It’s National Video Game Day! Who would have known that this was an actual thing? Honestly I’m pretty sure this isn’t a nationally sanctioned holiday, but who cares! It sounds like a great excuse to sit around all day playing some classic Nintendo games! In honor of this historic holiday, I have created for you, the Nintendo gamer, a complete list of games you need to play to properly celebrate this day (or week… I’m publishing this around 8 Eastern Time so you may be reading this after National Video Game Day! Maybe month is more appropriate… some of these games are long.) I’ve selected one game from each system that I feel any Nintendo fan worth their salt needs to play, and hope to convince you to check them out if you haven’t already. Ready? Let’s start with the home consoles and the NES. Happy National Video Game Day!
NES: Super Mario Bros.
Alright, this one is a pretty clear choice. If you are a Nintendo fan, or a fan of oxygen, you need to play this at least once in your life. I truly feel it should be a requirement in society. You shouldn’t be able to go away to college, pass your drivers test or get married if you haven’t beaten this game! Not only is it a staple in our culture, but it’s also one of the greatest video games ever made.
While not a tight as Mario games today, Super Mario Bros. for the original NES still holds up as a great game to revisit. It’s challenging at times, but almost always fair. Anyone can play it and feel at least somewhat competent, and experts can challenge themselves by attempting speed runs or one life challenges. At the end of the day, all gamers should play this game at least once. No video game has had the world-wide impact that Super Mario Bros. had, and I’ll bet a whole lot of money that no other ever will. It’s the ultimate National Video Game Day game!
Other Choices: Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario: The Lost Levels, Duck Hunt, Yoshi’s Cookie
I’m jumping from common to extremely uncommon very quickly here. Everyone alive has at least heard of Super Mario Bros., but Earthbound is a different story. This quirky RPG for the Super Nintendo features that random character everyone hated in Smash 64 because they didn’t know what game he came from. Ness, the baseball bat wielding psychic, stars in this adventure featuring everything from aggressive hippies to zombies and circus tents that can fight. As absurd as some of the enemies are, this game is easily one of the most heart wrenching and thoughtful experiences the gaming world has to offer. I cried at the end, I’ll be completely honest.
The game satirized American culture and still makes relevant points today. Ness meets a corrupt mayor focused on his re-election campaign, a cult bent on painting the world blue, and a criminal who turns out to be a great ally. Despite the limitations of the SNES, Earthbound does an excellent job of painting the picture of its world. Ness is the innocent child leaving home to explore the world. He finds so many deplorable characters, but is too innocent to even notice in some cases. Still, he helps everyone he sees and ultimately saves the world by trusting in his friends and taking strength from the love others have given him.
Earthbound is a game about friendship, love and innocence. While there may be other RPGs with better gameplay (although Earthbound is personally my favorite in that department as well), no other game has the heart of this one. Earthbound is my favorite game ever, and everyone needs to play it. Fortunately, you don’t need to shell out 200 bucks on Ebay anymore to get it. It’s available on Wii U and 3DS virtual console.
Other Choices: Super Mario RPG, Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country 2, Yoshi’s Island, Star Fox
Alright, I know this isn’t technically a Nintendo game, but it did launch exclusively on the N64 at the time of release. And heck, we’re doing this for National Video Game day. This is a time of equal opportunity for all video games! Mario 64 was too predictable, Donkey Kong 64 is God-like, but Banjo Kazooie is the best 3D platformer the N64 had to offer. The game is undoubtably a Top 10 of all-time in my book, and I can’t think of 3D platformer that has captured the magic that this once has since its release.
The game doesn’t really have much of a plot… The comedic villain Gruntilda has kidnapped your sister to steal her beauty and Banjo and his smart mouthed friend Kazooie must save her. In what would become a staple of Rare games, the witty dialogue makes this game’s characters stand out. This was really taken to the next level in Banjo Tooie, another gem, but the blueprint was laid here.
If you like collecting things, exploring expansive levels and are a completionist, Banjo Kazooie will not fail you. There are 5 jinjos to find in every level, 10 jiggys and 100 notes. Tokens needed to transform into various creatures can be hard to find, but are scattered everywhere. Empty honey combs, two in each level, give you extra health when you collect 6. New moves are hidden throughout each of the games worlds, and a hard to find book called “Cheato” gives you some power ups that make the game easier. There’s just so much to find and do in Banjo Kazooie. It’s an amazing game, and every time I think about I feel myself getting more and more pumped for its spiritual successor Yooka-Laylee.
