Top 20 Greatest Nintendo Games of All Time



Top 20 Greatest Nintendo Games of All Time

VOICE OVER: Callum Janes WRITTEN BY: Ty Richardson
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today, we're counting down our picks for the Top 20 Nintendo Games of All Time! For this list, we're taking a look at the best Nintendo games ever made! Do note we're only counting first-party Nintendo games. Our countdown includes "Pikmin 2" (2004), "Fire Emblem: Three Houses" (2019), "Super Metroid" (1994), "Pokemon Gold & Silver" (1999), and more!
Script written by Ty Richardson

#20: “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” (1987)

Very few NES games have managed to age like fine wine, and while several of those gems are specifically from Nintendo themselves, “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out” is the one that has aged the finest. The simple controls allow for anyone to pick it up and play, regardless of their experience with the franchise. It also managed to incorporate telegraphing in a way that most video games had yet to achieve at the time, and to this day, we’re still haunted by rivals like King Hippo and old Mikey himself. By the way, Nintendo, when is Mac gonna make his debut on Switch? It’s been over a decade since the last “Punch-Out”!

#19: “Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door” (2005)

The “Paper Mario” series has seen a handful of unique titles that add a new spin to the RPG formula. No matter how many times it throws in puzzles and paint and stickers, “The Thousand-Year Door” has remained the absolute best in its franchise, and rightfully so. How can anyone say otherwise with a story this captivating, characters so well-written and designed, and combat that is so simplistic yet surprisingly deep? It’s these exceptional features of “The Thousand-Year Door” that have resonated with fans all these years later and why so many are begging for it to be ported to the Switch.

#18: “Pikmin 2” (2004)

“Pikmin” may not have seen as many games as a certain plucky plumber, but each “Pikmin” game presents an experience you won’t find anywhere else. However, “Pikmin 2” is the one that holds up to this day. For starters, the Purple and White Pikmin opened doors to creatively designed puzzles and combat encounters. Then, there’s the slight bump in difficulty that’ll put your management skills to the test as you juggle two different teams of Pikmin between Olimar and Louie. And who could forget the awesome addition of multiplayer? The first and third games are fantastic in their own ways, but “Pikmin 2” will always win our hearts.

#17: “Kirby Super Star” (1996)

They say that quality should take precedence over quantity, and while that is certainly true for several IPs, Kirby somehow transcends that saying. The moment he did so was when “Kirby Super Star” launched on the SNES. Your average “Kirby” game usually comes with a main campaign and maybe a couple of bonus game modes to play after the adventure. “Super Star”, on the other hand, packs in EIGHT games in one cartridge, and they were all incredible to experience. Gourmet Race, The Great Cave Offensive, Revenge of Meta Knight, and The Arena would become some of the best moments “Kirby” has ever offered, and even after belting out several games in the past decade, “Super Star” remains to be the best Kirby game.

#16: “F-Zero GX” (2003)

Hey, did you know that Captain Falcon is not originally a character from “Smash Bros”? Yes, he’s actually from a franchise called “F-Zero”, and you should totally give “F-Zero GX” a spin! See, part of the appeal of the original game was speeding through courses set across futuristic landscapes, and “GX” fully realized that fantasy. The breakneck speeds make it one of, if not THE fastest racing game you’ll ever play, and it is also one of the most difficult because of it. The way it demands you master the controls and fully understand the structure of the tracks make it super challenging. Few racing games have demanded this level of skill, and that’s what makes “GX” such a blast to play.

#15: “Luigi’s Mansion” (2001)

Back in 2001, this looked to be one of the oddest games to launch with the GameCube. On the contrary, it was one of the best. “Luigi’s Mansion” introduced a new style of play with its unique mechanics around vacuuming up ghosts and reeling them in with both the analog and C-stick. It also serves as an example for fantastic level design, throwing in new puzzles and ways to utilize the Poltergust 3000 while hiding a plethora of secrets (as a haunted mansion expectedly would). You’d be hard pressed to find a better Nintendo game that fits that Halloween vibe.

