This Sunday, four Nintendo Enthusiast writers will host a panel in Toronto at EGLX 2018. The three-day event runs Oct. 26-28, and you can find tickets for the expo here. Our panel will focus on figuring out which games make up the 10 best exclusives ever released on a Nintendo platform. It will be a mighty challenge. After an hour of fighting, however, we are confident we will emerge with a respectable, yet controversial, list.
In preparation, each panelist is publishing a list of their own top 10 Nintendo games. These games will provide a roadmap as we craft 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 only allowing exclusives in our top-10 list. That means that some fantastic games, including the best SNES game, Chrono Trigger, are ineligible for this list.
Nick’s top 10 Nintendo games
10. Kid Icarus: Uprising
Quite possibly the most underappreciated Nintendo game ever, Kid Icarus: Uprising was a strong second coming for Pit. The fantastic combination of third-person combat and rail-shooting is bolstered by a colorful, charming, and outright hilarious cast. I remember playing through several hand cramps because of just how incredibly good this game is. On top of an already meaty campaign, the multiplayer, a plethora of difficulties, and an addictive weapon crafting system drew me back to Uprising time and time again. It is a shame that Uprising never spiraled into something greater for the franchise, but I will always be able to fondly look back on one of the 3DS’s most astounding games.
9. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
The strongest entry in Nintendo’s best platforming series, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest combines a great retro look, fantastic music, and tight platforming into one of the genre’s most outstanding games. Some would argue that Tropical Freeze is the true franchise highlight, but I assert that Donkey Kong Country 2 narrowly edges it out with marginally better levels, challenge, sights, and sounds. For me, Donkey Kong Country 2 has always stood out as Nintendo’s best 2D platformer–and that really is saying a lot.
8. Pikmin 2
The second outing in Nintendo’s incredibly quirky RTS series really did wonders with the Pikmin formula, delivering a polished product that improved over the original in nearly every way imaginable. Commanding your vibrant Pikmin army to overcome dangerous enemies while scouring mysterious areas in search of treasure is a fantastic and unique adventure. Pikmin 2 did away with the time limit from the first game, and as a result, I was able to just kick back and have an amazing time managing my Pikmin. As a kid, I would spend numerous in-game days going to my favorite areas to stockpile potions and kill monsters to farm up more Pikmin. On top of a fantastic single-player adventure, though, is the surprisingly fun CTF-style multiplayer, which I still frequently play today.
7. Star Fox: Assault
This is probably gonna offend the most people here, but I don’t care. My experience with Star Fox: Assault is one of love at first sight, with a honeymoon phase that never ended. The campaign is short and does not feature the branching paths that make Star Fox 64 so popular, but the levels are still fantastic. I even love the on-foot third-person shooting gameplay. Stringing together combos and taking out hordes of Aparoids with the extensive arsenal of machine guns, rocket launchers, grenades, and blasters just feel so good. I got hours and hours out of the campaign alone just from replaying the levels and chasing high scores over and over.
Star Fox: Assault is also my go-to multiplayer GameCube game, Super Smash Bros. Melee be damned. So many sleepovers were dominated by this game. I mean, one of the weapons is a barrel that shoots out a rainbow of like 50 grenades. How could this not be one of Nintendo’s best games? Don’t try to answer that; you can’t change my mind.
6. Star Fox 64
Do a barrel roll! I’ve beaten this all-time classic rail shooter well over 200 times. Playing through different routes and chasing high scores never gets old, and the antics of Peppy, Slippy, and Falco never get any less quotable. Content-wise, there really is not that much to Star Fox 64. There are 16 available levels, (You play seven in one run.) and almost all of them have Fox piloting an Arwing on rails. A couple make use of the Landmaster tank, and there is even one level with a submarine. Once you’ve played a couple of times, the game can easily be completed start to finish within 45 minutes. It is such a joy to come back to over and over again, though. Action-packed levels like Sector X, Macbeth, and Area 6 make for a fantastic campaign. Even some of the slower scenarios, like a showdown with Star Wolf’s team on Fortuna, still carry a certain satisfaction to them. Star Fox 64 is a timeless game that I could play over and over again. It was one of the first games I ever played, and it will certainly be one of the last I ever put down.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Very little needs to be said on Breath of the Wild, what with it being so fresh on everyone’s minds. What makes this game for me and many others is exploring that incredible world. I hardly remember the main quests–roaming about this horror-stricken, long-abandoned version of Hyrule was a fantastic experience in itself. Hunting for shrines and Koroks, and just making sure I saw as much as possible, was so satisfying. With so many secrets to discover, Breath of the Wild serves perfectly as the Wii U’s swan song and as the Switch’s earth-shattering first punch.
