Nintendo has been making video games for over 40 years, meaning that if we list the best Nintendo games ranked, we will need some help. That help comes from Metacritic; we’re going to list some of the Big N’s best titles based on their Metascore.
Some of the games at the top of the list won’t surprise you. As we dive further down, however, you may be surprised to see some titles appearing over others.
Let’s not waste any more time and get right to it: presenting the best Nintendo games ever made, according to Metacritic.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time tops the list of best Nintendo games ranked
One of the greatest games of all time tops our list of the best Nintendo games. Ocarina of Time is an epic masterpiece, delivering a world that didn’t seem possible at the time. While the Super Mario franchise grabbed all the headlines, The Legend of Zelda series was arguably even better.
Despite the limitations of the Nintendo 64 hardware, Ocarina of Time provides the Hyrule we only thought was possible in our imagination. Its gameplay offers a substantial step forward in the action-adventure genre and defines what’s possible from a 3D video game.
Super Mario Galaxy is a revolutionary platforming adventure
When other video games constantly throw new ideas at the player, it often falls under the weight of their own hubris. Super Mario Galaxy is the exception to this rule. It’s nothing short of miraculous that one of the best Super Mario games is on the Nintendo Wii of all consoles.
New ideas, concepts, and mechanics are constantly introduced from when you start the game until the credits roll. It never lingers, continually changing the formula to provide something new and different.
What’s remarkable is that these ideas are all excellent in concept and execution. Nintendo moves on from mechanics that other titles would base their entire game around.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 expands on the critically acclaimed sequel
For some, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is better than the original. It pushes the Nintendo Wii to its absolute limits, getting the most it can from the system.
It’s an incredible improvement over the original in every possible way. Mario Galaxy 2 is easily the best looking Switch game ever made. Its beautiful and vibrant colors result in a true work of art.
The gameplay offers a more challenging experience difficulty wise, but the new gameplay mechanics and introduction to Yoshi are an incredibly welcome addition.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece
Breath of the Wild is hands down one of the best Nintendo games of all time. A launch title for the Nintendo Switch, it offers a new and breakthrough way to experience open world gameplay.
The lack of handholding in Breath of the Wild is a, pardon the pun, breath of fresh air. The game throws you into the wild and lets you figure everything out on your own. While there’s a main quest to guide the player, there aren’t any limitations holding the player back. You can go wherever you’d like, do whatever you want, and see anything you want.
The newest Zelda game is one of the greatest open world games you can play today.
Until the sequel comes out, of course.
Perfect Dark is a sci-gem and one of the best Nintendo games
The spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark pushes the envelope forward for the console F.P.S. genre. It proves that developer Rare wasn’t a one-hit wonder in the F.P.S. genre.
Multiplayer is better than ever. Introducing high-tech gadgets and weaponry helps it stand out compared to other console shooters.
Perfect Dark also offers a strong single-player experience with a strong lead character in Joanna Dark. All this and more helped it become one of the best games made by Nintendo.
Metroid Prime is a breath of fresh air for the franchise
The best Nintendo games have a knack for taking popular franchises to places they’ve never been before. With Metroid Prime, the franchise transitions from a side-scrolling exploration shooter to a first-person adventure shooter. It’s such an impressive fit that it feels like Metroid was made for the first-person genre.
Developer Retro Studios took the impossible task of developing Metroid Prime but was up to the task. It’s a beautiful experience that delivers an unforgettable adventure and plenty of engaging action.
Super Mario Odyssey is a platforming playground
I’m not sure why Super Mario Odyssey is so “low” on this list. It builds on everything the Super Mario franchise has done, delivering a near-perfect experience.
Few games can match the precise controls of Super Mario Odyssey. Nothing is off-limits in each stage. Whether you discover the secrets that await you with the countless power-ups or through impressive platforming is entirely up to you.
Super Mario Odyssey is the type of game that will sell systems. Remarkably, it’s not even the highest-rated game for the Nintendo Switch. That’s no fault of its own, though
GoldenEye 007 is one of the best console FPS games ever and earns a spot on our list of Nintendo games ranked
The legend of GoldenEye 007 is well known. The upcoming remaster for both Nintendo Switch and Xbox consoles will give fans a chance to relive their F.P.S. glory days while also opening up the game to a new audience.
Admittedly, parts of the game haven’t aged well. That said, the technology and gameplay of GoldenEye 007 for its time are revolutionary. Few console shooters, if any, could match the satisfying and addictive gameplay loop.
