Best Nintendo Games Ever
Image: Nintendo Life

The Famicom launched in 1983. Time, huh? That's four whole decades of 8-bit Nintendo games, many of which defined entire genres and birthed enduring characters and series that would go forth and flourish in future console generations.

In honour of 40 years of quality from our video game purveyors of choice, we're publishing this list of the 100 Best Nintendo Games ever made. We're talking first-party published titles here, most of which Nintendo developed in-house, although you'll see some select second-party gems nestled in amongst all the gold from Kyoto's finest.

As with many of our ranked lists, this selection of the finest Nintendo games available to humanity is governed by each game's User Ratings on our database. Yes, this is a reader-ranked list, and a dynamic one that can change in real-time as individual game scores go up and down. As such, registered Nintendo Life users can click on the stars beside each game below and score them out of 10 and exert your influence on the ranking. If you've rated these games before, good on you! If not, it's never too late!

A couple of notes before we begin. We've excluded a handful of games to prevent repetition. The Wii U version of Breath of the Wild, for example, is incredible, but not enough to warrant having Breath of the Wild occupy two spots in the Top 10 (apologies for the spoiler there, but c'mon!). In cases where we've deemed the two entries to be too similar, we've kept the higher of the two (which, perhaps surprisingly, isn't always the HD or Deluxe Switch version). We've also removed all compilations in order to give more individual games a chance to shine. Complaints to the usual address.

Okay, that's enough prevarication. On with the countdown of the 100 Top Nintendo games of all time, starting with...

100. Pikmin (GCN)

Shigeru Miyamoto takes up gardening and before you know it he's cracked out Nintendo's inimitable version of the real-time strategy genre. Featuring for the first time those tiny little plant creatures that you order around in groups to pick up rubbish, harvest fruit, and battle bugs and other beasties, it's disarmingly charming and utterly bloodthirsty at the same time.

You become very protective of the little critters that do your bidding and there's an immense feeling of guilt when you accidentally command a legion into a watery grave or awaken a nest of sleeping monsters that proceed to munch through great swathes of your army. The sequel might have had some great refinements and additions — and did away with the finite time limit — but there's something to be said about the taut design and focus of the original Pikmin. We like it a lot.

99. Banjo-Tooie (N64)

Following the James Cameron school of thought for sequels, Banjo-Tooie takes a 'more is more' approach, with larger worlds, a host of minigames, an expanded moveset (including new first-person sections), Mumbo Jumbo as a playable character, bosses, and a multiplayer mode, plus the ability to separate the dynamic duo at certain times.

Although it arguably flirts with the sort of excesses that made Donkey Kong 64 feel grindy at times, it's a big, chewy sequel, and one that holds up very well all these years later — perhaps thanks to a couple of decades' worth of training in the huge and interconnected open worlds of other games. Banjo-Tooie is filled to the brim with the series' trademark brand of cheeky fairytale wonder and fans will find a whole lot to love.

98. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Switch)

This beautiful Switch remake of the classic Game Boy entry rebuilt everything from the ground up. On top of the beautiful new art style, it added modern conveniences, a dungeon creator, amiibo support, and lots of little quality-of-life improvements whilst infusing every single square inch of Koholint – every secret passage, Piranha, Pokey, and Pig Warrior – with a level of detail and depth that totally reinvigorated both its timeless story and classic Zelda gameplay for a new generation.

If there's anything holding The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening back, some frame rate issues might prove jarring for some players. Others may not even notice, but if you're sensitive to dropped frames, you may be distracted from the otherwise absorbing gameplay. It's a little thing, but with the heritage of technical wizardry behind the Game Boy original, it is a small dent in this game's otherwise glistening armour.

97. Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising (GBA)

Coming a couple of years after the original GBA entry in Intelligent Systems' Wars series, Advance Wars 2 might not have shaken things up a whole lot, but it offered a slew of nice additions, as well as a fun new campaign to work your way through. Certain COs were tweaked to be less overpowered (Max, anyone?) making this a more balanced game than its predecessor. It's arguably more of the same, but when the first course was so delicious, who wouldn't want a second helping?

