capcom Production Studio 1
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Wii
Release: JP: August 1, 2009 / NA: April 20, 2010
Genre(s) Action role-playing

What could be more fun than taking down a giant monster with a team of three of your friends (or complete strangers)? Monster Hunter Tri was the first time Capcom brought the hunt to a Nintendo platform, and it was just as epic as players were expecting. Even though the Wii wasn’t known for its online gaming functionality, Tri manages to include a fully-featured online suite. Lobbies, voice chat (albeit with the dreadful Wii Speak), and keyboard support are all included, making it easy to communicate with other players.

Tons of new monsters are added to the mix, including underwater fights that control surprisingly well. A fully featured single player mode is also included, but it pales in comparison to getting a full team together. Tri was successful enough to convince Capcom to make future installments for Nintendo platforms, mainly the 3DS. It’s one of the most important entries in the franchise, as the online suite felt up to par with what was being offered on rival consoles. Even though it only includes around 30 monsters, it feels huge because of the amount of time it takes to put one of them down. Online events and special guests made it easy to sink hundreds upon hundreds of hours into this multiplayer masterpiece. (Zack Rezak)

161) Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
Developer(s) Treasure Co., Ltd.
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Atsutomo Nakagawa
Platform(s) Wii, Wii U
Release: JP: October 29, 2009 / NA: June 27, 2010
Genre(s) Rail shooter

Treasure is one of those rare development groups that seems like they can do no wrong. This offshoot company of ex-Konami reps has been programming popular and niche hits since Gunstar Heroes in 1993. The original Sin and Punishment was a Japan-exclusive Nintendo 64 title that became a cult classic in the world of imports. In 2007, Nintendo released the game in North America and Europe for the first time through the Wii’s Virtual Console market. It received critical praise from plenty of review sites, and its reception led to the creation of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.

Star Successor‘s story takes place several years after the original game. It follows Isa, the son of the first game’s protagonist, and Kachi as they try to evade an overprotective Earth government. Kachi is a godlike figure, originally sent by her masters to wipe out humanity. She has a change of heart upon spending more time with them. Isa was originally pursuing her for the government he was employed by, but decides to help her escape when he finally confronts her. The story is short and confusing at times, but the game pulls from a lot of different sci-fi inspirations such as Blade Runner and Neon Genesis Evangelion (which was a huge influence on the first game). While the story might feel second-rate, Treasure is a company known for their unique and interesting styles of gameplay, and Star Successor lives up to this standard.

Star Successor is an on-rails shooter with a surprising amount of depth to it. While the game capitalizes on the Wii’s motion controls, it also has other layouts with the classic controller and even the GameCube controller. Each scheme feels great, and that’s a testament to how good the design is. The two playable characters both have different play styles; Isa has stronger bullets but lacks the ability to lock onto targets, while Kachi has weaker bullets but can lock on to target as long as she’s aiming in their general area. The game also features a two-player scenario where someone with a second controller can provide backup fire to the other person on screen. Combat is hectic, and enemies and their bullets fill the screen with effects similar to bullet hell-style shmups. Isa and Kachi come with ranged and melee attacks, the latter of which serves more as a defensive tool than offensive. The two protagonists can cut through terrain, enemies, bullets, and even reflect larger projectiles back at enemies by using the energy swords equipped to their guns.
Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is one of the most enjoyable arcade experiences exclusive to the Wii thanks to its unique and varied gameplay. (Taylor Smith)

162) No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
Developer(s) Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher(s) Ubisoft
Platform(s) Wii
Release: NA: January 26, 2010
Genre(s) Action-adventure, Hack-and-slash

The sequel to No More HeroesNo More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, is a tale of revenge full of bitter executions, as protagonist Travis Touchdown returns once more to the fictional Santa Destroy, California to target and eliminate the wretched ranks of the UAA (United Assassins Association). The game targets the flaws of the first title and does them in, all in a highly satisfying way. When Travis first climbed the ranks of the UAA, it was mostly for sex, but in Desperate Struggle the fight is personal, and in this darker, more vicious sequel, Travis doesn’t intend to play nice. Despite being slightly darker tonally, NMH2 loses none of its charm or humor; in fact, many of Travis’s outraged taunts are laugh-out-loud funny. The fun, frantic combat has also returned with some pleasant additions. Players will still need to keep Travis’s beam katana charged by shaking the Wiimote, making fights a fun balancing act between taking swings and keeping Travis’s only defense active. Now, however, players can switch between four progressively unlocked styles of beam katana, including a duel-wielding version like on the cover of the game. The excellently designed missions and boss encounters have also returned, with some unexpected, fun variation that I won’t spoil here.

Thankfully absent is the harmless but tedious open world from the original game. More importantly, the entry fees to fights are also missing, so side missions and mini games are no longer mandatory to progress the narrative. Instead, the mini-games are optional, used to power Travis up or to collect cash that can then be spent in customizing his appearance in cool or humorous ways, along with other fun features. All of the mini-games take the shape of fun, 8-bit arcade-style games that are quicker and more enjoyable than their predecessor’s equivalents, and feel genuinely rewarding while providing a fun diversion from the regular missions. As a sequel, NMH2’s narrative feels a little less original, but it’s a streamlined experience that delivers everything players loved from the original in spades. Colorful, artistic, quirky, funny, bombastic, and overall outrageously enjoyable, No More Heroes 2 is a prime example of what all video game sequels should strive to be, and offers more evidence that Travis Touchdown is one of the best protagonists in recent memory. Do yourself a favor and play No More Heroes as well, if only so you can play the better-designed No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle immediately after. (Tim Maison)

163) Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Developer(s) Good-Feel / HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: JP: October 14, 2010 / NA: October 17, 2010
Genre(s) Platforming

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is the Wii’s testament to the potency of joy, combining excellent-feeling mechanics in combination with just the overall cuteness that a game can have. Although the game is in a similar vein to a side-scrolling Super Mario Bros game, Kirby’s Epic Yarn does push the boundaries of cuteness.

Graphically, the fresh look of Epic Yarn helps Kirby become even more loveable with its creative use of cloth and textiles that pulls and stretches the world in all sorts of directions, similar to what Paper Mario did with paper. Interactive, interesting, and innovative are three “I’s” that could describe the graphical look of Epic Yarn. The core game sticks to a 2D side-scrolling base, but that doesn’t stop it from being interesting. More than just a visual masterpiece, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a solid and cute platform game that is perfect when experienced in co-op with a casual player. With some great hardcore similar games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii, this alternative choice is all but superfluous. (Katrina Lind)

NintendoGames164) Donkey Kong Country Returns
Developer(s) Retro Studios
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii, Nintendo 3DS
Release: NA: November 21, 2010
Genre(s) Platforming

What does it take to make a perfect platformer? Is it a careful balance of jumping physics? Brilliant level design? Or is it a difficulty curve that takes your skills to the absolute limit? Whatever it is, Donkey Kong Country Returns has it in spades. As the successor to the much-beloved SNES series, Retro Studios had some ape-sized shoes to fill when they took on the monumental task of bringing back Donkey Kong Country after a nearly 15-year hiatus. Luckily for fans, much like their high-pressured revitalization of the Metroid series with Metroid Prime, Retro nailed everything that made Donkey Kong Country great in the first place, and even improved upon it.

In fact, Donkey Kong Country Returns may be the quintessential DKC game, and that’s saying something. If you’re a fan of classic platformers and have yet to take on this mammoth of a challenge, you owe it to yourself to set aside some time. (Mike Worby)

PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN

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Greatest Nintendo Games

200 Best Nintendo Games (Part 5) Get N or Get Out

The success of Nintendo’s handhelds would inspire the latest generation of portable gaming, the Nintendo DS

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The success of Nintendo’s handhelds would inspire the latest generation of portable gaming, the Nintendo DS. Marketed as an experimental “third pillar” of Nintendo’s console lineup, supposedly to compliment the Game Boy Advance and the Gamecube, its success would would eventually establish it as the successor of the Game Boy series. Dual-screen gaming was a unique idea, especially with the bottom screen featuring a touchscreen, which reinvented the whole handheld market, a success that has continued today with the 3DS. The Nintendo DS would again cement Nintendo as the handheld leader.

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Greatest Nintendo Games

Part Five: 2000 – 2005

121) Metroid Fusion
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Yoshio Sakamoto
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: NA: November 18, 2002
Genre(s) Action-adventure

It had been nearly eight years since the last side-scrolling Metroid game, Super Metroid, had been released on the SNES, and expectations were high for the release of not one, but two new Metroid games in one year. The first, Metroid Prime, became one of the greatest games of all time, a masterpiece and a testament to the excellence of the medium. The other, Metroid Fusion, had something of a different reaction. Initially loved by critics, it has become something of a black sheep within the series, derived by some for its linear pace and unoriginal setting. Far from that, Metroid Fusion is an excellent testament to how excellent atmosphere can create an engaging gameplay experience. Ratcheting up the tension is the SA-X, Fusion’s primary antagonist and Samus’ doppelganger, who is easily one of the series’ most threatening villains. Metroid Fusion is an excellent Metroid game, and one that is still worth playing, even fifteen years after its initial release. (Izsak Barnette)

122) Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Developer(s) Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Publisher(s) Konami
Director(s) Junichi Murakami
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance, Mobile phone
Release: NA: May 6, 2003
Genre(s) Platforming, Action, Adventure

Following the similarly lauded but more divisive Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, Aria of Sorrow was the third and final Game Boy Advance entry for the long-running vampire-slaying franchise, all somehow released within a two-year timeframe. Aria of Sorrow tells the story of Soma Cruz, a high school exchange student in Japan who is transported to Dracula’s castle during a solar eclipse in 2035. From that starting point begins one of Castlevania’s most compelling narratives, full of twists and turns that would shake up series canon like a bat out of hell. As the first Castlevania to take place in the modern world, it stands out from the gothic classicism of past entries, despite its mostly traditional weaponry and castle interiors.

But outside of its startling story and setting, Aria of Sorrow doesn’t stray far from the masterful Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Indeed, Aria of Sorrow is arguably the purest incarnation of the Iga-vania formula on the Game Boy Advance. Outside of the innovative soul collection system, which enables Soma to absorb an enemy’s ability upon defeating it, Aria of Sorrow plays its castle exploring and monster slaying straight as an arrow, and arguably more refined than ever before.

Fortunately, the GBA trilogy went out on a high note, as Aria of Sorrow balances the difficulty and upgrades the audio quality of the first two entries while giving the series the shot in the arm it needed: an unexpected change of setting and unpredictable twists that freshened up the then-annual series. Occasionally dull backgrounds, an underused soul collection system, and short length notwithstanding, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow remains one of the definitive action-RPGs on GBA, and one of the best entries in its long-running franchise. That Konami decided to continue Aria of Sorrow‘s storyline in the series’ equally brilliant DS debut, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, speaks to the warm and deserved affection Aria of Sorrow earned on release and has retained to 2017, a time when longtime fans are crossing their fingers that Koji Igarashi’s upcoming Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night can similarly transplant classic gameplay in a new world. (Kyle Rentschler)

200 Best Nintendo Games

123) F-Zero GX
Developer(s) Amusement Vision
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: July 25, 2003 / NA: August 25, 2003
Genre(s) Racing

Sega and Nintendo teamed up and redefined the futuristic racing genre with F-Zero GX, a game that features difficult, high-speed racing styles and brilliant track designs, while retaining the basic gameplay and control system from its Nintendo 64 predecessor. GX also introduces a story mode element where the player assumes the role of F-Zero pilot Captain Falcon through nine chapters while completing various missions. The game offers 20 different tracks and over 30 unique pilots, as well as a custom craft editor where players can create their own vehicle. It marked Sega’s first collaboration with Nintendo after having dropped out of the hardware market — and it’s the pinnacle of the series. After all these years, other racing games are still playing catch-up. (Ricky D)

124) Fire Emblem
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: April 25, 2003 / NA: November 3, 2003
Genre(s) Strategy

Fire Emblem for the Game Boy Advance was most of the Western world’s first exposure to the franchise after seeing Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Neither of those two were playable in this game, but that didn’t stop it from being a solid entry in the franchise, and one of the best places to start playing.

Fire Emblem‘s roster of 40+ soldiers all come form different backgrounds and walks of life. Each character feels unique. Their personalities come forth in the game’s myriad support conversations, which bring to light details and tidbits that would otherwise be unknown. It makes the loss of a unit feel like more than a slight mistake, and turns perfectionist players into reset-happy tacticians to save the lives of their units. Thirty different chapters, three different stories, and plenty of nostalgia helps the cast of Fire Emblem stand out as one the franchise’s most memorable.

The franchise has a come a long way since Fire Emblem, but it’s without a doubt a classic and a catalyst for how big the franchise grew outside of Japan. (Taylor Smith)

125) Mario Kart: Double Dash
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: November 7, 2003 /NA: November 17, 2000
Genre(s) Kart racing

Since its inception on the SNES back in 1992, every Nintendo home console has had a Mario Kart, and Double Dash is definitely one of the cooler games in the series. On top of more than doubling the playable roster of characters, Double Dash is one of the few GameCube games to make use of the Broadband Adapter, which lets you hook up multiple consoles. The game’s gimmick and namesake come from being able to swap between two racers on one kart. With the adapter, you can have full 16-man races, a feature no other console Mario Kart title can do. The only true way to really experience Double Dash is with 7 friends, two consoles, and two TVs for an 8-man race.

There’s more to Double Dash than just its awesome LAN options, however. It’s the first game in the series to allow you to pick your racers and kart independently of each other, giving almost 200 different combinations of drivers and karts. The game also has a co-op race mode, something that hasn’t been done since. Co-op lets players swap between using items and driving, and also gives access to new moves, such as allowing the player riding in the backseat to steal items off of other players and increase the amount of initial boost you can get at the start of the race.

