GameCentral readers try to decide what is the best exclusive game to appear on a Nintendo console, from Advance Wars to The Legend Of Zelda.
Following similar topics for the best PlayStation and Xbox exclusives, this weekend’s Inbox turns its attention to Nintendo and their storied selection of classics. Although any game was eligible as long as it had at some point been exclusive to a Nintendo console.
There certainly wasn’t any shortage of different suggestions, although it was interesting – and a healthy sign for Nintendo themselves – that more recent games such as Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Super Mario Galaxy 2 dominated, with Zelda: A Link To The Past the most popular retro pick.
Reaching the summit
Picking the best Nintendo exclusive is like diving of the top of Mount Everest into an ocean of excellence. There’s so much to choose from it seems unfair to choose one game. However, for me, one game stands above all other games on any format ever and that’s Zelda: Ocarina Of Time.
I’ve written in many times before regarding the almost spiritual experience I had playing it. I gave months of my life to working my way slowly through it bit by bit. It became a bit of an obsession, to be honest, and me messing up my GCSEs felt like a fair deal for the majesty of the Water Temple alone. All I could think about in those months was the game.
I remember the supreme feeling of achievement I got on completion, mixed with a real feeling of sadness that it was over. I think part of me realised that this was the final passing part of my childhood. Never felt that in a game again until The Last Of Us. I know it’s probably a little obvious, but sometimes you just have to take a step back and kneel at the altar of Nintendo’s greatness. For me no one comes close when they bring their A-game.
The Force is with it
The impossible question. Due to being some of the best home entertainment ever created I’m going to stay away from Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, and Metroid. Even taking these out there’s so many second-tier games/franchises that could be number one, i.e. F-Zero, GoldenEye 007, Smash Bros. or Donkey Kong… the list goes on and on.
Sticking with my recent Star Wars theme I’m going to say Rogue Squadron and Rogue Leader – the less said about III the better – as for the time they were state of the art on N64 and GameCube, respectively. Why there’s never been a fourth is beyond me as they were good sellers, I believe, selling a few million each. The closest we’ve had since is the best but short-lived bits of Battlefront II. I also remember reading that Factor 5 have come back into existence so you never know…
I’ll also give a special shout to Sin And Punishment on the Wii, bought on the back of the GC review and still one of my favourite games.
The obvious, and probably correct, answers to ‘best Nintendo exclusive’ are surely first party titles like your Super Marios and your Zeldas. But I’d like to give a shout-out to a third party game, and what many would still call the greatest wrestling game ever made: WWF No Mercy on the N64.
Nothing had better simulated what pro wrestling would be if it were a competitive sport, while at the same time representing the madcap entertainment and unique presentation of that era. The satisfaction of those in-ring mechanics, partnered with a branching story mode, the ability to customise any wrestler (The Undertaker with pink trunks and The Godfather’s entrance music? Why not!), and the option to powerbomb Vince McMahon through a pool table made No Mercy endlessly replayable.
To me, the only game in the genre that’s ever rivalled this mix of ‘authentic’ gameplay and freedom has been WWE SmackDown: Here Comes The Pain on PlayStation 2, but the debate rages over which is truly better. Nowadays of course, the sequels to these games are released on every format going, but in the late nineties and early noughties, each console would have its own distinct variant and their respective quality would determine my hardware choices for both those generations.
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The Great Wars
Just in case nobody else mentions it my favourite Nintendo exclusive is Advance Wars on the Game Boy Advance. As GC themselves has said it is a perfect game, and while the sequels are all good none have the simplicity and perfect balance of that original game (well, technically in it’s not the first in the series, but it’s the first we saw in the West).
Unfortunately the game’s simple graphics means it’s difficult to make a modern version and charge full price, and while I keep hoping there’ll be some kind of Fire Emblem style revival it never happens. Although, really, I don’t want to keep stopping the game ever 15 minutes for stupid anime cut scenes.
I’m not saying it’s the best game Nintendo has ever made but it is my favourite. But then how do you ever chose which is the best given their unparalleled history of classic after classic. Whenever you see a list of the best games ever it’s always dominated by Nintendo games and with good reason. As far as I’m concerned the whole games industry could disappear tomorrow and as long as Nintendo still survived I’d be perfectly happy. Even if it might be a bit of a wait between releases!
For me the best Nintendo exclusive is Super Mario Galaxy 2. Not only is it my favourite Nintendo exclusive it is my favourite game, playing it is just pure joy from start to finish.
Even though the Wii was hugely successful Galaxy 2 was not remotely influential. Wii Sports was the system seller, not either of the Galaxy games. The Galaxy games were not even the highest selling Mario games and sold far fewer copies than New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This meant Nintendo prioritised accessibility in their following Mario games for the Wii U and lost some of the inventiveness.
I personally think the best exclusive Nintendo game ever is Super Mario Odyssey, as it is one of the best games ever. It is original and fun to play. Everything about the game is brilliant, the pacing is very good, finding all the power moons is quite hard but not impossible, the costumes Mario can wear are also brilliant, such as the Mario 64 suit. The extras are very good too, including meeting Yoshi in the Mushroom Kingdom. The Cappy feature is brilliant and never gets old capturing monsters to reach places or defeat other enemies.
The locations are of a good variety, such as New Donk City and the Snow Kingdom. My personal favourite is the Seaside Kingdom. The graphics are brilliant, the portability is brilliant. The best Mario game ever and possibly the best game ever. Nintendo at their masterpiece best.
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Best of the best
Best Nintendo exclusive is no easier a question for me than best game, full stop. The only platform of theirs where I don’t think there are at least two or three legitimate exclusive candidates for best game ever made is probably the Virtual Boy. Well maybe the original DS too, if I’m being honest.
‘Best’ is a difficult adjective here, in the sense that the Nintendo exclusive I’d probably most enjoy playing right now might differ from the one I think is the most timeless and perfect. Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Super Mario Odyssey fall into the former camp.
Odyssey was my top game of 2017 at the time, mainly because I couldn’t think of much it could improve upon and I had a list of flaws in Breath Of The Wild that was as long as my arm. I completely disagree with any claims that Odyssey was overrated despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to come up in conversation too often nowadays (at least compared to Breath Of The Wild). It’s my favourite Mario game ever, though, for reasons I went into in more depth in a two-part feature a while ago.
To this day I still struggle to place it above Breath Of The Wild, though, as that game not only aimed to achieve so much in terms of interactivity and worthwhile environmental detail compared to any other game, it mostly succeeded.
People expressed concerns about Zelda just becoming another open world franchise in a generation that was oversaturated with them, but I always had faith that it would be more about what Zelda could bring to open world gaming than what open worlds could bring to the series. I never imagined it would do so in the form of layered logic and physics systems that encouraged and rewarded experimentation, discovery and play in such an unprecedented way.
If I consider ‘best’ to mean the most timelessly perfect, though, so I’d have to say Zelda: A Link To The Past. I only need to consider just about every game that came before it to see how incredible it was to have existed at that time and other than the fact that it’s best ideas have probably been overused by others now, there’s not a single aspect that doesn’t work as well today as it did back then. Even the visuals and sound hold up today.
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