25 Best Nintendo Franchises
Nintendo may be the most well known game company of all time which is why we're doing a list of the 25 Best Nintendo Franchises. But, why are they so well known? Is it the fact that they had some of the first gaming consoles to ever hit the market? Or is it the fact that they make great franchises? If you asked a random Nintendo fan if they could name their favorites, most can't get past Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and the like. Luckily, we are around to take a deeper look into Nintendo's past. These are the 25 Best Nintendo Franchises.
Nintendo couldn’t have gotten its start without the Game & Watch, a series of simple games created with early LCD technology. So titled because they were both a game and a device that told the time, Game & Watches inspired numerous handheld devices, from Gunpei Yokoi’s Gameboy, to the design of the original Nintendo DS. Even today we continue to see Game & Watch branded games through Wii U titles such as Game & Wario. The Game & watch deserves to be on our list of the 25 Best Nintendo Franchises.
Sin and Punishment may not have been as influential as Game & Watch or other Nintendo franchise, but it stands out as one of Nintendo’s most imported franchise of all time. Nintendo isn’t really known for holding back titles for Japanese only releases, but Sin and Punishment’s interesting variety of on-rails shooting combined with beat-em-up action was enough to attract importers from around the world.
Punch Out! was more than just a popular title for the NES. On the contrary, it was actually one of Nintendo’s early experiments with unique arcade cabinets. Featuring dual monitors and actual voice acting, it was one of the most advanced video games of its time. It could be said that this arcade fervor was what eventually brought Punch Out! to the NES, SNES, Wii, and more.
There’s something about Kid Icarus that makes people remember it. It only really had one game in the franchise before Pit took flight again on the Nintendo 3DS. So what made this open world vertical style Metroidvania game stick out in gamers’ minds? For our money, it was probably Pit’s portrayal as a midget with a speech impediment in Captain N, the Game Master.
Pilotwings was a neat little mini-game compilation for the SNES that eventually made its way to the N64 and then dropped off the face of the earth. It let you skydive, hang-glide, fly choppers, and more. Why is such an obscure franchise on the list of 25 Best Nintendo Franchises? Simple. It was a primary inspiration for Wii compilation games like Wii Sports and Wii Play. It was, perhaps, Nintendo’s earliest mini-game compilation aside from Track & Field and Duck Hunt.
If you are a fan of motorcycle physics games like Trials HD, then you would love the original Excitebike. Even though its NES installment was basically the only installment in the franchise, it defined the 2D motorcycle physics genre. It was also one of the first games to include a track editor. We would love to see an Excitebike remake on modern day consoles. Imagine the awesome tracks you could make with the Wii U gamepad!
Advance Wars was a GBA title that combined turn-based strategy games with real-time strategy games. You had to manage squads of troops and terrain while also dealing with things such as fog of war and captured camps. While Advance Wars was obviously a tie-in with the Gameboy Advance, it has now been taken to mean the “advance lines” at the front of a war. It has managed to make its way onto the DS but fans are still waiting for a Wii U or 3DS port.
Why do fans like F-Zero so much? Two words: FALCON PAWNCH!!! Yes, Captain Falcon, the racer that is so macho he managed to punch his enemy hard enough that it was seen from outside the galaxy, carries this entire franchise on his manly back. Even though Nintendo has said that they have no idea what to do next with this awesome high speed racing franchise, fans are still hoping we will see a new installment on the Wii U.
If you look at Pikmin one way, it’s an interesting strategy game that requires management of multiple unit types, and various resources. If you look at it another way, it’s the story of how the ultimate capitalist exploits a peaceful tribe of plant aliens for his own profit, killing thousands in the process. Either way, it’s an awesome game.
Golden Sun is another one of those GBA hits that forged a name for itself but never really made blockbuster status. It was part Zelda, with its map and item based puzzles, and part Final Fantasy with its turn-based battle. Golden Sun made a return on the DS, but fans still want to see the RPG franchise represented with a proper console release.
Animal Crossing. It’s on our list of 25 Best Nintendo Franchises not because it’s horribly addicting. Not because it started the craze of clock based gameplay. Not because it created crazy icons like Mr. Resetti and Tom Nook. Nope, Animal Crossing gets on this list because it is the 12th best selling franchise Nintendo has to offer, coming in at 7 million in sales to date.
Similarly, Nintendogs might not seem all that important to you considering its basically just a pet simulator on the DS, but it too is one of Nintendo’s best selling franchises. The original Nintendogs line sold over 18 million copies. That outshines most Call of Duty games! Move over Tamogotchi, Nintendogs have you beat.
Coming up next on our short list within a list of unexpected best-selling titles, we have Brain Age, which sold close to 13 million copies on the DS alone. If you expand this to every Brain Age title ever sold, you’ll see that Brain Age is actually Nintendo’s seventh best-selling franchise of all time!