Double Dash is an oddly innovative and experimental title on the GameCube that helped redefine Mario Kart. Freedom of kart choice has been a staple ever since, and the massive local races you can have on the DS and 3DS games, as well as the online races on the Wii and Wii U entries, all call back to Double Dash and its use of a LAN connection. A personal favorite of mine and many others, Mario Kart: Double Dash is a “must-own” for the GameCube. (Taylor Smith)

126) Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Developer(s) AlphaDream
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: NA: November 17, 2003
Genre(s) Role-playing

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is the first in the Mario & Luigi RPG series, and some would argue the best thanks to the perfect mix of adventuring, platforming, and turn-based combat that places an emphasis on timing and elaborate attacks. It’s one of those games that stands the test of time with its beautiful 2D art, light-hearted dialogue, and fast-paced action. I’m not sure if this turn-based RPG needed a 2017 remake on the 3DS, but if anything, it may at least introduce a new generation of gamers to one of Nintendo’s most enjoyable games. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, this is a great place to start. You’re guaranteed to love the game’s whimsical tone, in-game jokes, and numerous comical references to the heritage of the Super Mario series. (Ricky D)

127) Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
Developer(s) The Game Designers Studio
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Series Final Fantasy
Platform(s) Nintendo GameCube
Release: JP: August 8, 2003 / NA: February 9, 2004
Genre(s) Action RPG

Something of a forgotten gem in the Final Fantasy series, Crystal Chronicles went heavily underplayed during the time of its initial release. On a system that was often heavily starved for both RPGs and quality third-party titles, it seems strange that FF:CC was so widely disregarded back in 2004. Unfortunately, both Nintendo and Square-Enix bear a heady portion of the blame for this. The decision to push the GBA connectivity to the point of making the multiplayer options completely unplayable without it left many fans feeling cold to the title, and rightfully so. However, underneath all of that controversy was a solid action-RPG with slick production values and a great soundtrack, and even if the game lost some of its fun factor by cutting out the highly emphasized multiplayer aspects, it was still well worth the journey by the time the credits rolled. (Mike Worby)

Metroid128) Metroid Zero Mission
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: NA: February 9, 2004
Genre(s) Action-adventure

The idea to remake Metroid was a truly brilliant one, and with its pedigree for bringing back retro gaming, the GBA was the perfect place for it. Made with the same engine as Metroid Fusion, the first thing you will notice about Zero Mission is how dramatically different it looks and plays in comparison to the original Metroid. The additional use of a map system and save locations were godsends, serving as much-needed add-ons that make Zero Mission far more playable than the endless trial and error experience of the original title. Though much of ZM is a deliberate retread of Metroid (and even Super Metroid to a certain extent), where it really shines is in expanding the Metroid mythology, particularly through an extended epilogue sequence in which Samus’s gunship is shot down by space pirates, and she must use a stealth-based strategy to survive outside of her iconic power suit. Though the experience of Metroid: Zero Mission is a short one, it lives on as a game with tons of secrets to find, and a lot of replayability. (Mike Worby)

129) Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: July 22, 2004 / NA: October 11, 2004
Genre(s) Role-playing

No stickers, no cards, no things; it turns out that the key to making a beloved Nintendo role-playing game — and the best game in the Paper Mario franchise — is simply to stick to the genre basics of progression and deliver a whimsical storybook adventure in a visually stunning world. The Thousand Year Door does exactly that, giving fans of the N64 original wittier and often hilarious dialogue, distinct and engaging characters, and that ever-satisfying timing-based combat system that the Mario RPGs are known for.

The plot, unfolding around the mystery of a seaside town called Rogueport and the predictable disappearance of one Princess Peach, probably won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but the compelling narrative or no, charm has always been at the heart of the appeal of Paper Mario, and The Thousand-Year Door is loaded with it. From the seven party members that join the heroic plumber to lend a hand, like the sassy Goombella or the grieving Admiral Bobbery, to the diverse cast of Mushroom Kingdom favorites populating the land, the astounding amount of personality on display can’t help but pull the player into this pop-up world come to life. Thankfully the gameplay doesn’t pull them out of it, so full attention can be given to grinning over the reams of clever puns and marveling at the amazing attention to detail on display. A couple of sequels later, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door still stands as the benchmark for the franchise, and one of the best GameCube games. (Patrick Murphy)

130) Pikmin 2
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Shigefumi Hino
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: April 29, 2004 / NA: August 30, 2004
Genre(s) Puzzle, Real-time strategy

The original Pikmin is a charming little game that served as a grand tech demo for the GameCube, showing off a number of unique models it could handle, the system’s powerful graphical capabilities, and Nintendo’s ability to competently create a real-time strategy game on the console. That said, Pikmin 2 is the full realization of these ideas, removing the original game’s more frustrating elements, and delving more into what makes the series interesting.

While Pikmin 2 is still a hybrid RTS/puzzle game, there’s a huge emphasis on exploration. The 30-day time limit from the first game is gone, but the day-to-night timer is still there. You still have to manage your time properly, but there’s no rush or punishment for not optimizing how you go about collecting treasure across the foreign planet. The game rewards curious players, hiding many of secrets well out of the way, and making maps so big you can’t possibly cover them in just one day. Pikmin 2 also introduced dungeons — micro levels within levels that don’t consume your timer, which is pretty good since they can sometimes take hours to complete (an average Pikmin 2 day is about 13 minutes).

While making the game more accessible by removing the time limit is great, where Pikmin 2 really excels is in the variety of things it adds to give the game more strategy elements. Two new Pikmin types add layers to combat and puzzle solving. Large purple Pikmin can stun enemies they’re thrown at and lift the same amount as 10 Pikmin of any other color, and small white Pikmin can dig up various pieces of buried treasure and deal with enemies and traps that use poisonous gasses without harm. Pikmin 2‘s other big upgrade was adding a second captain in the form of Louie, allowing skilled multi-taskers to complete a variety of challenges and puzzles at the same time. It also led to an interesting VS mode, probably the game’s weakest element, but worth trying at least once.

Pikmin 2 is without a doubt the best games in the franchise. The amount of polish and in-series innovation it has makes it a must-own for any GameCube collector. Both it and the original are available on the Wii with “new control style” re-releases, with the first game having just been added to the Wii U’s line of digital download Wii titles. (Taylor Smith)

131) WarioWare Twisted!
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Nintendo SPD
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: October 14, 2004 / NA: May 23, 2005
Genre(s) Action, Puzzle, Rhythm

When hearing the term “motion controls,” it’s easy to think of the mega-hit that was Nintendo’s Wii. Games like Wii Sports showed just how much fun could be had when motion controls were done right. However, Nintendo’s best movement-based game isn’t found on the Wii — it debuted in 2004 on the Game Boy Advance. Wario Ware: Twisted! combines the fast-paced, surreal microgames the series is known for with excellent gyroscopic controls to create one of the best handheld games ever made.

Just like in the previous entries, Wario Ware: Twisted! tasks players with clearing collections of microgames based around a character and their theme. This time around, the themes relate to different gameplay ideas rather than their subject matter. Dr. Crygor’s stage will require gamers to turn their console like a wheel, whereas other stages may only require slight tilting of the GBA. The motion controls work wonderfully, and are rarely ever frustrating (unless it’s being played in a moving vehicle, of course). Completing stages also awards players with hundreds of different in-game toys and collectibles that can be accessed from another menu. Some of these are fully-fledged games that have high score tracking. It’s hilarious to see some of them in action, and it adds a ton of replay value to an already fantastic experience. (Zack Rezak)

132) Mario Party 5
Developer(s) Hudson Soft
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: NA: November 10, 2003 / JP: November 28, 2003
Genre(s) Party

Nintendo probably has the gaming industry’s most uncanny ability to effortlessly place cutesy kid-friendly characters in games with rage-inducing, friend-ruining multiplayer. While the Mario Party series seems to be casual bait when judged by the cover, underneath the surface lies an unforgiving and remorseless machine designed to teach you and everyone you love that the house — or in this case Bowser — always wins.

The series’ fifth instalment was the second on the GameCube, and made several notable improvements over its predecessors. The most impactful change was the introduction of the capsule system to take over from the old items that were introduced back in Mario Party 2. Instead of buying items, certain spaces on the board allow players to get a free capsule that needs to be thrown up to ten spaces ahead on the board to trigger its effects once it’s landed on. This obviously means that no item is guaranteed for anyone, and when some of the effects are also determined by roulette wheels, you’re getting into random number inception territory. It’s fun. Honestly.

Mario Party 5 also introduces new game modes, new characters, full-3D game boards, a new single-player story, and boasts 70 new mini-games, making it one hell of a package. As far as party games go, on value at the very least, it could not be beaten at the time. That so many of the mini-games are wildly enjoyable further accentuates the series’ dominance over the party game genre.

Mario Party’s biggest draw is its wonderfully dichotomic requirement of both skill and luck to succeed. Keeping things simple enough to draw all types of players in and giving them all a chance at winning its undisputedly Nintendo’s forte, and Mario Party 5 is perhaps the clearest example in gaming of this formula at work. (Alex Aldridge)

133) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Developer(s) Square Product Development Division 4
Publisher(s) Square
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: February 14, 2003 / NA: September 8, 2003
Genre(s) Tactical role-playing

If you’re going to share names with one of the most widely revered role playing games of all time, then you’ve really got to deliver, or the backlash will likely be twice as acerbic as it ordinarily would. Fortunately, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance managed to live up to the lofty standards set by the earlier Final Fantasy Tactics, and stands as one of the best portable role playing games of all time.

The storyline here isn’t much to write home about, but when it comes to tactical role playing combat — particularly for a handheld game — the title really shines. The amount of freedom afforded the player in developing their characters as they see fit would be laudable for a game releasing today, let alone in 2003 and on a handheld console, and while the game does suffer from a couple of technical issues thanks to the limits of the hardware, Square managed to squeeze every drop of power out of the tiny portable to ensure the battles positively pop from the screen.

The star of the show here though is the job system, which shines as an example of how to give players the ability to progress as they choose while still adhering to the confines of an otherwise linear experience. Perhaps there are a couple of jobs that might seem a little redundant, and you’ll likely find yourself relying on tried and tested role playing staples, but the options available are impressive none the less. (John Cal McCormick)

134) WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames!
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: March 21, 2003 / NA: May 26, 2003
Genre(s) Action, Rhythm

Before Wario Ware, mini-game collections had been around for years. Playing an assortment of bite-sized games within the confines of a larger one was a novel concept that seemed fun enough in its current state. However, what if the games were even smaller? Enter Microgames‘ insanely short games, nibbles that last only a few seconds and are meant to be played in quick succession. Leave it to Wario to turn an established genre on its head and create one of the most unique and stylistic games ever made. Wario Ware, Inc. forces players to rely on twitch reflexes from a random assortment of mini-challenges in order to be successful. What really makes the game so special is its outlandish style. Some of the microgames feel like strange fever dreams, especially since they come at the player so fast.

A whole new cast of quirky characters have also been introduced in this debut title, and each one is just as charming as the last. Each character has their own specific set of microgames that cater to a particular theme. Jimmy T’s stage focuses on sports, whereas 9 Volt’s has microgames related to classic Nintendo games. It’s a neat way to package the experience, and adds a sense of personality to the franchise that is unrivaled in the genre.(Zack Rezak)

135) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Trials and Tribulations
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: January 23, 2004
Genre(s) Visual novel adventure

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Trials and Tribulations is the last game in the first Ace Attorney trilogy. Many fans consider this game the best entry in the franchise, and with plenty of good reason. Trials and Tribulations ties up a lot of events from previous games, and adds in backstory to otherwise unexplored main characters. All five of Trials and Tribulations’ cases work together, each building tiny details on top of each other for one of the longest, most exciting, and most engrossing final trials the franchise has ever had.
If the first Ace Attorney game helped popularize portable adventure games, then Trials and Tribulations shows what they look like at their peak. Text-adventures tend to lack in the gameplay department; they live and die by their scripts. Trials has excellent writing and localization, on-par with the creativity and hilarity of its two predecessors. Ace Attorney — Trials and Tribulations stands as one of the best Game Boy Advance and DS games with its imaginative characters, great soundtrack, and beautiful sprite-work. (Taylor Smith)

136) Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Developer(s) Retro Studios / Nintendo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: November 15, 2004
Genre(s) Adventure, First-person shooter

While the Metroid Prime trilogy is rightly touted as being home to some of the finest games in the franchise, Echoes is often cited as the weakest of the three, and not without reason. The light and dark world mechanic had been used by Nintendo before, most notably in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. On top of the old hat concept, Echoes also deviates heavily from its progenitors by actually punishing exploration for large sections of the game, as any time spent in the dark reality damages Samus outside of safe zones.

Qualms aside, Echoes does still offer a lot to love. Its beam system was completely original, and it came up with more new gadgets and mechanics than either of its Prime siblings. It also introduced one of the franchise’s most popular antagonists in the form of Dark Samus. Though this was another riff on an idea that originated in the Zelda series, Dark Samus is still a great villain, and the encounters with her are tense and memorable. Though not Metroid’s finest moment, Echoes is an astute reminder that even a subpar Metroid game is generally heads and tails above everything else on the market. (Mike Worby)

137) Viewtiful Joe
Developer(s) Capcom Production Studio 4
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: 26 June 2003 / NA: 7 October 2003
Genre(s) Action, Platforming, Beat ’em up

If there was ever a game with so much style and flair that all I could do is say to myself “THIS IS FABULOUS!,” well Viewtiful Joe is that game. Viewtiful Joe made its first appearance in North America on October 7th, 2003, released exclusively to the GameCube. The core gameplay consists of a traditionally 2D side-scrolling beat ’em up, but the unique aspect of this game is the Viewtiful FX power (VFX), which emulates the camera tricks seen in films. These powers come in handy for fighting off enemies, as well as solving various stage puzzles found in the game. The powers you have include the ability to slow time, which increases your ability to deal damage and dodge, as well as Mach speed, which gives Joe an after-image effect giving you the ability to take on multiple opponents on the screen, and Zoom-in causes the camera to get up close, giving you the ability to focus attacks and use a new set of power moves. The game was a bit of a hidden gem, selling less than a 100,000 in its first week of release in Japan, and only 275,000 worldwide. It fell short of what Capcom predicted, but due to its small budget, it still did relatively well commercially. All in all, this is a solid game that made the GameCube a very appealing console to own during the time period. (Aaron Santos)

138) Resident Evil 4
Developer(s) Capcom Production
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: January 11, 2005
Genre(s) Survival horror

Series creator Shinji Mikami reinvented the wheel with the fourth numbered entry in the Resident Evil franchise. Reinventing the series was a risky move, but fortunately Capcom nailed it with a new over-the-shoulder third-person aiming system that reinvigorated the genre. There is a reason why this game is cited as one of the primary inspirations for many extremely successful third-person shooters, such as Uncharted, Gears of War, and Dead Space. Resident Evil 4 did for the action-horror genre what Super Mario 64 did for 3D platformers. By combining horror with genuinely clever, exhilarating survival combat and an oppressive atmosphere, Capcom created a near-perfect game, and arguably one of the finest video games ever made — and its greatest achievement is how fresh and vital it remains after all these years! (Ricky D)

139) Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release:  JP: October 7, 2004 / NA: May 23, 2005
Genre(s) Strategy

As a follow-up to Fire Emblem‘s Western debut, Sacred Stones is a worthy, if imperfect sequel. It’s essentially more of the same premise — a nation at war, displaced warrior nobles, and a plucky band of soldiers — but he game’s stylized fantasy world is brought to life with gorgeous artistic direction and characters that are both fun and memorable.

Sacred Stones’ tactics gameplay is, like most Fire Emblem games, fairly arcade-y. You control your soldiers, unique units with varied classes and abilities, as you complete objectives on a grid-based map. There aren’t any resources to manage, save for gold, so you only have to focus on how you want to make use of your units in a given situation. Various RPG elements, like item loadouts, leveling up, and stats, create a distinct sense of progression. The strategy that Sacred Stones calls for isn’t the deepest, but this game truly shines with its entertaining cast and satisfying gameplay.

Sacred Stones suffers from a problem that would continue to plague the Fire Emblem series well into the future: grinding. The original Fire Emblem that released in the West was a tightly designed experience that called for careful team management. If you relied too much on a single character or composition, you were bound to run into trouble. The addition of “The Tower of Valni” completely negated that. If you encountered any opposition, you could merely head to the Tower and repeatedly go through the first floor, which had an enemy unit that would give high amounts of XP well into higher levels. Regardless of the first floor exploit, the fact that the Tower even exists means the developers accounted for the player to have a limitless source of growth, which raises questions about the overall level design.

