The 100 Greatest Nintendo Games, Pt. 1

NES-Console-Set-640x446

Nintendo celebrated its 125th Anniversary last year, with the company founded on 23rd September 1889 in Kyoto, where its headquarters remain. The company has had an extraordinary history, originally producing handmade handful playing cards and several small niche businesses (including a cab service and luxury hotels), but since 1977, Nintendo has grown into one of the world’s most prolific and beloved video game makers.

Nintendo became a household name outside of Japan in 1985 with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System. The best-selling gaming console of its time, the NES helped revitalize the US video game industry following the video game crash of 1983. Nintendo has since been the most enduring and influential company in the medium and its consoles, branding and innovative game achievements have given the company a momentous status in popular culture. And so 30 years after the NES hit North American shores, we’ve decided to compile a list of the 100 greatest Nintendo games; and believe me, it was no easy feat.

The list started with roughly 450 titles, and after careful consideration we trimmed it down to 250 based on the criteria below. Of the 250 remaining titles, we voted three times, first eliminating 100, after removing ties and finally sorting out the order of appearance. 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 (IE: Super Smash Bros. Brawl.)

That said, many of our favorite games we’ve played over the years on Nintendo consoles (Battletoads, Zombies Ate My Neighbours, to name a few), will not appear on this list since they were either released on other non-Nintendo consoles, and/or developed and published by other companies.

****


100.
Fire Emblem: Path of RadianceFire_Emblem_PoR_Boxart
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo GameCube
NA October 17, 2005
Genre(s) Tactical role-playing

In the often soul-crushingly intricate battlefield of tactical RPG gaming, the Fire Emblem series has often stood as a well-balanced yet challengingly intense bastion. It’s interesting to consider that most North Americans learned of Fire Emblem mainly through the inclusion of Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee, while the Gamecube iteration of the Fire Emblem series, Path of Radiance, still stands as a series high. Set primarily in a land which was divorced completely from the previous games, Path of Radiance served as a deliberate starting point for gamers who were new to this series–but rather than going against its narrative capabilities, that particular aspect only strengthened them. Utilizing an intriguing tone, new mechanics, and a surprisingly robust design, this Fire Emblem remains a standout which few other titles in the series have matched. (Mike Worby)

220px-N64_-_Sin_&_Punishment99. Sin and Punishment
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1 / Treasure Co., Ltd.
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
November 21, 2000
Genre(s) Cabal shooter

Anyone who plays many of the games found on the Virtual Console should be familiar with Treasure, a tiny Japanese developer with a huge cult following and a back catalogue packed with classic titles including one major hit, Hideyuki Suganami’s Sin and Punishment. Originally passed over for localization, Nintendo only released the arcade-style action shooter stateside via the Wii Virtual Console in 2007. It’s the N64 game that many North American gamers imported purely on the positive buzz from respected gaming magazines such as EGM. For the unfamiliar, the game is essentially a 3D Cabal-styled shooter with a grandiose anime-inspired storyline; massively detailed levels; epic set-pieces (the ocean fleet chapter is most memorable), intricate character and enemy models and action that was so rapid, it was almost impossible to keep up. Treasure’s unique approach to game design coupled with Nintendo’s trademark polish makes this worthy of being remembered as one of the 64-bit greats and easily one of the best rail shooters ever made. Fans of arcade style games should love the fast-paced action, brilliant controls, and fantastic over the top storyline. (Ricky D)

 
marioparty98. Mario Party
Developer(s) Hudson Soft
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
NA February 8, 1999
Genre(s) Party
With an additional two controller ports, the N64 easily and quickly established itself as the go-to multiplayer platform of its time. In some ways, it has failed to be improved upon for that experience. That is in large part due to excellent shooters (GoldenEye), fighters (Super Smash Bros.) and racers (Mario Kart 64). But for gamers looking to draw just about anyone into the mix, Mario Party was somewhat of a revelation, re-imagining the board game experience for a console in a game that was both accessible enough for non-gamers and entertaining (and flavored) enough for diehard Mario and Nintendo fans. Mario Party is a classic romp of a game that allows you to screw over your opponents while charging to victory, and the original game utilized the unique N64 controller in just about every way possible. Nowadays, the internet has made multiplayer gaming an expected feature rather than an added bonus, but games like Mario Party showed why playing against people while you are all in the same room is a special experience that brings out the “party” element in Mario Party. (Sean Colletti)
Super_Paper_Mario_cover97. Super Paper Mario
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems / Nintendo SPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Ryota Kawade
Platform(s) Wii
NA April 9, 2007
Genre(s) Action role-playing, platform, puzzle
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 an inspired one, 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)

256px-Star-wars-rogue-squadron96.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron
Developer(s) Factor 5 / LucasArts
Publisher(s) LucasArts / Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
NA December 7, 1998
Genre(s) Action, Shooter
Mode(s) Single-player

