Stuff's Best Games Ever: The 25 best Nintendo games of all time

Ninty's absolute essentials from across the years, ranked

Nintendo might be the single greatest game developer of all time, so attempting to whittle down a list of its 25 top creations created some heated moments among the Stuff staff. Or at least some heated debates in Slack.

Ultimately, we realised that while we had lots of common favourites from across the years, we also each had some personal picks that had to fall by the wayside – our apologies to GBA import gem Rhythm Tengoku.

And since our list also allows third-party games that were exclusive to a Nintendo console at launch, we had some very tricky decisions to make. But we got there, and we're proud of this big, diverse list of undoubtedly brilliant games. Without further ado, these are our 25 favourite Nintendo console and handheld exclusives up till now.

25) Advance Wars (GBA, 2002)

Strategy games are synonymous with PC nerdery, given their epic proportions and complexity. Yet Advance Wars managed to balance simplicity and depth so adeptly that it was able to cram a fantastically addictive strategy game into the handheld Game Boy Advance. You didn't need to set up a whopping battle station to play, which is precisely why this sadly overlooked gem should be a prime contender for a mobile revival.

24) Donkey Kong (Arcade, 1981)

Nintendo has been making games for longer than I've been alive, but its output has barely changed. Despite spanning seven console generations Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Splatoon are the same: they want to show you a good time. In a totally PG way, of course.

This philosophy was founded with Donkey Kong, and it's arguably never been bettered. Just keep running and jumping until you free the princess. Who could argue with such brilliance? Not me, guv. I always respect my elders.

23) Super Metroid (SNES, 1994)

Samus Aran has always been an odd fit in Nintendo's cornucopia of heroes: she's a woman who doesn't need rescuing, with an awesome laser gun to get the job done. Given that Princess Peach won't be taking over interplanetary exploration any time soon, this all serves to make Super Metroid that little bit more special. As well being one of the known universe's finest 16-bit adventure games, it stars the galaxy's premier badass as well.

22) Chrono Trigger (SNES, 1995)

The Final Fantasy series might take most of the fame, but for many a 16-bit role-playing fan, Chrono Trigger was really where it was at. This mesmerising, time-travel tale kept players captivated with intriguing characters and optional side quests, plus the multiple endings provided a level of replay value practically unmatched for the era. Add in graphics from Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, and Chrono Trigger was an essential adventure worth taking time and time again.

21) Banjo-Kazooie (N64, 1998)

Much has been made over which N64 platformer is better: Super Mario 64 or Banzo-Kazooie. Well, it's Super Mario 64. But that doesn't mean that Rare's follower didn't also provide a damn good time, especially in the absence of a 3D Mario successor.

Banjo's larger worlds offered ample reason to explore while soaking in the bright, colourful graphics, and it packed an absolute wealth of challenges to dig into. It's not as formative as SM64, sure, but it also couldn't be missed back when. (Screen from Xbox 360 port.)