#14: “Super Mario Odyssey” (2017)

If we had to credit two games for the Switch’s ultra successful first year, one of those games would be “Super Mario Odyssey”. (We’ll get to the other one later.) Prior to this, we had spent over twenty long years waiting for a 3D Mario game as exceptional as “Odyssey” turned out. The power to possess enemies and objects added a new layer of puzzles and platforming, the boss fights were epic in scale and fun in design, and each level felt like a brand new playground to explore. Above all, Mario controlled better than ever, to the point where players were finding all kinds of tricks to blast across maps and reach new heights within seconds. What more could we have asked for?

#13: “Fire Emblem: Three Houses” (2019)

Everyone has their favorite “Fire Emblem” game, and if you feel another was more deserving of a spot, more power to you! For us, though, “Three Houses” absolutely takes the cake. The “teacher-student” angle brought an interesting way to manage your units by helping them enhance their abilities and evolve them into the soldier they may or may not become later on. On top of that, the ability to undo actions opens the door for new players to give “Fire Emblem” a shot.

#12: “Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest” (1995)

The “Donkey Kong Country” series holds so many amazing titles that it was super hard to choose which one to put on the list. In the end, we had to go with “Diddy’s Kong Quest”. This was the turning point that made the franchise what it is today. First off, you had levels that amped up the difficulty and tested your platforming prowess. Second, both Diddy and Dixie had their own set of abilities that allowed you to navigate levels in different ways. And lastly, the bonuses actually incentivized you to fully explore each and every level. If it wasn’t for “Diddy’s Kong Quest”, we wouldn’t have “Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble” or even “Tropical Freeze”.

#11: “Metroid Prime” (2002)

Throughout the late 90’s and early 2000’s, we saw many franchises fall off during the transition from 2D to 3D gaming. Just when we thought Samus’s days were over after missing the entire Nintendo 64 generation, she came back in full force with “Metroid Prime”. “Prime” borrowed several elements from revolutionary FPS games like “Doom” and “System Shock” while implementing the aesthetic and features unique to “Metroid”. Everything in this game was stellar from start to finish - the controls, the gameplay, the atmosphere, the enemy design. There’s a reason why “Metroid Prime 4” has so much hype around it, and it all stems from this, the very first in a series of quality 3D “Metroid” games.

#10: “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” (2017)

Some may have qualms about the weapon durability system of “Breath of the Wild”, but what it achieves in other areas more than makes up for it. “Breath of the Wild” was a major turning point for the franchise, finally making the kingdom of Hyrule truly open-world instead of segmented between loading screens. With this new format came a handful of new ways to traverse the land from gliding off towers to even smacking boulders. On top of that, you had the cleverly designed Divine Beasts and Shrines to help you fully understand your Runes’ abilities. It’s one of the greatest “Zelda” games we’ve had in a long time...but is it the best?

#9: “Pokémon Gold & Silver” (1999)

Many will gush over “Red & Blue”, “Ruby & Sapphire”, or “Diamond & Pearl”, but “Gold & Silver” will always win the crown in our book. While some pocket monsters returned, over a hundred brand new ones were added into the game, meaning we had a whole new region to dive into and dissect. It also boasted significantly better visuals and character designs than its predecessor, making things easier to look at. We could go on and on about the neat details, distinguishable environments, and designs of the new Legendary Pokémon, but we’d be here all day, and we still have eight entries to go.

#8: “Star Fox 64” (1997)

Despite all of the sequels and spin-offs we’ve seen, why is it that “Star Fox 64” remains the best in the series? How, after all these years, has it been so ingrained in our memories that it phases the others out? One aspect is the branching paths, offering up all kinds of possibilities for different ways to tell the Saturday morning cartoon-like story. Then, there’s the addictive nature of beating your score and nabbing medals on every planet, not to mention the competitive multiplayer with unlockable vehicles. It’s a “Star Fox” game filled with adventure and wonder, and no matter how much older it gets, “Star Fox 64” remains the best the franchise has to offer.

