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Nintendo has a large collection of franchises under its sizeable IP belt — a portfolio of beloved video game series that many a rival company gazes upon with envy. Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Animal Crossing, Metroid — just some of the marquee Nintendo franchises that gamers love to bits — and that's just the cream of the crop.

But which is the best Nintendo franchise? How would you even measure such a thing?

In this guide, we'll cover which Nintendo series is best in terms of critical reception and overall sales of the series. We'll also look at the best and worst-selling games in Nintendo's biggest franchises.

What's Nintendo's Best Franchise?

Well, that depends on the metric you use to define 'best'. Scroll down to the next section if you're looking for the best-selling Nintendo franchise.

From a critical reception perspective, Metacritic's best games of all time ranking suggests that The Legend of Zelda is the best Nintendo franchise, with Ocarina of Time ranked as the best video game ever across all platforms with a Metascore of 99. Breath of the Wild also scores a 97 and currently sits at number 14 on the overall list.

However, Super Mario occupies three spaces in the Top 20, with Super Mario Galaxy at #5, Galaxy 2 at #10, and Odyssey at #12, each with an overall Metascore of 97.

And a third Nintendo franchise, Metroid, appears at number 11 with Metroid Prime scoring another 97.

So, if critical acclaim is your criteria for 'best Nintendo series', it's a toss-up between The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario, with Metroid bringing up the rear.

However, if you're more interested in popularity based on sales of the series, read on to find out the best-selling Nintendo series ever...

What's Nintendo's Best-Selling Franchise?

Overall sales numbers are probably the best way to gauge the popularity of a Nintendo series.

In this section, we'll look at the top 20 Nintendo franchises ranked according to sales figures, according to

1. The Mario Series

Overall, the Mario series and its associated spin-offs are far and away Nintendo's best-selling franchise. In total, over 820 million Mario games have been sold at the time of writing.

You could argue that lumping the Mario platformers together with Mario Kart and the mascot's various other spin-offs is 'cheating'. Here's a breakdown of the individual subseries' sales, as of November 2023:

  • Super Mario (396.80 million)
  • Mario Kart (166.41 million)
  • Mario Party (68.87 million)
  • Mario Sports (59.57 million)
  • Mario RPGs (28.84 million)

2. The Pokémon Series

The Pokémon series and its assorted spin-offs have sold over 480 million copies as of November 2023. The series began with Pokémon Red & Blue/Green in 1996.

3. The 'Wii' Series

A collection of family-focused, Mii-filled compilation games that began in the Wii era (including the likes of Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and Wii Party), these hugely popular titles have sold over 214 million copies since 2006.

The latest entry in this loose series is Nintendo Switch Sports. No, it doesn't have 'Wii' in the title, but yes, it still counts.

4. The Legend of Zelda Series

Nintendo's premier action-adventure series, The Legend of Zelda, has racked up over 160 million sales since 1986.

5. The Animal Crossing Series

Nintendo's slow-life sim has sold over 78 million copies since its debut on N64 (in Japan and GameCube in the West).

6. The Smash Bros. Series

The Smash Bros. series has sold over 73 million copies across six entries starting on the N64 in 1999.

7. The Donkey Kong Series

Discounting arcade sales and games on non-Nintendo platforms, games in the DK series have stacked up sales of 65 million since the simian's debut back in 1981.

8. The Kirby Series

Nintendo and HAL Laboratory's pink puffball has over 50 million game sales to his name. He debuted in 1992's Kirby's Dream Land for Game Boy.

9. Game & Watch

The Game & Watch hardware line of individual LCD-screened games racked up over 43 million sales throughout the 1980s, with compilations on Game Boy and DS adding to the overall total.

10. Brain Age

Starting on DS in 2005, Dr. Kawashima's Brain Age / Training series has sold over 35 million copies to date, thanks largely to its cross-generational appeal.

