Nintendo garners a high reputation after releasing blockbuster titles for over 40 years. Going back to the 1980s, the Japanese company has been synonymous with success. The games that leave their headquarters sell millions of copies and change the gaming world forever.
Sometimes, Nintendo will release a classic that goes under the radar, though. From new properties and characters to overlooked gems from famous franchises, the most underrated Nintendo games deserve respect and gamers’ attention.
1. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island often gets cited by game critics as one of the best titles in SNES history, but making that claim still does it injustice. The ingenuity and craft living within every minute detail of Yoshi’s Island makes it perhaps the best 2D platform game in history and the genuine example of Mario’s magic across four decades of greatness!
2. Wario Land: Shake It!
Wario Land: Shake It! ended up as the final game in Nintendo’s Wario Land franchise, a puzzle platform experience with clever puzzles, witty jokes, and novel ideas emanating in abundance. Shake It! utilized the motion controls on the Wii to perfection, and the Saturday morning cartoon graphics transported gamers back to their childhoods.
3. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Ever since the Nintendo 64 era, Nintendo has neglected Donkey Kong. A rare instance of them throwing the ape a shred of attention came with Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Using the drum peripheral from Donkey Konga, Jungle Beat livened up the old Donkey Kong Country mechanics for a new generation.
4. Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Kirby’s Epic Yarn departed from the traditional platforming in the Kirby franchise by softening the difficulty and focusing on atmosphere and graphical innovation. Much like the Paper Mario series, Kirby’s Epic Yarn artfully hugs the gamer with nostalgia and colorful details. Plenty of extra items to collect ramp up the difficulty for those who want more of a challenge.
5. Super Mario Bros. 2
Super Mario Bros. 2 skewed in the opposite direction of the first NES classic. With more weight to the platforming and a variety of characters such as Luigi, Peach, and Toad to choose from, the sequel took a lot of courageous chances that aged well with gamers across many different generations. Today, it remains one of the most underrated Nintendo games, despite its wide influence.
6. Pilotwings 64
Pilotwings 64 sat in the towering shadow of Super Mario 64 when it was released on the Nintendo 64, but those who wanted an experience outside of the Mushroom Kingdom found a lot of awesome gameplay. Players could fly around in dramatic depth and feel like gaming was taking a new step forward in the 3D era of the mid-1990s.
7. F-Zero GX
The F-Zero series went extinct almost 20 years ago, with Nintendo only just releasing F-Zero 99 in September 2023. The last major release, F-Zero GX, supplied a worthy alternative to the more casual racing gameplay found in Mario Kart. The game builds Captain Falcon’s world with excellent graphics and lightning-fast racing action.
8. Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
The original Sin & Punishment was never released in the United States, but Sin & Punishment: Star Successor made up for that mistake. This sequel on the Wii provided a fantastic on-rails shooter experience for Nintendo fans and a second signature game series in the genre (the other being Star Fox).
9. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker justifies Nintendo going outside of the constraints of their typical starring characters and giving attention to sidekicks and minor fan favorites. Toad often sits in the background behind Mario, but his charm endears everyone in this puzzle platform game. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker shows Nintendo can still innovate when they choose.
10. Harvest Moon 64
Harvest Moon 64 was one of the most important titles in Nintendo’s quest to enter the simulation genre. A farming game with a plethora of lifestyle activities and cute characters, Harvest Moon 64 led to more popular titles like Animal Crossing and even Nintendogs.
Nintendo hardly ever departs from a family-friendly tone in its games. Geist gives the fandom a rare M-rated action title on the Wii. Themes such as ghosts, spirits, and horror all make this adventure game a good attempt at Nintendo crawling out of its comfort zone.
12. The Wonderful 101
The Wonderful 101 didn’t sell many copies due to the Wii U’s short lifespan on the consumer market. The action-adventure game features grand robots and explosive gameplay that fans have started to enjoy on Windows and PlayStation 4 after a remastered edition came out in 2020.
13. Xenoblade Chronicles
Xenoblade Chronicles enjoys pretty high sales nowadays, but the original game on the Wii deserved the same type of hype the ensuing sequels received. This excellent RPG innovated with some of Nintendo’s best exploration segments and open-world levels, and it also seems that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild learned a lot from this title.
14. Kid Icarus: Uprising
Hans down one of the most underrated Nintendo games, Kid Icarus: Uprising introduced a lot of gamers to Pit, a character usually only identified for his appearance in Super Smash Bros. The engaging 3D shooting and gorgeous stereoscopic graphics made this game one of the best on the Nintendo 3DS, although the controls made it difficult for left-handed people to play.
15. Tomodachi Life
Tomodachi Life resembled Nintendo’s version of The Sims while giving the company’s avatars, the Miis, something to do besides make faces on the home screen and show up in Wii Sports. Kids surely enjoyed this light-hearted simulation that introduced new generations to the genre.
16. Nintendo Land
Nintendo Land certainly doesn’t make many lists of the best launch titles in gaming history, and that’s somewhat of a crying shame. The relatable, fun minigames on hand here helped those who bought a Wii U learn a little more about the console in the same way that Wii Sports did for the Wii.
17. Mario Kart: Double Dash
Mario Kart: Double Dash stands as underrated not because of sales figures but due to its forgotten place in the series’ hierarchy. Ensuing titles such as Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe pushed this GameCube title to the back of the line, but millennial gamers vouch for this classic standing tall in the series.
18. Wii Music
Shigeru Miyamoto made sure to let everyone know that Wii Music was one of his passion projects. The game doesn’t always come across as a completely polished masterpiece like most of Miyamoto’s games, but kids and adults alike surely got enjoyment from a musical experience on the Wii. Using the Wii Fit Balance Board and the motion controls for drums provided gamers with the best play mode.
19. Star Fox: Assault
Nintendo made one attempt at a Star Fox 64 sequel: Star Fox: Assault. The three-pronged gameplay of spaceship, tank, and on-foot shooting made this arcade-style GameCube game a fun science-fiction romp with immense replayability.
20. Professor Layton series
The Professor Layton series enjoys plenty of popularity within the point-and-click fan club, but a majority of Nintendo fans have missed out on the comical puzzle series. Riddles, excellent writing, and absorbing characters make the franchise rich and deep. Fans expect a new title to release soon after a nearly decade-long absence.
21. Astral Chain
Astral Chain offers a deeply satisfying action experience by modernizing previous hack-and-slash games like Diablo. The title, developed by PlatinumGames, proves Nintendo’s worth outside of its usual franchises, such as Mario and Zelda. The Switch benefited greatly from its presence early on in its lifespan.
Nintendo stepped away from Super Smash Bros. with 2017’s ARMS. The colorful fighting game enticed casual gamers and experienced fighting veterans with tight controls and funny-looking characters with long arms (hence the title) that reach a long way to deliver punches.