Nintendo is one of the oldest current gaming companies in existence and certainly is the eldest when it comes to console gaming. Many of my greatest gaming memories of my youth were on Nintendo-based platforms such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). I had a bit of exposure to GameBoy and played some of my favorite video games of all time on the Nintendo 64 for countless hours. There are so many other Nintendo systems we can talk about. I can recall when the Wii was first launched, watched as the Wii U bombed, and witnessed the rise of the Nintendo Switch becoming the company’s most successful console of all time. What a gaming legacy this company has built. This hasn’t been the case with just gaming consoles, but also with innovation and iconic gaming characters that still are lucrative for the company to this day.
In honor of that legacy, I thought it would be fun to list my top five Nintendo exclusives of all time. These games have left a lasting impression on me as a gamer and I will always cherish the fond memories they provided.
SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD
The original Super Mario World on the SNES was my favorite Mario game for decades. The variety of levels, power-ups, enemies, boss characters, Yoshis, and other secrets made this game an absolute delight to play. But when I first played Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U, it blew me completely away. After playing through 3D World, I concluded that this was the best Mario game I’ve ever played. Yes, better than the original Super Mario World, both Super Mario Galaxy titles, and also Super Mario Odyssey. And those are all fantastic games. I’m thrilled Nintendo Switch owners have gotten a chance to play this masterpiece because so many gamers missed out on the game due to the poor sales of the Wii U. There are not enough good things I can say about Super Mario 3D World. You get multiple characters to choose from, each with strengths and weaknesses. There’s terrific level variety along with some newly introduced powerups. The music is an absolute treat to the ears, particularly in the ghost houses and on the snow levels. This is my favorite Nintendo exclusive of all time that you can play on the Wii U or in an enhanced form on the Nintendo Switch.
FIRE EMBLEM THREE HOUSES
My introduction to the Fire Emblem series, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a game so good that I would have bought a Nintendo Switch just to play it. I’ve put 97 hours into the game and I’m still not done with this game. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a strategy RPG with social bonding elements that are reminiscent of the latest Persona games. You play a professor at a monastery and you can choose which of the main three houses you want to align with from the beginning. This decision determines how the story will unfold although I would imagine some things will take place regardless of which house you choose. Between battles, you will be spending time getting to know your students along with the other personalities that make up the Garreg Mach monastery. You can also choose to play with permadeath on or off. Fire Emblem Three Houses is a complete experience of an RPG and it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played in the genre. To further show you how great Fire Emblem: Three Houses is, I now regularly play strategy RPGs, a genre I had little to do with before. It is my favorite game on the Nintendo Switch.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME
Don’t let those block, polygonal graphics fool you. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is not only arguably the greatest Nintendo 64 game I’ve ever played, but it is also one of the best in the entire Legend of Zelda series. This title was all the rage when it was released in 1998 and it was the first-ever 3D Zelda game. Oh my goodness, this game was a wonderful experience. It was the first Zelda game that I had sunk my teeth into since the original. Remembering its expansive world, riding Epona the horse, visiting different lands, and using the power of the ocarina all bring a smile to my face. You also gained many new skills and useful items during your journey. This is my favorite Zelda title of all time, even beating out The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the original Legend of Zelda. I did not get the version that had the gold cartridge, but I did have a friend who owned it. This game has been re-released on different Nintendo platforms and is one of the games Nintendo is promoting as part of its new expanded Nintendo Switch Online service. If you love Zelda games, this is a must-play.
WWF NO MERCY
The Nintendo 64 was home to some of the greatest wrestling games ever made. The AKI Corporation developed several titles for the platform with a few of the games being exclusive to Japan. What’s interesting was that the company first developed games featuring World Championship Wrestling and when that alliance ended, did so for the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE). All of the games from AKI Corporation were terrific renditions of pro wrestling with noticeable growth in features, options, and quality with each successive release. WWF No Mercy was the culmination of that growth and the game was incredible for its time with a wealth of options and features to make it AKI’s best creation. To say the game was well-received would be an understatement and the game has stood the test of time so well that gamers are still creating mods for it. I couldn’t even tell you how many hours I’ve put into this game. What made the game so impactful? The gameplay was tweaked so well that it was accessible to newcomers while also being rewarding for veterans. To this day, people are still playing this on their Nintendo 64s, but the best way to experience No Mercy today is by playing mods through the Project64 emulator. The mods are remarkable and guarantee that this game will remain relevant for wrestling gamers.
DONKEY KONG COUNTRY
Before Donkey Kong Country was released on the SNES, I had not been aware that a developer named Rare even existed. That all changed when the game launched in 1994. I would then become aware that this was the company behind R.C. Pro-Am and Battletoads on the NES. Rare would also become known for the fighting game series, Killer Instinct. But if I had to describe the impact Donkey Kong Country had in one word, it would be “revolutionary.” This was a game that I couldn’t wait to play 27 years ago. Before, Donkey Kong was just a character that was holding a woman hostage that Mario had to save. But this game was the first to fully focus on the Kongs. Donkey Kong Country was one of those games that would make your mouth drop in shock because of how excellent it was. Sure, like the Super Mario games, it was also a platformer. But once you started playing this game, Mario was the furthest thing from your mind. Donkey Kong Country was in such a world of its own that there was nothing to compare to at the time. It looked amazing, provided you with a fantastic level variety, implemented barrels in very creative ways, had no shortage of secrets, and even provided you with animal companions on some levels. It is one of the greatest platformers in the history of gaming and exceeded all the hype that it had built up to its release. Donkey Kong Country was so good that even after I completed it, I went right back to playing it again.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE NINTENDO EXCLUSIVES?