My Top 30 Favourite Nintendo Franchises: #10-6

10. Animal Crossing

Games: Animal Crossing (GCN), Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS), Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City (Wii), Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)

No, I can’t explain this. Not fully, anyway. If you haven’t played a game in Nintendo’s ever-quirky Animal Crossing series, you will very likely not understand a word of what I’m about to say. When you pay off a loan to Tom Nook the passive-aggressive raccoon and upgrade your house, the feeling of accomplishment is up there with nearly any gaming achievement you’ve ever reached. And you immediately want more, going further into debt for the sake of just a little bit more space, so you can add just the right touch of balance to the vibe of your room. When you see a bug you haven’t caught before, the cocktail of heart-pounding excitement and self-doubt that floods your veins is overwhelming. And when an animal you like leaves your town… Well, the less said about that the better. In terms of content, the games continue to get more and more expansive as the series continues, but in my opinion the portable entries are by far the best ones. The intimacy of a handheld device perfectly suits the strange, pride-fueled mini-achievement cycle that drives Animal Crossing. There is nothing else quite like it.

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9. Golden Sun

Games: Golden Sun (GBA), Golden Sun: The Lost Age (GBA), Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (DS)

It’s no secret that I’m a pretty big JRPG fan, but for a Japanese videogame company, Nintendo’s first-party stable is actually rather light on traditional Japanese role-playing fare. Lucky there’s the Golden Sun series. Developed by Camelot, masterminds behind the Mario Tennis and Mario Golf games, Golden Sun presents all the surface-level trimmings of the likes of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but pairs them with the kind of meaningfully colour-coded game mechanics and highly explorable worlds for which Nintendo is so renowned. It also puts more emphasis on spacial puzzle-solving than pretty much any other major JRPG series. The franchise has a reputation for pushing the visual capabilities of its native hardware, particularly in the case of the first two games, which really sold the Game Boy Advance as a far more powerful console than it actually was. Golden Sun may occasionally suffer from overly talky exposition, but as my first ever non-Pokemon JRPG series, and a damn fine one at that, it places very highly on this list.

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8. Super Mario (3D Games)

Games: Super Mario 64 (N64/DS), Super Mario Sunshine (GCN), Super Mario Galaxy (Wii), Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii), Super Mario 3D Land (3DS), Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Here we are at the other half of the core Mario series, and my goodness, what a line-up of games! Play any one of Mario’s six forays into the third dimension of platforming and you will be met with quality at every turn. It’s easy to break these half-dozen gems into three distinct sub-groups – the hub world-linked, wide-open level platformers (64 and Sunshine), the segmented, fixed-perspective chunks of pure design goodness that are 3D Land and 3D World, and the up, down, all-around head spinning craziness of what many gaming websites have deemed the greatest games of the last console generation (Galaxy and Galaxy 2). For all the widely varying opinions on which of these games is the best, which one takes the greatest advantage of the 3D space, which one is the most enjoyable to play and so on and so forth, the stunning thing for me is how easily I can lump them all into one category of excellence and say with full confidence that each one belongs alongside the other five. I may not have personally enjoyed each one enough to finish it (I’ve only completed 64, Sunshine and 3D World, which are consequently my favourites), but I cannot discount the brilliance behind each tiny aspect of every installment.

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7. Advance Wars

Games: Advance Wars (GBA), Advance Wars 2 (GBA), Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS), Advance Wars: Dark Conflict (DS)

At first glance, Intelligent Systems’ Advance Wars series may look a lot like a modern-day equivalent of its medieval cousin Fire Emblem. After all, both are gridlocked, turn-based strategy game series featuring different unit types with varying strengths and weaknesses. However, the emphasis, tone and gameplay flow are entirely different across the two, and that’s what leads me to prefer the former. There are very few RPG elements in Advance Wars – the focus is placed squarely on your tactical ability to adapt quickly to a constantly changing battlefield, using the unique abilities of your chosen Commanding Officer to turn the tide of a skirmish or break out of a stalemate. These rock-solid tactical foundations burst off the GBA/DS screen with inappropriately vibrant colour and incredibly good music, as the series’ COs trade way-too-lighthearted jibes while felling thousands of enemy soldiers. It’s all very Japanese. IS has seemed reluctant to return to the series for several years now, as following a serious character-wide power creep leading up to Advance Wars: Dual Strike, the series was rebooted into a darker and edgier version of itself with Advance Wars: Dark Conflict in 2008. While the gameplay is arguably even better tuned in that game, the drastic change in aesthetics caused many fans to leave the series, which is a damn shame.

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6. Mario Kart

Games: Super Mario Kart (SNES), Mario Kart 64 (N64), Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA), Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN), Mario Kart DS (DS), Mario Kart Wii (Wii), Mario Kart 7 (3DS), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Mario Kart as a series has held a special place in my heart for as long as I’ve been a gamer – Mario Kart 64 was the game that convinced me to buy a Nintendo 64 console, after all, and Mario Kart DS just might be my favourite DS game of all time (to be confirmed) – yet if I had written this list last year, the franchise would not have placed quite this highly. Still in the Top 10, of course (I mean, come on), but not here. I’ve been a little bit down on the colourful multiplayer juggernaut in recent years, as something about Mario Kart Wii just did not click with me and I didn’t play all that much of Mario Kart 7, despite its exceptionally high quality, because it turns out it’s actually quite hard to get friends together in one place with their 3DS’s. No, the Mario Kart franchise is at Number 6 because of the brilliance that is this year’s Mario Kart 8 – the wonderfully hectic, super-smooth visual feast to which my friends and I have devoted well over 100 hours already. Oh, and also because Mario Kart: Double Dash!! was and still is a standout gaming experience. Lest we forget.

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One response to this post.

  1. I seriously need to find a copy of
    Golden Sun: The Lost Age (GBA)

    Great 10-6, can’t wait for the final countdown 🙂


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