Those who owned a Nintendo 64 likely remember its paltry third-party offerings, which undernourished many genres on the system. Luckily, the consoles mantra of quality over quantity often rung true. There were not many other games like Star Wars: Rogue Squadron on the 64-bit machine, but the 1998 title has become an enduring classic. Closer to an arcade shooter than its more realistic computer cousins (like X-Wing and Tie Fighter), Rogue Squadron offers plenty of dogfighting (and escorting and extracting and infiltrating) as well as a beginners guide to the Star Wars Expanded Universe. For example, in one of the most memorable scenarios, players confront the massive Imperial World Devastators, immense flying blocks of death that consume planets with powerful tractor beams, which this writer had only encountered before on an illustrated encyclopedia of Star Wars vessels. Such wild technology does not feature in the films, but can be seen here (and in the franchises vast literature, of course). Although the graphics are mired in distance fog, the sheer variety of locations remains aesthetically pleasing: from the oceans of Mon Calamari, to the forests and grasslands of Thyferra, the industrial wastelands of Balmorra, the spacious nighttime cities of Corellia, and, of course, the better-known deserts of Tatooine and frozen plains of Hoth. And the ships! X-Wings, Y-Wings, T-Wings, Speeders, even the Millennium Falcon as an unlockable. Diversity is what Rogue Squadron does best.  (Guido Pellegrini)

imgpokemon diamond495. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
NA April 22, 2007
Genre(s) Role-playing video game

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 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)

Diddy-Kong-Racing-Video-Game-Vault-by-ScrewAttack-on-the-Nintendo-64194. Diddy Kong Racing
Developer(s) Rare Ltd.
Publisher(s) Rare Ltd. / Nintendo
Distributor(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Genre(s) Racing

While Diddy Kong Racing is largely (and rightfully) overshadowed by the Mario Kart series, let that not suggest that DKR lacks any merit of it’s own making. By introducing three different gameplay mechanics, and therefore three different ways, to complete every race, DKR left the choice of how every level might be played entirely up to the player. Even if the characters are mostly new, and unrelatable as such, one must allow a certain degree of admiration for the level of design that goes into creating a competitive racing game wherein every level has three ways to be completed, and yet none of them feel as though they have an obvious advantage or disadvantage in regard to the others. Whether you’re racing via plane, boat, or automobile, Diddy Kong Racing remains precisely intricate both in its design and in its execution. (Mike Worby)
Kirby's_Adventure_Coverart93. Kirby’s Adventure
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Famicom/NES,
March 23, 1993
Genre(s) Platforming, Action

Though Kirby made his debut a year prior on the Game Boy, it was 1993’s Kirby’s Adventure on the NES that turned everybody’s favorite pink ball of love into a super-star. Kirby’s Adventure did more than expand on the simple charm of Kirby’s Dream Land; it was a groundbreaking platformer that famously introduced Kirby’s power-stealing ability and his vast environments full of hidden secrets. On its surface it seems like a relatively straight-forward platformer; however, if you dig deeper, you”ll discover a brilliantly layered game with an abundance of hidden rooms, secret exits and numerous side quests outside of the main platforming stages. Kirby’s Adventure is one of those rare late-generation games that’s actually good. In fact, it’s better than good, it’s a late-NES masterpiece that earned Kirby a place as one of Nintendo’s gaming icons. At 6 Megabit, it is one of the largest games ever released for the NES; it boasts fantastic audio design (every track being memorable); pseudo-3D backgrounds and parallax scrolling. HAL Laboratory really went out of their way to create the visuals in this game, and the hard work paid off: It was awarded Best NES Game of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly and a reputation of having the most impressive graphics on the system. Also noteworthy is the story: The Dream Spring, the source of all dreams, has dried up and now, everyone is subjected to their worst nightmares every time they go to sleep. It’s up to you to save the day! (Ricky D)
VJbox92. Viewtiful Joe
Developer(s) Capcom Production Studio 4
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) GameCube
NA 7 October 2003[2]
Genre(s) Action, platform, 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 it’s first appearance in North America on October 7th 2003. Released exclusively to the Gamecube at the time of release. The core gameplay consists traditionaly of a 2D side-scrolling beat ’em up but the unique aspect to 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, Mach speed which gives Joe an after-image effect giving you the ability to take on multiple opponents on the screen, and Zoom-in causing the camera to get up close giving you the ability to focus attacks and give the user a new set of power moves.

The game was a bit of a hidden gem, Selling less than a 100,000 in it’s first week of release in Japan, and only selling 275,000 Worlwide. It fell short of what Capcom predicted but due to it’s 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)
 
Ninja_Gaiden_(NES)91. Ninja Gaiden
Developer(s) Tecmo
Publisher(s) Tecmo, Hudson Soft
Platform(s) NES
April 6, 1990
Genre(s) Platformer

Ninja Gaiden originally debuted as a two-player arcade beat-’em-up back in 1988. This isn’t that game. This instead is the follow up the Nintendo Entertainment System 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 using just two buttons. Players are able to pull off wall jumps, super-swift attacks, back flips, and 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. The cutscenes in between levels 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)

RezeroboxSpecial Mention: Resident Evil 0
Developer(s) Capcom Production Studio 3
Publisher(s) Capcom
November 12, 2002
Platform Gamecube

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 centered it’s narrative around Rebecca Chambers, a minor character in the original game. She was 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 changed 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 series 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)

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10

Scroll to Top