Other Choices: Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Banjo Tooie, DK 64, Mario Party 2, Super Smash Bros 64, Star Fox 64, Mario 64
Gamecube: Mario Kart Double Dash
Why not get your friends involved in your month long celebration of National Video Game Day? Mario Kart: Double Dash! was by far the best Mario Kart released until MK8 for Wii U. The idea of teaming up with two racers was more than just a gimmick. It changed the way you raced.
The extra person on the back of the kart changed the way driving felt, but it’s true innovation came when playing with friends. I have so many great memories of playing this game with my best friends growing up, yelling at each other as we barked out commands. Never did video game driving feel more real… the arguments were just like listening to my parents! “You missed the turn! You’re going too slow! Here, just let me drive!” The comedy was always off the charts. Eventually, my partner just gave up and decided he liked throwing items more than driving anyway. We never lost from that point on…
I also really liked the idea of mixing and matching teammates for each race. Rivalries developed in our little circle. I was a Baby Mario/Toad type of guy, while my older brother preferred Donkey Kong and Luigi. The bad blood between teams spilled over into our characters… we genuinely took pride in our racing duos. Mario Kart: Double Dash is a classic friendship builder/breaker. I can’t recommend it highly enough!
Other Choices: Fire Emblem Path of Radiance, Luigi’s Mansion, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Wind Waker, Metroid Prime
Wii: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
This might be controversial, but I had Twilight Princess for Wii. I’m going to count it as a Wii game for that reason, although I guess you could put it in the Gamecube section. Regardless, this is one of the best Zelda games ever made. It took what Ocarina of Time did right and expanded on it. The game was bigger, the graphics more beautiful and the characters more fleshed out. This is the ultimate classic 3D Zelda Experience.
I say that not because I think it’s the best Zelda game. It’s not. Ocarina of Time is and always will be the best Zelda game ever made. At least in some way, it will always have some claim to that title. Like the original Super Mario Bros., Ocarina of Time changed the gaming landscape. It told a compelling story, was an entirely open world RPG and captured the imagination of a generation. But Twilight Princess is actually superior in terms of raw gameplay. This doesn’t make it better, the innovations in OoT put it over the top, but it does make it the ultimate 3D Zelda experience.
I could keep going and flesh that idea out more, and maybe I will some day, but let’s just talk about how great this game is for a minute. It’s characters are the best the series has to offer. The world building is strong, as you really feel like Hyrule is one big connected place for the first time. Wolf Link, while on the surface a poor idea, actually was a brilliant add to the Zelda formula. The combat was always different depending on which Link you were, and it fit in perfectly with the game’s darker tone. This is a mature Zelda game, filled with tense moments and heartbreaking drama. Twilight Princess was an incredible game, and it was the best the Wii had to offer.
Other Choices: Donkey Kong Country Returns, Mario Galaxy, Mario Galaxy 2, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland
Wii U: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
The ultimate multiplayer experience, Super Smash Bros. has become nearly as iconic as Mario. Super Smash Bros for Wii U is the best in the series by a long shot. It’s massive selection of unique fighters, crazy amount of single-player content and shockingly complex fighting mechanics make this the best game for Wii U. Whether you’re playing with items, or on Final Destination no items only, playing this will only result in fun.
At its core, Super Smash Bros is a multiplayer experience. There’s no better way to enjoy the game than calling over some friends and duking it out. Still, Smash 4 offers excellent online play to allow combatants to test their skills globally. It also has hundreds on single player collectables, challenges and mini games to enjoy. You can take on Classic mode, try to collect all the games trophies in Trophy Rush or fight through the difficult event battles. Custom fighters appear for the first time, letting you deck out your character however you so desire. The craziness the series is known for hasn’t gone anywhere in the latest entry, although the hardcore fighting has never been better.
That’s how I like to enjoy Smash Bros. I round up my friends, sit them in front of the TV, and we fight. No items, only a few stages. Smash 4 doesn’t have the same exploitable bugs that Melee has, but it still has plenty of advanced skills for players to master. You could spend hundreds of hours playing this game and still hardly scratch the surface of its content. I play the heck out of Marth, and I’m pretty good with him, but give me Fox and I’m worse than a noob. Mastering every character’s play style could take years, and that’s what makes this game so brilliant. It’s a must own for any fighting game fan, and a must play on National Video Game Day!
Other Choices: Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Yoshi’s Wooly World.
Gameboy: Pokemon Red/Blue
Maybe you’re more of the handheld type. I know I’m growing to be. Much like Super Mario Bros., Pokemon’s first generation is a must play for any true Nintendo fan. I acknowledged this, and that’s why I recently downloaded it on my 3DS a few weeks back. Never had I played the first generation of Pokemon, and honestly I didn’t really feel I needed to. But then it struck me… what type of Nintendo fan hasn’t played Pokemon Red?!