For all of the game’s faults, Sacred Stones still possesses the heart and soul of a worthy entry in the Fire Emblem series. (Kyle Rogacion)

140) The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: November 4, 2004 / NA: January 10, 2005
Genre(s) Action-adventure

Most Zelda fans will stand by a single game as their “absolute best” when looking at everything the series has to offer. Minish Cap was the last conventional top-down Zelda until A Link Between Worlds revived the genre on the 3DS, and is a charming game that takes a unique spin on classic Zelda enemies. Your early game bosses aren’t giant spiders or bomb-eating dinosaurs, but instead just normal chu-blobs and octoroks. The difference is that you’re 2cm tall, so even the least threatening of basic baddies will be a powerful enemy in comparison.

Swapping between normal and Minish size has a very light/dark world feel to it. Minish Cap builds on the foundations of A Link to the Past and the Oracle games, and explores many different kinds of puzzles and side-quests that require you to change size and make use of items that are unique only to Minish Cap.

Minish Cap also has one of the most charming art styles in a Zelda title, and combines the cute and cartoony visuals of Wind Waker with 32-bit sprites. What’s left is an endearing cast of characters that have great expressive and idle animations. Often overlooked, but still just as big as other Zelda games, Minish Cap earns its place on the top Nintendo games list. (Taylor Smith)

141) Kirby’s Canvas Curse
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo DS, Wii U
Release: JP: March 24, 2005 / NA: June 13, 2005
Genre(s) Platforming

The opening dialogue of Kirby’s Canvas Curse is very 80s/early 90s inspired. From the written story setting the scene for the player, to the nostalgic soundtrack blasting through, this isn’t your average Kirby game, and designed to utilize the full-extent of the new Nintendo DS, it became an entirely new concept for Kirby.

Canvas Curse implemented the dual-screen in a way that would become common for many DS titles. The touchscreen is the focal point of the game, with movement requiring the stylus’ guidance. The top screen becomes much like a previous options screen, showing information such as the map, lives, and stars collected.

In many ways, Canvas Curse isn’t a Kirby game, but a game with Kirby in it. Gone is Kirby’s usual nature to inhale enemies and absorb their abilities. This time, Kirby operates much more like Sonic the Hedgehog, rolling with the sway of the stylus, bashing enemies with a simple jump into them. Kirby’s Canvas Curse isn’t so much about Kirby but instead revealing the concept of the Nintendo DS, and with that it did a fantastic job, becoming enough of a success to declare itself as one of the most familiar games in the Kirby series. (James Baker)

142) Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems / Nintendo SPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: April 20, 2005 / NA: October 17, 2005
Genre(s) Strategy

While Japan had been playing Fire Emblem games on home consoles since 1990, the West had only known of the series as a portable franchise. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance was a big deal not only for being the series’ first worldwide console release, but also being the first game to use 3D models, fully animated cutscenes, and voice acting. It was a huge step forward for the franchise in terms of visuals, and set a high standard for later games to live up to.

Despite its overhaul in visuals, Path of Radiance plays it safe when it comes to gameplay. It sticks to its roots, combining several mechanics from across previous titles to help build a good experience. Combat is still dictated by a rock-paper-scissors mechanic, with a few outliers and oddballs thrown in the mix to keep players on their toes. Each member of Path of Radiance‘s playable cast has their own unique story that can be expanded upon through pre-battle support conversations. There are plenty of other things to do in the pre-battle menu as well, such as crafting custom weapons and helping units level up with bonus experience acquired during missions.

It’s no mystery why Path of Radiance commands such a high price given its scarcity, overall positive reception, and a great amount of polish. The game’s positive feedback is what led Intelligent Systems to make the next Fire Emblem title, Radiant Dawn, a direct sequel. (Taylor Smith)

PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN

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Greatest Nintendo Games

200 Best Nintendo Games (Part 4) Change the System

This era would become the interlude between different Nintendo approaches, which by the end, Nintendo would decide not to compete directly with its competitors.

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In its own way, the Nintendo GameCube was the first portable home-console, as it had a handle at the back and was designed to be carried to different places. Mini-discs became a short-term phenomenon at the time and Nintendo pre-maturely jumped at them, but this doesn’t take away from the ingenuity and influence the GameCube would later have on the later generations of Nintendo consoles. The Game Boy Advance would also be released as the upgrade to the Game Boy Color, with further in-game features when connected to the GameCube via a link cable. This era would become the interlude between different Nintendo approaches, and by the end Nintendo would decide not to compete directly with its competitors.

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Part Four: 2000 – 2005

96) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: April 27, 2000 / NA: October 26, 2000
Genre(s) Action-adventure

How do you follow-up The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, debatably the best N64 game and perhaps even the greatest game of our time? Nintendo’s answer was to make the next Zelda entry emphatically different. That’s not to say that The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask doesn’t provide everything a Zelda game should. The core gameplay and mechanics from Ocarina are all present, the superb combat, mind-bending puzzles, magnificent dungeons, and of course, memorable locales and characters, all brilliantly designed and gorgeously rendered in shadowy tones. What makes Majora’s Mask so unique and so sensational is its rich and lively world, perhaps still the most animated world in all of Zelda.

Absent from Majora’s Mask are Hyrule, the castle, and the princess. Instead, the game follows Link as he arrives at the nearby land of Termina. While dungeons are still a major aspect of Majora’s Mask, far more time is spent in Termina, fulfilling bizarre fetch quests, engaging some unforgettable, strange characters, and weaving through a complex, intricate world that is genuinely the game’s central puzzle. Oh yeah, and that rich world is going to end in three days. In this Zelda game, the player doesn’t battle against Ganon, and while the game’s antagonist, Majora, is one of the best-designed villains in franchise history, the true battle is against the clock while trying to complete as much of the world puzzle as possible until having to reset it before the Moon crashes into Termina. No pressure. While many of the weapons and tools at Link’s disposal are much the same as Ocarina of Time, unique to Majora’s Mask is a large, unique array of masks that alter Link’s abilities. Those required to complete each dungeon are most notable, as they change Link into the familiar species from the series — Dekus, Gorons, and Zoras — and completely change how the game is played. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a game unlike any other, and one that is a must play not only for fans of the series, but gaming enthusiasts in general. (Tim Maison)

97) Perfect Dark
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Rare
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: NA: 22 May 2000
Genre(s) First-person shooter

One of the most eagerly anticipated games released for the Nintendo 64 was none other than Rare’s spiritual successor to GoldenEye. After Rare and Nintendo lost the rights to the James Bond license in a bidding war with EA, the masterminds at Rare decided to flex their creative muscles with a completely new concept. Without the restrictions of a 007 license, Rare was able to implement whatever crazy ideas they had in the shooter genre. That game was Perfect Dark, and in my opinion, it is bigger and better than its groundbreaking predecessor. Yes, Goldeneye is a classic, and without it Perfect Dark would never exist; Goldeneye set the bar, and it was hugely important for the genre, especially for console gaming. But just because it came first, doesn’t make it the better game.

Goldeneye may have set a standard, but Perfect Dark improves upon it in every way possible. Yes, Perfect Dark borrows many functions from GoldenEye 007, the most obvious being the control scheme and general gameplay, but Perfect Dark also has more weapons, better production value, an original story, slick graphics, a killer soundtrack, tons of cheats, a trove of hidden secrets, a co-op mode, a counter-op mode, and an anti-hero who just so happens to be a highly skilled marksman, a lethal hand-to-hand combat fighter, an expert pilot, and an eager bounty hunter with a wicked sense of humor. (Ricky D)

98) Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: March 24, 2000 / NA: June 26, 2000
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Another Kirby debut, this time on the much loved N64. This time, former foe King Dedede becomes an ally to help save the planet Ripple Star from Dark Matter. Ribbon, one of the fairies that lives on the planet, flees from her home with a sacred treasure, the Great Crystal. Unfortunately, Dark Matter pursue and smash the sacred crystal into pieces throughout the galaxy, beginning Kirby’s quest to find the pieces.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is so typically Kirby that the game is a bit of an easy stroll for a series veteran. There are seven basic abilities: burn, stone, bomb, ice, needle, cutter, and spark. These elements give Kirby an extra attack to inflict more damage on his foes. The power becomes more intense when you merge abilities together. For example, burn and bomb will produce a firework, while burn and needle will produce a fire arrow. This merging of abilities not only pushes Kirby through enemies like a snow plow, but also creates a lot of fun in finding out how each ability reacts with each other.

The 2.5-dimensional graphics created the illusion of three dimensions, but playing as your standard left to right platform game. The adorable art-style and the openness of the background perform this illusion spectacularly, often confusing the player into thinking some levels are open world, only to find most of the galaxy cannot be explored. In many ways, it’s the missing link, the Archaeopteryx if you will. It’s Nintendo’s evolution from the two dimensional SNES into the three dimensional Nintendo 64. (James Baker)

99) Banjo-Tooie
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64, Xbox 360
Release:  NA: 20 November 2000
Genre(s) Platforming, Action-adventure

Once upon a time, a bear and a bird traveled through many strange and varied worlds in their quest to stop an evil witch. Their adventure became legend, and Rareware’s platformer collect-a-thon prowess was once again beyond doubt. Two years later, they were back with an equally beloved sequel, Banjo-Tooie, a game whose reputation has soured a bit since 2000. Reviews of the Xbox 360 re-release were not as kind as the Nintendo 64 original, citing its monstrous size and an unwieldy number of collectibles. But rather than dwell on negatives, why not nail down why Banjo-Tooie actually deserves another look?

Let’s face it: Super Mario 64 will always be a hard game to beat, and the first Banjo performed admirably to even come close. Banjo-Tooie, however, deserves to be considered in another genre altogether. Like Metroid PrimeDark Souls or Tomb Raider, the sprawling, interconnected levels of Tooie betray Rare’s true intentions: to create an adventure game like no other — simply in the guise of a 3D platformer.

Viewed today as a semi-open-world Metroidvania, Banjo-Tooie can go toe-to-toe with any other adventure game. The controls are tighter than Banjo-Kazooie, the graphics are second only to other Rare games, and the art (though much kookier) rivals the Zelda games for best fantasy designs on the console. And that’s all without mentioning Rare’s signature British weirdness, only a few notches below the adults-only Conker’s Bad Fur Day in terms of humor (or in the UK, humour).

Banjo-Tooie is an ambitious action-adventure that also happens to be a sequel to a 3D platformer, and played on its own terms it is a massive and rewardingly-twisted fairytale world to explore. (Mitchell Akhurst)

100) Paper Mario
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Release: JP: August 11, 2000 / NA: February 5, 2001
Genre(s) Role-playing

Even in the N64 era, folks were nostalgic about 2D Mario games, and since Nintendo was essentially at war with Square at the time, Paper Mario wasn’t just the easiest way to revisit some Super Mario World nostalgia — it was also the closest thing fans were getting to a Super Mario RPG sequel. Borrowing the button-tapping, action-RPG mechanics from Super Mario RPGPaper Mario traded in the rest of the package, probably to avoid tricky legal ground over their former joint venture with Square. Luckily, the game turned out great, not just in spite of these obstacles, but in some ways because of them.

The 2D perspective meant that the developers could make the game look gorgeous (for the time), since they didn’t have to design and animate entire free-roaming environments. It also helped matters that the button-tapping mechanics of the previous game actually better fit the platformer style perspective, rather than the isometric point of view of its forebearer. Add in a cast of almost totally new characters, and you have an essential classic for the N64 era, the first in a self-referential series that is still ongoing even today, both in handheld and console form. (Mike Worby)

101) WWF No Mercy
Developer(s) Asmik Ace Entertainment/AKI Corporation
Publisher(s) THQ
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: NA: November 17, 2000
Genre(s) Fighting, Sports

In my opinion, there are three wrestling games released on the N64 that belong on this list: WCW NOW Revenge, Wrestlemania 2000 and WWF No Mercy. Unfortunately, only one made the cut, but at least our staff voted for the best of the three.

Hot on the heels of WWF Wrestlemania 2000, THQ’s WWF No Mercy may just be the King of all wrestling games. Decades later, there still hasn’t been a wrestling game that tops No Mercy, and for many wrestling fans it’s still the game they play to this day, thanks to a ton of mods that include current WWE and NXT superstars on the roster. No Mercy may seem immensely familiar to fans of Wrestlemania 2000, but THQ added quite a bit to the fray, including 65 WWF superstars, all-new matches (Royal Rumble, King of the Ring, Guest Referee, Iron Man, Ladder, Tables,  Survival), double team moves, eight arenas, several pay-per-views, and the deepest create-a-wrestler mode ever made, not to mention a complex career mode. It had everything you could possibly wish for in a wrestling game and then some. (Ricky D)

102) Mario Party 3
Developer(s) Hudson Soft
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: December 7, 2000 / NA: May 7, 2001
Genre(s) Party

Ask me what my favourite Super Mario game is and I can answer without any hesitation. Ask me what my favourite Zelda game is and I’ll reply right away. But if you ask me what my favourite Mario Party title is, I’ll not only think twice about my decision, but I’ll often go back and forth between several installments in the series. That said, the N64-era of Mario Party games will always be the best of the series in my eyes, and if I had to choose the best of those, Mario Party 3 would get my vote.

Mario Party 3 was the last installment on the Nintendo 64, and it stands above the previous two games for several reasons. Not only does the game feature 70 fun-filled mini-games, but it also features 12 different game boards, not to mention the unique Duel Mode and one of the most memorable series storylines to date. More importantly, Mario Party 3 understands the balance between luck and skill.

Of course, the best Mario Party game is likely the one you’ve played most with your friends, so chances are not everyone will agree that this is the best. For some of us here at Goomba Stomp, the N64 was the console that offered the best couch co-op games, and the console we spent more time playing alongside our friends. (Ricky D)

103) The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Color
Release: JP: February 27, 2001 / NA: May 14, 2001
Genre(s) Action-adventure

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is the sister game to Oracle of Seasons, both of which are the portable successors to Link’s Awakening DX. Both games share a lot in common with Link’s Awakening, but each takes a different route in how it presents its gameplay. Oracle of Ages focuses on puzzles, and tries to find interesting ways to get the player to think about their surroundings and their inventory, as well as giving them a lot of items that interact with the environment rather than with enemies.

On a personal level, Oracle of Ages resonates with me a lot, as it’s the version I had when the two games originally came out. I remember being thoroughly surprised by the boss of the second dungeon, Head Thwomp, as it was a battle based around timing (something I wasn’t very good at when I was ten years old) and did not require the use of the sword, instead making use of bombs. Many of the boss battles in Oracle of Ages followed this trend of not using the sword as your main damage-dealing item. While today that’s not much of an accomplishment for a Zelda title, when the Oracle games were coming out, the series was still establishing its footing in 3D, and many bosses in the top-down games were still focused primarily on sword-based combat. Oracle of Ages also has one of my personal favorite items, the Seed Shooter. Intended to be Ages’ version of the staple bow/slingshot, the Seed Shooter is able to ricochet various types of ammo off walls to hit targets. While this is implemented in some puzzles, it’s not carried throughout the game, and ultimately you can still just stand in front of something and spam seeds like rapid-fire arrows.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is an interesting example of how to experiment with an IP, even if some of its most interesting ideas are not fully realized. (Taylor Smith)

nintendo_gamecube_hd-wallpaper-1075316

104) Animal Crossing
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64, GameCube
Release: JP: April 14, 2001 /NA: September 15, 2002
Genre(s) Life simulation, Role-playing

It’s tough to coherently convey why Animal Crossing is so fun. As a human who moves in to the midst of a village of friendly animals, you wander around, chat with animals, decorate your house, and try to pay off a mortgage. Contentedness with the size of your avatar’s home is an impossibility, and continually you’ll find yourself in the pitfall that is an expansion and a brand new mortgage. You can never have enough stuff, you want a new look, and you need more money for it all. In short, Animal Crossing is one of the most true-to-life, microcosmic experiences ever captured in a video game, all wrapped up in a charming, cute, animal-themed bow. Perhaps the true charm of Animal Crossing is in its clever characters, funny AI animals who act all on their own, share with the player, ask for help, advice, or a new catchphrase, and can even adopt a catchphrase from a neighbor. Perhaps those seemingly living animals feel even more real existing in a world that persists even when the player isn’t present.