96. Diddy Kong Racing (N64)

Diddy Kong Racing did for Mario Kart 64 pretty much what Banjo-Kazooie would soon do for Super Mario 64; namely, take the template put down by Nintendo and expand on it with colour and creativity to produce far more than a mere homage. DKR expanded the single-player into an adventure and the addition of planes and hovercraft required much larger, more complex circuits to race around. The game also provided the console debuts of Banjo and Conker. What more do you want, jam on it?

95. Pokémon Black and White (DS)

Pokémon Black and White may not have the added nostalgia of HeartGold and SoulSilver, but they're up there with some of the best in the series. What they lack in links to the past they gain by recreating the sense of discovery felt when embarking on that first Pokémon journey.

Black and White arguably suffer in reputation from being the only games in the series (thus far) to have direct numbered sequels set in the same region (albeit visiting new locations). Despite being shoved to the back of the queue in some people's minds, these introductions to Gen V are still fantastic games and well worth revisiting.

94. Splatoon 3 (Switch)

Splatoon 3 is more of the same, but refined to borderline mechanical perfection. It's the most fun we’ve had with an online shooter in years, and for series veterans it makes Splatoon 2 feel entirely redundant for all but its unique single-player content. It feels like the development team solved every problem the Splatoon community was bleating on about, and then fixed some more that we didn’t even realise were problems until they were fixed. There's nothing revolutionary about it compared to its predecessors, and it's perhaps missing a Big New Idea™ that you might have expected, but Splatoon 3 is the pinnacle of the series, and the pinnacle of shooters on Switch.

93. Super Mario RPG (Switch)

Super Mario RPG is here in all of its weird, wonderful glory for a new generation to experience, and sets a new standard for how to do a faithful remake right. Delivering a beautifully preserved, pure experience for fans of the original and an accessible entry-point for genre newcomers, the game's infectious charm, writing, and polished gameplay do so much to elevate this beyond what might have been merely a simple RPG starring Mario.

92. Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)

Xenoblade Chronicles X is sprawling, diverse, complex, and entrancing. It utilised the Wii U's capabilities not only to produce a beautiful world, but also showed how something as simple as a map on the GamePad screen can be invaluable. What's most impressive is the dynamism and impression of freedom in play - level caps and grinding are naturally part of the equation, yet they're managed within a structure where even small missions or Affinity quests greatly enhance the narrative and sense of place. To truly experience the story of this human colony and the vast planet Mira requires exploration and patience, and Monolith Soft found an impressive balance in bringing its vast range of gameplay systems and mechanics together. Occasional bottlenecks are infrequent and easily overcome in the broader experience, and overall Xenoblade Chronicles X delivers a hugely impressive RPG adventure. It was an enormous accomplishment for Monolith Soft and an irresistible part of the Wii U library.

91. Pokémon Legends: Arceus (Switch)

Designated a mainline entry in the series by Game Freak itself, Pokémon Legends: Arceus feels like the result of the developers learning lessons for 25 years, refining the formula, and finally taking the franchise in a new, incredibly exciting direction. Technically it may stumble in places, but with an emphasis on extremely rewarding exploration, addictive catching mechanics, a fine roster of Pokémon, and a genuine sense of scale that’s unlike anything in the series, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is up there with the greatest Pokémon games ever made in our book.

90. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS)

Alpha Dream created a fantastic take on the Super Mario RPG idea years ago on Game Boy Advance, but they took the concept to new heights with Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. The third title in the Mario & Luigi series, it would be easy to rave on and on about the game, but the best way to sum everything up would be to say Bowser's Inside Story is the kind of game that will remind you why you love playing video games in the first place. It's easily one of the best DS releases and although it received a 3DS update that we'd probably take in a straight contest, you really can't go wrong with either version. If this one passed you by, we recommend you get intimately acquainted with the King of the Koopas pronto.

89. Golden Sun (GBA)

Golden Sun is a fine RPG, perfecting the classic formula whilst introducing unique mechanics of its own. An intriguing setting, likeable characters, and gripping story are the bread-and-butter of any good RPG, and Camelot doesn't disappoint on those fronts. The first few hours are a slog, but stick with it and you'll be rewarded with a rich, deep RPG that desperately deserves a modern-day instalment.

88. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

The third entry in the scrap 'em up series, Super Smash Bros. Brawl was the first to introduce Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake, and included the lauded Subspace Emissary mode.

