Every Nintendo console has a library of hundreds of games. So what are the best ones for each console/handheld? Here’s a list of the best (or what we think is the best) game on each Nintendo system.
The results are based on overall gameplay for each system’s game, the story arc for each game and how that arc impacted the game, and finally, overall player reviews at the time of each game’s release.
NES – Super Mario Bros 3
Ok, this one was pretty much no contest. While Nintendo basically owned the market on third-party developers at this time, they still created their own masterpieces, and Super Mario Bros 3 is one of them.
The story was fun and light-hearted and the King of each land had been turned into a different animal by Bowser’s kids, the Koopalings. It’s up to Mario to defeat each Koopaling and change the King back to their normal form. The setting of the game was actually a play with the curtain rising at the beginning and Mario walking off the stage at the end of each level.
The game was loved by both players and reviewers. It was (and still is) the best-selling NES game worldwide.
Gameboy – Tetris
The classic, most well-known, puzzle game that almost everyone loves. Over the years there have been many iterations and remakes of Tetris. Of all the games on the Gameboy over the years Tetris outsold them all.
Most players were already familiar with the game as they had probably played it on their NES, but now they could take it with them. The gameplay was simple for anyone to pick up and play. Move the blocks as they fall from the top to make a solid horizontal line. Successfully doing so will make that line disappear and keep the columns low. If they reach the top of the screen, it’s game over.
Tetris has sold over 35 million units on the Gameboy alone. Quite an accomplishment for a simple puzzle game.
Super Nintendo – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
This was pretty much a no-brainer too, and there were some great games on the Super Nintendo to compete with. Super Mario World, Super Metroid, and Donkey Kong Country among many others. A Link to the Past though is iconic for the system and The Legend of Zelda series.
Nintendo did everything right with this game. They took all the great stuff from the original Legend of Zelda and took nothing from the Adventure of Link. Then added more memorable gameplay and story elements. As usual, Link is on a quest through Hyrule. This time around he must save the seven sages before defeating Ganon. Two versions of Hyrule were also introduced for the first time ever, which is something that was used again in a few other games in the franchise.
Easily one of the most popular Zelda games in the franchise, A Link to the Past scored in the 90s from everybody who reviewed it. It was one of the best-selling SNES games to date.
Nintendo 64 – Goldeneye
Ok, so Goldeneye wasn’t the most popular game on the N64, that title went to Mario’s personal adventure. Goldeneye though had the third most amount of sales and created unforgettable memories.
While the single-player campaign followed the movie pretty closely and had some solid gameplay, the multiplayer is where this game really shined. Countless hours were spent in a 2-4 player deathmatch that featured several options to change the way you fought your friends. There were numerous levels from the movie (and some made-up levels) to battle in, with characters that were featured in other James Bond films as well.
The game was commended for its realistic animations and attention to level detail. It’s been featured in numerous lists for the Greatest Game of All Time and it helped pave the way for other first-person shooters.
Gamecube – Super Smash Bros. Melee
Ok, let the angry comments begin. Yes, there are tons of great games on the Gamecube, The Wind Waker, Metroid Prime, and Mario Sunshine to name a few, but none of them has as big of a following as Super Smash Bros Melee. It was arguably one of the best in the series (until Ultimate was released). It is still played in some tournament venues today, 20 years later!
The game was unlike any other fighting game because it didn’t require any special inputs to pull off special/secret moves. Everybody had the same controls, but each character does something that’s specific to them. The multiplayer mode also featured up to four players fighting at once. Random items could also be included in the match which could change the entire trajectory of the battle. Including items or more than two players in a battle made some consider this more of a party game than a fighting game, but those staples lived on in each iteration of the Smash Bros franchise.
Super Smash Bros Melee was the best-selling game on the Gamecube by far, over 70% of players that owned a Gamecube also owned Melee. The game won several Game of the Year Awards in 2001 and continues to be featured in best fighting game lists.
Gameboy Advance – Advance Wars
The very first version of Advance Wars was quite a hit on the Gameboy Advance. Originally the game was never intended to be sold outside of Japan. Apparently, Intelligent Systems and Nintendo thought the turn-based mechanic was too complicated for the western hemisphere. Well, they remedied that by making a robust tutorial, and it worked out great for them as the game was a major success in the United States.