The most fun might be seeing that persistent world change with the seasons, bringing new things to do and collect on top of shaping the look of the town. Perhaps it’s the variety of things to do — fishing, digging up fossils, bug hunting, and redecorating — that’s the most enjoyable. Hell, there are even classic NES games to play inside the game itself. Or maybe the variety of collectibles, including clothing, decorations, and furniture sets make Animal Crossing so enticing. There’s certainly no end to the things achievable in game, like completing the museum’s collection, finishing a furniture set, or paying off that last mortgage, and whether in a period of ten minutes or ten hours, there is always something entertaining to do. Then again, perhaps Animal Crossing is so addictive and so amusing because it allows you to do virtually whatever you want within your tiny, life-like town, be that absent-mindedly chase butterflies or conscientiously work toward that next payment. Animal Crossing can be whatever you want it to be. But I’m of course being facetious with all of this. The most fun thing to do is hit your neighbor with your net. (Tim Maison)

105) The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Color
Release: JP: February 27, 2001 / NA: May 14, 2001
Genre(s) Action-adventure

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons is the action game antithesis to Ages‘ puzzle-focused gimmicks. Many of the bosses in Oracle of Seasons are reworks or recycles of bosses from the original The Legend of Zelda or other titles, probably because when Capcom made their original pitch to Nintendo about working on a Zelda game, it was meant to be a Game Boy remake of the original. Rather than rely on a lot of gimmicks, bosses were more about recognizing cycles and patterns, then punishing accordingly. This focus is reflected in the gear Link can acquire. In Ages, the Seed Shooter allows for new creative ways to solve projectile based puzzles, but the Slingshot in Seasons serves roughly the same purpose as the Bow and Arrow in any other top-down Zelda.

In order to obtain the true ending in either Oracle of Seasons or Oracle of Ages, you would need to link the two games together via a password. If you were lucky enough to own both copies of the Oracles titles, it was as simple as completing one game, writing it down, and starting the next, but for the not so lucky it required you to have a friend who had the opposite title. Thankfully, this problem has sort of been remedied with the two games being put on the 3DS Virtual Console. While Oracle of Seasons was the preferred version here at Goomba Stomp, both titles are great in their own ways. If you’ve yet to play them, I highly recommend checking both out. (Taylor Smith)

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106) Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: March 2001
Genre(s) Platforming

If this were the Baseball Hall of Fame, then Conker’s Bad Fur Day would be our lovable Ty Cobb: filthy, lewd, violent, and often completely hammered. Forget actual talent; these qualities are enough to make Conker stand out from the giant sea of poo called mediocrity, and it’s that initially shocking and completely hilarious crude personality that makes Conker’s Bad Fur Day one of the most entertaining experiences on the N64 or anywhere else.

Where else can you help a lascivious bee make it with a large-breasted sunflower, fight a terminator haystack, storm the beaches in a war with fascist teddy bears, defeat an operatic pile of corn-riddled feces, and take on a xenomorph with the help of the game’s developers? All this and much more awaits the hungover squirrel on his journey to first get home, then rescue his buxom bunny girlfriend. British voice actors bring indelible wit and variety to the smartly-written script (especially those lines involving a bevy of curse words more creative than sailors could dream of), and the world of Conker’s Bad Fur Day feels alive, with nearly every object anthropomorphized, down to cheese that screams and sobs for its life or wads of mafia-accented cash scattered about that taunt the player from nooks and ledges.

So much is packed into Conker that the game almost demands multiple playthroughs in order to catch all the jokes. Luckily, the platforming that gets the besotted hero from movie spoof level to movie spoof level isn’t nearly as crude as its sense of humor, and ends up being quite serviceable. The gameplay won’t be winning any design showdown’s with a certain upstanding plumber’s franchise, but that isn’t the point of Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Each stage serves as a gateway to Rare’s delightful debauchery, and the laughs keep coming all the way to the sobering end, a tonally perfect finish to an epic quest filled with lust, greed, and urination.

For fans who think Nintendo consoles were or are simply for kids, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is not to be missed; for everyone else, it’s simply one of the best. (Patrick Murphy)

107) Golden Sun
Developer(s) Camelot Software Planning
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: August 1, 2001 / NA: November 11, 2001
Genre(s) Role-playing

Though the Game Boy Advance is not generally known for its hefty supply of RPGs, games like Golden Sun remind us that platform was not starving for them either. Focusing on a set of magically adept teens (surprise!), Golden Sun sees main character Isaac and friends attempting to seal the power of alchemy away from the world of Weyard, while learning about its history along the way. Players will engage in battles that portray a surprisingly robust array of visual effects, while collecting and summoning Pokemon-like creatures called Djinn along the way. The ways this mechanic effects the gameplay of Golden Sun are similar to something like Final Fantasy VIII, with summons both affecting character stats in addition to being available for attacks in battle.

Finally, magic can be used outside of battle in order to solve puzzles in dungeons and villages. For example, a player might freeze a set of puddles into platforms that they could use to cross a gap, or melt ice in order to create a river to float across. A truly one-of-a-kind 2D JRPGGolden Sun stands as not only one of the best RPGs on the Game Boy Advance, but one of the best games on the platform period. (Mike Worby)

108) Advance Wars
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: NA: September 10, 2001
Genre(s) Strategy

Advance Wars is another game from Nintendo’s Western Strategy Renaissance. Like with the Fire Emblem series, Wars games had been coming out in Japan since the days of the Famicom; they just never made their way outside of the country. Advance Wars feels much closer to a traditional strategy game than a tactics game. You have to micromanage armies, gather resources, and actively deploy troops that are at an advantage, rather than pray to RNG gods for stat increases or critical hits. Strategy and victory comes more from outwitting the AI rather than rolling a pair of invisible dice.

Advance Wars’ visuals are also great. Its super-simplified sprites give the game a feeling of playing with toy soldiers on little city playmats. The C.O. system the game employs makes it feel even more like a kid’s version of war, with different factions having weird and unique bonuses based on their general. The real icing on the cake is the game’s level builder and multiplayer. It wasn’t easy finding people to play with in the days before online gaming was standardized, but for the time there really wasn’t much like it on the Game Boy. Advance Wars is a great starting place for strategy enthusiasts, and it has since blossomed into a sprawling franchise across multiple Nintendo platforms. (Taylor Smith)

Nintendo109) Luigi’s Mansion
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: September 14, 2001 / NA: November 18, 2001
Genre(s) Action-adventure

After being Mario’s sidekick for more than a decade, Luigi was finally given the chance to once again star in his own game. Luigi’s Mansion features some refreshing ideas, a unique and atmospheric experience, an entire cast of new characters to populate the Nintendo universe, and one of the best examples of sound design found on the GameCube. It was an extreme departure from what Mario Bros. games are known to be, and a virtual textbook of video game special effects.

The game features a rather simplistic premise for sure, and one obviously inspired by Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters, but what makes Luigi’s Mansion a great launch title is how technologically impressive it was for the time. Luigi’s Mansion is not an entirely straightforward 3D adventure; it’s both an action-adventure game and a puzzler, and it requires a lot of patience and exploration. Gone are the spacious and whimsical environments of the Mushroom Kingdom — instead you’re given one dark, claustrophobic and creepy mansion that Luigi must cautiously explore, and a handful of suddenly executed surprises make this as fresh and vital as the day it was made.

What makes the game so effective is not so much the slightly sinister characterisation of the generally neurotic protagonist, but the fact that Hideki Konno made the house itself the central character, a beautifully designed, highly atmospheric entity. The mansion itself is huge and incredibly detailed. The pseudo-3D world is laid out across several floors and dozens of rooms and secret passageways, all of which house ectoplasmic manifestations and things that go bump in the night. Beyond everything else, Luigi’s Mansion is a virtual textbook of level design and video game special effects. The real-time lighting, shadow effects, physics, and character animations are astounding, rendering Luigi and the cast of poltergeists with distinctive characteristics similar to those seen in The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. Luigi’s first solo excursion isn’t perfect, but what is? It may be a little stiff in the joints by now, but it’s still a remarkable feat of imagination, a spooky old ghost story with a genuinely sinister edge. (Ricky D)

Olimar;_Pikmin_&_Olimar(Clear)110) Pikmin
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: October 26, 2001 / NA: December 2, 2001
Genre(s) Real-time strategy

Whether a gentle allegory about environmentalism or a twisted tale of an elitist spaceman who subjugates an entire plant/animal hybrid species and sacrifices them for his own personal agenda without batting an eye, Nintendo’s Pikmin is irresistible, charming fun. The mix of puzzle-solving and exploration with some light real-time strategy proved the perfect fit for console gamers, accessible in its simple controls, yet deep enough for experienced players to sink their teeth into. The pleasure of playing as the giant-headed Captain Olimar comes from (believe it or not) time management, as planning out moves to maximize the efficiency of a day’s work turns out to be immensely satisfying. Breeding Pikmin like the Matrix robots bred humans takes precious minutes away from important spaceship parts-hunting wall-breaking, so when the spirit one of those little guys floats up into the sky and dissipates into thin air with a painful squeak, the player really feels the hit his or her resources just took.

The solid gameplay is also supported by crisp visuals depicting the world as the ants in Miyamoto’s garden must see it, with giant forests formed from blades of grass, and mutant predatory bugs that rule the night. Though the 30-day time limit before Olimar suffers oxygen poisoning and a horrific death may turn some off who just want a relaxing adventure on a not-so-alien planet, this is still a Nintendo game after all, and most shouldn’t have a problem finding most of what they need for the spaceman to escape alive. A quirky little system deserves quirky little games, and that’s exactly what the GameCube got when Nintendo made one of their best with Pikmin. (Patrick Murphy)

111) Warioland 4
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: August 21, 2001 / NA: November 19, 2001
Genre(s) Platforming

Wario Land 4 is simply one of the most stylistic games ever made. Past Wario games were certainly strange, but Wario Land 4 pushes past that to a deliver a surreal platforming experience brimming with gorgeous sights and sounds. The platforming gameplay feels similar to past entries in the series, but it’s the environments and sounds that really make the game feel unique. It gives off a vibe that’s dark in nature, while simultaneously feeling like a dream. Strange CDs are collected in each stage that contain a kaleidoscope of sounds and rhythms. None of it really makes sense, but it’s certainly fascinating. In terms of style, there’s really nothing quite like it.

However, it holds up as a gameplay experience all the same. Exploring the stages in a non-linear fashion leads to all sorts of secrets, such as diamonds and the aforementioned sound CDs. Each stage has also been designed as a speed-running course; once the player reaches the end, they must jump on a frog statue and race to the opening portal before the time expires. It’s a stressful yet fun experience that becomes heightened by the intense music blaring through the Game Boy Advance’s tiny speakers.

Even though it’s not one of the most popular games on the GBA, it’s easily one of the best. Wario Land 4 is an excellent combination of style and substance that any Nintendo fan could appreciate. (Zack Rezak)

112) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: October 12, 2001
Genre(s) Visual novel adventure

Ace Attorney was one of my first visual novels, and it continues to be one of my favorites. You play as Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney — a defense lawyer who’s alternatingly skilled and bumbling. Each chapter of the game follows a single case, where Phoenix takes on a client and seeks to clear their name. Ace Attorney follows the same basic visual novel format of text-driven gameplay. Where it stands out in particular are the endearingly campy characters and sense of reward you get from working through a case. Make no mistake — Ace Attorney is a linear game. You can certainly lose in a number of different ways, but there’s only one set way to win. The game’s genius is how it obfuscates that linearity.

The translation team behind Ace Attorney did a stellar job. Not only did they create memorable side characters and a wonderful protagonist, but they made the cases interesting to solve. In a heavy text and language-based game, that’s no small feat. Accurately capturing character dialogue, item descriptions, and court cases require writing that is both accessible and nuanced. Ace Attorney treads the line between joke and serious to surprising effect. It takes its time to develop its characters and give everybody a chance in the spotlight. You grow to naturally like the characters because of all their faults, quirks, and personality.

The story and characters are so interesting that you eagerly await for the story to unfold, rather than get frustrated at the blatant linearity of it all. Ace Attorney is all about the journey, from investigating the case to proving your client’s innocence. Once the pieces start falling into place, you really do start to feel like an ace attorney. (Kyle Rogacion)

Nintendo

113) Super Smash Bros. Melee
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: November 21, 2001 / NA: December 3, 2001
Genre(s) Fighting

The original Super Smash Bros. for the N64 is uncannily fun to play, and is as entertaining now as it was when it released in 1999, but two years after its release the game was outdone in almost every capacity by its successor, the ever-popular and still-played Super Smash Bros. Melee. Melee offers everything the original does (a clash of lovable Nintendo mascots), but significantly expanded. From the outset there are fifteen playable characters in Melee (three more than the original), with ten more to be unlocked with progression through the game. What’s more, those fighters are almost perfectly balanced. Consequently, Melee allows every player to truly play to their preference. On top of that, there are twenty more brilliantly crafted stages on which to play, adding a lot more variety in the locales than ever before.

Melee is also responsible for the series’ tournament mode, not to mention the increased number of items and modes to boot. It also introduced new single-player modes that would become staples of the franchise: Adventure mode and All-Star mode, which allow players to push their skills to new and unexpected limits. Melee also debuted trophies — collectible statues that provide interesting bios for characters both in the game and non-playable characters, providing fun context for the larger wealth of material the game derives its characters and stages from. With graphics that truly demonstrated the strengths of the GameCube, fun single-player and multiplayer gameplay, well-designed stages, impeccable character design and control schemes, and beautiful balance, Super Smash Bros. Melee is correctly considered one of the best fighting games of all time. (Tim Maison)

114) Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader

Developer(s) Factor 5 / LucasArts

Publisher(s) LucasArts
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: NA: November 18, 2001
Genre(s) Action, shooter

The GameCube hosted more Star Wars games than any other Nintendo home console, but none (including the sequel to this gem) could come close to delivering the kind of magical moments that abound in Factor 5’s amazing launch title, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Hardly a more whiz-bang introduction to what sensory feats the little purple box was capable of could be found at the time, and not many have bettered it since. From the very first stage players are bombarded with seemingly hundreds of enemies firing a chaotic swarm of lasers, from pesky TIEs to the lumbering AT-ATs, the action rushing by at an arcade speed to the spot-on John Williams themes and familiar sound effects.

