The 100 Greatest Nintendo Games, Pt. 9

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In celebration of the 30 years since Nintendo released the NES here in North America, we decided to round-up the SOS troops and compile a list of the 100 greatest games published and or developed by Nintendo, and released exclusively to their consoles. Here is part nine.
20. Duck Hunt
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) NES
NA October 18, 1985
Genre(s) Light gun shooter, Hunting Simulator
First released in 1984, Duck Hunt is based on an electronic toy by Nintendo designers Gunpei Yokoi and Masayuki Uemura.  The incorporation of the NES Zapper became a key selling point, as it incorporated the idea of an arcade shoot-’em-up into the home.  The game only had one objective – shoot the ducks and avoid getting the smug, laughing dog at the end of each round.  Duck Hunt had a concept that is easy to follow yet quickly repetitive, but due to its NES pack-in pairing with Super Mario Bros., it essentially provided players with the recreational escape from the frustration of the platform game.  While Duck Hunt has very little to it in terms of depth and detail, it still has an old-school charm as a classic shooting game. (Katie Wong)

19. Super Mario Kart250px-Supermariokart_box

Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) SNES
NA September 1, 1992[1] Genre(s) Racing

It is hard to believe that the hugely successful Mario Kart series almost started with a game without the eponymous Italian plumber.  While the character had been featured in earlier Nintendo racing titles such as F1 Race, Famicom Grand Prix and Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally, it wasn’t until the release of the SNES launch title, F-Zero, that the concept of a kart-racing game really came into play. Creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, and directors, Tadashi Sugiyama and Hideki Konno, struggled with the design of the would-be racers, until the development team incorporated characters of the Mario universe, and their tiny go-karts, with F-Zero’s Mode 7 graphics to develop a racing game with a 3D twist.  Super Mario Kart brings the appeal of simple, competitive go-kart racing to the world of video games, but the multiple gameplay modes ranging from races to battles and the established connection with Super Mario Bros. gives Super Mario Kart unlimited appeal and a concept that never gets boring.  (Katie Wong)
Pokemon Red and Blue
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy
NA September 28, 1998
Genre(s) Role-playing video game

Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue’s impact on popular culture extended well beyond video games, and for Game Boy owners, the pair of cartridges were more of a lifestyle than additions to their collections. To call the Pokemon series addicting is to completely understate the effect it has on those who dare to begin their adventures, choosing between a basic grass, water and fire Pokemon (in this case, the classics: Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander). The concept is relatively simple: collect Pokemon, earn badges by beating gym owners and eventually take down the Elite Four and your rival to become a Pokemon master. The original 151 Pokemon, though, provided enough variety to keep players busy indefinitely. Future entries obviously expanded on that number, but even these first two Pokemon games had playability beyond imagination, and sinking over 100 hours of game time might even be landing on the short side. Adding the option to duel against your friends via a link cable just meant more time spent training your monsters, learning advantages and disadvantages, teaching new techniques, and trying to collect the rarest and most powerful Pokemon to give yourself the best chance at success. Like many early Nintendo games, for Game Boy and NES, the soundtrack for Pokemon is infectious and stays with the player throughout the entire day. There’s hardly a story to speak of and the turn-based mechanics are nowhere near as engaging as an action title like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, but Pokemon remains one of the few Game Boy games that simply must be experienced. (Sean Colletti)

Mario Kart 64
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Genre(s) Racing

When it comes to kart-racing games, Mario Kart has always sat comfortably in pole position (although Crash Team Racing was never too far behind). Currently enjoying its eighth outing on Wii U, Nintendo’s long-running title owes a lot to the second game in the series – the seminal Mario Kart 64. For it was here that much of what makes Mario Kart so, well, Mario Kart was born. The use of true 3D graphics, for instance, gave the racer a significant improvement over its predecessor. No longer restricted by the SNES’s Mode 7 graphics, this time around Mario and his pals were able to race along bridges, dodge pitfalls and follow tight tracks that rose and fell through the air with proper elevation. Rainbow Road, eat your heart out. And like most of its N64 brethren, Mario Kart 64 offered four-person multiplayer for those nights in with your friends. Along with titles like Goldeneye and Starfox, Mario Kart 64 was the perfect party game, and a variety of modes had players flinging bananas, tossing red shells and gulping mushrooms whether they were racing for first place or just trying to pop their opponent’s balloons. So whilst some complained that it was too easy, or that the newly added ‘blue shell’ made races too cheap (both arguments that have continued to this day), there’s no escaping the simple fact that Mario Kart 64 isn’t just one of the best kart-racers out there, but one of the best N64 games too. (Tariq Ashkanani)

Super Mario Bros.
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) NES
September 13, 1985
Genre(s) Platform

No respected best-of list would be complete without Super Mario Bros. but why Nintendo’s most iconic video game didn’t crack our top 10 is a mystery to me. Here’s the title that single handedly revitalized the gaming industry and made the affable Mario, the most popular video game character of all time, and Nintendo’s mascot. Whether it’s the iconic tunes and sounds to the memorable levels, or the journey through the Mushroom Kingdom populated by strange new creatures, Super Mario Bros. remains superbly entertaining, and highly influential. Although the game itself takes a good amount of skill to master, Super Mario Bros is easy to learn – and has a mysterious quality that makes it appealing to everyone, gamers and non-gamers alike. The quintessential platformer, Super Mario Bros. set the template for countless games that followed, and for that, we are thankful. (Ricky D)
The Legend of Zelda
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) NES
February 21, 1986
Genre(s) Action-adventure