The story for the game is a bit convoluted and kind of confusing. It all comes down to four separate factions fighting each other only to find they’ve all been bamboozled and then they join forces to fight the faction that tricked them all.
Overall the game received favorable ratings across the board. It has a Must Play tag from Metacritic with a score of 92 and a user score of 8.8. It even won a few Best Gameboy Advance Game of the Year awards.
Ds – Mario Kart Ds
For the fifth installment of Mario Kart, Nintendo decided to go handheld and try out their new wi-fi feature on the DS. For the most part, it worked flawlessly. Players could play Mario Kart with anyone around the world for the first time ever.
The game had five modes with three engine classes each. There were eight racers to start with and four more to unlock. If the player got at least a ‘B’ ranking in the 150cc cups they would have unlocked all characters and a total of 36 karts.
Mario Kart DS was the best-selling game two months in a row after its release and received a few Editor’s Choice Awards and was ranked the Best Handheld Game.
Wii – Super Mario Galaxy
Not just one of the best Wii games, one of the best Mario Games, ever. From the moment this game starts with its beautiful visuals, enchanting music, and the seamless controls with the Wii Remotes, anybody playing could tell this game was going to be a masterpiece.
Peach has been kidnapped… again. Mario with his new friend Rosalina and Luma companions must recover the Power Stars that Bowser has stolen. Once Mario has retrieved enough Power Stars, Rosalina’s ship will be powerful enough to get Mario to the center of the universe to rescue Peach from Bowser.
Super Mario Galaxy is the sixth highest-rated game on Metacritic with an overall score of 97 from over 70 reviews. Critics praised the fun gameplay and the incredible soundtrack that made them want to keep exploring more and more galaxies.
3DS – A Link Between Worlds
Nintendo took everything that was great about A Link to the Past from the Super Nintendo and expanded on it in A Link Between Worlds. Both games take place in the same Hyrule, just many years apart. A Link to the Past introduced some new mechanics to the Legend of Zelda franchise, including a weapon rental system and the ability to complete the dungeons in whichever order the player wanted (to an extent).
The story takes place many years after A Link to the Past. Link, as usual, must rescue Princess Zelda who has been captured by Yuga, an evil sorcerer from the parallel world of Lorule. During his quest, he must also rescue the seven sages that have been turned into paintings by Yuga. When Yuga has all of the sages and Zelda he can resurrect Ganon.
Many critics loved that this was a successor to A Link to the Past, but also think that it was good enough as its own story. It is still one of the highest-grossing and rated 3DS games of all time.
Wii U – Super Mario 3D World
Up to four players can play Super Mario 3D World at once. Either in a group effort or in competition for the high score and the privilege of wearing the crown. This was a great family game with upbeat music, bright levels, and a welcoming atmosphere.
This game features Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach rescuing fairies that Bowser kidnapped. The game is a direct sequel to Super Mario 3D Land and plays the same way in the 3D environment. There are only a few minor differences aside from the simultaneous four-player campaign. The most notable is the ability to turn into a cat. Each character can collect a bell and be transformed into a cat version of themselves. The cat moves faster, can climb walls, and scratch enemies as an attack.
The game won Game of the Year from several media outlets and received no lower than a 90% from the majority of reviewers. It is the second best-selling Wii U game with over 5.8 million copies sold.
Switch – Breath of the Wild
Ok, we’re probably going to get a lot of angry comments about this one too, but stats don’t lie. Breath of the Wild is still the highest selling and the highest-rated Switch game at this point. The open-world and vast landscape are what players have wanted from a Zelda game for years.
Link has been asleep for 100 years, recovering, after losing in a fierce battle to Ganon’s forces. When Link steps out into Hyrule a lot has changed in those 100 years. The landscape has been decimated, there are fewer people, and monsters are everywhere. He is informed by the spirit of the last King of Hyrule what needs to be done to return Hyrule to its former glory.
Breath of the Wild won Game of the Year from multiple websites and reviewers. It received a perfect score from a few others as well, a score that is very rarely given.