I am a Nintendo Fanboy. It’s who I am. My first taste of video gaming was a Game Boy. My first console was a SNES. I remember the joy when I got a Pokemon Stadium N64 bundle pack for Christmas, and the pride I felt when I saved enough money to buy the Nintendo Gamecube, Wii, and Wii U with my own money. Nintendo is ingrained in my life.
Being a fanboy for so many years and console generations has allowed me to see how Nintendo has grown in how they make games and the types of games they make. Nintendo more than any other company has a robust list of first party franchises. And if you take a good look at their lineup, you’ll notice that each one pretty much covers a different genre. Platformers (both 2D and 3D), shooters, racing games, fighting games, space games, puzzles titles, RPG’s, the list goes on and on.
Yet as I sit here and reflect, a question comes to mind: Which franchises do I look forward to the most?
By this I mean, when a new generation comes around, or even when I beat the latest title of a franchise, I’m already looking forward to the next entry. Which franchises have impacted me so much that I’m willing to wait (or not wait in some cases) the years it may take to get another one?
Here are my Top 5 Nintendo franchises.
HONORABLE MENTION: PAPER MARIO
Paper Mario for me is one of my favorite Nintendo titles, and worthy of an honorable mention. Though the last two (Sticker Star and Super Paper Mario) were good on their own merits, it was the original Paper Mario and Thousand Year Door that wowed me.
I think it was really just the simplicity of the title that worked. From the standard RPG mechanics, to the pop-up book/children’s book feel, it all just worked. And unlike in standard Mario titles, you got to meet a lot of the beings of the world and see their personalities. Anyone who’s played the first two Paper Mario titles has a favorite teammate. Because as you spend time with them, you really get to know them, help them, and be friends with them. I’m a story guy, and the stories in the original Paper Mario and Thousand Year Door were both simple and elegant in the best way.
It actually shows how awesome those two games were with fans, cause after Sticker Star fans demanded that Nintendo go back to what they did with Thousand Year Door and the original. It’ll be up to them whether we see this franchise return, but as a fan, I hope they do!
Oh, and it was in Paper Mario that Peach got to be a key part of the story in the best way possible (yes, I know she was a playable character in Super Mario RPG; this was different!).
5. Super Smash Bros.
I think this may be a surprise for some of you because many, MANY Nintendo fans know that when a new console generation begins, the clock starts ticking for when a new Super Smash Bros. comes out.
And why shouldn’t it? Super Smash Bros. is a testament to what Nintendo can do as a company. To be able to bring together so many iconic characters, from NUMEROUS franchises into one title that is both revered and beloved is incredible.
The funny thing about Smash Bros. was that it wasn’t supposed to be this gigantic franchise. It was more-or-less a joke. An idea from Mr. Iwata just to see what would happen. It was meant for a Japan-only release…until fans got a hold of it, and it sold through the roof.
Now, Super Smash Bros. is one of the biggest franchises Nintendo has. And yes, I do love it so. Because it’s pure fun! Especially now when you can hook your console (or handheld) up to the internet and battle it out with people all over the world! Win, lose, or draw, it’s rare to get that feeling of success or failure and yet want to keep going no matter what.
Everyone has a “main”, or a character they always play as. The diversity of characters allows us fans to not only enjoy our favorite characters, but test out new ones and see who we like best. For me, I was Link for the original and Melee. Then when Ike came in Brawl? Dang, I was hooked. Then in Smash Bros. 3DS/Wii U, I found myself addicted to Charizard’s gameplay. That’s the power of Smash Bros.
The funny thing about Smash Bros. is that it’s so good, the hype for the next title doesn’t start after I play it. And thus I have no desire to long for the next one because this one is so dang good! Smash Bros. has that infinite replayability that few titles have, that works so well you don’t want to stop playing it. So you enjoy it for a long time. Then when the next one comes? Heck yeah, you’ll play it! It’s what you want! But more than naught, you’re content with the one you have for a while. And again, with internet connections, the game is infinitely playable. So why wait for the next one when I can enjoy this one now?
This is no doubt going to be a surprise to some, it might even anger some of you, “KIRBY IS AHEAD OF SMASH BROS.?!?! ARE YOU HIGH?!?!”
For the record, I am not. I just love the Kirby franchise that dang much.