Picking up the baton from the celebrated GameCube entry, Brawl pushed the series in an all-encompassing direction as far as content was concerned, and set the precedent for the 'more is more' approach to stages, fighters, music, and more that kept Masahiro Sakurai occupied eight-days-a-week for many years after.

87. Splatoon 2 (Switch)

Splatoon 2 is just about everything you could ask for from a sequel. It builds on everything the original online team shooter set up and then some; almost every single major issue people had with the first game has been resolved, showing that Nintendo is genuinely listening and wants to deliver the absolute best experience possible. It maintains the freshness you’d expect and throws in countless big and small changes and additions, every one of them for the better. Splatoon 2 is simply ink-redible.

86. Advance Wars (GBA)

The first Advance Wars is a turn-based tactical classic. It might not have the huge amount of COs and new units that its sequels would bring, but as a result it feels more balanced and approachable; it generally feels very fair, even if you lose. And in those rare instances that it risks infuriating you, the immensely charming graphics and top notch music keep a smile on your face. We love a bit of Fire Emblem, but we've had our fingers crossed for years that Advance Wars will return some day. Keep 'em crossed.

85. Pokémon Crystal (GBC)

Pokémon Crystal is the perfect swan song to what many fans consider the best generation of Pokémon games and the series' final Game Boy Color entry. It featured a plethora of welcome new features over the base games — including the ability to play as a female character for the first time — plus more things to do, tweaked graphics and UI, and a slight notch up in the challenge department.

Crystal took what Pokémon Gold and Silver did so marvellously and made Johto worth exploring once more – and Kanto for the umpteenth time for that matter. It truly proves that nostalgia is far from the sole factor that makes this game so great to pick up again.

84. F-Zero X (N64)

Forum wars continue to wage over whether F-Zero X or its successor on GameCube is the superior white-knuckle futuristic racer. Both are essential, of course. The 64-bit entry is metal: pure, simple, guitar-screeching, all-out metal. EAD stripped back extraneous detail to achieve the smoothest, most blistering and nail-bitingly precise racing experience. At this speed, on these dizzying tracks, even the tiniest prod on the spindly analogue stick matters, and the original N64 pad offers peak precision for micro adjustments which make the difference between gracefully sweeping through a corner with nary a pixel to spare… or catching said corner and ricocheting between barriers to an explosive, humiliating retirement.

How much more metal could this get? None. None more metal. Flaming skulls and chromed motorcycles would actually reduce the metal content of this game.

83. Super Smash Bros. (N64)

Bearing in mind how carefully Nintendo began managing its characters and their image after the misfire of the (first) Super Mario Bros. movie in the early '90s, it's remarkable that the original Super Smash Bros. and its inter-franchise scrapping got off the drawing board at HAL Laboratory. Fortunately, Masahiro Sakurai's crossover brawler was permitted to exist.

At the time, the idea of a 'platform' fighting game without health bars was pretty revolutionary. Instead, as you beat up your opponent, they'd become more vulnerable to knockback from your attacks, with the aim being to knock them out of the arena entirely. Catering for up to four players with a simple control scheme (especially compared to other fighting games) and the addition of weapons and power-ups to spice things up, this first Smash was a rock-solid foundation for a series that would become one of the world's biggest fighting franchises.

The number of combatants and complexity of the N64 original may pale in comparison with later rosters, which plucked from the annals of video gaming history, but we still look back fondly on the very first time we had the opportunity to open a can of whoop-ass on Pikachu.

82. Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

Rare's first foray into the world of DK and his cronies. Despite the visuals not wowing like they did back in 1994, the template put down in Donkey Kong Country would influence every DK title to come. The redesigned DK looked brilliant, the music was incredible, and every aspect of the game demonstrated a stunning attention to detail. While not quite as polished as you remember, DKC is still a classic that should be tracked down and played — which is much easier now that it's included as part of the Nintendo Switch Online Super NES offering.

81. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! (GBA)

The microgames on offer in WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! may be simple affairs, but the frantic, fast–paced and challenging experience that results from knitting them together in quick succession is incredibly addictive, and Wario's patented brand of mania is well suited to a handheld. It isn’t the longest game, and beyond the single-player mode there isn’t much else to do, but it’s stuffed full of magical, creative moments, not to mention an abundance of that classic Nintendo nostalgia and charm.