Top 20 Greatest Nintendo Characters of All Time

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Top 20 Greatest Nintendo Characters of All Time

VOICE OVER: Callum Janes WRITTEN BY: Johnny Reynolds
Nintendo has a ton of wonderful characters and these are our its very best. For this list, we'll be looking at the most iconic and beloved characters owned by Nintendo. Our countdown includes Samus Aran from the “Metroid” Series (1987-), Isabelle from the “Animal Crossing” Series (2002-), Ness from “Earthbound” (1995), Bowser from the “Super Mario” Series (1985-), and more!
Transcript
Script written by Johnny Reynolds

Nintendo has a ton of wonderful characters and these are our its very best. For this list, we’ll be looking at the most iconic and beloved characters owned by Nintendo. Our countdown includes Samus Aran from the “Metroid” Series (1987-), Isabelle from the “Animal Crossing” Series (2002-), Ness from “Earthbound” (1995), Bowser from the “Super Mario” Series (1985-), and more! Which Nintendo character fills you with joy and keeps you playing? Share your love in the comments below.

#20: Captain Falcon

“F-Zero” Series (1991-2004)

Captain Falcon is one of the flashiest, most confident characters in Nintendo’s roster. And we love him for it. As a well-off bounty hunter, Cap spends his freetime racing in “F-Zero” Grand Prixs. Anyone who chooses to partake in these high-speed, high-risk races has to have nerves of steel. Although it’s a shame there hasn’t been an “F-Zero” in quite a while, he’s still regularly enjoyed through the “Super Smash Bros.” series. His awesome, fire-based attacks are almost as enjoyable as hearing him yell their names, which he, naturally, named after himself.

#19: Princess Peach

“Super Mario” Series (1985-)

While it’s unfortunate that Peach is a damsel in distress most of the time, there’s no denying how iconic she is. The leader of the Mushroom Kingdom is always shown to be kindhearted, fun-loving, and elegant. No wonder Mario and Luigi work tirelessly to rescue her each time; she’s adorable. But pick her as a fighter in “Smash” or put her in a sports competition, and watch that adorableness turn to ruthlessness. Plus, kidnapping her makes a lot of sense. Without her, Toads fall apart, and her floating ability makes her better at platforming than even Mario himself.

#18: Wario

“Wario” Series (1994-)

By far the greediest character in gaming, Wario would be exceptionally proud of that legacy. First appearing in the Game Boy’s “Super Mario Land 2,” Wario became popular very quickly. He’s the exact opposite of Nintendo’s mascot, a caricature of a villain who’s only out to benefit himself. His silly characterization has set him apart from most other Nintendo characters, villain or otherwise. He’s also the star of two franchises, the platforming “Wario Land” and the micro-game-centric “WarioWare,” which is impressive. He’s the type of guy to go out of his way to rub others the wrong way, which we can’t help but admire.

#17: Pit

“Kid Icarus” Series (1986-2012)

He’s starred in less games than many other Nintendo characters, yet Pit has managed to become beloved all the same. First appearing in the NES’s “Kid Icarus,” Pit was tasked with defeating Medusa after she invaded his world. He’d only appear in a Game Boy entry before going quiet for years. But like many others, he was revitalized and discovered by more players through “Super Smash Bros.” His only other game, the criminally underrated “Uprising” on the 3DS, gave him a boost in personality as the peppy, joke-cracking servant to the Goddess of Light, Palutena. We just hope he gets another chance to shine sometime soon.

#16: Ike

“Fire Emblem” Series (1990-)

Speaking of characters that most of us discovered through “Smash,” Ike is one of the fighter’s heaviest of hitters. One whack with his two-handed sword can send you flying. But in his own series, there’s much more to him than his immense physical strength. Ike becomes the leader of a group of mercenaries following his father’s death. Unprepared and in over his head at first, he must work hard to become worthy. Throughout his journey, he grows to become a passionate, strong-willed hero. It’s one of the best arcs in the long-running series, making Ike its most fleshed out protagonist.

#15: Ness

“Earthbound” (1995)

The continued following behind “EarthBound” and its young hero always amazes us. Few games can claim cult status so efficiently. While part of that is due to Ness’s inclusion in “Smash,” the importance of his adventure shouldn’t be understated. A lovable kid who’s close to his mom and has a fondness for baseball, Ness’s world is turned upside down when a strange meteor crashes in his town. From there, he sets out to complete a prophecy of stopping the villainous alien, Giygas, while gathering friends and incredible powers in the process. It’s the type of adventure we all craved as kids, making it easy to put ourselves in Ness’s shoes.