It’s funny as I write this that I almost (almost!) can’t pin down what I love about Kirby. Yet as I think about it, it’s almost the same reason I love Paper Mario, simplicity and elegance.
Recently I played Kirby and the Rainbow Curse for Wii U, and it was FUN!!! I loved going through the levels, drawing rainbow roads for Kirby to go on, having him transform into various shapes, it was great! Then I started to recall all the fun games I’ve had with Kirby, and it hit me, the franchise is just fun to play.
In fact, one of my first games was Kirby’s Dreamland for the Game Boy. Then came Kirby Pinball. By the time the N64 came around, Kirby and the Crystal Shards happened, and I was hooked on it. It’s still one of my most memorable games ever, and one I played over and over again.
I think what makes the Kirby titles so special is what Nintendo does with Kirby. There are almost two different genres with him. There are the “standard” Kirby titles where you absorb enemies and become superpowered. Or the other Kirby games where they don’t use the powers, and play with the aesthetic, like Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Canvas Curse, and Rainbow Curse. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed Epic Yarn. I feel like I shouldn’t have, but I did! Same with Rainbow Curse.
I love how Nintendo isn’t afraid to do different things with Kirby, which is probably why Kirby as a franchise has so many titles under its belt. It has more than Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, and more! You can’t do that if fans don’t love it. Kirby is easily one of the most iconic Nintendo characters. The “pink puffball” as he’s referred to is instantly recognizable. Also, in the orignial Smash Bros. Brawl trailer, Kirby was among the first four characters shown alongside Mario, Link, and Pikachu. AKA the mascots of Nintendo three super titles. So when you have Kirby with them? You know you have a iconic character.
To recap? I love Kirby games, and I can’t wait to get the next one.
3. The Legend of Zelda
This one may be a surprise, not necessarily that it’s on here, but that it’s in the middle of the pack. In fact, I’d go so bold as to say if I DIDN’T have Legend of Zelda on my list…I’d be shot on charges of impersonating a Nintendo fanboy. Thankfully…it is on my list, and with good reason.
One could argue that Legend of Zelda and Smash Bros are the titles that get the most hype in regards to Nintendo titles. Why? Because these titles more than any other are generational. Meaning that (most of the time) they only release once or twice during a generation. Also, each generation strives hard to do something different than the one before. This means even more to Zelda than Smash Bros.
Why? Because even though Zelda tells “the same story” over and over again, it never feels exactly the same. If you want a perfect example, look at Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. These games were released VERY close to one another in terms of gaming cycles (both on the N64 and technically less than 2 years apart), and yet the two games couldn’t be more different. Or how about Oracle of Seasons vs. Oracle of Ages on the Game Boy Color? Those two were sister titles (both made by Capcom of all companies!) and yet the two were entirely different in tone and gameplay!
Why does this matter you ask? Well, one of the gripes of the Mario series is the repetitive tone the games sometimes has. Sure, they add new suits, and the levels are different, but is the core of the game different? Sure, Mario Galaxy was a revolution, and Mario 3D Land and World were great. And yet…we still get New Super Mario Bros Wii, and U, which were eerily similar in some ways. You almost NEVER have that with Zelda, which is why fans love it so much.
The universe of Legend of Zelda is so vast and robust, that you can focus on so many characters in one game, then shift to another group in another, and still have an epic story/game. Or you can do what Hyrule Warriors did, and combine the most popular titles in the series into one over-the-top action game. It was epic, trust me.
Though time passes, and the story evolves, The Legend of Zelda continues to amaze gamers with it’s focus on gameplay, story, and innovation. Again, trying to make sure it’s different every time. Let’s just look at the recent console titles for proof of this. Windwaker took us to a watery world where you had to explore everything. Twilight Princess took us to the land of Twilight, where we got Wolf Link (epic!), and met Midna (EVEN MORE EPIC!!!). Skyward Sword told the origin story for the series, and showed that even the beginnings of a legend can be legendary.
While some will say that the game does follow a similar formula like Mario (save the princess, dungeons, get gear, etc.), Legend of Zelda strives to make sure those stereotypes don’t weigh the game down. Each dungeon in each game is unique. There are always new weapons, and bosses aren’t the same every time, not even Ganon.