The first Legend of Zelda game is chronologically the second to last game to take place (we assume) in the long running franchise – and it’s amazing to think just how far the series has come, by essentially going backwards. The game was groundbreaking in so many ways and another milestone release for the time from Nintendo. The Legend of Zelda laid the groundwork for almost every action-RPG that came after it and has become a staple franchise for the company – a franchise that is still going strong for nearly 30 years now. It was the first game which allowed players to save their progress throughout the game, and pushed the boundaries of what game designers could do with setting, music and action-adventure gameplay. Everything about Zelda was a stroke of genius, and even today the gameplay holds up nicely. After all these years, I still hold on to the replica-gold-plated cartridge I was lucky enough to receive as a gift. It is the one, and only cartridge, I’ll never part with, no matter what the asking price. (Ricky D)
Mega Man 2
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) NES
December 24, 1988
Genre(s) Action, platform

Mega Man 2 is the greatest sequel ever made. While other franchises have continued the excellence of the first chapter, Mega Man 2 redefined its first iteration. The gameplay isn’t all that much different from Mega Man 1, but its tighter and countless jumps that hinge on that last pixel of running room. Instead of six robot masters, Mega Man 2 introduces eight all new masters. When Mega Man defeats one of the robot masters, he inherits their special ability. From the incredibly useful Metal Blade, to the Leaf Shield, each weapon is necessary to defeat the evil Dr. Wily. The difficulty from the first title remains as the Mega Man series is not for those seeking a cakewalk. That difficulty is most prevalent in particular levels. Defeating Quick Man’s stage without the help of Flash Man’s ability is a class in memorization and timing. Outside of incredible gameplay and mechanics, Mega Man 2 features one of the best 8-bit soundtracks of all-time. Stage one of Dr. Wily’s castle and Bubble Man might be the standouts, but each theme is instantly recognizable to anyone who has played the game. Not only did Mega Man 2 eclipse the first title, but it remains the pinnacle of the series some twenty-five years later. There’s a reason Mega Man 9, and Super Smash Bros use the Mega Man from Mega Man 2. It’s the perfect iteration of the character and the best game in the series. (Max Covill)

Super Mario World
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) SNES
November 21, 1990
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario World, like almost all Mario titles after it, had the difficult task of launching a new Nintendo console. Development of the title was from Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto and is arguably his finest work. This time Mario and Luigi must save Princess Toadstool from Bowser, with the help of a new friend. Yoshi was introduced as a character to assist Mario and Luigi through the many worlds by eating different enemies and having various different iterations. Different colored Yoshis featured different abilities, from Blue Yoshi who could fly over stages to Red Yoshi who could breathe fireballs. The game also introduced the cape, that allows Mario and Luigi to fly, similar to the Tanooki Mario in Super Mario Bros 3. While Mario games were no stranger to having secret worlds, Super Mario World expanded on that idea to include a Star Road that allowed players to beat the game much faster. These were also some of the hardest stages in the game to beat. Like many other titles in the top 20 games, Super Mario World is so incredibly memorable because of how it plays. There’s never a cheap death and every victory feels that much sweeter because of it. Super Mario World was the reason many people bought an SNES on release and provided one of the finest gaming experiences ever. There’s always some argument over the best Mario game, whether it is Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, or Super Mario 64. For my money, Super Mario World represents the best of the franchise. (Max Covill)
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Developer(s) Square
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) SNES,
Genre(s) Action role-playing game

When Nintendo first announced that they would be developing an RPG with the legendary Final Fantasy creators, Squaresoft, the surprise of the public was palpable, and the hype was infective. 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 recast the titular plumber into an isometric faux-3D world, and had 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)

Super Mario Bros. 3
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo Entertainment System
JP October 23, 1988
Genre(s) Platforming

Mario and Luigi were back, and with brand new wardrobes: they could acquire Tanooki suits which enabled them to fly, or the frog suit that came in handy in the water-themed world. The game was light years ahead of its predecessors. This was one of the first video games that felt like it was developed for a home console and not an arcade cabinet — the developers at Nintendo clearly worked on extending replay value rather than trying to make the game as difficult as possible so the player would have to continuously cough up quarters. Part 3 featured the same basic tenements of the previous Mario games, but in a sleeker package. In two player mode, Mario and Luigi alternate turn after turn, regardless of whether or not either player dies. If, for any reason, either player wants to forfeit their turn or compete for the other players turn, there is an optional mini-game that invokes the original Super Mario Bros. arcade game. SMB3 also comes replete with other mini-games, warp whistles, and several other hidden extra lives and other treats to help sustain the interest of novice players. The game was released in Japan in 1988, but Rom chip shortages helped hinder the North American release by two years. Thankfully, two years was just enough time for a film to be released that was little more than an advertisement for the game, entitled The Wizard, starring Fred Savage of The Wonder Years fame. (Brandon Engel)
Castlevania_Harmony_of_Dissonance (1)
Special Mention:
 Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Developer(s) Konami TYO
Publisher(s) Konami
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance, Wii U Virtual Console
NA September 16, 2002
Genre(s) Platform-adventure, Action role-playing

As mentioned before, with the growing prevalence of 3D titles, the GBA became the last haven for 2D games in the early 2000’s. Since Konami had scored a huge critical success with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the natural place to take their series was to 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 in 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)

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