Whether it’s the memorable multiplayer matches or the impressive campaign which matches the movie’s plot extraordinarily well, it’s impossible to talk about the best Nintendo games without discussing GoldenEye.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a remarkable achievement in gaming
Next on our list of Nintendo games ranked comes one of the company’s most anticipated games ever.
Twilight Princess was both a launch title for the Nintendo Wii and a swan song for the GameCube console.
The game offers a stark difference in themes and storytelling compared to its GameCube counterpart (more on that in just a bit, don’t worry). Twilight Princess’ strength comes in its ability to deliver a cinematic experience. Yes, there’s still a distinct lack of voice acting, but the presentation is spot-on.
Twilight Princess can draw players in with an engaging story and a remarkable version of Hyrule that ranks among the best seen in a Zelda title.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker defies the expectations to become one of the best Nintendo games
Much maligned for its visuals leading up to its release, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, referred to as “Celda,” is a landmark achievement in gaming.
The cel-shaded art style is a gamble that completely pays off. It helps deliver an experience that evokes a childlike wonder that’s mimicked by the game’s rendition of Link. Setting sail on the high seas is an experience that you’ll never forget.
It’d be extremely disappointing if the gameplay couldn’t match the game’s visuals. Thankfully, Wind Waker doesn’t disappoint. Battling your way through the game is as enjoyable as ever. It’s hard to play this game without matching the smile on Link’s face.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a game that’s not afraid to try something new
Shame on you if you think this list of the best Nintendo games has too many Zelda entries. The Legend of Zelda franchise has constantly succeeded, even when it takes gambles. Majora’s Mask is one of those examples.
Following up on what is regarded as the greatest game of all time is a nearly impossible task. Majora’s Mask offers a new take on story and gameplay, forgoing what worked with Ocarina of Time and instead ordering players to repeatedly relive the same three days.
Majora’s Mask is dark, different, and proud of it. It delivers a wonderful twist on an already established and perfected gameplay foundation.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past sets the foundation for the future of the franchise
Link to the Past is the best of the 2D Zelda games. It also introduced several key features that remain a part of the franchise to this day.
Where Link to the Past succeeds is its timeless gameplay. Playing through the game is as much fun today as it was upon initial release. It offers an excellent mix of exploration, change, and solving puzzles.
The iconic visuals continue to impress. The sprites are vibrant and animated and do well, partnered with the iconic soundtrack I’m humming as I type this up.
Super Mario 64 should be on every list of the best Nintendo games ranked
Speaking of iconic soundtracks, the next entry on our list of best of best Nintendo games is filled with catchy and memorable tunes.
That’s not what makes Super Mario 64 legendary, but it doesn’t hurt. Truthfully, the gameplay makes this game as special as it is.
I’ve personally discussed this game already several times for a reason: Super Mario 64 deserves a spot on the Mount Rushmore of gaming. It helped revolutionize what a 3D video game was capable of. Despite subsequent Mario releases surpassing its quality, the game still holds up exceptionally well.
Provided you don’t play it with a Nintendo 64 controller.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl brought the melee online
Honestly, I’m surprised to see Brawl this high on the list of Nintendo games ranked. It’s not a bad game, but my personal, lasting memory is the game’s poor net code.
Brawl delivers an incredible experience that builds off of everything Melee did, including adding some cool new characters.
Admittedly, the gameplay takes a step back from where it was with the high-octane action of Melee. It’s a controversial entry in the Smash Bros. franchise, but still a solid game nonetheless.
Super Mario 3D World has aged like a fine bottle of wine
While not well received by fans upon release, Super Mario 3D World has aged like a fine glass of wine.
The old-school camera offers a different experience from the Mario Galaxy titles. There’s less emphasis on precision platforming and more on successfully navigating and exploring each stage.
Mario 3D World offers a treasure trove of ideas that ultimately build the future of the Super Mario franchise. Super Mario 3D World walks so that Odyssey and Bowser’s Fury can run.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyword Sword is an artistic masterpiece
Skyward Sword is a literal work of art. Its visual style is reminiscent of watercolor paintings. It also suits the game’s theme and place in the Zelda timeline. Artistically, it’s easily one of the best Nintendo games ranked and earns its spot on this list.
Where Skyward Sword works well is the game’s design aspects. Both dungeons and the overworld are exceptionally well designed and crafted with love. They truly rival other entries in the Zelda franchise.
Where it stumbles, unfortunately, is the motion controls. When they work, it’s a cool concept. More often than not, however, it’s a frustrating gimmick.
Mario Kart Super Circuit delivers the Mario Kart experience on the go
Another surprise for me; I’m shocked that this entry in the Mario Kart franchise even makes the list of Nintendo games ranked.