When the Wii U was announced, and they wanted to show off the graphics of the console, what did they do? They showed off a Zelda tech demo! Why? Because they knew it was what we wanted to see. Zelda Wii U is easily one of the most anticipated titles coming out this year (hopefully) for the Wii U, and we all know why. Because we know that when we get it, it’ll be the best darn game they could’ve made, because they take the time to make it that way. Rarely (if ever) has a Zelda game disappointed me. That’s why I love the series. New innovations, new twists on the story, new ways to make it fun, and a desire to get the next one as soon as possible.
This is probably one of the biggest non-shockers on my list. The reason of which is oh so obvious: Because it’s Pokemon!
This is also the franchise that I most associate with being my favorite handheld franchise. True, they’ve had console games, and I liked them, especially the Coliseum titles for Gamecube, but the true Pokemon games are on the handhelds. Where they were born and bred.
It’s almost funny that Pokemon has done so well. Mainly because it’s just so simple in what it does, and yet there is so much complexity. On the base level, all you do in the game is capture Pokemon, raise them to be stronger, then battle other trainers and Gym Leaders to prove you’re the best. Oh, and you save the world in the process; there’s that too.
Yet within that simple formula is a game rich in detail and intricacies. What kind of team do you wish to raise? Do you superpower one Pokemon and then have a support team? Do you balance out the levels so you have a fully reliable team? What about stats? Do you value one over the other? Do you try and truly capture all the Pokemon in the world? Or do you just try and get your favorites? These questions (and more!) lead to hundreds of hours of gameplay, and an experience that is truly never forgotten.
I personally have found memories of Pokemon because of the first title I got with the series. Pokemon Blue. It was so much fun that I had to get Red, and then Yellow. But Blue was my favorite, and it was because of this that Blastoise was and still is one of my favorite Pokemon to this day. Gold, Silver, and Crystal were some of the jewels of my Game Boy Color collection. I deeply enjoyed Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. Pearl, Diamond and Platinum were fun as well. Black and White 1&2 showed my desire for Pokemon couldn’t be satiated with one title. And of course, X&Y proved that Nintendo still had big ideas for the Pokemon world. And that doesn’t even mention the remakes! I have all of those too!
Truly though, what I think separates Pokemon from other games (yes, even Smash Bros) is the interactivity the game gives to players. They aren’t just opponents to fight and beat (or lose to…). You can trade with them, get advice from them on how to better raise your Pokemon. More than anything, Pokemon truly gave us a network of trainers to grow with. Every single one having a different style on how to grow their Pokemon team. Some are stat trainers, some like certain types of Pokemon, many have particular moves they need their Pokemon to learn and they strive for that. It doesn’t end, and that’s great!
With the addition of wireless connection (good-bye link cable!), trainers now have access to a whole WORLD of Pokemon fans like them to chat, trade, and battle with. And with each new generation comes not only the promise of new Pokemon, but new people to meet and interact with.
Pokemon’s greatest strength is evolution. It continues to grow, and that’s why it makes me excited for the next generation. Cause I can’t wait to see what Pokemon I’ll meet next, and who my next battle will be. Gotta Catch’em All!
1. Fire Emblem
Yep, this is my No.1. Surprised? Intrigued? I hope so because if you told me when I started gaming that this would be my favorite franchise? I’d think you were nuts.
There’s no doubt in my mind that at different points of my life, Pokemon and Legend of Zelda could’ve easily been my favorite franchise. For numerous reasons I’ve already stated. So what made Fire Emblem skyrocket to the top? Easy, it took the best parts of Zelda and Pokemon, added a lot more story and characters, and wove it in a way that makes me smile.
My first Fire Emblem game was Path of Radiance on the Gamecube. I specifically remember going into a store (that I ironically work at right now) and watching the trailer for it. I remember knowing about Fire Emblem via a friend, but it didn’t intrigue me. When I saw that trailer though? Yeah, I was hooked.
I got it the moment I could, and it is still one of my favorite games today. I refuse to disconnect my Wii, because I want to still be able to play it (I also have Radiant Dawn, which is why I use the Wii and not the Gamecube). Something about that game clicked with me, and I knew I had to have more Fire Emblem.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the first title in the series. So I found the “original” Fire Emblem (the one with Eliwood, Lyn, and Hector), then Sacred Stones. Loved them both. When Radiant Dawn came out? Knew I had to have it. What’s that? They remade the Marth Adventure for the DS? GIVE IT TO ME NOW!!!! Then of course, there’s Awakening, the most recent addition. Wanted it, got it, loved it, couldn’t beat it…restarted it, beat it, and now I’m probably going to play it again soon.
