Nintendo has a long tradition of quality video games, especially on handhelds. The original Game Boy, for instance, gave us Tetris, Super Mario Land and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, classics that deserve every player’s attention.
Of course, the Game Boy eventually gave way to Game Boy colour, which was then followed by Game Boy Advance, DS and finally, 3DS. Through it all, the publisher maintained its high level of excellence, delivering remarkable additions to its best selling Mario, Metroid, Zelda and Pokemon franchises.
Fans, meanwhile, were treated to a steady stream of must have titles, triple A products applauded for detailed graphics, impressive audio and gripping gameplay.
On that note, we put together a list of the top 25 handheld Nintendo games of all time. Feel free to sound off in the comments below.
25. Mario Tennis: Power Tour (Game Boy Advance)
Mario Tennis for Game Boy colour is a stellar offering, but we prefer the supped up GBA sequel, which contains a variety of shots (Offensive and Defensive Power Shots) and a cool story mode that sends some youngsters through a tennis academy to play a shadowy figure that just so happens to be Nintendo’s plumber.
24. Mario Golf: Advance Tour (Game Boy Advance)
Be sure to hit the links in Nintendo’s well designed sports game, complete with four different clubs to visit, a Custom Club Shop and most importantly, highly entertaining gameplay, complete with pass and play multiplayer.
23. Tetris DS (DS)
We’ll always have a soft spot for the 1989 Game Boy Tetris, but it just cannot compare to Nintendo’s DS edition. Not only do you receive the original block falling classic, but also new game types built around classic Nintendo franchises like Super Mario Bros. and Metroid. What’s more, 10 players can battle on a single cart. Too bad it’s out of print.
22. Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (Game Boy colour)
If you intend to play Super Mario Bros. on consoles, go with the Super Mario All-Stars version. If all you have is a Game Boy colour (or Game Boy Advance), Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is ideal. Although the graphics remain unchanged, Nintendo added the ability to look up and down, an over world map (ala Super Mario Bros. 3), an object finding mini game and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, the original SMB2 in Japan.
21. Metroid: Zero Mission (Game Boy Advance)
Classics never die. They just get an extreme makeover. Metroid: Zero Mission is in fact a remake of the original NES Metroid, retelling the story of bounty hunter Samus Aran’s fight against the evil Mother Brain. We’ll gladly take this version over its 8-bit counterpart, with superior graphics, enhanced audio, new items, areas to explore and bosses to kill.
20. Super Mario 64 DS (DS)
The DS launch would have been disastrous had it not been for Super Mario 64 DS. Nintendo’s celebrated N64 title made a solid transition to the touch screen handheld, even without a true analogue stick to control Mario and the other playable characters. Weird thumb strap aside, this was the same cherished hit we knew and loved, but with mini-games and wireless multiplayer to boot.
19. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons (Game Boy colour)
Capcom teamed with Nintendo to release two separate Zelda games that have Link controlling time and manipulating seasons, respectively. With two different stories and connectivity between both games, it was tough owning just one.
18. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance)
In a classic case of honey, we shrunk the Link, the legendary hero uses a magical cap to turn into a pint sized adventurer, where he interacts with a tiny race of people and sees things from a whole other perspective.
17. Pokemon: HeartGold/SoulSilver (DS)
16. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (DS)
To be fair, Phantom Hourglass was a tough act to follow, and Nintendo did a fine job doing just that with Spirit Tracks. This time, Link docked his boat and commanded a powerful steam engine, as players plotted a course while using the locomotive’s cannon to clear debris and enemies off the track. Link also has access to new items like the whip, and can control a hulking Phantom to complete puzzles.
15. Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island (Game Boy Advance)
The original Yoshi’s Island was a breath of fresh air. Rather than create yet another Mario title, Nintendo gave his dinosaur pal the starring role, then tasked Yoshi with protecting a baby Mario at all times. This intriguing babysitting mechanic, coupled with the gorgeous pastel shaded graphics and equally beautiful music, make this portable nirvana.
14. WarioWare: Twisted! (Game Boy Advance)
Nintendo’s critically acclaimed WarioWare series peaked with the superb Twisted, which worked in tandem with a gyro sensor built into the cartridge. Players completed a variety of mini games by physically tilting the GBA, shaving a man’s beard or using a piece of glass to direct a beam of light into a monster, zapping it. These entertaining activities, combined with a plethora of addictive side games, made Twisted a joy to play.
