Nintendo makes games. The company’s good at it. Not every game with a Nintendo logo on the box or title screen is a classic, but it’s hard to think of another videogame publisher with as good of a track record as Nintendo.
Since the Nintendo Entertainment System saved the home videogame industry in the mid 80s, Nintendo has published some of the most beloved and important games in the medium’s history. Nintendo has created or revolutionized more genres than most developers will ever touch, pioneered handheld gaming and stuck hard to their all ages philosophy as the industry has grown increasingly cynical. Nintendo might not be cool, but it knows what it’s good at.
Perhaps you’re not a Nintendo fan. Maybe you’re too young to remember when it was the dominant game company, and grew up with Playstations or Xboxes. Maybe its colorful, family friendly games always seemed too safe or boring for your edgy personality. Maybe you are just now learning what a videogame is for the very first time and want to know a good place to start. Whatever your situation might be, here’s a primer on 30 games published by Nintendo that anybody interested in videogames needs to play.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of Nintendo games worth playing. Many great games aren’t on the list. (Sorry, Kid Icarus, Pro Wrestling, Blast Corps and more.) Some franchises might seem over represented. This is merely a brief look at the most notable games in Nintendo’s catalogue, from games that broke ground in genres new and old, to series highlights that represent the most ideal version of a significant Nintendo franchise. If you disagree, let us know in the comments or on Twitter @PasteGames.
1 of 30
Donkey Kong (arcades, 1981) wasn't Nintendo's first videogame, but it was the first to stick. It's a classic from the days when kids would willingly pay a quarter to brutalize themselves in arcades.
2 of 30
With its dozens of screens and multitude of mysteries, the original Legend of Zelda (NES, 1986) wasn't just a timeless mythic adventure: It was one of the deepest and richest worlds yet seen in games.
3 of 30
The colorful characters and pure tactile joy of playing Punch-Out!! (NES, 1987) will keep you from realizing how simple the game really is. It boils down to the foundations of gaming: pattern recognition and timing.
4 of 30
Greatly expanding on the original and introducing the template for every side-scrolling Mario to follow, Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES, 1990) is the best classic Mario and a legitimate contender for the title of "greatest game of all time."
5 of 30
The overlooked adventure gem StarTropics (NES, 1990) smartly evolved some of the original Zelda's concepts. It's one of the few NES titles to never receive an upgrade or sequel on later consoles.
6 of 30
With turbo-charged speed and then-groundbreaking Mode 7 graphics, the original F-Zero (SNES, 1991) was a launch hit for the Super Nintendo.
7 of 30
Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1991) expanded on everything that made the original great, with more weapons, abilities and mysteries. The world isn't just larger—it's doubled into two parallel worlds.
8 of 30
Metroid was an amazing, unforgettable experience in 1987. Super Metroid (SNES, 1994) completely destroys it, amplifying everything wonderful about the original while replacing the annoying password system with a battery save.
9 of 30
A clever satire of Japanese RPGs and American culture, Earthbound (SNES, 1994) is unusually smart for its era and uncommonly playful for its genre, mocking RPG conventions while paying tongue-in-cheek homage the American image.
10 of 30
Just as Super Mario Bros. defined the side-scrolling platformer, Super Mario 64 (N64, 1996) defined the 3D platformer.