When people think of a Nintendo game, they usually imagine an Italian man committing turtle crimes, or a green-clad boy with a sword and a surprising affinity for boomerangs. Which, while fair, also overshadows one of the key strengths of the company, one it just recently highlighted with the release of last month’s Nintendo Switch Sports: It’s also one of the best sports game creators in video game history, with a steady stream of home-developed new releases challenging every generation to strut their stuff on the virtual field.
The company’s sports catalog runs deep: Golf games, boxing games, baseball games, soccer games, and more racing games than you can shake a batch of blue sparks at. Which got us wondering: What are the best Nintendo sports games—for every sport the company’s tackled across the last 40 years?
Hence this list, which purports to do exactly that, broken down across 16 sports, with a grab-bag category at the end for single-entry categories; after all, we wouldn’t want Mario’s brief foray into horse racing to get left off a list of Nintendo’s great sports triumphs, would we?
When assembling this list, our main criteria was that the games in question needed to have either been developed by Nintendo (or one of its close development partners), or prominently feature Nintendo characters (since the company has been much more willing to license Mario and crew out for sports titles than in other genres). This eliminates certain games that would otherwise be obvious shoe-ins for their categories; Tecmo Bowl, for instance, was developed by, well, Tecmo, and while Midway certainly sold a lot of copies of NBA Jam for the Super Nintendo, it’s hard to classify a game with such a long arcade life as a “Nintendo” game.
For each category, we’ve written up our top pick, as well as some interesting examples of other stabs at the sport from the company’s history, and a list of the games in consideration. We have also honored the position of Nintendo’s one true sports star—the primary Mario character created for, and in service of, its love of sports—by asking a simple question in every entry: Is Waluigi in this one?