Though the initial onslaught might overwhelm rookie pilots for a moment, tight controls make sure that dogfighting comes off fluid and natural; locking S-foils in attack position never felt so good. From the ubiquitous Hoth level to the epic fleet assault on the second Death Star, Rogue Leader covers all the classic moments from the first trilogy, but the plenty of new missions also retain that Star Wars feel, expanding the universe and giving players another look at how an insignificant rebellion tackled a mighty empire. By honing in on exactly what the N64 original did best — vehicular combat — then enveloping the gameplay in the rich trappings of a beloved universe, Star Wars Rogue Squadron: Rogue Leader did what no other truly had before on a Nintendo console: it transported fans to that galaxy far, far away. (Patrick Murphy)

115) Resident Evil (REmake)
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Director(s) Shinji Mikami
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: March 22, 2002
Genre(s) Survival horror

There were a lot of sour grapes for Nintendo fans during the reign of the N64. While Nintendo’s first-party products kept players from starving completely, exciting new franchises like Resident Evil by passed the console almost entirely. Luckily, Capcom rectified this with a smorgasbord of RE titles on the GameCube, beginning with one of the best remakes in gaming history. Resident Evil, often called the REmake to distinguish it from the original, is a remake so successful that it actually renders the original nearly unplayable by comparison.

The REmake took everything that worked about Resident Evil and improved upon on it, while excising all of the refuse along the way. With new additions to the plot, sharper graphics, tighter gameplay, and a notable lack of terrible dialogue, the REmake is rightly touted as one of the all-time great remakes in an industry that’s now full of them. To boot, it still looks great today, even if certain gameplay elements don’t necessarily hold up so well. If you have PS Plus, then hopefully you grabbed the HD remaster for free, as it’s well worth a playthrough, both as a time capsule and as a genuinely great survival horror title. (Mike Worby)

mario-sunshine116) Super Mario Sunshine
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: July 19, 2002 / USA: August 26, 2002
Genre(s) Platforming

The year was 2001, and Nintendo had just released its lovable purple lunchbox, the Nintendo GameCube. While the innovative Luigi’s Mansion had just come out, the console lacked what it truly needed: a 3D Super Mario game. Super Mario Sunshine provided just that, sending Mario on a vacation that he would not soon forget. Sunshine is a tough, but rewarding game (my 8-year-old self-found it positively infuriating) that still holds up well today, despite being the weakest of the 3D Super Mario games. Mario’s jetpack/water gun, named F.L.U.D.D., is an incredibly interesting addition, augmenting Mario’s move set in a way unheard of until Super Mario Odyssey, and paving the way for a great experience. While the story is horrendous (even for a Mario platformer) and a 30fps framerate cap looks really strange in a Mario title, Super Mario Sunshine is still a good game that has, for the most part, stood the test of time.  (Izak Barnette)

117) Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Developer(s) Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Publisher(s) Konami
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance, Wii U Virtual Console
Release: JP: June 6, 2002 / NA: September 16, 2002
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

As mentioned before, with the growing prevalence of 3D titles, the GBA became the last haven for 2D games in the early 2000s. Since Konami had scored a huge critical success with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the natural place to take their series was the Game Boy Advance. Their first effort, Circle of the Moon, was a solid proving ground for the series in its new home but it wasn’t until the sequel that they really hammered out how to make the strengths and restrictions of the platform work for them. Harmony of Dissonance told the tale of Juste Belmont, Simon’s grandson, who sets out to rescue his childhood friend from becoming part of a blood ritual to resurrect Dracula once again. The plot, as usual, is sort of beside the point, as the reason everyone generally shows up is for a lot of whip-swinging, demon-slaying action. Even if the iconic series music wasn’t quite up to snuff with HoD, the gameplay and design grew by leaps and bounds over CotM, with the dual-magic system being a standout feature. Even if no portable installment has even touched the crown as held by Symphony of the Night, Harmony of Dissonance is surely one of the finest efforts to at least reach for it. (Mike Worby)

118) Resident Evil 0
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: November 12, 2002
Genre(s) Survival horror

After the success of the Resident Evil remake showed that there was indeed an audience for more mature and violent gaming on a Nintendo console, the stage was set for another GameCube-exclusive RE title in the form of a prequel. Resident Evil 0 centers its narrative around Rebecca Chambers, a minor character in the original game. She is joined by Billy Coen, a marine with a mysterious criminal background who normally would have just been another character to choose from at the outset of the game. RE0 changes up the formula though: instead of using one character or the other, you actually used both in tandem as a means to accomplish your goals. It was an inspired choice for the series, and had RE4 not taken off so dramatically, perhaps it might have become a franchise norm. Featuring a metric ton of RE lore and some of the creepiest enemies the series ever produced (Leech Man anyone?), Resident Evil 0 was the last traditional effort before survival-horror moved on and changed forever. (Mike Worby)

MetroidPrime

119) Metroid Prime
Developer(s) Retro Studios/Nintendo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: November 17, 2002
Genre(s) Action-adventure, First-person shooter

When Metroid Prime was first announced, amid several reinventions of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, it was met with an understandable level of backlash and skepticism. The notion that one of the most beloved side-scrolling series of all time would be forcibly morphed into a first-person shooter was not a popular one. Luckily for fans, they turned out to be dead wrong. With a little help from Texas-based Retro Studios, Nintendo was able to deliver arguably the best Metroid game yet, while simultaneously changing the game on what people could expect from the FPS genre.

All of the key mechanics from the series made the jump from 2D to 3D without missing a beat, and new ideas like alternate visors and physics-based morph ball puzzles make the game a unique challenge, even for longtime fans. Without a doubt the finest game on the GameCube, and one that still sits in my personal Top 10, Metroid Prime was the best reason to pick up a Nintendo’s little purple box, and remains an undisputed classic that still holds up today. (Mike Worby)

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120) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: December 13, 2002 / NA: March 24, 2003
Genre(s) Action-adventure

Director Eiji Aonuma’s swashbuckling adventure The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, set 100 years after the events in Ocarina of Time, stands as one of three best games released in the series thus far. Along with the N64 classic and A Link to the Past, The Wind Waker masterfully baits and hooks players with its perfect blend of polished design, tightly crafted controls, and beautiful presentation. Utilizing a completely new look with cel-shaded graphics, the game casts players in the role of a familiar young Link, who sets out on a long voyage across troubled seas, into dark dangerous dungeons and against ruthless foes to save his kidnapped sister. At the time of its release, it was immediately evident that Wind Waker was going to be different from the previous Zelda titles, yet it’s surprising that the grandeur of The Wind Waker‘s bold, thick strokes, lusciously saturated palette, and notably boyish protagonist with his humongous, expressive eyes ever caused so much controversy back in 2003. Over a decade later, the game’s legacy remains defined by its visuals.

Players with keen eyes and an appreciation for art will know that Nintendo doesn’t just do things for the sake of pure experimentation. When developing The Wind Waker, Nintendo not only created a hugely stylistic world down to every last detail, but also pushed the power of Gamecube to do so. Upon closer inspection, cel-shading clearly was the right choice. This is a game that emphasizes the vastness of the open ocean and the open sky, and with the application of cel-shading, every wave, every gust of wind is beautifully pronounced against a backdrop of colorful hillsides, small villages, and coastal locales. And like all previous titles in the series, the dungeons prove to be the most enjoyable aspect of this game, despite having so few. It is in these dungeons that Wind Waker shines. The true beauty of the visuals stands out, as each dungeon is brought to life with an astounding amount of detail. It’s ultimately not difficult to see why The Wind Waker has become something of a classic in the years since its release. Overall it is a huge achievement in every way, with a classic mix of sword-swinging action, perplexing puzzles, stirring storylines, vibrant art, evocative soundtrack, a cast of colorful characters, beautiful melodies, and a fantastic battle system that propels the adventure and exploration. For many, the Zelda brand represents the pinnacle of gaming, and The Wind Waker stands tall, side by side with the very best. (Ricky D)

PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN

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Greatest Nintendo Games

200 Best Nintendo Games (Part 3) – The Big N

How does anyone decide what the 200 greatest Nintendo games are? We here at Goomba Stomp have decided to put together a list of what we think are the 200 best and most influential games released exclusively to a Nintendo console.

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Named after its central processing unit, the Nintendo 64 would bring three dimensions to previously two-dimensional franchises. Some of the most influential games would appear on the Nintendo 64 — some regularly voted as the best of all time — but while the Nintendo 64 was making history with some stellar titles, an older console was making history of its own during this era. The Game Boy gave rise to one of the biggest franchises in history, while also upgrading itself to become the Game Boy Color — as revolutionary as color television itself, as handhelds would never be the same again.

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Earthbound

Part Three: 1995 – 2000

56) Earthbound
Developer(s) Ape/HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: JP: August 27, 1994 / NA: June 5, 1995
Genre(s) Role-playing

The SNES is arguably home to some of the best Japanese role-playing games ever made, but even among such revered company, Earthbound (known as Mother 2 in Japan) stands out as a brilliant satire about growing up and our fears of conformity. It’s anarchy versus conformity, only conformity doesn’t stand a chance. This often funny, always poignant coming of age tale, deeply embedded in suburban mores, centers around four kids, off to save the planet by collecting melodies while en route to defeating the evil alien force known as Giygas.

Earthbound didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it sure had fun twisting the usual JRPG tropes. There’s a princess you must rescue — not once, but twice — who’s really just a child prodigy, and there’s an arch nemesis who turns out to be your next-door neighbour. The game pits you in the shoes of a young boy named Ness as he investigates a nearby meteorite crash. There he learns that Giygas has enveloped the world in hatred, and consequently turned animals, humans, and inanimate objects into dangerous creatures. A bee from the future instructs Ness to collect melodies in a Sound Stone to preemptively stop Giygas from destroying the planet. While visiting eight Sanctuaries, Ness partners with three other kids: a psychic girl (Paula), an eccentric inventor (Jeff), and the prince of the kingdom of Dalaam (Poo). Along the way are underlining themes of corrupt politicians, post-traumatic stress, corporate greed, depression, capitalism, police violence, terrorist attacks, homosexuality, religious cults, and xenophobia. Your adventures take you through modern cities, prehistoric villages, cold winter climates, a desert wasteland, monkey caves, swamps, dinosaur museums, and even a yellow submarine. EarthBound has been often compared to Catcher in the Rye with its complex issues of identity, belonging, loss, connection, and alienation. Blistering, hallucinatory, and often brilliant, Earthbound is a one-two punch of social satire, and a hilarious ride into the twisted recesses of a boy’s psyche.

Earthbound stands, sweet and strong, outrageous and quirky, like its heroes — it’s about the loss of innocence as well as gaining wisdom — and is one of those treasures absolutely not to be missed. While it suffers from a slow start and stretched premise, the charm of its cast debunking an intergalactic conspiracy goes a long way. (Ricky D)

57) Illusion of Gaia
Developer(s) Quintet
Publisher(s) Enix
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: November 27, 1993 / NA: September 1, 1994
Genre(s) Action RPG

Illusion of Gaia was something of a spiritual sequel to Soul Blazer, with very loosely linked gameplay and story elements. Named Illusion of Time in Europe, the game put you in command of Will, a young adventurer with latent psychic abilities and the power to morph himself into the fully-grown adult body of a knight, as well as an alien-like lifeform named Shadow. Saving the world requires using each version of the hero at the appropriate time. As an action-RPG Illusion of Gaia fails in the RPG section, but shines well in its action. Although not as close to perfection as its predecessor, it still manages to be one of the most entertaining action-RPGs available on the SNES, and a fitting second game in a trilogy. (Ricky D)

58) Mega Man X
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: December 17, 1993
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Capcom made Mega Man fans wait a very long time for the arrival of Mega Man X, releasing the game for the SNES two and a half years after the system’s debut. But when it arrived, it was obvious why it took so long. This wasn’t just another Mega Man game — it was a complete reinvention of the franchise, and it blew our young minds. The classic series mythology forms the basis for Mega Man X, but the plot is new, taking place a century after the original Mega Man series, with an all-new arch-nemesis named Sigma and a supporting hero named Zero (a Maverick Hunter/mechanical soldier) who helps X defeat robots who turned against humanity. With the help of his partner, X must thwart the plans of Sigma and save mankind.

The standard run-and-gun action remains intact, with traditional attack strategies all carrying over, but this time around players get an assortment of advanced maneuvers like dashing, wall jumping, and instant weapon-swapping. In addition, X can charge his buster, and can now increase the length of his health meter — as well as upgrade his suit, piece by piece, to complete a set of new armor (which makes you look more and more like his hero, Zero). If you haven’t yet played this game, give it a try, and find out why Mega Man X is one of the all-time best. (Ricky D)

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59) Super Punch-Out!!
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D3 / Locomotive Corporation
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: NA: September 14, 1994
Genre(s) Sports

Super Punch-Out!! had some mighty big shoes to fill in the wake of its predecessor’s worldwide success. The general idea of a sequel is to keep what works with a beloved formula while presenting something new and unique, and Super Punch-Out!! did just that.

Super Punch-Out!! set itself apart with its cartoon-like style and colorful, outlandish opponents such as Aran Ryan, Mad Clown, Super Macho Man, and Rick Bruiser, to name a few. The gameplay didn’t change much, but the usage of transparency was added to facilitate the game’s “behind the back” perspective, and like the original Punch-Out!!, Super Punch-Out!! is more of a puzzle game rather than a sports game: Each opponent of the rogues gallery (16 in total, some familiar and others new) has their own unique style of fighting, and more importantly, their own unique weaknesses. You can’t just randomly punch your way through to victory by smashing buttons; players must carefully observe each opponent in order to find their weak spot. Mac’s moveset remains simplistic, amounting to left and right jabs, hooks, and dodges, and Doc is still in your corner! Much like its star, Little Mac, this is one underdog not to be taken lightly. (Ricky D)

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60) Super Metroid
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1 Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: JP: March 19, 1994 /  NA: April 18, 1994
Genre(s) Action-adventure

One of the things most notable about Super Metroid is its profound and effective sense of atmosphere. Few games have managed to make an alien world feel so strange and surreal as the planet Zebes does here. Though the evocative music goes a long way to establishing the sad and decaying world, points must be given to the design team, who really nail the deliberate strangeness of the creature and area layouts. What makes Super Metroid such a strong experience is its uninhibited use of wordless story-telling to craft an emotionally engaging narrative that casts two characters as mothers and creates an intense dichotomy and rivalry between them, culminating in an unforgettable battle over a savage but innocent child.

In the nuts and bolts department, the gameplay is wildly inventive, utilizing the power-up-based exploration mechanics that were introduced in previous installments. Super Metroid takes an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to growing your character, wherein you start off as a pellet-firing weakling and end the game as an invincible, hyper-driven, flashing, super-speedy, infinite-jumping juggernaut. Add to that the fact that you’re playing as the most badass bounty hunter in the galaxy, and Super Metroid equals pure gaming bliss. If you want a game that absolutely lives up to all of its hype and more, than you need to play Super Metroid. (Mike Worby)

61) Super Bomberman 2
Developer(s) Produce
Publisher(s) Hudson Soft
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: JP: April 28, 1994 / NA: September 1994
Genre(s) Action, Puzzle

The Bomberman series is one of gaming’s quintessential examples of a simple premise done to perfection having lasting appeal. Playing Bomberman with friends requires such a low barrier of entry to the fun; the game can be played with just one button, after all, and the constant threat of accidentally causing as much harm to yourself as you can to other players means multiplayer is a consistently frantic and riotous experience.