13. Metroid Fusion (Game Boy Advance)
We knew Metroid Fusion was in great hands the moment Nintendo revealed that the Super Metroid team was designing it. As expected, those talented folks delivered one of the finest 2D adventures of all time, a game that encompassed everything we loved about the Metroid series, from incredibly detailed sprites to classic non-linear play with new features, such as the ability to absorb X Parasites and link to Metroid Prime on GameCube.
12. Advance Wars (Game Boy Advance)
This is without question one of the finest turn based games every conceived, a title so massive in scope that its tutorial feels like a separate adventure. Bottom line, we loved every second of Advance Wars, strategically moving our units into place and then engaging the enemy, watching cute army men battle in short but sweet cut scenes.
11. Donkey Kong (Game Boy, 3DS)
More like Donkey Kong on steroids. This Game Boy smash hit begins like the arcade original before giving way to 97 imaginatively designed courses that task players with locating a key to proceed to the next stage, moving one step closer to rescuing the lovely Pauline and putting an end to DK’s shenanigans.
10. Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World (Game Boy Advance)
The Super Mario Advance series was all over the place. Nintendo kicked things off with a port of Super Mario Bros. 2, then followed that up with SNES Super Mario World.
Not that we complained, of course. What negative things could we say about the million selling title that catapulted the Super Nintendo up the sales charts? Besides, it marked Yoshi’s debut. Two dimensional bliss.
9. Pokemon Black and White (DS)
Pokemon has a fine handheld resume, and choosing the best of the best is tough. In the end, we chose Black and White because, while continuing the tried and true formula that made the series popular, the developers improved the experience with over a 150 new Pokemon, a seasonal cycle and streamlined online connectivity.
8. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)
Link made a grand DS entrance with Phantom Hourglass, which is in some ways an extension of Twilight Princess on the GameCube. Nintendo kept the cell shaded 3D graphics and the sailing mechanics, but sprinkled the game with new features like touch screen combat and a new story.
7. New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
Super Mario 64 DS was a fine port of the N64 classic, but fans craved a new Mario adventure, which Nintendo delivered with thisoutstanding 2D platformer that mixed old conventions (stomping goombas, grabbing fire flowers) with sharp looking graphics and new features, including three gold coins to collect per stage and the Super Mushroom that transformed the plumber into a giant.
6. Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)
Black Hole was up to no good (as always) in this spirited DS Advance Wars, a game that played similar to the original GBA effort but upped the proverbial ante with new units, new modes (Survival and Combat) and the coolest feature of all, dual screen play, where two battles occur simultaneously. Tough to find in stores, but so worth it.
5. Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 (Game Boy Advance)
Nintendo concluded the stellar Super Mario Advance series with arguably the finest adventure of all time, the memorable Super Mario Bros. 3, except this was a port of the superior SNES edition, complete with re-mastered graphics and the inclusion of the original Mario Bros. arcade game. Warp whistles, the Tanooki suit, Giant Land…just a few of many reasons why this title is among Nintendo’s best achievements.
4. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (DS)
If this is the final Mario & Luigi RPG, what a way to end the trilogy. This light-hearted and fun romp tosses the Mario Bros. inside their arch nemesis, Bowser, where they must battle enemies while navigating his insides. Meanwhile, players switch from the plumbers to the irritable monster. Smart writing and simple time-based combat makes Bowser’s Inside Story one of the DS’ best.
3. Mario Kart DS (DS)
Few games have the staying power of Mario Kart DS, a racer so beloved that Nintendo fans still play it six years later. Probably has something to do with the colourful 3D visuals, tight controls and, most importantly, online play.
2. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (Game Boy Advance)
Nintendo took its mascot in a new direction with Paper Mario on N64, and continued the light-hearted adventuring in the first Mario & Luigi, Superstar Saga for GBA. We adored the characters, hilarious dialogue and time-based fights. Phenomenal game.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS)
This is a textbook example on how to do a remake. Nintendo took the already perfect The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and spruced it up for a new generation, with better graphics, gyroscope support (to look, aim Link’s slingshot) and a streamlined touch screen interface that keeps players in the game at all times. You cannot call yourself a true Nintendo fan without experiencing it.
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