#14: Ganondorf

“The Legend of Zelda” Series (1987-)

We love vanquishing the monstrous Ganon as much as the next player, but it’s the instances in which he’s in his human form where he’s most interesting. The longtime, constantly resurrected foe of Link and Zelda, Ganondorf has come close to taking over Hyrule on several occasions. He’s cunning, merciless, and incredibly talented when it comes to swordplay and using magic. With hordes of followers and monsters at his beck and call, he’s not someone to be taken lightly. He’s also led to some of the best boss fights the franchise has ever seen.

#13: Waluigi

Various

The fact that Waluigi, who has no series of his own to star in, has become so popular is honestly astounding. First seen in the N64’s “Mario Tennis,” Waluigi has made many appearances as Wario’s BFF and partner in crime. Or rather, partner in being a jerk to everyone else. Despite only being created so Wario could have a teammate, Waluigi has managed to surpass his evil pal through an intensely passionate fan following. But it’s easy to see why he’s been memed into oblivion. Everything from his gangly stature to his nasally voice to his pencil-thin, handlebar mustache is ridiculous in the best way possible.

#12: Fox McCloud

“Star Fox” Series (1993-2017)

Like Ike, Fox was forced into leadership following the death of his father. Only in his world, he gets to use an awesome, futuristic fighter jet to enact his justice. As the leader of the Star Fox team, Fox and his comrades will do anything to defend the Lylat System they and many others call home. While his origin is a bit dark, Fox never seems to let it get to him or distract him from doing what’s right. He’s assertive, witty, and self-assured, which is great considering his team includes the annoying Slippy Toad and the short-tempered Falco Lombardi.

#11: Yoshi

“Super Mario” Series (1985-)

It’s rare that a side character debuts so splendidly that they almost immediately start getting spin-offs. That’s what happened with Yoshi, the cute green dino who brought another layer of greatness to “Super Mario World.” Whether it’s in the frequent collaborations with Mario or its own franchise of platformers, Yoshi never fails to make us smile. However, it’s in the latter series, most of which are charmingly craft-themed, where Yoshi shines the brightest. Turning your enemies into eggs to use them as ammunition against their friends never gets old. And every adorable sound that comes from Yoshi’s mouth makes us wish we could have one of our own.

#10: Isabelle

“Animal Crossing” Series (2002-)

While Tom Nook has been with the “Animal Crossing” franchise since the beginning, he simply can’t hold a candle next to Isabelle. The endlessly cheerful, anthropomorphic Shih Tzu is the embodiment of wholesomeness. First seen in the 3DS’s “New Leaf,” Isabelle is the most helpful assistant we could have asked for. We were delighted to see her return in spin-offs and join our new island home in “New Horizons.” Always eager to help, and humorously a bit spacey, Isabelle has transcended her role by appearing in “Smash” and a connection with a certain Slayer.

#9: Bowser

“Super Mario” Series (1985-)

You’d be hard-pressed to find a video game villain more well-known than the fire-breathing turtle monster that is Bowser. Ever since the original “Super Mario Bros.,” he’s been kidnapping Princess Peach and unleashing all manner of chaos onto the Mushroom Kingdom. While he’s mostly family-friendly, Bowser’s actions are pretty despicable. He’s constantly bringing destruction, told his son Peach was his mother, and tried to force Peach into marriage. With his intimidating strength and wild schemes, you never know what method Bowser will try next. Which is why overcoming and defeating him is always so satisfying.

#8: Zelda

“The Legend of Zelda” Series (1987-)

While she’s certainly spent a fair share of appearances as a damsel, Zelda has gotten a lot more positive characterization than Peach. However, it definitely helps that there are multiple versions of her, reborn throughout Hyrule’s history. “Wind Waker” Zelda was a fearless, sassy pirate. “Skyward Sword” Zelda had a touching relationship with Link. “Breath of the Wild” Zelda held an unholy magical beast at bay for a century. Every version of her is more impressive than the last, wielding extremely powerful magic that could only come from being the reincarnation of a Goddess. As the namesake of the series, Zelda is often shown to be exceptionally bright and caring, willing to do anything to protect her people.