And the rest

That's the top 10 done, but here are the next 20 biggest Nintendo franchises, according to (as of November 2023):

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Image: Nintendo

The Best (And Worst) Selling Games Of Nintendo's Biggest Franchises

Here we have the definitive rundown of the best-selling games of each of Nintendo's mega-franchises, as well as the worst-selling games, just for comparison. And fun.

They are presented in alphabetical order. A little bit of housekeeping, first:

  • All figures come from, which gets its sources from all over the place
  • We didn't include remakes, re-releases, or remasters (so, no Virtual Console, no Twilight Princess HD, etc.)
  • We didn't include Japan-only games
  • We only included first-party and first-party published games
  • We didn't include games with just a handful of entries, like Splatoon, because that would be boring
  • No arcade games

Best Animal Crossing - Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Surprising absolutely no one, the best-selling Animal Crossing game is the one that came out at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were all effectively shut indoors with not much else to do. 37.62 million of us bought this godsend of a game, and it kickstarted a Cultural Moment as a result, not unlike Pokémon GO's stranglehold on the summer of 2016.

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Worst Animal Crossing - Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival

Did anyone actually play amiibo festival? It's not a huge surprise that it only sold 0.49m copies — after all, it required players to own both a Wii U and at least one amiibo (aside from the two amiibo and three cards it came with), which is a bit of a tall order. It's a Mario Party-style board game, and it's apparently rubbish. Maybe worth it for the amiibo, though.

Best Donkey Kong - Donkey Kong Country

Incredibly, Donkey Kong's best-selling game is one of its oldest ones — which (spoilers) is a bit of an anomaly in this list. The only Switch Donkey Kong game, a port of the Wii U's Tropical Freeze, only sold 2.93m copies, whereas the SNES DK Country sold a whopping 9.30. Perhaps it's DK's roots in the arcade that are to blame for his popularity peaking in 1994?

Worst Donkey Kong - DK: King of Swing

DK: King of Swing is a relatively forgettable Game Boy Advance offering for fans of the big ape, although apparently it's pretty good. Taking on a more light-hearted cartoony style, this GBA platformer had you controlling DK's mitts with the shoulder buttons, each one allowing you to grab and let go with the left or right hand. Evidently this break from DK's norm wasn't what people wanted, since it only sold 0.28m.

Best Fire Emblem - Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Three Houses came out in late 2019, and maybe it's just us, but it felt like everyone was playing it, and talking about which one of the three protagonists they had chosen, or which of the many dateable characters they were wooing. Fire Emblem has always been a bit niche, so its best-selling game only just squeaked past 3 million (3.02m, to be exact-ish), but its mobile version, Fire Emblem Heroes, has apparently made $656m in revenue, making it Nintendo's most successful non-Pokémon mobile title. Wow!

Worst Fire Emblem - Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn

Technically, the worst-selling Fire Emblems were the Japan-only ones, but since the FE series didn't come to the West until 2003, we're not counting anything released before then. That makes Radiant Dawn the worst-selling Fire Emblem game, which came out on the Wii in 2007. It's apparently very hard, and perhaps that was the reason not many people bought it — or maybe it just came too soon after its Western debut for there to really be much hype around it. Who knows!

Best Kirby - Kirby's Dream Land

"Hold on," you say, "surely the best-selling Kirby game is the new one, Kirby and the Forgotten Land?" You are probably right, pal — but we don't have the total sales figures for it yet. For now, the King of the Kirbies is the 1992 Game Boy game, Kirby's Dream Land — a beloved debut for the pink puffball that spawned a candy-coloured empire, with 5.13m copies sold.

Worst Kirby - Kirby Battle Royale

The 3DS Kirby games, like Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, were some of Kirby's best-sellers... but the multiplayer-focused Battle Royale showed that it's not the platform that sells Kirby games, with a pitiful 0.33m copies sold. It didn't help that the game was also pretty mediocre, repetitive, and perhaps worst of all, it came out in 2017, when people weren't really playing 3DS much any more.