The SNES’s Super Bomberman 2 was a big improvement over its predecessor — particularly in the game’s single player Adventure Mode. Levels are larger, and subsequently make use of screen scrolling to pack in even more puzzles and environmental hazards like magnets, furnaces, and trampoline pads. The level design is complimented by a sizeable increase in enemy variety, forcing players to learn new behaviours and abilities for a number of new foes.

At the end of each themed world, Bomberman faces off against the game’s main antagonists: the Five Dastardly Bombers. Each boss has their own unique bomb type, and each showdown plays out as a tense bomber vs. bomber affair…that is until the defeated villain wheels out a screen-filling robot for a slightly-less-fair round two.

Even with an improved single player mode, multiplayer is naturally still the main event. A SNES Multitap means up to four players can have a go at blowing each other up in a variety of different arenas, each with its own bespoke features and mechanics that help to keep the action from becoming stale or predictable. There have been an astonishing number of Bomberman titles released over the years — many on Nintendo hardware — yet Super Bomberman 2 deservedly remains one of the series’ highlights. (Alex Aldridge)

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62) Demon’s Crest

Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: JP: October 21, 1994 / NA: November 1, 1994
Genre(s) Platforming

Of the many incredible platformers for the SNES, Demon’s Crest remains one of the most underrated and overlooked; even if more and more retrospectives have been kind to it, it deserves to be considered alongside the Mega Man X, Donkey Kong Country, and Super Mario franchises. The third installment in the Gargoyle’s Quest series that began on the Game Boy, Demon’s Crest is also — unfortunately — the final game in the Ghosts ’n Goblins spin-off trilogy that follows Firebrand, that frustratingly hard-to-hit enemy from the main series.

While game mechanics and a balance between challenge and reward typically bolster a platformer like this into ranks of the elite, Demon’s Crest is so memorable for its tone and atmosphere. Like Super Castlevania IV and Super Metroid, Demon’s Crest is a moody piece with a dark color palette that is as immersive as many of the great RPGs for the console, without the benefit of a carefully constructed story. And although it is less an RPG-hybrid that the original Gargoyle’s Quest, its free-roam overworld and Crest scheme, which allows you to gain and use different abilities to complete the platforming challenges, separate the game from more streamlined platformers, such as the aforementioned Donkey Kong Country games.

A relatively short game to complete, Demon’s Crest remains immensely replayable because of its ability to give the gamer such an engrossing experience, helped by yet another incredible OST (this is very much a common thread of the SNES greats). At a time when it seemed liked Capcom could do no wrong, Demon’s Crest is an example of true creativity, crafting a whole world around a throwaway enemy from a completely different series, and delivering the third part of one of the most underrated series of all time. (Sean Colletti)

63) Donkey Kong Country
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: 21 November 1994
Genre(s) Platforming

Donkey Kong Country is a game held in high regard, and with reason. Monumental! Monstrous! Magnificent! Use any term you want, but there’s no denying how important this game was for Nintendo and Rare. The graphics for the time were above and beyond anything anyone could imagine possible for the 16-bit system. For a two-dimensional side-scroller, Donkey Kong Country conveys a three-dimensional sense of depth. The characters are fluidly animated, and the rich tropical environments make use of every visual effect in the Super NES’ armory. And in Donkey Kong Country you’re not alone; your simian sidekick Diddy tags along for the adventure. You control one character at a time, and each has his own unique strengths.

What’s really impressive about Donkey Kong Country is how it has withstood the passage of time. In 1994, Donkey Kong Country‘s visuals were spectacular, with its rendered 3D models, lively character animations, and detailed backgrounds, and while some would argue the game is dated, in my eyes it still looks great to this day. Kong has heart, and he’s willing to show it in a game made with wit, excitement, and moments of visionary beauty. Meanwhile, the soundtrack by David Wise is guaranteed to win listeners over. But what really stands out the most after all of these years is just how challenging this game is. Donkey Kong Country is a platformer you can only finish through persistence and a lot of patience. Along with its two SNES sequels, Donkey Kong Country is one of the Super NES’ defining platformers. The game looks great and sounds great, and the platforming, while incredibly difficult, is still very fun. Rare did the unexpected by recasting a classic Nintendo villain as the titular hero, and it paid off in spades. (Ricky D)

64) Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: JP: August 5, 1995 / NA: October 4, 1995
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island has a bit of a strange twin in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Both followed widely acclaimed and genre-defining games, and somehow both chose to do somewhat similar yet insanely different things with their respective sequels. In the case of Yoshi’s Island, it was casting Yoshi as the hero, rather than Mario, and relegating the latter to a screeching infantile annoyance instead of the protagonist. Baby Mario’s recurring cry is probably the number one reason not to enjoy this game, but luckily there is a host of new ideas that more than make up for it. For one thing, Yoshi plays dramatically differently from Mario, and the fact that he is constantly hampered by having to keep everyone’s favorite plumber safe gives the game a puzzle-lite element that no one saw coming. The gorgeous animation and trademark level design only further raise SMW2‘s status as an instant cult classic, and another great example of how going a different direction for a sequel, rather than retreading the original, can work wonders in the long run. (Mike Worby)

65) Breath of Fire II
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) SNES
Release: JP: December 2, 1994 / NA: December 10, 1995
Genre(s) Role-playing

Unlike the original Breath of Fire, the SNES sequel in Capcom’s overlooked RPG series is an in-house production (Square Soft, a god amongst third parties at the time, helped localize the first game). The result is a love letter of a project that is a little rough around the edges. Though similar to its predecessor, it is ultimately a better game than Breath of Fire, and a fine addition to the SNES library of RPGs that would set the series on a course for true greatness.

Different versions of the characters Ryu and Nina return in Breath of Fire II, and would become series staples. The rest of the cast is full of lively personalities and poignant archetypes that add to a wider scope and much-improved storyline of redemption. In the same way that the PlayStation’s Suikoden II is essentially the same game as Suikoden — just a lot better — Breath of Fire II builds on every layer of the foundation built by Breath of Fire (the only exception possibly being that the music lacks some of the charm).

Capcom’s most successful traditional RPG series, Breath of Fire would make the jump to the Sony consoles and produce three more main series games. And while the third and fourth installments are the richest experiences overall, the first two make up an of-the-era pair that is deeply nostalgic and indicative of how the simplicity of design and vision isn’t necessarily a drawback if tone and atmosphere are done right. Both games are available in Game Boy Advance ports and on the Wii U Virtual Console. (Sean Colletti)

66) Mega Man X2
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) SNES
Release: December 16, 1994
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Following up the critical and commercial success of Mega Man X was no small task, but Mega Man X2 did an admirable job. The plot follows the android protagonist, X, who has saved humanity only six months prior. Now a trio of Mavericks calling themselves the X-Hunters have arisen, intent on destroying X by luring him with body parts of his colleague Zero, who sacrificed himself during the conflict with Sigma in the first game.

This second installment gives the android protagonist five new cyborg sub-bosses to battle, and seventeen bosses, both new and old, including Bubble Crab, Crystal Snail, Wheel Gator, and Overdrive Ostrich. Mega Man X2 doesn’t really do much in the way of innovation, featuring much of the same action-platforming elements that date back to the original Mega Man series. While it isn’t groundbreaking in any way, X2 comes highly recommended to anybody that enjoys the previous title. (Ricky D)

67) Pokemon Red and Blue
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy
Release: JP: February 27, 1996 / NA: September 28, 1998
Genre(s) Role-playing

Never before have two games begun such a massive franchise. A bold statement for sure, but just look at how inescapable Pokémon has become, from the merchandise filling up the shops to the fad that we briefly encountered in Pokémon Go. This all began in 1996 with a game designed around a simple accessory for the Game Boy called a Link Cable. The idea of creating two of the same game that offered unique collectibles that could be traded between the games, a new multiplayer concept that actually had kids outside of the house  (a Dratini by today’s standards) and socializing with pocket monsters they had caught and raised, plus a surprisingly complex competitive strategy game that only became more compelling as the franchise grew, was unique to Pokémon Red and Blue at the time.

150 pokémon to catch, with the addition of Mew available as an event exclusive, kept many fans on a never-ending journey to complete their pokédex. 150 might seem like a small number by today’s standards, but without the internet opening up the entire world to trade, you relied on your friends to help you complete the process. This brought the fundamentals of socializing to an uncomfortable place, where negotiating and persuasion were skills that were quickly learned to help us evolve our Haunter into a Gengar. In fact, kids with their Game Boys linked up became such a common sight that arguably the Link Cable became an iconic symbol of the nineties.

With so many pokémon to catch, it’s easy to forget that Pokémon Red and Blue had a pretty dark theme shadowing it. Lavender Town is a legend all in itself, with its soundtrack thought to have resulted in the death of numerous Japanese kids. Myth or not, it was the place that brought the chilling story to life. Team Rocket, the famous villains that debuted in Red and Blue, had done some terrible things in this town, including actions that resulted in the death of a now-famous Marowak. Its pre-evolved form, Cubone, has one of the creepiest pokédex entries.

While as a strategy game Pokémon Red and Blue was broken — Psychic was so over-powered that Alakazam effectively had no weaknesses — it remains so iconic and influential that the world cannot escape the franchise it created. A defining game of the nineties that time will never have the longevity to lose. (James Baker)

68) Chrono Trigger
Developer(s) Square
Publisher(s) Square
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: March 11, 1995
Genre(s) Role-playing

Occasionally in media you come across a film, book, television show, or game that is near-universally beloved. Sure, no piece of fiction will enchant every human alive, but these are the stories that come as close as possible. Finding Nemo. Star Wars. The Princess BrideChrono Trigger might not be as good as The Princess Bride, but it occupies a similar place in our collective hearts as one of the greatest JRPGs of all time. Made by a dream team of key developers from both Square and Enix (years before those companies would merge), Chrono Trigger combines the battle system of Final Fantasy with the lighter tone of Dragon Quest. Add in Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama’s art, and a rousing score by Yasunori Mitsuda, and you have a recipe for something wonderful.

It’s a meticulous masterclass in design that goes against many JRPG conventions, while still serving up a classic tale of action and adventure. In a genre where unwieldy length is typical, Chrono Trigger clocks in at a relatively brief (and much more digestible) 20 hours. In a time where battles would flash to a separate screen to showcase highly detailed monster sprites, Chrono Trigger instead had its monsters appear in the field. The player could even avoid some fights by just walking around them. Combined with a touching story and funny, lovable characters, Chrono Trigger is an outstanding example of a studio at the top of its game.

So what more can be said about a game so beloved? How about proof of its enduring quality? I have a confession to make: I never owned a SNES, and I didn’t play Chrono Trigger until I was already out of high school, fifteen years after its release. Today, I still unreservedly call it one of the best games I have ever played. (Mitchell Akhurst)

69) Tetris Attack
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems Nintendo R&D1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super NES, Game Boy
Release: JP: October 27, 1995 / NA: August 1996
Genre(s) Puzzle

With Tetris Attack the classic Tetris formula has been scrapped in favor of competitive match-three action set in the Mario universe. This title sports some of the most addictive puzzle gameplay ever created, especially when playing against another person. Matching three blocks together clears them, but skilled players will go for multiple clears back to back to rack up enough blocks to place on your opponent’s screen. Once the blocks hit the top of the screen, the game is over.

The gameplay is simple, but the skill cap is huge, meaning there is almost always room for improvement. Gamers who prefer to play solo are in for a fun, albeit challenging, experience as well. The villains of the Super Mario Bros. series form a path to the final battle with Bowser. Each battle is more challenging than the last, and while this mode isn’t particularly lengthy, it’s a blast to replay on higher difficulties.

It says a lot about a game when its formula has been copied time and time again by other series. Tetris Attack separates itself from these clones because of its charming aesthetic. It’s an ageless formula that provides a fun time for gamers of any skill level, and is sure to be played competitively for years to come. (Zach Rezac)

70) Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) SNES
Release: 20 November 1995
Genre(s) Platforming

Back when the console war between the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis was splitting groups of kids at every school, one game came along to tip the scales permanently in the direction of Nintendo. That game was Donkey Kong Country.

With its revolutionary faux-3D look, DKC became the “it” game of 1994, so when its sequel came along the following year, it had some pretty hefty shoes to fill. Fortunately for Rare, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest not only matches up to the exceptional pedigree established by its predecessor — it exceeds it. With more diverse environments, a ramp up in the challenge department, and an increase in collectibles, DKC2 is a much bigger game than the original. Not only that, but with no lumbering ape character in the form of Donkey Kong, the game actually plays more smoothly.

The similarity in size and play style between Diddy and Dixie is so close that there is never a feeling of panic when swapping between the characters. Still, since Dixie possesses the ability to glide to safety over long jumps, her inclusion as a new character never feels superfluous, despite her similarity to Diddy.

Today DKC2 is commonly debated as the best game in the series, if not simply the best of original trilogy of Donkey Kong Country titles. The credit is well-earned, as this is easily one of the best platformers on the SNES. (Mike Worby)

71) Mega Man X3
Developer(s) Minakuchi Engineering
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: December 1, 1995
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

The Mega Man X series was just the breath of fresh air that the franchise needed after so many similar titles having been released on the NES in such rapid-fire succession, and Mega Man X3 might be the best game the spin-off series ever produced. In addition to refining the mechanics from the first two, X3 also let players step into the boots of X’s badass, plasma sword-wielding partner, Zero. Easily the coolest character in the series, it was particularly thrilling to play as Zero this time around, even if it was only for a short time. With a great selection of bosses, carefully hidden upgrades, and fantastic music, Mega Man X3 is one of the best Mega Man games ever released, and is still worth replaying even today. (Mike Worby)

72) Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Developer(s) Square
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super Nintendo
Release: JP: March 9, 1996 / NA: May 13, 1996
Genre(s) Role-playing

When Nintendo first announced that they would be developing an RPG with the legendary Final Fantasy creators at Squaresoft, the surprise of the public was palpable, and the hype was infectious. Just what would these two powerhouse developers cook up together? The answer was one of the best RPGs of the 16-bit generation.

Super Mario RPG recasts the titular plumber into an isometric faux-3D world, and has the overbearing gall to not only team him up with Bowser against an even greater evil, but to introduce several new and intriguing characters to his world. The jump mechanics and typical Super Mario Bros. tropes are all cross-coded into a beautiful and inviting RPG world filled with challenging puzzles, fantastic writing, and tons of fan service. This might not be the most conventional game in the dozens of Mario-centric titles out there, but it’s certainly one of the best. (Mike Worby)

73) Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super Famicom
Release: JP: May 14, 1996
Genre(s) Tactical Role-playing

Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War never made it overseas, but it was one of the most influential and adored entries in the Fire Emblem franchise. The series’ creator, Shouzou Kaga, had found big success with Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem on the Super Nintendo, but wanted to create a game that focused on the impact of war over time.