#7: “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” (2020)

Even when “New Leaf” came out, one would call “Animal Crossing” a somewhat niche franchise. That is until we faced a global pandemic and “New Horizons” launched. Sentimental value aside, “New Horizons” was a phenomenal game and maintains a strong player base today. How could anyone turn down the opportunity to live in and maintain their very own island? Between upgrading and decorating your own house, convincing characters to move to your island, and earning Nook Miles for cool decorations, “New Horizons” earned the respect and admiration of players everywhere, and the multiplayer component solidifies that.

#6: “Super Mario World” (1990)

Of the 2D Mario games, Nintendo achieved perfection with “Super Mario World”. Sure, one could dismiss it as “another Mario game”, but it’d be safe to assume that individual hasn’t played “World”. It’s a SNES gem that excels in level design as levels hide away all kinds of secrets for you to discover, whether it be as simple as going down a pipe or requiring use of the Cape power-up. On top of that, you could discover alternate paths leading to harder levels or even a shortcut to skip levels altogether. Regardless of whether you know every secret in the game, “World” just doesn’t seem to ever lose its luster, and that’s why it remains one of Mario’s best outings.

#5: “Mario Kart 8: Deluxe” (2017)

Everyone has their favorite “Mario Kart”, from “64” to “Double Dash!!” Heck, some of the WatchMojo staff voted for “64”, but we all agree - “MK8: Deluxe” is the best we’ve ever seen in the franchise. In addition to stunning visuals and presentation, the kart customization and weight classes offer up a hearty buffet of different playstyles. We even got a few more characters added in that were not featured in the original Wii U version such as King Boo, Dry Bones, and the “Splatoon” squid kids. To sweeten the deal further, they fixed Battle Mode and brought back everything we loved in Balloon Battle, Coin Runners, and the new mode, Renegade Roundup. There’s so much to enjoy here that’ll please any “Mario Kart” fan.

#4: “Super Metroid” (1994)

“Metroid Prime” might be the best 3D “Metroid” game, but when it comes to the series at its core, as a 2D action-platformer, nothing comes close to “Super Metroid”. (Well, maybe “Fusion”?) “Super Metroid” serves as a fantastic example of superb level design, maintaining a fair balance between exploring brand new areas and backtracking to old ones to discover new secrets. With intense boss battles and plenty of cool new weapons and gadgets to find, it’s no wonder that folks continue to revisit the pixelated beauty and wonder that is “Super Metroid”. Besides, how many other games caused a studio to turn down the opportunity to develop a sequel because the previous game was so good? Yeah, that’s why you didn’t see Samus on N64.

#3: “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” (1998)

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said numerous times about “Ocarina of Time”? It’s regarded as the best “Zelda” game ever for so many reasons. The sense of adventure, the memorable moments, the moving music, the deep character development...need we say more? “Ocarina of Time” set a precedent for 3D adventure games and RPGs as we were about to transition into the era of GameCube and PlayStation 2, and even today, it’s inspired so many different games from both the AAA and indie markets.

#2: “Super Mario 64” (1996)

We aren’t just throwing “Mario 64” on here because of nostalgia. We aren’t throwing it on here just because of the level design or the music or the fights against Bowser or those damn sliding segments. No, what “Mario 64” achieved the best was its controls, and this was an incredibly remarkable feat. At the time, no other game had managed to perfect how players could move in a 3D space. “Mario 64” managed to nail just about every aspect of gaming without any references from other games. Even a couple of decades later, Mario still handles beautifully, and it’s why so many folks still stream and speedrun the game today.

#1: “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” (2018)

It may not be as fast as “Melee” or as ambitious as “Brawl”, but “Ultimate” is a game that will never exist again. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of crossover fighters even after the original “Smash Bros” came out in 1999. However, “Ultimate” has achieved the impossible with its roster and introduction of Spirits. There are so many franchises represented here that make “Ultimate” the - no pun intended - ultimate love letter to video games. On top of that, every character feels balanced, players can fight on more than three hundred stages, and it boasts one hell of a soundtrack with more than a thousand songs. It’s for these reasons that “Ultimate” managed to become the best-selling fighting game of all time, and deservedly so.