Gen I (Red, Blue and Yellow) is far more simple than the newer games. There are only 151 Pokemon, most of which you’ll catch naturally, and a much smaller moves pool for each mon. You can only use TMs once, and HMs are impossible to forget. While some of these things are frustrating, they don’t really hold back this classic experience. The thrill of evolving a Pokemon and the joy of catching a legendary… all of the series staples started in Kanto. If you’re a Nintendo fan, you need to play this gym. Oh, and it helps to know all of the gym leaders names. Basic Pokemon trivia is critical in most Nintendo circles! Be sure to get the jump on this one during National Video Game Day (month…)!
Other Choices: Super Mario Land 2, Tetris, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Kirby’s Dreamland
Gameboy Advance: Fire Emblem
I love Fire Emblem. That’s a well documented fact. It says so under every article I write on this site! But there’s no doubt that Fire Emblem has quickly become a prominent Nintendo franchise that all fans must at the very least understand. The series launched into profitability with Awakening, but Fire Emblem for Gameboy remains one of the best titles in the series.
Fire Emblem is a strategy RPG where you control an army of troops in battle. You pick your units, deploy them on the medieval battlefield, and attempt to achieve a goal. Sometimes that’s routing the enemy, others its pressing three switches and escaping a burning building. Each map is different, and that’s what makes Fire Emblem so addicting. There are so many ways to accomplish your objective, and you the player get to decide how to do it. Personally, I like flying units and other mobile fighters. Others in my circle, however, prefer the safety of high defense knights.
Permadeath, where your units who die stay dead for the entire game, is a scary concept but one any Fire Emblem fan learns to love. Since the game’s characters are so well fleshed out, players feel a connection to them. Fearing their death makes every choice a difficult one, and it forces you to think through your battle strategy. Fire Emblem is my favorite Nintendo series, and playing its first entry is a must for a true Nintendo fan. You can get it on the Wii U virtual console as well as on Ebay!
Other Choices: Mario and Luigi: Super Star Saga, Wario Land 4, Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap, Metroid Fusion
Nintendo DS: Mario and Luigi Partners in Time
The Mario RPG series for handheld has been a consistently great franchise for Nintendo. Super Star Saga, which I believe is one of the best games launched on the Gameboy Advance, was a smash hit critically. Bowser’s Inside Story gets most of the headlines out of the two DS entries, but I feel that Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time deserves respect as well.
Nintendo fans really should play this game. It’s got some pretty strong plot twists, a groovy time travel mechanic, and features Baby Mario and Luigi! The gameplay is a solid improvement upon the foundation laid by Super Star Saga. Crazy Bros. attacks can be quite the damage dealing spectacle, and battles are always action packed. If memory serves, this game actually has some pretty difficult battles as well. It’s final boss is really tough, and the little surprise fight at the end was a nice touch.
RPG fans should take a look at this game. It’s definitely an under the radar classic, and those should be celebrated on National Video Game Day!
3DS: Kid Icarus Uprising
Pit’s return to the gaming world, courtesy of Masahiro Sakurai, remains one of the most polarizing 3DS games to date. For some, the tricky controls prove too frustrating. For others, like myself, it’s a classic right up there with the best of the 3DS’s incredible catalogue. That alone makes it worthy of a play-through- you might be surprised to find it’s one of the best action games in years.
Once you figure out the control scheme, which I personally found to be fantastic, you’ll find that Kid Icarus: Uprising is so packed with charm that it’s impossible not to love. The banter between Pit, Palutena, Viridi and Hades is extremely entertaining, especially in the later levels. There are plot twists, cool characters, countless weapons with varying strengths and a ton of things to do in this gem. One of my proudest gaming achievements came from beating every level on the brutal 9.0 difficulty. It’s tough, but doable with practice!
Other Choices: Fire Emblem: Awakening, Fire Emblem: Fates, Mario and Luigi: Dream Team, Bravely Default (not Nintendo, but awesome nonetheless), Pokemon X/Y
Well, there you have it folks! A complete guide to the Nintendo games you should play to celebrate National Video Game Day. It took me nearly all day to write this, so let’s just officially call it National Video Game Month. If you’re a Nintendo fan, I do hope you check out some of these titles. They’re all worthy of your attention, and playing them will undoubtedly make you a more experienced and well versed Nintendo fan! Thanks for reading!