Earlier on I mentioned I was a story guy. Fire Emblem really impresses me with its story and its use of character. This especially shines in Path of Radiance, Radiant Dawn, and Awakening for me, but also in the other titles too. Unlike other Nintendo titles, Fire Emblem isn’t afraid to get dark. The darkest you’ll see certain games go is show war and death. Legend of Zelda is a good example of this. With Fire Emblem though, it goes beyond that.
It takes on stories about religion, faith, the struggle between fate and free will. Fire Emblem tells stories about the role of people in societies, about how man and women can be more than the roles that their class defines them as. My personal favorite is how some of the titles dealt with racism, and the hatred that can cause. Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn dealt with this head on with a lengthy tale about the Beorc and the Laguz, and how the hatred between them raged so fully that it nearly tore their world apart several times. The games also talk about overcoming said hatreds in order to brighten the future.
Fire Emblem has some of the deepest, richest, funniest, and most honorable characters I’ve ever seen in video games. Each game is full of a roster that you can get to know, and you’ll want to know all of them. From powerful lords, to simple soldiers, to Laguz warriors and kings, to healers and priests, the full gambit is run. You can literally go through each game multiple times, build up different characters, and still get new pieces of story. It’s awesome.
More than that though, you really get to see the game through their eyes, and see them evolve as characters, and as people. In Awakening, depending on who you talk with, you can actually marry your characters, and then have their children (through time travel) to help you on your quest. While some may see this as a Pokemon like tactic to “raise the best children”, I see it for how I think it should be, a beautiful relationship. Because I want to see who would make a good couple, and see how they evolve from friends, to companions, to partners in life and marriage.
Don’t think that leaves out friendships though, Fire Emblem deeply explores this. A shining example is from Path of Radiance (again, love this game). In the game is a Laguz (animal-humanoid for lack of a better description) named Lethe. She’s small, but feisty and fierce. Later on we meet Jill, a proud warrior of her homeland who hates all Laguz with a passion. It was how she was raised, she had no reason to believe Laguz was nothing more than animals. When these two first meet it’s ugly, they do not like each other. And yet…over time, and the course of the game, Jill comes to realize how wrong she was about Laguz, and especially about Lethe. If you work it right, you’ll get a beautiful end scene with them, of Jill apologizing to Lethe for what she had done with her life in regards to treating and talking about Laguz. Lethe does the same, and the two shake hands and become friends. That’s powerful stuff in any game.
One of my favorite characters of all time in video games is Ike from Path of Radiance. Because in him we got a humble warrior, who was given an army, a title, the chance for riches and fame untold…and the moment he could get rid of it, he did. Because Ike didn’t want anything to do with it, he wanted to be a mercenary like his father. To run his mercenary group to honor his father. He would fight for his friends in a heartbeat, defend those who needed it, and yet never want any glory or fame. That selfless was written so well that it stuck with me, and it will for a very long time.
When I think of the Fire Emblem series, I know to some it’s not considered a main franchise, or at least it wasn’t. Many of the series titles never came to the US. However, over the recent years, with the console releases and Awakening, Fire Emblem has taken on new life and popularity. To the extent that it got four characters in Super Smash Bros. You can’t do that with every franchise.
I love the Fire Emblem series, and when the last Nintendo Direct announced right off the bat that Fire Emblem was coming back? I freaked out. Cause I love this franchise. If I could choose a franchise to work on, if I was lucky enough to get to Nintendo some day (dream job), I would choose Fire Emblem. Because it’s a game I know I could work on and be totally engrossed in making it as beautiful and powerful as I know it can be.
As I end this list, I wish to just say, this is my list. This is my Top 5 Nintendo franchises. The ones that mean the most to me. I love each of these series, and I love many more Nintendo titles. As I said, Nintendo is ingrained in my life. It’s an honor for me to write a list like this, because I get to show my pride and passion for these games and Nintendo.
I know many of you won’t agree with this list, and that’s fine. I’ll happily talk with you about YOUR Top 5 list, by all means, share it with me! Let’s rejoice in our fandom, and have fun talking about which is better. After all, isn’t that what being a fanboy or fangirl is all about?