The 5 Best Nintendo Exclusive Protagonists (& The 5 Worst)Daniel KurlandGame Rant – Feed


A major way to gain an advantage over the competition in the video game industry is with exciting mascots that are exclusive to consoles. Nintendo has done some great work in this area and many of Nintendo’s top-selling games are titles that cater to this factor.

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Obviously everyone knows who Mario is and he’s still one of the most popular video game characters of all time, but Nintendo has worked hard to establish other powerful protagonists that will hopefully help move consoles and titles. Many of these characters have gained levels of popularity that almost rival that of Mario, but there are also plenty of others that just can’t seem to connect with audiences.

10 Best: Donkey Kong


Donkey Kong deserves some credit since he’s one of the very few Nintendo characters that arguably first appears as a villain, only to be given his own franchise where he’s the one calling the shots and saving the day.

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There have been various takes on Donkey Kong over the years, but all of them paint the character as resourceful, passionate, and silly. The Donkey Kong Country series games are formative titles for platformer fans, but even spin-offs like Donkey Konga and Jungle Beat portray the character in a fun and creative light.

9 Worst: Captain Falcon


There’s absolutely no disrespect meant towards Captain Falcon, the main character from Nintendo’s F-Zero franchise, but despite the pure swagger and coolness of this protagonist, he’s never been given enough of an opportunity to step into the spotlight.

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The F-Zero franchise largely keeps Falcon contained to his vehicle and while his presence in the Super Smash Bros. series has given the character a massive popularity boost, he still pales in comparison to other heroes. It’s unlikely that Captain Falcon will ever get an adventure game like Fox eventually did..

8 Best: Yoshi


Yoshi is another Nintendo character who’s witnessed an impressive evolution. The character is introduced as a supporting character in Super Mario World, but by the time the sequel rolls around, Yoshi is bumped up to the lead with Baby Mario in the ancillary role. The success of Yoshi’s Island has led to a wealth of Yoshi-centric games that are as adorable as they are entertaining. The character is such fun and has gone through interesting changes in his more recent games. Plus, the success hasn’t gone to his head and he’s still willing to be backup for Mario when it’s necessary.

7 Worst: Captain Olimar


The Pikmin series is one of Shigeru Miyamoto’s more creative recent ideas, but the franchise has never caught on as much as some of the other Nintendo mainstays. There’s a well-established formula in place and an ambitious take on the real-time strategy genre as Captain Olimar attempts to get himself back home and collect some incredible research on the Pikmin species at the same time. Olimar’s goal is admirable and the way in which he helps the Pikmin is fundamental, but the Pikmin themselves often steal the focus from him and feel more like the game’s real triumph.

6 Best: Kirby


Kirby is a fantastic Nintendo protagonist who’s made just as much of a dent on the company’s handheld systems as he has on the home consoles. Kirby has a deceptively cute look to him and while his copy ability concept is simple on a surface level, it’s been amazing to see how many different ideas the franchise has explored with it. Kirby should not be underestimated. Kirby is also slowly turning into the unofficial star of the Super Smash Bros. franchise, thanks to the fact that the series’ creator, Masahiro Sakurai, is also responsible for Kirby.

5 Worst: Little Mac


Little Mac immediately deserves some credit because his addition in the NES version of Punch-Out!! leads to a much better gameplay experience than the wireframe gamer surrogate that’s featured in the original arcade version. Little Mac is the ultimate underdog and so it’s quite satisfying to see him rise the ranks and achieve his dreams. Mac’s gumption is infectious and he’s a welcome fighter in Super Smash Bros., but not much of his personality is ever shown outside of the ring. A new Punch-Out!! that incorporates an RPG-like element could provide the character with the development that he’s been lacking.

4 Best: Samus Aran


Samus Aran is one of Nintendo’s best heroes and the reveal that the acclaimed bounty hunter is actually a woman still ranks up there with one of the biggest (and most welcome) surprises in a video game. Samus may have been a bit of an emotionless rogue during the first Metroid titles, but every game has given her more personality and she’s even been able to get out of the bulky suit on a number of occasions. Samus literally saves the galaxy, grapples with dangerous space pirates, and never stops looking cool while she does it. Metroid Prime 4 can’t arrive soon enough.

3 Worst: Pokémon Trainer


There’s no denying that the Pokémon franchise is one of the most successful franchises to appear on Nintendo consoles, whether it’s the mainline games or the series’ creative and unusual spin-offs. Most of the games in the series put the player in control of a Pokémon Trainer, but even though the games are entertaining, these characters aren’t very exciting. The series still prioritizes the Pokémon more than the humans that battle with them, and for that reason it’s easy for the Pokémon Trainer to seem inconsequential. Even in Super Smash Bros. it’s the Pokémon that are doing the heavy lifting.

2 Best: Mario


There really couldn’t be another contender for Nintendo’s top protagonist since Mario has helped put the video game company on the map more so than any other character. New Mario games are a foregone conclusion for each Nintendo console, but they also tend to be some of their best and most popular titles. Mario has been able to stick to his core basics, yet each game adds some inventive new mechanics that genuinely keep the franchise fresh. Hopefully, he’ll still be fighting Bowser and rescuing Princess Peach for decades to come.

1 Worst: Wii Fit Trainer


The Wii is one of Nintendo’s most interesting consoles due to the fact that it features some genuinely ambitious games as well as a ton of forgettable titles that lazily latch onto the console’s motion control gimmick. Wii Fit was a massive seller and while the game’s central figure, the Wii Fit Trainer, is a helpful guide, she’s more of a cipher than a character full of personality. Curiously, the Wii Fit Trainer has returned in the Super Smash Bros. franchise and the Switch’s recent Ring Fit Adventure, but she’s still more novelty than hero.

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