#7: Donkey Kong

“Donkey Kong” Series (1981-2014)

It’s strange and scary to think what the world of video games would be like without the arcade game that made Nintendo famous. Since the ape’s debut, and several similar arcade releases, the “Donkey Kong” series has evolved to become a platforming mainstay in Nintendo’s catalog. Primarily through partnerships with Rare and Retro Studios, Donkey Kong and his pals have gone on exceptionally tough adventures that far surpass the difficulty of Mario’s. Although he’s one of Nintendo’s most dim-witted characters, DK never backs down from a challenge, be it stealing back his banana horde or using his physical prowess to his advantage in a variety of sports.

#6: Luigi

“Super Mario” Series (1985-)

Even though he joins Mario across countless adventures, Luigi rarely gets the same amount of praise. And we think that’s pretty unfair. Luckily, Lugi has gotten a few opportunities to step out of his brother’s shadow in the “Luigi’s Mansion” series. It’s the perfectly spooky, silly franchise for a timid, scaredy cat like Luigi to star in. While nearly every encounter gets his teeth chattering and his body shaking in fear, Luigi never leaves his allies behind. We hope that Luigi always remains fearful. Not only does it make us laugh, but it makes his heroism and reliability all the more special.

#5: Kirby

“Kirby” Series (1992-)

Nintendo has a multitude of cute characters to showcase. But few can top the pleasantly pink puffball from Planet Pop Star. Beginning with “Kirby’s Dreamland” on the Game Boy, players have been getting fascinated with Kirby’s unique ability. Able to swallow enemies and copy their attacks, how distinctly he operates depends entirely on you. Each new adventure has enhanced how effective his suckage is. And to be on the receiving end of it must be absolutely terrifying. Kirby is a wonderful combination of something so cute it makes us swoon and so powerful it inspires awe.

#4: Pikachu

“Pokémon” Series (1998-)

Although the anime is partially to thank for Pikachu’s iconic status, there’s no denying it deserves to be the mascot of “Pokémon.” Pikachu is, by far, the most recognizable creature from the series due to its cute and cuddly design and its electric attacks that pack a hefty wallop. First appearing as part of the original generation on the Game Boy, Pikachu earned its own “Yellow” edition of the base game. Its electric attacks are great in “Pokémon,” though even greater when using them yourself in “Super Smash Bros.” Pikachu helped “Pokémon” become a pop culture phenomena and deserves its popularity.

#3: Samus Aran

“Metroid” Series (1987-)

If most other gaming heroes had to do what Samus does, venturing into deadly alien lairs where everything from the atmosphere to the wildlife wants to kill you, we have a feeling they’d run the other way. But Samus has been proving herself a capable bounty hunter since the NES days. It isn’t just her incredible resolve, brilliance, and ability to use any weapon to her favor that earns her high placement, though that would be more than enough. As one of the first female protagonists in gaming, she’s part of a legacy that is still influencing the medium. While “Metroid” has taken a couple of missteps over the years, Samus herself never fails to wow us.

#2: Link

“The Legend of Zelda” Series (1987-)

The series may be named after the Princess, but it’s Link who does all the hard work. The constantly reborn hero is always fated to be the one who stops evil, which sounds like a miserable existence to us. Thankfully, the series is mostly comprised of whimsical adventures. Characterized by his silence and unending bravery, Link is the one chosen to hold the Triforce of Courage for good reason. No matter the threat, no matter the cost to his own well-being, Link will always answer the call to save Hyrule. He’s traversed alternate dimensions, time periods, and all manner of hostile landscapes. And we’ll always be excited to join him.

Joke #1: The Miis

Various

They can be whoever you want them to be, so how could the Miis NOT claim the top spot? No, as much as we like the Miis, there could really only be one choice for #1…

#1: Mario

“Super Mario” Series (1985-)

From “Donkey Kong” to “Odyssey” and beyond, Mario is THE gaming icon. Not just for Nintendo, but for the entire art form. He saved the home video game market from the brink of death with the NES and has since appeared in an innumerable amount of games. Always brave and never wavering, Mario has been at the precipice for groundbreaking and highly entertaining gameplay with each release. Whether he’s saving Princess Peach, putting his dukes up in “Smash,” racing in “Mario Kart,” or getting cutthroat in “Mario Party,” every appearance is a celebration. Video games simply wouldn’t be the same without him.
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