Top 10 Nintendo Franchises

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There's nothing quite like Nintendo franchises in the video game industry. It's why the Japanese giant continues to publish on their own systems -- there's a huge variety of games that simply can't be found on other consoles or the PC.

The reason for why the rankings are as they are is a combination of popularity, sales, and the historic value of the series. Each of these franchises own a piece of history that will be stored in Nintendo's vault and be treasured for the rest of time. Generations will pass, and with each new one that comes, they'll get to admire where not only it all began, but the legendary chapters since.

Enjoy a ranking of the best 10 Nintendo franchises of all time, and debate which you think should be higher or lower on the chart, or if you believe a franchise has been left out.

10. Super Smash Bros.

Series highlights:

  • Super Smash Bros. (Nintendo 64 - 1999)
  • Super Smash Bros. Melee (Gamecube - 2001)
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii - 2008)

Who knew that putting Nintendo mascots in one big four player brawlfest would have become so popular? The series kicked off with the insanely fun N64 debut, but the series hit its high point with SSB: Melee, a game that ruled dorms and parties throughout the turn of the millennium and partly why the Gamecube was as successful as it got. For a series that just has three titles, selling over 22 million copies is a true testament to how fun the game is.

9. Mario Sports

Series highlights:

  • NES Open (NES - 1991)
  • Mario Tennis (N64 - 2000)
  • Mario Super Sluggers (Wii - 2008)

Realistic sports are a blast to play, but sometimes it's fun to add a little bit of craziness to it. Midway had the infamous NBA Jam and NFL Blitz titles, but Nintendo added their own spin with their most popular mascot and his friends. From the NES to the Wii U, Nintendo has always had a wide variety of sports titles featuring the plumber.

Just trying to narrow it down to three titles is next to impossible. Outside of a solid football title, a popular North American sport, if there's any sport that you want to enjoy on a Nintendo console, a game with the mustached mascot will generally exceed expectations.

8. Wii Sports

Series highlights:

  • Wii Sports (Wii - 2006)
  • Wii Sports Resort (Wii - 2008)
  • Wii Sports Club (Wii U - 2013)

Not many people would immediately think about Wii Sports as a franchise, but it's one of Nintendo's most successful games in history. The packaged add-on to the Wii console generated so much conversation that the franchise itself has sold over 109 million copies. Wii Sports was essentially a demo of what the Wii could do in its early stages. Unfortunately, the revolutionary machine couldn't do much past it, and gamers preferred the traditional controller over the Wiimote and Nunchuck combination.

Still, the original five-sport demo was a blast to pop in whenever you were bored, and the sequel was just as fun with the additional games and play modes -- regardless of how simplified they are. Don't tell me there weren't multiple playthroughs of the 3-point challenge in basketball in Wii Sports Resort!

7. Metroid

Series highlights:

  • Super Metroid (Super Nintendo - 1994)
  • Metroid II: Return of Samus (Game Boy - 1991)
  • Metroid Prime (Gamecube - 2002)

It wasn't the best selling Nintendo franchise, but it featured one of the company's most unique and great games. One of the best platformer titles of all time -- Super Metroid -- is a game that many tried to mimic but couldn't duplicate. Even the jump to a first-person shooter felt comfortable because it didn't feel forced, weird, or much different from the predecessors.

Metroid deserves to sit next to all the other popular Nintendo franchises. It won't be the first that comes off the tongue, but it may have had some of the best games ever created under the company's umbrella.

6. Mario Party

Series highlights:

  • Mario Party 3 (N64 - 2001)
  • Mario Party 5 (Gamecube - 2003)
  • Mario Party 8 (Wii - 2007)

Agreed, there's very few Nintendo franchises as uninventive as Mario Party, but I'll be damned if it isn't one of the most fun. Any game will test the patience of any video game player that truly says they don't get pissed if things aren't going their way in a multiplayer contest.

Despite just having numbers after the titles, each game does have their own feel and uniqueness that fans will be asking for their favorite at a party. Ever have some buddies over and trying to figure out what to do with a case of beer? It doesn't get much better than a round of Mario Party.

5. Donkey Kong Country

Series highlights:

  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (Super Nintendo - 1995)
  • Donkey Kong 64 (N64 - 1999)
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii - 2010)

The Super Nintendo trilogy was one of the most beautiful looking games in the 16-bit era, and while some didn't love the transition to a 3D platformer, the series ultimately fell to a sudden halt after Rare bolted to Microsoft.

It made a triumphant return nearly 10 years later on the Wii with one of the hardest remakes in the franchise. DKC Returns will give absolutely anybody fits, even the masters of the original platformer during the SNES era. Even though DK64 has its place in history, it's hard to say this franchise doesn't thrive on its 2D brilliance.

4. Mario Kart

Series highlights:

  • Mario Kart 64 (N64 - 1997)
  • Mario Kart Wii (Wii - 2008)
  • Mario Kart 7 (3DS - 2011)

What was played before Super Smash Bros. ruled the college dorms? Nintendo 64's rendition of the Mario Kart franchise. MK64 is widely hailed as the franchise's high point, and the sequels have since kept up with its formula with the music, sounds, and familiar tracks.

The Mario Kart franchise is the second-best selling product under the Mario umbrella with over 100 million copies, topping Madden, Assassins' Creed, and even the realistic racer, Gran Turismo.

3. Pokemon

Series highlights:

  • Pokemon Red/Blue (Game Boy - 1998)
  • Pokemon Yellow (GB Color - 2000)
  • Pokemon Crystal (GB Color - 2001)

You can't deny Nintendo's most infamous small mascots. It's hard to keep track of them all -- especially since they branched out and don't try to play cross-country games. The original concept of having 150 total monsters and needing to play two games and trade with others playing a different cartridge was ideal -- even though you left with no points.

There's only one franchise -- Pokemon -- that's sold over 260 million total titles in the franchise.

2. The Legend of Zelda

Series highlights:

  • A Link to the Past (Super NES - 1991)
  • Ocarina of Time (N64 - 1998)
  • Wind Waker HD (Wii U - 2013)

What else did you expect? We've barely talked about the top-down action adventure with a hint of RPG elements, but it's exactly what the doctor orders after a long week. The long quests featuring Link are both legendary and unique. While the series has gotten a tad stale with the same names again and again, changing things will help them in the long run.

Ocarina of Time, the first title on N64, is regarded by some (including me) as the best game ever created. Every title's been a stellar hit, but when the games kick ass, you can easily be talked out of it.

1. Super Mario

Series highlights:

  • Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES - 1990)
  • Super Mario World (SNES - 1991)
  • Super Mario Galaxy (Wii - 2007)

What did you expect? Nintendo's favorite plumber is not only their most successful mascot, but it's the most popular. Super Mario titles have sold well and Nintendo has no problems throwing the mascot on a game that may not sell as much, but Mario will spawn title sales.

Whatever their last names are, both Mario and Luigi deserve getting some props. They've been a part of the Nintendo franchise from the beginning, and it will never dissolve.

Published Sep. 28th 2014

Featured Correspondent

Freelance video game and sports writer. I'm the guy who picks Saints Row over Grand Theft Auto. Mario is my idol.

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