Mario Kart Super Circuit is far from a bad game. Compared with other entries in the franchise, it certainly falls a bit short. However, the game is a remarkable achievement for the GameBoy Advance hardware. I recall several people commenting on how impressive the game’s graphics were.
The controls setup is dated, as using the D-Pad to steer has its own set of quirks. Ultimately, Mario Kart Super Circuit is a fun nostalgic trip, and it’s great to see some of its tracks brought to Mario Kart 8 DLC.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is one of the best party experiences ever
The game where truly everybody is here.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the, err, ultimate fighting game. Much has been made about its impressive, and at times over the top, roster of characters. The gameplay of Ultimate is some of the franchise’s best.
Few games have captured gaming as Ultimate did. Character reveals became appointment viewing, and more often than not, playing the characters was just as much fun as seeing Minecraft Steve or the Dragon Quest Hero join the battle.
Whether or not this is the last Super Smash Bros. game, Ultimate shows that the series is still going strong and can provide the best of both worlds between a competitive fighter and a party game.
Paper Mario is a fantastic RPG adventure
After Super Mario RPG proved that Mario and company could perform well in the RPG genre, Nintendo moved forward with the Paper Mario franchise.
The series is still running strong with its most recent release on Nintendo Switch, The Oragami King, but owes all of its success to the first release on Nintendo 64.
Paper Mario delivers a light-hearted experience enhanced by its paper aesthetic. The game’s gorgeous visuals pair well with engaging turn-based combat that rivals the best battle systems in the genre.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is one of the best Nintendo games ever made
The beloved cult classic never got the mainstream respect it deserves. Eternal Darkness is a rare mature game from Nintendo, developed by their, at the time, “second party” studio Silicon Knights.
It blends elements of survival horror, adventure, and psychological terror to deliver an unforgettable experience. This game is truly unrelenting in its terror. Instead of relying on jump scares or other common horror tropes, Eternal Darkness wages true psychological warfare to scare the player.
I was terrified to keep playing the game and had to convince myself to move forward. It was well worth it. Never mind the best Nintendo games; Eternal Darkness is one of the best games ever.
Banjo-Kazooie should always be on a list of Nintendo games ranked
Personally, this is an absolute gem of a game and the best Nintendo 64 game for Switch Online.
Banjo-Kazooie is nothing short of magical. It builds upon the foundation set by Super Mario 64 and adds some much-needed quality-of-life improvements and an undeniable aura of charm and personality. The decision to keep players in a world, even if they’ve completed an objective, keeps the gameplay flowing instead of breaking it up by kicking you out every time you acquire a puzzle piece.
It remains one of my favorite games ever because of its ability to continually put a smile on my face every time I play it.
Advance Wars is a forgotten gem that we hope to play again one day
The Advance Wars franchise is set to return once the indefinite delay for the Switch remake is over.
Advance Wars balances complexity with simplicity in its design. The turn-based strategy gameplay. Instead of trying to impress you with these crazy and complicated ideas, developer Intelligent Systems lets the game do all the talking. The result is an addictive experience that becomes hard to put down.
The game’s visual cartoon style suits it incredibly well, helping to keep things light-hearted and inviting.
Super Smash Bros. Melee is arguably the best in the Smash franchise
For many, this is the peak of the Super Smash Bros. series. A part of the GameCube launch lineup, Melee is one of the best Nintendo games that many people still play today.
Whereas the original Smash on Nintendo 64 was an enjoyable party game, Melee delivers a definitive fighting game experience. Combat is fast and furious between an improved selection of iconic Nintendo characters.
While the series has gone on to expand its roster and become a mega-crossover sensation, the incredibly satisfying gameplay proves that you don’t always need a massive roster to have a successful game.
Super Mario Sunshine is better than you remember it being
The follow-up to Super Mario 64 was initially met with skepticism. Super Mario Sunshine’s setting and theme didn’t exactly win people at first. Once you get a chance to play it, however, everything changes.
Super Mario Sunshine features some of the most inventive and genius platforming the franchise has ever seen. There’s an impressive amount of freedom that Mario has.
The only disappointment comes with the game’s marquee mechanic, the F.L.U.D.D. system. Too often, it comes off as a gimmick that the game would be better without.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is the only Fire Emblem game on this list of best Nintendo games ranked
The first appearance of the Fire Emblem franchise on this list of best Nintendo games ranked is one of its best.
Fire Emblem Awakening reinvigorates the franchise, expanding it beyond just a fantasy strategy game and establishing it as a cinematic experience. Awakening can deliver something for franchise veterans and newcomers, catering to both demographics without alienating the other.
