This Sunday, the writers of Nintendo Enthusiast will host a panel in Toronto, ON at EGLX 2018. The three-day event runs from October 26-28 and you can find tickets for the expo here. Our panel will focus on determining which games make up the top 10 Nintendo games ever released. It will be a mighty challenge. After an hour of fighting, however, I am confident we will emerge with a respectable yet controversial top 10 Nintendo game list.
In preparation for our panel, each panelist is publishing a list of their own top 10 Nintendo games. The first list debuted yesterday and can be found here. These games will serve as a roadmap as we argue toward our website’s definitive list. Following our panel on Sunday, we will publish the list on Nintendo Enthusiast for all our readers to see. Please note, we are allowing only exclusives in our top 10 Nintendo game list. As a result, a game like Okami, clearly one of the best Zelda games out there, will be excluded from consideration.
Eli’s Top 10 Nintendo Games
10. Pikmin 3
Pikmin 3, one of the Wii U’s most gorgeous games, could go toe-to-toe with some titles on the PS4 and XBO. The game’s new mechanics revived the Pikmin series after decade, bringing in some players that have never experienced the first two titles. As one of those individuals, Pikmin 3 pushed me to purchase the first two games on GameCube.
Although Pikmin is a real-time strategy game, its fulfilling day-by-day mechanics made players strategize not just in real-time, but also over the long-term life of the game. With so few console RTS games nowadays, it is encouraging that Nintendo is still putting out stellar titles like Pikmin 3. Hopefully, Pikmin 4 is still coming soon…
9. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
I have long believed Donkey Kong and Rayman games to be superior to 2D Super Mario titles. Often, I feel like the mechanics are far more precise, the levels far better designed, and the challenge far more appealing. These feelings are accentuated in Donkey Kong’s Wii U outing. Although released on a dying console, Tropical Freeze is a wonderful exhibition of stellar game design. Its challenge keeps you on your toes but always feels fair. The graphics are crisp and the music absolutely attuning. Taken together, Topical Freeze is a great platforming package that highlights the best of Nintendo’s 2D platformers.
8. Xenoblade Chronicles
When I was a kid, RPGs were my favorite genre. Often, I would become completely entranced by their stories, immersing myself fully in their worlds. As I have grown older, this immersion has been harder to achieve. I often have notifications popping on my phone, real-life people to attend to, and other thoughts running around my head. Xenoblade Chronicles completely removed all these distractions from my life. Playing through Xenoblade made me lose myself in a way I had not in years. That immersion is one I always crave when playing through games, and Xenoblade delivered in full.
7. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
I’m a sucker for the graphics of GameBoy Advance games. That’s probably the reason why Sacred Stones beat out the other Fire Emblem games for a spot on this list. There’s nothing particularly special about this entry – I love the gameplay of all the Fire Emblem titles – but I loved Sacred Stone’s basics of title’s weapon triangle, game map, and characters. This is also one of the first games I have played with perma-death. I thought this would be a frustrating feature, but I didn’t mind replaying levels to develop a game plan that spared all of my characters. It was hard narrowing down which franchise title to put on the list, but Sacred Stones is well-worth playing for anyone with a GBA.
6. Pokemon Emerald
Emerald’s Hoenn region is my favorite of them all. It may have quite a bit of water, but the game’s mechanics like diving and waterfall climbing made it seem like one of the coolest and deepest environments of any Pokemon game. One thing I particularly loved about Pokemon Emerald was its Battle Frontier. This expansive post-game area was a product of great depth and creativity. With unique areas like the Battle Pike and the Battle Pyramid, the Frontier kept me playing for hundreds of hours after I first saw its end credits. The Battle Frontier itself made me a bit sad because such an area hasn’t really surfaced again in any subsequent Pokemon games. There was so much character and depth to each facility; I hope the Battle Frontier returns to a future Pokemon title.
5. Animal Crossing
For years, playing Animal Crossing on the GameCube was a near-daily exercise for me. I collected a large majority of the fossils, fish, and bugs, and eventually paid my house off entirely. At the end of it all, seeing the golden statue of me in the middle of town validated the town I had lived in for so much of my childhood. I always went back to Animal Crossing in the series’ subsequent releases, but no game matched the feeling of my first town. Each resident that moved out was a tragic experience, while every new resident a new story to interact with.
Eventually, I picked up a second memory card, which allowed two of my towns to interact. Going from one to another opened up an entirely new dimension for me, allowing me to double the number of residents I interacted with and opened up my ability to collect new items. I am hyped for the new Animal Crossing on Switch, but I doubt it will ever match my very first Animal Crossing experience.
4. Super Mario Galaxy 2
Although the original Super Mario Galaxy was more innovative because it came out first, I think its sequel is the better game. Its levels were more refined and mechanics more fleshed out. Riding Yoshi, for example, differentiated the game from the original.
Two years ago, I played the game on my Wii U, upscaling the graphics to my 1080p television. I was blown away at how good the originally 480p game looked. I still hope both Galaxy games are remade for Switch, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 is still a wonderful experience on its original platform.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild was a habitually delayed Zelda game, but when it finally launched it proved well worth the wait. The game was solitary, grim, and even empty at parts. At other times, it was full of hope and energy. Its small dungeons were wonderfully creative and its open world ripe for exploration. Breath of the Wild’s sense of adventure and wonder was one rarely rivaled by other games. Moreover, its gameplay design and mechanics kept the game consistently engaging. It will be interesting if future Zelda games follow in BotW’s steps, because Breath of the Wild’s open world will be tough to beat.
2. Pokemon FireRed
Pokemon FireRed was the first game I played through in its entirety. This used to be an indicator that I was a super young gamer. Nowadays, there are tons of gamers far younger than me. Nevertheless, playing through Pokemon FireRed for the first time was a magical experience. I had previously watched the Pokemon TV show and always dreamed of stepping into Ash’s shoes to travel the Pokemon world. FireRed indulged my imagination and gave me a platform to play with my friends.
Each new Pokemon I encountered opened up the possibility of encountering a new creature and its evolutionary chain. I remember the first time I evolved a Charizard as an incredible surprise – eventually, I had memorized the levels all the Pokemon leveled up at. Going to school each day also opened up Pokemon trading and battling, an incredible social experience. We played Emerald and eventually Diamond/Pearl together, but FireRed was the first time I had the opportunity to connect with others through a video game.
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Oh, how times have changed. The Zelda game that was originally derided as being too “kiddy” is now my favorite Nintendo game ever. Its world is one of Nintendo’s first open world games in my eyes. You never know what will happen when you arrive on each island, which fosters a true sense of adventure. No, the game is not perfect. No game is. In this case, the late-game shard quest is terrible (although it is streamlined in the Wii U version). But, sailing around the world and meeting all of Wind Waker‘s wonderful characters is an engrossing experience. In my view, its combat is also one of the best of any Zelda game. It is both strategic and fast-paced.
As you likely know, Wind Waker‘s art style is particularly impressive. Its cell-shading holds up more than 15 years after its original release. Moreover, a few key moments – I’ll avoid spoilers – make the game truly awe-inspiring. Please, please, please play Wind Waker if you have not already.
What do you think? Do you agree with my top 10 Nintendo game list? If not, as I presume to be the case, let me know which games I am missing in the comments below. If you’ve got your own top 10 Nintendo game list, feel free to share that below as well. Finally, check back next week for our site-wide top 10 Nintendo game list!