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If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Nintendo has had a tremendously successful track record at releasing video game consoles.
Has every console been blow-away successes? Most certainly not. But more often than not, the Japanese hardware and game developer manages to make good stuff.
We’re going to take a trip down memory land and rank every single Nintendo game console. This includes handhelds, home consoles, and hybrids. It’s no easy task, but it’s one that needs to be done.
We’re looking at three primary criteria, sorted by importance in this order: the hardware itself, historical significance, and game library. Obviously, there’s no way to objectively rank these consoles, so there’s a heavy dose of my opinion and feelings injected in there as well.
15. Virtual Boy
The Virtual Boy is by far the worst Nintendo game console. The company barely supported it before it realized it made a mistake and abandoned ship. The console is an absolute piece of garbage. It’s so bad that I even question making it number 15. Nonexistent consoles should sit in spots 15-19, and the Virtual Boy should be number 20.
14. Color TV-Game
This isn’t necessarily a bad console, but it came out before Nintendo really found its rhythm. It’s basically a Pong machine that came out exclusively in Japan. Sure, it helped Nintendo dip its toe into the video game console pool, but the games just aren’t that fun and there are better Pong machines out there.
13. Game & Watch
Game & Watch is the godfather to Nintendo’s incredible handheld consoles that would come along later. Unfortunately, the games just aren’t that enjoyable due to their simplicity. Again, each Game & Watch console isn’t terrible, but they certainly don’t stack up to what Nintendo managed to pull off later.
12. Nintendo Wii U
The Wii U isn’t a terrible idea. In fact, you could argue that the console laid the groundwork for what was to come next. Unfortunately, few games did anything innovative with the tablet controller, and third-party support was all but nonexistent for the console. This left it was a lackluster library of games that were more or less just first-party Nintendo games.
11. Game Boy
From this point on, all of the consoles are good. In fact, you could even argue that they’re all great. Ranking them was incredibly difficult, but one of the remaining gaming machines had to fall outside of the top 10, and that dishonor goes to the Game Boy. The games look terrible by today’s standards. In spite of that, though, they’re still completely playable today. It put handheld gaming on the map. It brought with it games like Tetris and Pokemon, and it made us realize that games like Mario could be played anywhere at any time (assuming you had a ton of AA batteries handy).
10. Nintendo Wii
Say what you will about the Wii, but it might be one of the most important Nintendo consoles ever released. After the sales disappointment that was the GameCube, Nintendo needed a homerun. The company smashed an absolute grand slam with the Wii. Video games penetrated the hearts and minds of the mainstream in a way they hadn’t before. While the Wii has plenty of garbage games shovelware, it’s also home to some of the best Mario games in the form of the Galaxy franchise, and a slew of other fun games that made use of the motion controls.
9. Nintendo 64
While Nintendo 64 has an extensive library of games including gems like Goldeneye, Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, and so many others, they just don’t hold up very well. Even at the time, some of the early instances of 3D games looked terrible. Add in the odd controller, and the Nintendo 64 falls firmly into the overrated realm.
8. Game Boy Color
Just barely edging out the original Game Boy is Game Boy Color. It’s essentially the same console, only smaller and with a color screen. All original Game Boy games work on it, and Nintendo made some vibrant, more colorful games specifically for the Color. It didn’t reinvent the wheel for handheld gaming, but it’s still a killer console with a massive library of absolute gems.
7. Nintendo GameCube
Okay, you’re probably going to hate me for this one, but the GameCube is a tad overrated in terms of quality. Did it have some killer games? Absolutely, but they were too few in quantity for this to rank any higher. Compared to other consoles available at the time, its library just didn’t stack up. The use of tiny disks and a rather strange controller didn’t help things either.
6. Game Boy Advance
While the original Game Boy is the console that out handheld gaming on the map, the Game Boy Advance is when players realized that portable experiences could rival those of traditional consoles. The game library for the GBA is absolutely massive, and there are seemingly countless good games to play on it.
5. Nintendo Switch
The Switch very well could find itself higher on the list by the time it finishes its life cycle, but for now, it sits comfortably at number five. Nintendo did a fantastic job creating a portable and home console hybrid, something no other company has even really attempted before. Is it less powerful than the Xbox One and PS4? Sure. That hasn’t stopped Nintendo and some third parties from creating some incredible games, including what many consider to be the greatest Zelda game of all time.
4. Nintendo DS
If the GBA made us realize that handheld games could rival home console experiences, the DS made us realize that they could, in fact, be better in some cases. The innovative introduction of a dual-screen console was like nothing we’d seen in gaming before. Having one of the screens support touch just put the DS over the edge in terms of being one of the greatest gaming machines ever released.
3. Nintendo 3DS
When the DS was absolutely dominating the handheld gaming world (sorry PSP and Vita), Nintendo decided to shake things up further with the release of the 3DS platform. Essentially, the 3DS is just a more powerful version of the original DS with glasses-free 3D support on the upper screen. It doesn’t do anything too revolutionary over its predecessor, but it’s impossible to argue that it isn’t a better console.
2. Nintendo Entertainment System
One could make the argument that not only did the Nintendo Entertainment System turn Nintendo into a household name, but it actually saved video games after Atari almost burned the entire industry to the ground. If the importance of the console wasn’t enough, it also has one of the greatest libraries of games of any platform. Not all of the games have aged well, but plenty of them are just as fun now as they were in the late 80s. This console helped us fall in love with characters like Samus, Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Zelda, Link, Donkey Kong, and so many others. You can’t help but love it.
1. Super Nintendo Entertainment System
I feel like this is a bit of a no-brainer. The SNES is not only the best Nintendo console ever made, but I think it’s actually the best game console in the history of video games, period. The games age incredibly well thanks to the 16-bit art style, and the library is both massive and filled with gems. Whether you were alive during the era of the SNES or you’ve gone back and experienced the games recently, it’s hard to argue the amazing piece of gaming hardware Nintendo created.