Awakening is able to combine the best of the turn-based strategy elements the franchise is known for with the roleplaying aspects that the series has adopted over time.
Wave Race 64 is an all-time classic from Nintendo
Wave Race is one of the most iconic Nintendo 64 games. Sadly the franchise has laid dormant since the GameCube’s Blue Storm, but don’t let that fool you.
Wave Race 64 is a massive achievement in game design. It delivers an incredible jet ski racing experience with fantastic controls and impressive water physics.
The game works thanks to everything working together in harmony. Racing as you bounce on the waves and navigate through courses is an absolute dream. We can relive the dream with its recent release on Nintendo Switch Online, but it’d be great for a new full-fledged release.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U expanded the roster of third-party characters
Oh, look, it’s another entry for the Super Smash Bros. series on our list of the best Nintendo games.
The Wii U entry is the first in the series to be co-developed by Bandai Namco. It also saw a simultaneous release on the Nintendo 3DS.
Personally, I felt like the Wii U version was a step up from Brawl. The gameplay felt better, and the game began to lean more into third-party characters making an appearance on the playable roster.
Smash works best when it delivers organized chaos, which happens here with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. It may not receive the same recognition as Ultimate or Melee, but it’s still a great title.
Bayonetta 2 is an over-the-top action gem
Developed by Platinum Games and published by Nintendo, Bayonetta 2 is a pleasant surprise for the Wii U console.
The same action you know and love is still here, but the game refines the Bayonetta experience to perfection. Gone are the troublesome mechanics and issues, particularly quick time events.
It all comes together in an incredible experience rereleased on the Nintendo Switch. It’s one of the more classic action games out there, proving that Platinum Games is in a league of its own. As they continue to redefine the action genre, expect their games to be a mainstay of any list featuring Nintendo games ranked.
Xenoblade Chronicles is an excellent RPG for the Nintendo Wii
Next on our list of Nintendo games ranked is the debut of the Xenoblade Chronicles franchise is a massive success for Nintendo. It delivers an exclusive marquee J.R.P.G. franchise for Nintendo that’s capable of providing what the console desperately needed: a true-blue RPG experience.
What’s most remarkable is the open-ended nature of the game. It lacks the linearity of other J.R.P.G.s, offering an impressive amount of freedom in determining what a player can see and do. Sometimes, it feels like you’re playing an MMORPG instead of a traditional J.R.P.G.
Xenoblade Chronicles isn’t without its faults, but you can overlook those due to the risks that it’s not afraid to take.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of the most successful and best Nintendo games ever
I have no idea how this isn’t closer to the top of this list of the best Nintendo games ranked according to Metacritic. If we’re talking about sales, it’s easily at the top and not even close.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings the complete Mario Kart 8 package from the Wii U to Nintendo Switch. It’s arcade racing at its absolute finest; no other game can come close to comparing with the quality here.
There’s a reason why I continually play it regularly. There’s a reason why my wife has clocked in 500 hours of playtime, and that’s a conservative estimate too.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is a solid sequel to a landmark game
The follow-up to Metroid Prime delivers more of the same with the added benefit of an impressive adversary in Dark Samus.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes represents a big gamble for Retro Studios and Nintendo. There’s a larger emphasis on the game story, and the game feels a bit more linear. The typical Metroidvania formula isn’t as present here, instead feeling like a more traditional first-person shooter.
That’s not to say that Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is a bad game; far from it. However, it definitely falls short compared to the other best Nintendo games.
Metroid Fusion deserves a spot on this list of Nintendo games ranked
Metroid Fusion offers the best of both styles of Metroid games.
Released in 2002, it plays like an old-school Metroid game with an added emphasis on storytelling. It feels slightly more guided than other Metroidvania titles but never overbearing. Metroid Fusion plays like a dream, delivering satisfying exploration and thrilling combat.
The game offers a surprising amount of content; your first playthrough will last a solid 10+ hours, impressive for a GameBoy Advance title. There have been some recent rereleases, which is great because this game is an absolute gem. It’s also a no-brainer inclusion on this list of the best Nintendo games ranked according to Metacritic.
That does it for this list of Nintendo games ranked. There will always be surprises when dealing with any ranked list with pre-set criteria like their Metascore. I’m shocked to see Mario Kart 8 Deluxe that low and the order of games in the Super Smash Bros. series. I’m equally surprised that there is only one Fire Emblem entry on the list.
What games do you think deserve to be ranked among Nintendo’s best? Let us know in the comments below!