4. Xenoblade Chronicles
The massive fan effort to get this game localized was very, very worthwhile. Xenoblade Chronicles is an engrossing RPG with a mysterious world, an excellent soundtrack, fun combat, and a gripping story. It has a world that is easy to get lost in. I frequently lost track of time and spent hours simply grinding or exploring the game’s sprawling, beautiful environments. Xenoblade takes dozens of hours to complete and somehow does not take its foot off the brakes during the entire experience. I will never forget seeing Satorl Marsh light up for the first time, or my first look at the mesmerizing Eryth Sea. The lovely soundtrack is burned into my mind along with several incredible story moments. Xenoblade Chronicles is a magical game.
3. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Those cel-shaded graphics have aged really well, and the Wii U’s HD touch-up took things from great to, well, greater. After a polarizing reveal, time has looked back on Wind Waker favorably, acknowledging it for the amazing game it is. Wind Waker‘s soundtrack, dungeons, graphics, and exploration are all on point. The HD remake did not have much to improve on, but a streamlined Triforce quest and some QOL sailing improvements really did go a long way.
Sailing the open sea, discovering mysterious new islands, and trecking through dungeons are such a wonderful experience. Lovable characters and a tragic backstory make the game even more engrossing. Wind Waker fires on all cylinders from the get-go. This is the best Zelda game and one of the best games ever, period.
2. Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Sunshine is a very divisive game. I stand firmly on the side that loves it. The tropical theme, FLUDD gameplay, and everything else click to make this one of Nintendo’s best. The movement is nearly perfect, there are tons of collectibles to find, and the game’s spread of areas and objectives is great. I have a tradition of revisiting Super Mario Sunshine once a year, and every year, the game’s inescapable style and fun suck me in for a full playthrough. For me, Super Mario Sunshine stood for nearly 16 years as Nintendo’s undisputed best game. There is so much to love–running around the catwalks in Ricco Harbo, strolling through Bianco Hills, just taking in everything at Pinna Park, and so much more. Not to mention–how perfect is that soundtrack?
1. Super Mario Odyssey
I waited nearly 16 years for a proper collectathon follow-up to Super Mario Sunshine, and it was worth it. Super Mario Odyssey is such a delight in every possible sense of the word. The worlds are perfectly realized, the platforming is incredible, and it is just so fun to get lost collecting moons. There are so many fantastic sights and experiences to behold in Odyssey. Hopping across skyscrapers in New Donk City, exploring the hidden woods in the Wooded Kingdom, and poking up walls as a Pokey in Bowser’s Kingdom all feature on a long list of standouts. The different kingdoms are a perfect mix of serene and teeming with action. One kingdom in particular (If you’ve beaten the game, you know.) is a jaw-dropping, unforgettable nostalgia trip–when I unlocked it for the first time, everyone around me stopped what they were doing and just watched me play for nearly two hours.
Super Mario Odyssey did everything I wanted it to and more. The main game was too easy, sure, but the postgame content is incredibly deep and challenging. It took dozens and dozens of incredible, fun-filled hours for me to reach every moon without a guide. It may never get DLC, but Odyssey is a more-than-complete game on its own that recaptured and somehow surpassed magic I had not felt since Sunshine. That’s not easy to do, and it’s why Odyssey is my favorite Nintendo game, ever.
So, that’s my list, and I’m ready to defend it to the death at EGLX 2018 this Sunday. I hope to see you there! In the meantime, though, if any of my choices made you particularly hot and heavy, why not sound off in the comments?