games / Columns

The Top 8 Nintendo Franchise Games: Super Mario 64, Link to the Past, More

August 4, 2020 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Super Mario 64

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! I apologize for my unscheduled break, but a power outage and two weeks of completely garbage internet forced a delay of the column. But I’m back and here to talk about Nintendo games. I wanted to do Nintendo last since they have the largest number of memorable gaming franchises as well as a (generally) high quality of games within them. Sure, some franchises have their stinkers, but there is still a general high standard for their games. Of two notes: I haven’t played every Nintendo franchise, so stuff like Advance Wars or WarioWare isn’t known to me. Also, while I have 8 picks below, my official 9th pick would be Donkey Kong Country. I love that damn game, especially its music and visuals, but it doesn’t quite rank up against these others. Let’s begin

#8: Kirby’s Adventure

Kirby’s Adventure, to me, is the quinessential Kirby game. It was the first Kirby game on a home console, Kirby started off on the Game Boy if you remember, and it was the first Kirby game to give you his copy ability. In the first game you could just suck up enemies and spit them out but that was it. There was probably about two dozen or so abilities in this game, which are still used in Kirby games in today’s world: fire, sword, freeze, stone, needle, etc. I think this is one more pure Kirby games also, the later ones got bogged down by giving you animals to ride or friends to travel with and made it way more complicated than it needs to be. Kirby is at its best when it is a fairly simple affair.

#7: Star Fox 64

I’ll admit that Starfox isn’t the deepest franchise around. Most of the games just require you to run through 6 to 8 levels of shooting, fighting bosses and progressing to the next area. I think Star Fox 64 stuck with me the most because it at least tried to do some new things (I don’t care if Star Fox 2 also did them). Having really good audio, a few levels where it was just straight dog-fighting in a big environment, actual voice work, and a (generally) good framerate, along with plenty of little secrets, made the game special to me. Also, the multiplayer mode was a lot of fun back in college.

#6: Mario Kart 64

There’s a popular theory that the first game you play in a series or franchise is your favorite game in it. This is NOT the case with Mario Kart. I played Mario Kart a fair amount on the SNES and disliked almost all of it. I really dug Mario Kart 64 though. It was more colorful, had better items, more interesting tracks and so on. Some people may criticize the graphics but I think, considering the hardware they were working with, they did an admirable job and the framerate is relatively steady. Also, the Vs. mode was a great inclusion for the game.

#5: Super Smash Bros Melee

I like the original Smash Bros and Ultimate quite a bit, but for me, and many Smash fans, Melee is still the best. It just feels snappier and quicker than the other games. Also, I think this game had the best single player of any of the Smash games, as you could just bop around a Mario level with Link, or try to get through a Zelda cave system as Captain Falcon. While the roster isn’t as large as the later Smash games, it was fairly well balanced with most characters either having a slow/strong or quick/weak dynamic, like Fox and Falco. The Smash games are always good but Melee is still probably the standout one.

#4: Fire Emblem: Three Houses

I’ll admit this is the first and only Fire Emblem game I’ve played but I love it a lot. No way did I ever think that I would play through a strategy RPG not just once, or twice but almost three times, just because I enjoyed the gameplay and characters so much. While not every character is a standout, I’d wager at least 80% of them are worthwhile and interesting to have around and interact with. The actual strategy gameplay is solid, every class has some clear strengths and weaknesses, strong against other classes while weak to others. The music is also superb, and I listen to certain tracks of the soundtrack every few days. I’d love to dive deeper into Fire Emblem but the one I’d like to play,Path of Radiance, is just a tad too expensive at $200+.

#3: Super Metroid

I always think back to when I was a kid, playing this game at a K-Mart kiosk and absolutely hating it. To be fair, I was probably like 9 or 10 and just really didn’t get it at the time. After I grew up some and got at least a tad smarter I understood the game more and really fell in love. While it doesn’t hold your hand like later games, probably it’s only one flaw, Super Metroid is still a great exploration/action game that rewards players to unlock more of the map with missile tanks or something else useful. I pretty much replay this game every year or two and find new bits to it that I didn’t see before. Heck, I bought an Analogue Super NT because my SNES was/still is broken and wouldn’t let me actually finish this game correctly. That’s commitment.

#2: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

It’s really hard to just pick one Zelda game, since at least most of them are good to amazing, aside from Twilight Princess. I’d still stick with Link to the Past because it pretty much sets the framework for most Zelda games today: get a few knicknacks, get Master Sword, then the real adventure begins. Like with Super Metroid, there is just a lot in the game that is going on, leading the player to find and do new things each time they replay the game. This is still probably the most pure form of a Zelda game with combat, music, exploration, and your items all making it a really memorable experience.

#1: Super Mario 64

This one is actually the easiest for me. Every Mario game before Super Mario 64 was great, and almost every Mario game after this one (aside from Sunshine) has been great, but Super Mario 64 was such a paradigm shift in gaming that it cannot be overstated enough. While there were 3D platformers around the same time, Bug, Crash Bandicoot, Sonic 3D Blast and Tomb Raider, Super Mario 64 blows them ALL away by giving you fairly large worlds to explore, stars to find, and giving you control of a character that isn’t locked to some funky grid (Tomb Raider). You can pretty much make the case that Mario 64 was the genesis (pardon the pun) of 3D platformers and revolutionized how you can control a character, and especially control a camera, from a third person, 3D perspective. Super Mario 64 literally changed the way we play games, forever.

For comments, leave your favorite Nintendo franchise game and why.

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