Nintendo is known for a great many things including delivering some of the best games we have ever had the pleasure of playing but they can also be criticized for relying a bit too strongly on their established IP’s. So for this week’s Top 10 we decided to give some credit to Nintendo’s smaller games, the games that don’t have the luxury of a Mario or Link gracing their cover to try to win us over. To determine which games are ‘small enough’, our methodology is actually quite simple – if the game’s main character is playable in Smash Bros., then no games in their series can be included (including spinoffs). Oh and to keep things fair we also excluded Splatoon from the running as that just wouldn’t be fair to the other nine games on this list.
10 – BattleClash
You don’t hear a lot of nice things about the Super Scope, in fact we disliked it so much we named it our 6th worst game controller of all time, but that’s mostly due to the bazooka’s freakish size and ability to chug AA batteries like a frat boy goes through beer and not because of the games you could play with it. Both BattleClash and its sequel, Metal Combat are excellent arcade shooters that will push your skills to the limit as you blast your way through its post-apocalyptic world in your ST (Standing Tank). I honestly hope Nintendo hasn’t completely forgotten this series as the potential for the franchise is through the roof what with its cool setting and art style.
9 – StarTropics
StarTropics is often described as Zelda if Zelda had worse controls, and while that’s not totally wrong (if the controls were better it would move up a couple of spots on this list), StarTropics is so much more than a Zelda clone. Mike Jones’ quest to rescue his uncle from monsters and evil aliens is both a lighter, more humorous take on the genre and a hefty challenge that rivals Zelda II as the NES’ most challenging action/adventure title. That and the gameplay, which again I wish controlled better, has its own unique charm that helps the game stand out especially when compared to the original Legend of Zelda.
8 – Art Style: Rotozoa
The Art Style series hit the WiiWare and DSiWare at a fast and furious pace in the late 00’s with a dozen titles being released in a short amount of time. But just as fast as it came it was gone and we haven’t heard a peep from it since, which is a real shame because some of the games in the series were truly excellent. Case in point, Art Style: Rotozoa, a game where you, an amoeba type… thing, must keep growing by absorbing colored microbes into the appropriate section of your body. It might sound simple but once the difficulty ramps up and you start to get a grip of the physics involved you have a recipe for one of the most challenging and addicting games that WiiWare has ever seen.
7 – 1080º Avalanche
I’ll let you all in on a little secret about me. I suck at snowboarding. That’s not to say I won’t hot the slopes every winter but man… am I bad at it. So thank goodness there’s a game like 1080º Avalanche out there to make me feel better about my lack of boarding skills. Featuring amazingly slick controls, fun arcady-extras and a soundtrack that was surprisingly full of great licensed tracks for a Nintendo game (I mean if you like Seether and Finger Eleven) this was the GameCube’s premiere extreme-sports game and I really hope Nintendo decides to revisit the series at some point on the Switch, so I can keep on pretending I know what I’m doing on the hill.
6 – Wave Race 64
Hey! Weren’t we just talking about how great Wave Race is? Well let’s do that some more! Wave Race 64 was one of the games I only ended up picking up later in the Nintendo 64’s life but even though newer games were coming out I still manage to put dozens of hours into this aquajet racer, mastering each course and trying to find all the secrets the game had to offer. I still think you’d be hard pressed to find better water physics in a racing game and want to repeat my calls for Nintendo to make a new Wave Race for the Switch.
5 – Elite Beat Agents
Beloved by man, played by very few is probably the best way to describe Elite Beat Agents. This little DS game that could charmed everyone who picked it up with its fun, toe-tapping gameplay. However despite the warm reception the game sold rather poorly and since then we’ve heard nary a peep from this series and I think it would be along shot to expect it to make a return anytime soon.
4 – Excitebots: Trick Racing
While I had many ‘Excite’ titles to choose from for this list I decided to give some time in the spotlight to my personal favorite game the series but one that many seemed to have overlooked. Excitebots: Trick Racing for the Wii combines the fast paced action/racing of its predecessor, ExciteTruck but adds in wacky, mini-game style antics throughout the race like trying to score a goal in soccer or hit a strike bowling. Its weird and its a little dumb but its an all around good time that I hope we get to see again.
3 – Arms
The newest game to make our list Arms was one of the first brand new Switch titles revealed and has, in a short amount of time, become one of the system’s earliest hits selling over 1.4 million copies according to Nintendo. And its easy to see why as the game mixes both complex and deep controls with a simple arcade-like feel that helps the game feel akin to another major Nintendo fighting series. Maybe in a few years, if we decide to revisit this list we won’t be able to include Arms if it keeps up this pace of growth.
2 – Rhythm Heaven: Mega Mix
One of my personal favorite games on the Nintendo 3DS, Rhythm Heaven: Mega Mix is like a greatest hits album of all the things that made Rhythm Heaven so great to begin with. Featuring games from the GBA, DS and Wii titles as well as an almost unbelievable amount of new, original content, this is a game that you definitely should not look over, especially if you fancy yourself a fan of not only music and rhythm games but weird and adorable titles as well.
1 – Golden Sun
Arguable the ‘biggest’ Nintendo series to not be considered a big franchise at all, Golden Sun (and its sequels The Lost Age and Dark Dawn) are excellent traditional RPGs that infuse just enough new mechanics to feel fresh while holding onto their turn-based roots. Nintendo has never officially closed the door on the series but it has been seven years since the last game in the series hit the Nintendo DS so it would take a pretty big effort to make it relevant again. Maybe a massive Switch game?! A boy can dream.
What ‘small’ Nintendo games left you with big feelings? Let us know in the comment section below.