Star Fox is actually a great example of this. While the franchise’s sales make it the eleventh best-selling Nintendo property, it still has an impressive fan base. Star Fox fans look past modern Star Fox games that, quite frankly, kind of suck. They look past the strange changes in Star Fox’s art style and story. Instead, they remember the good old days of the Super FX chip and highly polygonal ships flying through rings. Sometimes, all you need is a bit of nostalgia and a rabbit commanding you to DO A BARREL ROLL!
With mini-game compilations getting more and more popular, Nintendo had an idea. What if we made mini-games even more mini? Instead of giving you short little games like Mario Party did, we will make you figure out the rules of the game you are playing, and challenge you to beat it, all within the time frame of three seconds! The result was one of the most awesome handheld and party franchises ever created.
Yes, we are putting the Wii line of games (Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wii Fit, Etc.) on our list of 25 Best Nintendo Franchises. Why? It also comes down to sales. Even though the Wii franchise was only made during this console generation, it has skyrocketed into becoming one of Nintendo’s best selling franchises period. When you bundle all the Wii titles together, the franchise has broken 192 million in sales, making it the third best-selling Nintendo franchise of all time. There really are that many people who want to play Wii tennis.
Speaking of best-selling Nintendo franchises of all time, everyone knows about Pokemon. It’s that game that lets you capture godly beings in tiny balls in order to have them fight for your amusement. Somehow, Nintendo continues to be able to package what is essentially the same damn game to us over and over and over again. While the stats change, and new Pokemon are added, the formula is always completely identical. Professor gives you one of three Pokemon, and then you set out on your quest to catch-em-all.
Fire Emblem may not be a best-selling Nintendo franchise, but it certainly has one of the most dedicated fanbases. Fans have been importing Fire Emblem games since the days of the NES. It’s only after the game came to the GBA after Marth and Roy’s popularity exploded in Super Smash Bros. Melee that non-importers got to experience Fire Emblems unique brand of turn-based perma death strategy.
Mother, or as it is known in the U.S., Earthbound, is an outstanding RPG franchise, perhaps one of the best of all time. Its quirky characters and strange worlds will make you laugh, cry, and feel for its characters in ways you just don’t in other RPGs. There’s something about watching a young boy thrust into an adventure bigger than he could possibly imagine that tugs on your heart strings.
It’s a bit meta to name a franchise that’s all about mashing up Nintendo’s other franchises as one of its best franchises. Whatever, Smash Brothers is awesome. A truly different fighting game that continues to be played in the professional tournament community, Smash allowed you to play as Nintendo’s greats as they tried to knock each other off a floating stage. Regardless of Smash’s popularity, no Smash title has broken the top 20 list of best selling Nintendo games, though it’s franchise, when all put together, is the 8th best selling Nintendo franchise boasting 20 million games sold.
Here’s a fun fact -- none of the next four entries on our list have managed to break the top 20 best selling games that Nintendo has ever published, even though they are Nintendo’s biggest and best icons and mascots. In fact, Nintendo couldn’t have even gotten its start without Donkey Kong, the smash arcade hit that put Nintendo on the map.
Kirby just never seems to die. Even though his games are certainly more targeted toward kids while still being far too difficult to ever complete 100%, Kirby still remains one of the most loved Nintendo characters. Even when Kirby’s Epic Yarn did away with every Kirby mechanic that we know and love, Nintendo fans still swarmed all over the game like flies on a dropped piece of donut. Kirby will always stand as a symbol of Nintendo’s dedication to kid friendly games.
Metroid put the Metroid in Metroidvania. It basically defined the 2D open world platforming game, and when it got bored of that it defined the 3D open world first person shooter. Metroid was the king of sci-fi games back in the days of the NES, and did more with a meager few kilobytes of memory that many games do with a whole blu-ray disk today. It was also one of the first franchises to have a strong female main character. Metroid is simply a series of firsts.
If there is any Nintendo franchise more iconic than everyone’s favorite blue and red plumber platformer then it has to be Zelda. Zelda defined what the action adventure game should be: not exactly an RPG, but not exactly a beat em up either. You didn’t gain levels or pick up power-ups, instead you built up your inventory of items that slowly let you solve puzzles and access areas of the game you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. Zelda was also the first Nintendo game to let you save your progress on a battery backup, paving the way for save systems on tons of other future consoles.
Mario is undisputedly the best franchise Nintendo has to offer. Of the top 20 best selling Nintendo games of all time, Mario has eight! (Super Mario Bros. Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros 3, New Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Land, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Bros 2, and Mario Kart DS.) Super Mario Bros. alone has sold over 40 million copies. That’s more than most franchises sell over their whole lifetime. However, the Mario franchise itself simply blows all other competitors out of the water, boasting 220 million sales (and this isn’t even including spinoffs like Mario Kart, Mario Party, or any of the many Mario sports games). Mario simply dominates the world of video gaming, and that’s why he is #1 on our list of the 25 Best Nintendo franchises.