Nintendo certainly knows its way around a franchise, and that made compiling this list tougher than normal, so there are a few things we’d like to point out before you start reading. Firstly, this list has been created based on its writer’s personal preferences, if you disagree, that’s perfectly fine, but it’s in no way claiming to be a definitive list. Secondly, given the way Nintendo utilizes some of its characters, we’ve had to establish some ground rules. For example, Mario hasn’t been considered as a single franchise, but rather multiples encompassing the likes of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Land, Super Mario 3D etc. Please keep that in mind before you yell at us because we haven’t mentioned Super Mario World which, incidentally, is still rated as the best Nintendo game of all time by most of the office (except Pete, who continues to try to convince us all that it’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).
Unlike most of Nintendo’s popular franchises, Kirby remains relatively under-utilized by the company – at least in terms of big-name, high-profile releases. Sure, he’s appeared in his fair share of successful titles down through the years, but there’s always the feeling that he’s capable of a more front line role. It’s certainly not down to the games being sub-par, though, because we’ve not had too many unenjoyable experiences sucking down enemies (oh, behave) down through the years. Perhaps we’ll see an unexpected resurgence in the near future? Here’s hoping anyway!
09: Mario Party
Despite the fact that the original Mario Party cost us more N64 controllers than we care to remember, as well as more than our fair share of blisters (mostly down to that damned Bowser’s Tug o’ War mini game), we still love the franchise. Expertly executing the mini game format in a way that encourages social play and healthy competition (most of the time) among a group of buddies crowded around a single TV set, Mario Party remains one of the best bets to roll out when you’ve got a few visitors over, whether they’re big gamers or not.
Even though the first two Pikmin games on GameCube (and later Wii) proved to be hugely successful for Nintendo, we were forced to wait almost a decade for the third instalment, which landed last year on the Wii U – and we’d really rather not have to wait quite so long for the next one Mr. Miyamoto! Opening up the real-time strategy genre to newcomers thanks to an incredibly well-wrought gameplay engine and an incredibly high level of accessibility, the Pikmin series also manages to offer an impressive level of depth, ensuring that even veterans have plenty to keep themselves amused.
07: Luigi’s Mansion
With only two titles to date, it’s perhaps a little premature to consider Luigi’s Mansion a bona fide Nintendo franchise, but we’ve made an executive decision to include it on this list regardless. Back in 2001 when the GameCube launched, players were desperate for a Mario adventure, and instead they got a curious little title featuring his brother in the lead role. We all know that Luigi isn’t exactly the bravest of souls, so dropping him into a haunted mansion with little more than a flashlight and a vacuum cleaner strapped to his back was always going to be an interesting proposition – however few could have predicted just how much fun the game would be.
Then, last year, Next Level Games lived up to their studio name and took the franchise up a notch with 3DS title Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, serving up a greatly expanded campaign featuring multiple mansions and more depth than you could shake a Poultergust 5000 at. It possibly surprised many with quite how ambitious it was, but it certainly made the case for the series to become a Nintendo staple for years to come. How about a Wii U follow-up now guys?
06: Donkey Kong Country
Debuting on the SNES back in 1994 to a rapturous reception, Donkey Kong Country was a visual revelation, taking 16-bit graphics far beyond what many had assumed them capable of. But it wasn’t a case of graphics over gameplay, as then-developers Rare delivered an incredibly polished platformer with more depth than most, encouraging players to explore this brave new world as Donkey Kong and Diddy. Two SNES sequels followed, with GameBoy Advance ports arriving later, before the series was reinvigorated back in 2010 (Donkey Kong 64 technically didn’t carry the Country suffix, so we’re not counting it) with the launch of Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii – a title which would itself be ported to the 3DS last year.
This month sees the series’ first foray into the world of high definition visuals, as Donkey Kong and crew take to Tropical Freeze on the Wii U. We’ve spent quite a bit of time with the game pre-release and we’re happy to report that it’s going to be a hell of a ride, and certainly a title you’re not going to want to miss!
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