When we first heard that the 3DS entry in the venerable series would revisit the world of A Link To The Past, our excitement was tempered with trepidation. The SNES classic is sacred ground and after so many 3D iterations that stuck to its template, perhaps returning to that Hyrule might sully our memories, or worse, reveal that it wasn’t quite as good as we remember. Of course, our concern was unwarranted – A Link Between Worlds proved to be spectacular. Like all the best mechanics in the series, its novel wall-painting transformation puzzles were so ingeniously simple that you wondered why the concept hadn’t been hit upon before. Great use of the system’s 3D feature brought Hyrule to life in a game that rivals the greatest in the series. If – shock! horror! – you’re reading this and you don’t own a 3DS, it’s time to track down a deal and play one of the very best games in a franchise of winners.
As if its library wasn't impressive enough, the 3DS got a wonderful remaster of a game which collects ‘Best Game Of All Time’ awards like beer mats. It was always going to be good, but Grezzo managed to strike the perfect balance between evoking nostalgia for the N64 original and carefully updating and polishing the experience to help it shine in the 21st century. It’s just like you remember, but going back and actually comparing the two reveals that it’s vastly improved in many areas, from UI to textures to character models. The modifications this remaster brought to the table make this the best way to play the game in the present day and everybody should play Ocarina of Time.
Nintendo did a valiant job of breathing new life into what was already an exceptional Legend of Zelda title. It took the game’s timeless art style and gave it a glorious new sheen thanks to HD technology, while also making an extensive amount of worthwhile improvements to previously flawed aspects of the gameplay. Sailing across the Great Sea, discovering new islands and exploring exciting dungeons — the designs of which still shine even today – has simply never been as much fun as it is on Wii U. It’s fair to say that Nintendo could have done more in certain areas and there really isn’t anything substantial in the way of new content. However, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was never in need of a drastic overhaul. This is a refinement which makes welcome tweaks to the GameCube original that brings it more in line with modern standards.
How does this 'ultimate' version of Nintendo's scrapper stack up? Vocal concerns about past games were actively addressed, every single fighter from the series is present (even Pichu) and joined by an ever-expanding roster of DLC characters form the annals of gaming, the customisability is overwhelmingly vast and it’s all topped off with super-solid single-player modes to boot. We’re not sure how you could make a more robust or pleasing Smash game - Super Smash Bros. Ultimate truly is the ultimate instalment in the series, and it makes you wonder where Masahiro Sakurai can possibly take this franchise next.
With Super Mario Galaxy 2 Nintendo gave us that rarest of treats - a direct sequel to one of its finest games. While anyone who played and fell in love with Super Mario Galaxy would have been overjoyed to hear there was more on the way, the expectations on the sequel couldn't have been higher. Yet somehow it manages to take the baton and perform even more incredible feats than its predecessor, with the designers revelling at the possibilities of Mario's cosmic playground. This game is truly worth hunting down a Wii for if you missed it. To argue over which Galaxy is better is be pointless - they're both wonderful and utterly essential, so if you never got around to playing the sequel, carve out some time as soon as possible.
Super Mario Odyssey represents a shift in direction for Mario. For about a decade we had exceptional but tightly structured 3D series entries, but Odyssey’s building blocks go back to Super Mario 64. It’s a very modern take on ‘sandbox Mario’ - Cappy and his abilities are key additions that freshen up the formula, and we have a sizeable and diverse set of lands to explore. In the second half and post-credits - in particular - it takes on a life of its own, showcasing incredible design and development flair. It’s also a wonderful showcase for the Switch, and would be a fabulous introduction to the wonders of Mario in three dimensions. For the veterans among us, meanwhile, it’s yet another special release to remind us of why Mario is still gaming’s number one.
Xenoblade Chronicles is epic in scale and setting, and you'll spend many hours examining its incredible complexity, enhancing your abilities and exploring the world's ecosystem. Whether you play it on Wii or in its 3D form on New Nintendo 3DS, it delivers a huge (and hugely enjoyable) JRPG experience that developer Monolith Soft would build on with its sequel and Xenoblade Chronicles X, although the original game was arguably never bettered. No wonder fans are buzzing to see the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition coming to Switch - this is a must-play, wherever you can get your hands on it.
The original Pokémon Gold and Silver games are fondly remembered by Pocket Monster fans all over the world, and with good reason: they introduced features that genuinely evolved the original Game Boy games, such as breeding and an in-game clock (not to mention colour!), features that have become series staples. Add in fan-favourite monsters and these remakes were always going to be well received. Future games would trickle in additional quality of life features and other innovations, but some would argue it never got better than travelling across the land, searching far and wide in these DS remakes. The Game Boy originals may be a little hard to return to these days, but Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver strike the very best balance of nostalgia and that patented catch-'em-all gameplay.
Some will say, not unreasonably, that as the Wii U iteration of Breath of the Wild can't fully match the Switch version in visuals and performance it should be considered inferior. We understand and appreciate that perspective, but this is nevertheless a fully functional and still entrancing iteration of one of Nintendo's greatest ever games. Across dozens of hours it blends innovative ideas with established tropes, and unfolds in a manner different for everyone. The 'best' version of the game is on Nintendo Switch, but the freedom, the spontaneity, and the outstanding charm and craft of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn't lost on Wii U.
Of course. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a landmark release for its franchise and Nintendo. It's the first time that Nintendo truly took on the open-world genre, and by arriving late to the party it embraces the strengths from top-of-the-class games while also forging its own unique identity. This game is a revolution for the series, but the Legend of Zelda essence is still there - its soul remains. The end result is captivating. After years of following the same old template, Nintendo bravely took the Zelda series in a new direction, and delivered an absolute triumph which still has us regularly revisiting its iteration of Hyrule nearly three years on. No wonder we're so excited about the prospect of a direct sequel; Breath of the Wild forged a new and exciting path in a franchise that had been treading old ground for a while on home consoles and we cannot wait to see where it goes next.
So there we are. Any surprises for you there? Disagree with this ranking? Time to get rating, then! Remember, this is a fluid, ever-changing selection governed by each game's Nintendo Life User Rating, so it's never too late to exert your influence.
To everyone reading: a very Happy New Year from everyone here at Nintendo Life! Good luck with any New Year resolutions and we'll be seeing you very soon with all the latest Nintendo news, reviews and randomness we can get our hands on. Cheers!