The result was a game that spanned two generations of heroes, telling an epic and unpredictable tale. The game’s first half is spent focusing on Sigurd of Chalphy, while the second on his son, Seliph. The popular marriage system found in Fire Emblem: Awakening and Fates originated here, allowing players to pair members of Sigurd’s army together. Their children joined Seliph’s army in the game’s second half, making giving players more choice in how they customized their units.

The weapons triangle, where swords have the advantage against axes, axes against lances, and lances against swords, also made its debut here. Unlike modern Fire Emblem games, Genealogy of the Holy War is broken up into 10 massive chapters with huge maps to conquer. Instead of seizing one castle per map, Sigurd (and later Seliph) must capture many, with the story unfolding as they progress.

I won’t spoil the big twist that comes at the game’s midway point, but it’s one that will leave first-time players with their jaws on the floor. Kaga succeeded in executing his vision, and this is one story that fans shouldn’t miss. (Tyler Kelbaugh)

74) Super Mario 64
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Release: JP: June 23, 1996 / NA: September 29, 1996
Genre(s) Platforming

Nintendo set itself a nearly impossible task when creating Super Mario 64. It was one of the earlier three-dimensional platform games, with degrees of freedom through all three axes in space, and features relatively large areas that are composed primarily of true 3D polygons, as opposed to only two-dimensional sprites. The game established a new archetype for the 3D genre, and showed us what the future of video games would soon look like. From the moment players turned on Super Mario 64, the differences were apparent. Mario sounded different, he looked different, and he moved differently. And ever since, the game has left a lasting impression.

There is no doubt that Super Mario 64 was nothing short of revolutionary. The title is acclaimed by many critics and fans as one of the greatest and most revolutionary video games of all time. The flaws, although few, are overshadowed by the awe-inspiring level design, sophisticated 3D graphics, brain-busting puzzles, and sheer imagination. Super Mario 64 is tough to beat, and one of the few games in the series that rewards curious, brave, determined, and stubborn gamers. The sheer scale of the achievement is something to admire. Not only does Super Mario 64 stand the test of time, but the game is a masterpiece in the truest sense of the word. (Ricky D)

75) Mario Kart 64
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: December 14, 1996 / NA: February 10, 1997
Genre(s) Kart racing

Mario Kart 64 remains, to this day, one of the greatest titles that Nintendo has ever created. Mario Kart 64 features eight different racers classified into three different weight categories, 14 unique power-ups to inflict friendship-testing amounts of rage (darn blue shells), and 16 tracks with an extra mirror mode that flips all the tracks to create an added difficulty. The tracks are comprised of hidden shortcuts, dangerous obstacles, and little surprises around every turn.

While the sequels have improved upon the racing formula and customization, nothing has quite captured the heart-pounding intensity of the Battle Mode. Friends duke it out to pop each other’s balloons in four small arenas, with the power ups provided on the map or as vengeful bombs. Mario Kart 64 offers a bit of something for everyone, with the Grand Prix for friends to compete against each other and computers, the Battle mode to lose to those friends, and the time attack mode to improve upon your skills and feel better, now that you’ve lost to those friends. Mario Kart 64 is the 2nd bestselling game on the N64 for good reason, as it is truly a masterpiece that still stands the test of time. (Ryan Kapioski)

76) Harvest Moon
Developer(s) Amccus
Publisher(s) Pack-In-Video / Natsume
Platform(s) SNES
Release: JP: August 9, 1996 / NA: June 1997
Genre(s) Farm simulation, Role-playing

Harvest Moon is the original farming sim, with a legacy that goes back all the way to 1996 on the SNES. On paper the game doesn’t sound very exciting, yet surprisingly Natsume’s smash hit managed to make farm simulation fresh and interesting. Working through the seasons planting goods, meeting new characters, attending festivals, finding hidden treasures, and getting married all paid off. It spawned an entire franchise — and some would argue a sub-genre — and it remains a shining example of the RPG genre done right. With all the secrets available in this game, there is more than enough reason to revisit this gem in the present day. If you’re a fan of simulation and RPG elements, this is definitely worth a try! (Ricky D)

77) Goldeneye
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: 25 August 1997
Genre(s) First-person Shooter

Since its release in 1997, no game has captured the glitz, the glamor, and the glory of James Bond like Rare’s golden hit, GoldenEye 007. The perfect adaptation of the Bond flick, GoldenEye 007 is a free-roaming, first-person-shooter putting the player in control of everyone’s favorite double-O agent: Bond, James Bond. The atmospheric campaign perfectly captures the tension and excitement of the film, giving players a variety of experiences, from stealthy infiltrations to run and gun bonanzas, all layered with familiar Bond elements, like some familiar gadgets and guns, to truly make the player feel like a secret agent. On top of a brilliantly crafted, truly immersive campaign is a revolutionary four-player multiplayer, pitting players against one another in an all-out brawl.

Careful attention to detail and immense amounts of fan service escalate an already fantastic experience to make it one of the most memorable games ever made, from the familiar blood-soaked screen that falls every time the player dies, to favorite foes, with cameo weapons and gadgets, and even multiplayer modes named after other films. This game has it all, but with Bond, even the world is not enough, so Rare stuffed the game with everything imaginable.  Hilarious, unlockable cheat codes ensure that the game has immense replayability, complete with the scalable difficulty, on top of other unlockables, like the cast of twenty-four characters that make their way in to the multiplayer.

Still an immensely fun shooter to this day, in its time the game was revolutionary, pioneering a whole genre in gaming that’s shaped up to be perhaps the most popular and prevalent today, introducing staples and fixtures such as shooters’ tendency toward more realistic tones and zoomable sniper scopes. GoldenEye 007 — like diamonds — is forever, and it’s a truly timeless gem. (Tim Maison)

78) Wave Race 64
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: September 27, 1996 / NA: November 1, 1996
Genre(s) Racing

Released in 1996, Wave Race 64 became one of the best racing games for the N64, despite the oversaturation of racing games at the time. Players can choose from one of four characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and cut through multiple unique watercourses on Kawasaki jet skis to become the best racer on the seas. The tracks are visually simple yet beautiful, and with intuitive controls and realistic wave patterns, Wave Race 64 still holds its own in a modern gaming world dominated by 4K graphics and complex game mechanics.

Wave Race 64 features four separate modes: championship, time trials, stunt, and local multiplayer. For such a seemingly simple game, there is a lot to do. Championship mode challenges players with weaving between buoys to max out the power on their jet skis and reach the finish line first. Time trials pits players against themselves to out-do their fastest race times. Local multiplayer is, well, self-explanatory, but stunt mode is where the real fun lies.

The object of stunt mode is of course to rack up as many points as possible doing any combination of handstands, flips, barrel rolls, and other awesome tricks while making it through checkpoints within a certain time. One of the most satisfying parts of this mode is the ability to launch your character off an incoming wave and pull off a full backwards flip or two. Players can also earn points by cruising through large rings hovering over the water. The dolphin that race alongside you is a cute touch (and a secret, unlockable item that players can ride instead of their jet ski).

Perhaps most importantly, with the opening cinematic music reminiscent of something from a Van Halen album, it’s hard to not still feel pumped up when hitting the start button on this memorable racing game. (Joanna Nelius)

79) Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) SNES
Release: 22 November 1996
Genre(s) Platforming

When Donkey Kong Country 3 first hit store shelves in November of 1996, it was just over two months after the hardware debut of the Nintendo 64, and by that time most players had already moved on to Super Mario 64, a title acclaimed by many critics and fans as one of the greatest and most revolutionary video games of all time. Most of those players never looked back, which is a shame since DKC3 is one of the best titles released on the SNES.

For a 16-bit game, DK3 looks beautiful, utilizing the same Silicon Graphics from its predecessors, which includes the use of pre-rendered 3D imagery. The game seriously looks great, and includes scrolling background layers, moving foreground objects, and various animated weather effects. In short, it’s another great platformer from Rare — and one that stands the test of time. (Ricky D)

Kirby80) Kirby Super Star
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: JP: March 21, 1996 / NA: September 20, 1996
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Kirby Superstar is one of the best values on the system. Instead of one linear, traditional adventure, gamers get to choose from eight different experiences on one cartridge. This is also one of the few instances in which players get the best of both worlds — quantity, and quality. Each game can easily stand on its own and provide plenty of fun and replay value, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few standouts among the group. Gamers looking for a more traditional Kirby experience will likely have a blast with Spring Breeze or Milky Way Wishes, whereas those looking for a challenge can have a go at The Arena. Gourmet Race is probably the most unique title on the cartridge, as Kirby must race King Dedede to the end of the stage while collecting as much food as possible. It offers a nice distraction from playing the other games, and can become quite addictive when doing the time trial modes.

When Kirby Superstar was released back in 1996, there was nothing else like it at the time. The amount of content in the game put it head and shoulders above the competition, leaving very few players bored. While a superior sequel was released for the DS years later called Kirby Superstar Ultra, the original must still be appreciated for its innovation within the platforming genre that was excelling on the SNES at the time. It’s one of Kirby’s finest and most diverse outings. (Zack Rezak)

starfox-ed81) Star Fox 64
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64, iQue Player
Release: JP: April 27, 1997 / NA: June 30, 1997
Genre(s) Rail/Scrolling shooter

Many games have strived for the right balance of skill-based self-improvement and challenging replayability. Few have done it better than Star Fox 64. In many ways, Star Fox 64 is a timeless game. Its heavily stylized visuals, endearingly campy voice acting, and tight gameplay are just as fun today as they were in 1997.

The game wastes no time in throwing you into the action. Taking a cue from Star Wars, Star Fox 64 greets the player with a bombastic orchestral synth score as scrolling text sets the stage. The Lylat System is at war, and the diabolical mad scientist Andross is poised to bring all planets under his subjugation. Not if Star Fox can help it.

As the intrepid Fox McCloud, you pilot your Arwing from planet to planet, executing graceful aerial maneuvers and blasting through hoards of enemies. Star Fox 64 is a prime example of scripted events done right. Although these events occur with a predetermined regularity, the game never takes control away from you. Between the branching paths and the Arwing’s satisfying arcade-y controls, the player has so many tools at their disposal to navigate through the game. Star Fox 64 accommodates players of all levels, but it is sure to reward the especially skilled and persistent. (Kyle Rogacion)

82) Diddy Kong Racing
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: 21 November 1997 / NA: 24 November 1997
Genre(s) Kart racing

To even attempt to call some of Rare’s most beloved N64 efforts nothing more than rip-offs of established Nintendo IPs is to do a massive disservice to the developer’s ability to adapt an established formula and produce a distinct and unique version of their own. As such, Diddy Kong Racing proves itself to be anything but a Mario Kart clone, and stakes a sizeable claim to be the best kart racer on the N64, largely due to its stellar Adventure Mode.

Thanks to an absence of Mario Kart’s traditional rubber banding, Diddy Kong Racing‘s multiplayer can be rendered somewhat of a formality if one of the players is in possession of higher ability or experience than their peers. Skill and track knowledge truly matter in DKR, and less able players will struggle to ever get back in a race if they drop off too far. While this can be frustrating in multiplayer, it means that DKR‘s single player is where the game truly shines.

Without cheating AI and blue shells to hold you back, true mastery of the game is infinitely possible. This really is a good thing, as Adventure Mode is a truly challenging affair. Tasked with saving the inhabitants of Timber’s Island, players (the mode can be played in co-op with a friend thanks to a cheat code) will be winning races in cars, hovercrafts, and planes, collecting silver coins, finding hidden items, and taking on tough boss battles. While DKR‘s single-player has since been copied by Crash Team Racing, it’s surprising that Mario Kart hasn’t followed suit.

Naturally, being a Rare title, Diddy Kong Racing’s gameplay was punctuated by charming characters, bright and vibrant themed stages, and a soundtrack so cheery it’ll give you diabetes. It’s a real shame that licensing issues arising from the Rare-Microsoft sale means we’ll probably never see the true sequel the game deserves, but thankfully it remains as endearing and playable today as it ever was. (Alex Aldridge)

83) Banjo Kazooie
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: NA: 29 June 1998
Genre(s) Platforming, Action-adventure

Rare, like Nintendo, saw tremendous success with 2D platformers on the SNES, and after following Super Mario World in the previous generation, it seemed only natural that the British developer would pursue Mario 64 into the 3D platform space. Once again, Mario had starred in a console’s flagship release, and once again Rare were unfazed in their attempts to enter his arena and take him on at his own game.

Thus, the 3D collectathon was born. While the core of Banjo-Kazooie‘s gameplay is (admittedly) similar in some ways to Mario 64, Rare’s effort has a unique spin on almost every aspect that can be related back to the moustachioed one. The bear and bird have their own arsenal of acrobatic and aerial moves, but unlike Mario these need to be unlocked throughout the adventure, giving the game a Metroidvania style of non-linear progression.

Chief amongst the differences between Banjo and Mario is Banjo-Kazooie‘s focus on personality and humour. Mario 64 was a technical marvel on release that gave players unparalleled freedom in a 3D world, but it was your typical Mario story of kidnap and cake. Banjo-Kazooie brought a much more central and refined story to the table as it punctuated all the jumping and flying with a witty and charming cast of characters, a sumptuous bouncy soundtrack, and a heavy dose of wackiness. Whether gamers had been pining to take control of a virtual washing machine before or not, Banjo had it covered.

Banjo-Kazooie is an incredible platform game that controls like a dream and remains fresh and challenging throughout. The vibrant themed worlds and fiendishly tricky puzzles help ensure the challenge of gaining a jigsaw piece never feels the same twice. Perhaps most importantly, the game keeps a handle on its requirement for collecting items to ensure it remains addictive rather than overwhelming — something that unfortunately can’t be said of its sequel, or the more recent Yooka-Laylee. (Alex Aldridge)

84) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: November 21, 1998
Genre(s) Action-adventure

You won’t find a gamer alive who doesn’t remember the first time they played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and there’s a very good reason for that: OOT isn’t just regularly counted as one of the best Zelda games of all time, but it also routinely finds itself in the conversation for the best games ever made. As a trendsetter and pioneering effort for 3D adventure games, action titles, and RPGs alike, Ocarina of Time holds a special place in a lot of gamers’ hearts, particularly those who were young enough to have a lot of imagination in them upon its initial release.

It was a game that opened a tiny door in our minds when it first introduced us to a young Link in Kokiri Forest, and then wrenched that door all the way open a mere hour later when we were unleashed onto the full expanse of Hyrule Field, gifted with a world to explore that was bigger than life. If through some very strange events you have still managed to not play OOT, then you are doing yourself a disservice as a gamer. With awe-inspiring environments, a cast of memorable characters, a charming story, and one of the most epic adventures ever experienced, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a game that will stick in your grey matter even decades from now, and is well deserving of its place there. (Mike Worby)

85) Pokemon Yellow
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy
Release: JP: September 12, 1998 / NA: October 18, 1999
Genre(s) Role-playing

When Pokémon Red and Blue had an animé produced to coincide with it, the popularity of Ash and his partner Pikachu made Pokémon Yellow inevitable. Originally, Ash’s partner in the animé was to be Clefairy, but was changed to the cute electric mouse that remains the mascot of the franchise ever since.

