Best Nintendo Console First-Party Games
Image: Nintendo Life

With the Game Boy and GBA libraries getting added to the Switch recently, we've been thinking about all of the games that might be coming our way over the next few months. This, in turn, got us thinking about just how many great first-party games were available on those two systems.

Indeed, we thought along the very same lines when the N64 library was first added to Nintendo Switch Online. Same for the SNES and the NES. And now that we think about it, the first-party lineup was outrageously good for the GameCube also, and the 3DS. And the DS ain't no slouch. This isn't even to mention the Switch itself which has its own catalogue of 'series bests' to boot.

Now, we over here at Nintendo Life Towers are often content to be sensible and agree that every Nintendo console has its fair share of excellent first-party games... but why not forget diplomacy and each fight for our own faves? Now that's what we like to see! We want to ask which Nintendo console has the best first-party games and get an answer. Definitively.

Therefore, a handful of our writers have stepped in to represent their top consoles, fighting the battle across four different corners. We thought there'd be some crossover but, happily, it turned out that our personal picks were all different — a far cry from our chosen spouses in Fire Emblem Awakening. Have a read through our thoughts and then take to the poll and comments yourself to let us know if you agree with any of them.

Note. By "first-party games" we are accepting anything Nintendo-published on each console, just to keep things interesting. This means that there are some titles mentioned below that were not developed in-house.

Let the battle begin!

Alana Hagues, Staff Writer - SNES

Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

I love the Super Nintendo, and as much as I adore it for the incredible variety of third-party games, its first-party library is one of the biggest reasons this is still my favourite Nintendo console. Super Mario World, a darn launch title for the SNES, is still one of my favourite Mario games. The world and level designs are creative, and the Feather Cape is still the best power-up. The sequel, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, is also incredible, changing the Mario series up while also giving the green dinosaur his own little series. And it's utterly beautiful to look at.

Speaking of lookers, Rare's Nintendo-published Donkey Kong Country trilogy is masterful with its precision platforming and fantastic soundtrack. Then there's F-Zero and Star Fox, two debutants on the SNES that shows what the 16-bit console was capable of visually. Kirby had a healthy library of games on the system, and Kirby Super Star may well still be one of the pink puff ball's best. EarthBound is also a standout on what is one of the best consoles ever for RPGs.

However, there are two titles that I think define the console for Nintendo. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past showed the world what the series could do, and created an incredible version of Hyrule with a world you were compelled to explore every inch of — both light and dark. And last but no way least, Super Metroid, a masterpiece of environmental and sound design that, once you get to grips with the controls, it's still almost unsurpassed nearly 30 years later.

Despite the SNES being a smidge older than me, Nintendo's suite of classics is timeless to me. These are just a slice of what Nintendo on the SNES has to offer — and even when the games haven't aged gracefully (Super Mario Kart), they've still set the standard for the years to come.

Gavin Lane, Editor - N64

Nintendo 64
Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

"Oof, N64? Weird controller, ugly games, Nintendo heading off a cliff after the 16-bit generation. Sad."

Poor take, Made-Up Contratrian Person! I'll concede that commercially the N64 signalled a decline in Nintendo's cultural dominance with Sony in the ascent in the mid-'90s, but you don't get to dismiss a library of genre-definers as "ugly"!

Look. Mario 64 is obviously the ace in the hole here, but you can't hang an entire console on one great game, whether it guided an entire genre or not. So, let's throw in a little something else like, oh I don't know, Ocarina of Time. One epic Zelda adventure not enough for you? Here, have a Majora's Mask, too. That's the best one, anyway.

Pff, boring! Every Nintendo console's got good Marios and Zeldas. What else is there? Well, how about the best Star Fox, the best F-Zero, and the best Mario Party (not my bag, but that's what you folks say)? The N64 was the birthplace of Paper Mario, Smash Bros., Pokémon Snap, and the first four-player Mario Kart. Wave Race 64 is an all-time piece of software that holds up beautifully today (not the PAL version, never the PAL version), and then there's the majesty of games like 1080 Snowboarding and Pilotwings 64, just a couple of lower-tier releases that put AAAs on other consoles to shame. There was even a Kirby game, if you like that sort of thing.

I've intentionally not mentioned the Nintendo-published Rare games above in an effort to highlight how the Ultra 64 wasn't just a Rareware machine. But throw just a couple of those in the mix — say, GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie — and the quality, breadth, and sheer originality of N64's first-party output is unmatched by any other system.

(Shoutout to the handhelds, though — I love you, too!)

Ollie Reynolds, Staff Writer - GameCube

Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

It would be pretty easy to say that the Switch has the best line-up of first-party Nintendo games, but in my eyes, a large portion of it is comprised of direct sequels, ports, and revamps of prior titles, so it doesn't really count. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is absurdly good, but it's built on a solid foundation already found on the Wii U; Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, as awesome as it is, is very much a "greatest hits" album from Sakurai's fighting franchise; heck, even Breath of the Wild technically started life on the Wii U.

For me, the greatest line-up of first-party games was found on GameCube, and it's also where Nintendo took the biggest risks with its IP. Without listing all of them, you've got certified bangers like The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime, Super Mario Sunshine, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, and so many more. Not only that, but the GameCube introduced western audiences to the likes of Animal Crossing, while evergreen franchises like Pikmin and Luigi's Mansion also got their start on Nintendo's cute little cube.

Finally — and I can't express how important this is — Donkey Konga. I mean, come on.

Jim Norman, Staff Writer - Switch

Nintendo Switch OLED Metroid Dread
Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

I do have to agree with everything that has been said above: the Switch has a boatload of fantastic first-party titles which did start life on consoles that preceded it. That being said, I don't see this as a dirty mark against the system's lineup. We are talking about the best first-party games here, and where can you find most of them? On the Switch.

Seemingly every one of Nintendo's franchises has a 'series best' game on the Switch. Yes, there's your Mario Kart, Smash Bros. and Breath of the Wild which all technically come from other systems, but if we are to put those aside (which, as I say, I wouldn't do) there is still likes of Super Mario Odyssey, Metroid Dread, Splatoon 3, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons — titles that constantly pop up as one of, if not the best games in their respective series. That speaks to something, surely.

It might be entering its final phase now, but the Switch shows no sign of slowing down either. We just got Metroid Prime Remastered (as our review notes, "a masterpiece has been made even better") and we are soon to get the most-anticipated game in recent memory in the shape of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Sure, a lot of these ideas have come from somewhere else, but they are each made all the better on the Switch.

Well, there are our thoughts, but do you agree with them? We have thrown our picks and the rest into the following poll which you can fill out to let us know your pick, then take to the comments to back up your choice!

Which Nintendo console has the best first-party lineup?