With all the rumors going around about the NX, Nintendo’s next console, let’s take a minute to remember all of the Big N’s previous console achievements and what the best game for each one was. Here are my picks:
Nintendo Entertainment System (NES): Super Mario Bros. 3
While the NES was home to many of the most important and influential games in history, none stand out and hold up as well as Super Mario Bros. 3. The game featured impeccable level design, the best graphics of any game to date, and some of the most memorable music and animations in the medium’s history.
Honorable Mentions: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid
Game Boy/Game Boy Color: Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow
While every major Nintendo franchise was represented on the company’s first major handheld, the original Pokemon games remain the greatest handheld gaming has ever been able to offer. Sure, Silver and Gold are probably better all-around games, but nothing I’ve played has matched the feeling I had playing the first couple of hours of Pokemon Red when I was a kid. Given the immense popularity of Pokemon Go lately, this answer seems like a no-brainer.
Honorable Mentions: Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal, Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Tetris
Super Nintendo: Super Mario World
I’ve written before about the best games on what I consider to be the best console of all time, so I won’t go on much further on this matter, only to say that Super Mario World might be the reason I fell in love with gaming.
Honorable Mentions: Zelda: A Link to the Past, Street Fighter II, Yoshi’s Island, DKC 2, Super Metroid
Nintendo 64: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Nintendo’s 64-bit console was home to the two most important 3D games of all time: Super Mario 64 and Zelda: Ocarina of Time. While Mario 64 established the 3D platformer as a genre and established a precedent for next generation gaming for decades to come, Ocarina of Time presented a beautiful marriage of storytelling, character study, 3D combat mechanics, exploration, music, visuals, and perfect progression.
Few other games in history can match the near-perfection of Ocarina of Time, and so many other games clearly borrow many of the concepts found in the game. There are a litany of reasons that people call this title an all-time great, but let’s save that discussion for a different time. For now, let’s just agree it was the best on the N64.
Honorable Mentions: Super Mario 64, Super Smash Bros., Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye
Game Boy Advance: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
This was a tricky entry for me, and not due to lack of quality content on the handheld. Most of my favorite games I played on the Game Boy Advance were ports of Super Nintendo games (A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country), and none of those really count. The one title that stood out to me, however, was The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. I wrote about the game here, but just as a reminder: this game might be the most underrated Zelda game out there. It’s available on Wii U Virtual Console, so I’d highly recommend everyone try it, because it’s pretty fantastic.
Honorable Mentions: Metroid Fusion, Fire Emblem, Golden Sun
GameCube: Super Smash Bros. Melee
While the Nintendo GameCube was host to many of the Big N’s most memorable releases, Super Smash Bros. Melee holds up as by far the greatest release on the console. The leap from the N64 original was massive, with more characters, stages, game modes, and even a full orchestral soundtrack. Melee remains one of the most complete fighting games ever and continues to be a mainstay at competitive gaming events.
Many of my fondest gaming memories are centered on Melee, and I’m not alone there; nearly everyone I know grew up with the game, and it holds up to this very day.
Honorable Mentions: Super Mario Sunshine, Zelda: Wind Waker, Metroid Prime, Resident Evil 4, Mario Kart: Double Dash
Nintendo DS: New Super Mario Bros.
The DS was known for its experimental touch-based games, but the best title the handheld ever produced was a return to classic form. New Super Mario Bros. revitalized the 2D platforming genre, and did so with elegance, style, and creativity. Unlike Nintendo’s other franchise entries on the DS, New Super Mario Bros. didn’t come with much in the way of gimmicky touchscreen functionality or dual screen nonsense. It was (and still is) pure platforming bliss, and sometimes that’s all anybody wants.
Honorable Mentions: Elite Beat Agents, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Pokemon SoulSilver/HeartGold
Wii: Super Mario Galaxy 2
The Mario Galaxy games are without question the best that the Wii had to offer. Sure, you can look at the Wii Sports games or Wii Fit and appreciate how they presented new ideas to medium, but Mario Galaxy used motion controls in subtle ways that enhanced the experience immensely. Beyond that, the games featured some of the best level design in gaming history, an incredible score, lovable characters, and an enormous amount of content.
Either the first or second game in the series could be put here, but I give the edge to the sequel pretty much just because it added Yoshi, and I think that matters.
Honorable Mentions: Wii Sports, Zelda: Skyward Sword, Zelda: Twilight Princess, WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Nintendo 3DS: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
There’s really not much more I can say about this game, but I will: A Link Between Worlds features nuanced, modern ideas and classic, retro-style gameplay that makes for one of the most all-around delightful gaming experiences I’ve ever had. The 3DS is a great handheld with a ton of quality content, but A Link Between Worlds should absolutely be #1 on anybody’s list of games for the handheld.
Honorable Mentions: Pokemon ORAS, Super Mario 3D Land, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 7
Wii U: Super Mario Maker
I’ve talked incessantly about how much I love Mario Maker, so I’ll save you any explanation of this game’s greatness beyond this one factoid: the title is roughly a year old, and I’ve logged more hours making silly levels and playing through whatever comes my way in Super Mario Maker than I have in all other games combined in that time frame. It’s a masterpiece of the highest order.
Honorable Mentions: Super Mario 3D World, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Splatoon
What are your picks? Let us know in the comments below!