While there’s much debate about whether Pokémon needs third installments to each generation, Pokémon Yellow was the first and the most original in concept of them all. Rather than following the legacy of Pokémon Red and Blue, it follows the storyline of the animé, allowing the player to obtain the three original starter pokémon as part of the storyline. Furthermore, staying true to the animé, Pikachu follows the player around rather than staying in its pokéball, and refuses to evolve into Raichu when given a thunderstone, thus leaving Raichu only obtainable through trade.

Pokémon Yellow is a direct consequence of the popularity of Pokémon at the time, and with Pikachu still the beloved face of Pokémon, was perhaps shrewd marketing on Nintendo’s part. Its success inspired many other sequels to each generation, none of which would surpass the ingenuity of its predecessor. Pokémon Yellow won’t go down as the greatest Pokémon game of all time, but it’s certainly one of the most memorable. (James Baker)

86) F-Zero X
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64, iQue Player
Release: JP: July 14, 1998 / NA: October 26, 1998
Genre(s) Racing

Developed by Nintendo’s EAD division, F-Zero X is the first F-Zero installment to have featured 3D graphics. Unfortunately, even for the time the visuals weren’t anything to write home about. However, what F-Zero X lacks in the visual department it more than makes up for in adrenaline fuelled, non-stop action. With an emphasis on breakneck speed and competitive intensity, F-Zero X is one of the best arcade racers released for the N64. The game’s “death race” mode and random track generator are what I remember best. In the death race, the player’s objective is to annihilate the 29 other racers as fast as possible, while the X-Cup generates a different set of tracks each time it’s played. It also features 30 vehicles on the screen at once, and an extremely fun 4-player multiplayer offering. For all those reasons and more, F-Zero X is a game I have fond memories playing. The N64 had its fair share of racing games, but few were as fast and exciting to play as F-Zero X. (Ricky D)

87) Super Smash Bros.
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: January 21, 1999 / NA: April 26, 1999
Genre(s) Fighting

The 90’s were a juggernaut decade for Nintendo. The N64, coupled with superstar titles like Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64, helped make the studio’s third home console a massive success. By the end of this era, it seemed as if Nintendo had slowed
down a bit, riding out the rest of the millennium on the success of their previous titles. Then in 1999, Super Smash Bros strolled onto the scene and redefined Nintendo’s catalogue once again. While it’s hard to hold a candle to the later entries in the Smash series, this first game laid the foundation for the rest of the lineup. Pitting famous Nintendo characters like Mario, Link, and Samus against each other in a free-for-all battle arena was a foreign concept before Smash, which made its success all the sweeter. Add to this the fact that players got to do battle across some of the most famous landscapes in gaming history, and fans flocked to their local game shops in droves to get their hands on a copy.

What made Smash stand out from other fighting games was the higher level of initial strategy it took to win. Players couldn’t simply mash buttons until their opponent was left a bloody mess, but rather had to knock them off the map using a variety of offensive, defensive, and character-specific movesets. Mobility also plays a major factor in securing victory, as players can jump and dash above and below the main fighting area. Weapons and power-ups found across the battlefield can also be used to get a leg up on the opponent, and were themed after abilities found in other Nintendo titles. Much like other mash-up titles found on the N64, Smash is hindered by its small roster and a limited number of battle arenas. A total of twelve characters are available for the player to choose from, and range from the aforementioned classics to more obscure mascots like Captain Falcon and Ness from Earthbound. At the time this felt like a decent selection of playable champions, but as later entries in the series proved, there was room for considerable growth. In short, while Super Smash Bros is a bit rough around the edges, it captivated millions of fans and created yet another great first party series for Nintendo that is still prevalent today. (Carston Carasella)

88) Pokemon Gold and Silver
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Color
Release: JP: November 21, 1999 /NA: October 15, 2000
Genre(s) Role-playing

We were still reminiscent of our time in Kanto before we started our journey West into Johto. As hard as it was to leave Pallet Town behind and start a new adventure, the over-powered Alazakam of Pokémon Red and Blue had become a menace on our dream to the top, and we quickly sought an answer.

Luckily, Pokémon Gold and Silver had the potion to our ills, and quite frankly a full restore to most of the problems that came with Pokémon Red and Blue. Notably, the introduction of the Dark-type really kicked Alakazam off its throne and balanced the control the Psychic-type had on generation one. The new Steel-type also opened up a new defensive style of play that competitive play had previously lacked. The broken strategy of Pokémon Red and Blue was fixed, and Pokémon Gold and Silver has continued to shine as the best Pokémon game ever made.

Even after you’ve found some of the new shiny pokémon such as Red Gyarados, or you’ve bred your Pikachu with a Ditto and hatched a baby Pichu, or you’ve triumphed in the Pokémon League with your pal Feraligatr; Pokémon Gold and Silver has the perfect gift for those missing Kanto. The end game takes you back to where your love for Pokémon started, with a trip on the S.S. Aqua back to Kanto. Not only is Pokémon Gold and Silver the only Pokémon game to allow you to traverse two regions, but it is also the only Pokémon game that allows you to obtain sixteen badges. It remains the only generation to take everything that made the previous generation so memorable, and perfects the formula to become the franchise we know and love today. Surprisingly, you can trace more game mechanics in Sun and Moon back to Gold and Silver than you can to Red and Blue, its influence outshining its predecessor. (James Baker)

89) Pokemon Stadium
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: April 30, 1999 / NA: February 29, 2000
Genre(s) Strategy

Pokémon Red and Green made an enormous splash when released in Japan in 1996, and the sequential tidal wave of momentum the franchise built as it headed toward the west in the shape of Pokémon Red and Blue was deterred by nothing, as Pokémania washed over the rest of the world. Capitalizing on the fervor surrounding developer Game Freak’s property, publisher Nintendo brought the beloved monsters out of their pixel state and into a polygonal world on the Nintendo 64 in the form of 2000’s Pokémon Stadium. Outside the confines of the less capable, pocket sized Game Boy console, Pokémon Stadium effectively did nothing for the future of the main series games, had no impact on the franchise’s direction as role playing games, and did nothing to influence the turned-based battle mechanics at the core of the property. Pokémon Stadium and all of its successors are a far cry from the main series Pokémon games, and it could be viewed as a trivial, inconsequential spin-off not represented in the present day in any way, shape, or form. However, Pokémon Stadium’s significance isn’t in how it impacted the whole of Pokémon, but instead in what it did for fans at the time, something that wouldn’t be done in the main series of games until 2013 with Pokémon X and Y: portray players’ beloved Pokémon with colored 3D models, bringing them to life like never before. Oh, and it has some amazing mini games.

Unfortunately, this leap in graphics can’t adequately be compared to anything in the present day, and the thrill it gave fans, particularly those who’d grown attached to their digital friends and monsters, can’t be overstated. Consequently, much of the game’s significance is trapped at the beginning of the millennium, but older Pokéfans still give the game its due reverence. The Transfer Pak also allows players to experience the original generation of Pokémon games on a TV and off of the Game Boy’s quaintly sized one — a triviality in the day of Virtual Console, but an enormous novelty at the time. Stadium’s gameplay borrows the core, turn-based battle mechanics of the franchise, and invites players to tackle a series of tournaments utilizing their imported or rented Pokémon. The titular Stadium mode is a blast in which players aim to earn cups by defeating a multitude of opponents within specific parameters. My personal favorite, however, Gym Leader Castle, on the other hand, lets players take down each of Kanto’s gym leaders, their trainers, and finally the Elite Four in a consecutive series of bouts. Both are fun and make great use of Pokémon’s great battle system. Beyond that, the game has some endlessly entertaining mini games if multiple players are present, sort of like a Mario Party featuring different Pokémon. Pokémon Stadium might be stuck within the context of its time, but in its time it was a riveting experience for fans, has graphics that still charm and delight, expertly uses the core combat from the Pokémon franchise, and even offers a fun party experience on top, easily earning this game a spot on a list of Nintendo’s best games.  (Tim Maison)

90) Pokemon Snap
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory / Pax Softnica
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: March 21, 1999 / NA: June 30, 1999
Genre(s) First-person rail shooter

Nearly two decades after its release, Pokémon Snap is still one of the strangest games I’ve ever played. The objective might still be the same as the series it steamed off of, but the similarities end there. That’s not too surprising, since Pokémon Snap is one of the most unique, distinct video game experiences I’ve had the pleasure to undertake. The player fulfills the role of Todd Snap, who at the request of the famed Professor Oak travels to Pokémon Island to capture pictures of Pokémon in a more natural habitat largely untouched by man. Narratively the game is sound, as Professor Oak needing help perfectly represents the Pokémon franchise, but what makes Pokémon Snap truly unique is its gameplay, somewhere between a safari and a shooter. It operates like an on-rails shooter where you shoot pictures, not bullets, and success is measured by the quality of shots the player manages to take of Pokémon when they turn them into Oak. Scoring takes into account the size of the Pokémon in the shot, whether the shot is framed well, and the pose of the Pokémon. Earn enough points and the next stage will be unlocked, meaning more Pokémon to see and shoot pictures of, and a new environment to explore.

Progress also provides the player extra items to aid in their effort to capture every Pokémon’s picture, rounding out the gameplay experience. Pokémon react differently when these extra items are used, as a Pikachu might dance when it hears a Pokéflute, for instance, and each stage is full of secrets to unlock and even alternative routes to take if properly activated by the player, giving the game’s few stages replayability. Pokémon Snap might seem simple, but it’s an undeniably fun and engaging experience from start to finish, full of entertaining, vibrant, beloved monsters, light puzzles, unmatched approachability. Short but sweet, Pokémon Snap is a game for the ages and for all ages, a brilliant, must-play piece in the N64’s library, and with 807 Pokémon and counting, a title deserving a sequel. (Tim Maison)

91) Blast Corps
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: March 21, 1997 / NA: March 24, 1997
Genre(s) Action, Puzzle

Remember that time there was a runaway semi-truck with a nuclear warhead attached, and the only way to save the world was to level a whole bunch of cities? Okay, that probably didn’t happen, and even in 1997 it was a flimsy premise for a game. I mean, in a world where scientists have developed a giant bipedal robot, it seems like there might be another way to solve this problem.

Luckily what this wacky premise does make for is hours of gleeful destruction, as you must clear any potential obstacle from the path of the runaway warhead as quickly as possible. Blast Corps features eight vehicles to help you avert disaster, and the kind of categorical rating system that games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga are still using today to keep you coming back for “just one more try”. Yeah, right.

Essentially a frantic puzzle game that kind of tricks you into thinking you’re playing an action game, Blast Corps is an incredibly addictive experience, and totally worth replaying on the Rare Replay collection. (Mike Worby)

gREATESTNintendoGames92) Jet Force Gemini
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Rare
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: NA: October 11, 1999
Genre(s) Third-person shooter, Action-adventure

Of all the games developed by Rare during the N64 era, Jet Force Gemini might be the biggest outlier. A 3rd person sci-fi shooter is generally not the kind of game you expect from Rare even today, and it was even more jarring back in 1999 when it first came out. Tasking players with beating back ravenous hordes of insectile extraterrestrials while simultaneously seeking out and rescuing a bunch of Ewoks, Jet Force Gemini is far from your typical Rare game, but like fellow Rare outcast Blast Corps, that makes for a lot of its charm.

Take for example Lupus, a cybernetically enhanced dog who joins the twin protagonists, Juno, and Vela, on their mission. I mean, talk about dogs of war. Seriously though, any game that lets you play as a dog with guns mounted on his back is okay by me. Also, there’s a guy named King Jeff in this game. No, really. And the bad guy is named Mizar — ya know, like “miser.”

But honestly, potshots aside, you really should play Jet Force Gemini. It’s like a weird gaming time capsule in and of itself, and it’s absolutely one of the best reasons to own the Rare Replay collection. (Mike Worby)

93) Donkey Kong 64
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Series Donkey Kong
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: NA: November 22, 1999
Genre(s) Platforming, Adventure

It’s hard to discuss the N64 without bringing up Rare games, and while not their last or greatest game on the system, DK64 is an outstanding platformer, and some would argue it even overshadows Nintendo’s own Mario 64. The levels are massive, there are tons of collectibles to go after and secrets to find, and the variety of the worlds is impressive. Better yet, there are five different Kongs to play with, each with their own unique abilities and collectibles to go after. It’s a game so chock full of stuff that Rare had to package it with the N64’s expansion pack just to make sure it worked.

DK64 is a game pushing the N64 to its absolute limits. The graphics are some of the best on the system, with real-time lighting effects throughout the levels. The audio is nothing short of legendary, with reactive music that changes as you move through the worlds, creating an audio rollercoaster that adds so much to the experience. On every level, DK64 is a game that needs to be played by any fans of platformers, and is a must-have for N64 fans. (Andrew Vandersteen)

94) Mario Party 2
Developer(s) Hudson Soft
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Kenji Kikuchi
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: December 17, 1999 / NA: January 24, 2000
Genre(s) Party

Gather some friends. Roll the dice. Play minigames. Collect coins. Buy Stars. Become the Super-Star! Looking back, Mario Party 2 hearkens to a younger Nintendo, when the image of Mario games wasn’t as manufactured as it is today. There is a childish quality that really compliments its happy “party” gameplay. Sure, some of the minigames are the definition “friendship breakers,” but really, it’s hard to stay mad when playing this game with a group of friends.

Some fantastic mini-games here, both returning from the first Mario Party as well as new ones, include “Bombs Away,” “TOAD in the Box,” “Look Away,” “Mecha-Marathon,” “Sneak ‘n’ Snore,” “Hot Bob-omb,” and more. Most of these mini-games are iconic, and unlike some predecessors, there are very few you hope don’t get picked or become bored of playing. There are a few, however, like “Move to the Music” that were possibly made by Satan, and suck. To quote Wario and Luigi, “Oh I…missed!”.

Mario Party 2 is the staple of the series that every following game should learn from. That’s not to say that there haven’t been any good Mario Party games since, but the series since has certainly lost its way. I hope for a day that we see a true successor to Mario Party 2, though perhaps it’s better to enjoy what we had: the best Mario Party game. (Maxwell N)

95) Body Harvest
Developer(s) DMA Design
Publisher(s) Midway Home Entertainment / Gremlin Interactive
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: NA: October 20, 1998
Genre(s) Action-adventure, Third-person shooter

If there’s one game on this list that was way ahead of its time, it’s Body Harvest. Essentially an open-world action game in which the player fights off hordes of invading aliens, the simple concept doesn’t signal even an inch of the games incredible depth and innovation.

For example, as you explore the ridiculously huge world map accomplishing your various missions, you can literally take control of any vehicle you want to help you reach your destination. Sound like a certain million dollar franchise that you’re familiar with? It also allows you to free-roam the map, doing whatever you want at almost any time, rather than do what you are supposed to be doing. Are you getting it now? It’s a franchise that rhymes with HAND DEFT GELATTO, but only kind of.

Now, here’s the thing, Body Harvest came out in 1998, and unfortunately on a console that was way underpowered in helping it to achieve its incredibly lofty goals. Still, an ambitious failure comes out way ahead of a successful doppelganger any day, and I can guarantee you’ve literally never played a single game on the Nintendo 64 like Body Harvest. (Mike Worby)

Editor’s Note: We will be publishing one post every day between December 13th and December 21st. Check back for more. 

PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN

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Freelance Film Writers

Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Film, TV, Anime and Comic writers.

Contact us: Editor@GoombaStomp.com

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