Best lead character
The main character of a story makes or breaks the game. If you can't relate with the characters or like them in some fashion, it makes the game difficult to play. Luckily, there have been plenty of great characters on Nintendo platforms this decade.
1. Link / Zelda
What can I say? Link and Zelda are iconic. Sure, Mario might be Nintendo's beloved mascot, but it's hard to top the silent Hyrulian Hero and the regal Princess Zelda. This pairing is locked in an eternal bond, bound to rise against evil generation after generation. Zelda is a strong and capable princess whose goal is to protect the people of Hyrule, and Link is the silent hero who rises to the challenge.
This fated duo has spanned several consoles, with the newest incarnation being the acclaimed Breath of the Wild. Link edges out a win in this category, however, simply because he gets way more screen time. He's funny, faithful, and can swing a sword better than almost anyone. Plus, he's had a few solo ventures, like Link's Awakening. He's got the look, the skill, and he's a crowd favorite. However, Link and Zelda are really a package pair. -Sara Gitkos
Mario is, without a doubt, the most recognizable Nintendo character in the world. His can-do attitude, mustache, red hat, and overalls are super iconic and make him stand-out in any appearance. Many kids are introduced into the video game world through one of his multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Mario Tennis Aces, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and many more. I think that's why Mario, and Nintendo in general, continue to hold a lot of nostalgia for people as they grow older. Mario is a magical part of many childhoods. -Rebecca Spear
Bayonetta is one of the last Umbral Witches capable of almost completely stopping time, not to mention she can gun down demons and angels by the bucketload, wielding all manner of powerful handguns, claws, swords, and whips. She's smart, sexy, and ridiculously confident — for good reason! The number of beings in the universe that pose a serious threat to her can probably be counted on your right hand. Even so, she has something of a kind heart and even goes out of her way to rescue fools who are in over their heads, while still making sure she's staying over-the-top, of course. With all that in mind, is it any wonder she's become something of a new Nintendo icon, even making her way over to Super Smash Bros? -Samuel Tolbert
Luigi doesn't get enough respect — no respect at all! Sure he's not as well-known as his brother Mario and his characterization often revolves around cowardice instead of bravery, but there's a lot that still makes him a hero. He can typically jump higher than his brother, for one, which gives him the edge in platforming, but he also gets to play around with some better weaponry, like the Poltergust throughout the Luigi's Mansion games. Luigi might not have as many games named after him as his brother, but he's just as important. I know plenty of people who would choose Luigi over Mario in Mario Kart any day. -Carli Velocci
5. Samus Aran
Learning that the badass space warrior behind this sleek armor was actually a woman is one of those special rites of passage for Nintendo fans. When I first learned it as a kid, I was blown away and became more interested in her. After all, there aren't many lead female characters among Nintendo's roster.
She takes on massive alien creatures and explores the far reaches of space. Whether she's in her armor or her zero suit, Samus can own you with either her gun arm or her fighting skills. This makes her a compelling choice in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. While we've been waiting forever for the new Metroid Prime 4 game on console, she did have an awesome side scroller released on 3DS with Metroid: Samus Returns. Hopefully, the long-awaited Metroid Prime 4 will be given a release date soon. -Rebecca Spear
6. Donkey Kong
Our favorite gorilla had to make the list, and why not? He's a series favorite, he's one of the strongest characters in Super Smash Bros., and he has a plethora of amazingly fun games behind him. We know that there's not a lot of story most of the time, but Donkey Kong himself is brave, funny, and always ready to throw a barrel in someone's face. He's as much a staple to Nintendo games as Mario, since they debuted together all those years ago. But in this day and age, when he's not helping you beat other video game favorites to a pulp or cruising around a racetrack, Big DK is trying to keep things from getting too cool in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. -Sara Gitkos
7. Star Fox
Despite not having as many games released in the past 10 years as we would have liked, Star Fox continues to be one of our favorite Nintendo characters. He's a smooth-talking commander who knows how to pilot his own ship and expertly fire a blaster. In some ways, he feels like the Han Solo of Nintendo. He's super cool, calm, collected, and fights massive enemies in space. When he's not cruising past the stars, you can find him beating up his fellow Nintendo comrades in Super Smash Bros. He's one of my go-to picks and on top of all of that, he's a pretty snazzy dresser. -Rebecca Spear
Kirby is my favorite ball of mush. He's cute, squishy, and if you make him mad, he'll eat you and steal your identity. What's not to love about this guy? While he has his own game series, the most recent being Kirby Star Allies, he takes a lead role in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's campaign, World of Light. Don't let his adorable face fool you. This little guy is a fierce contender, and his irrepressible cheer earns him a spot here. Plus, he can eat anything. He has some serious food goals. He's a fun, versatile character, with an impulse-control problem and an adorable design. How can you not love him? -Sara Gitkos
At last, Mario's trusty steed. Yoshi is the lovable and sweet dino-partner to the famous Mario Brothers. Yoshi may be super cute, but he is a force to be reckoned with. Whether he's battling in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or smiting his shy guy foes in Yoshi's Crafted World, this dinosaur can take care of himself. He can eat his enemies and turn them into eggs. (Cute characters who eat their opponents seems to be a Nintendo theme.) He can also just dance around making adorable sounds that will make you melt. I just want to squeeze him! Luckily, there's a Build-a-Bear for that. Oh, and there's not just one. There's a whole rainbow of different Yoshis out there. He's cute, a strong ally, and those sounds he makes are just too much! He's equal parts lovable and deadly. He's simply the best. -Sara Gitkos
Before his resurgence in Super Smash Brothers Brawl, the last time we saw Pit from Kid Icarus was way back on the Game Boy. This Greek-inspired hero set himself apart from the likes of Link from Legend of Zelda simply by speaking. Updated for a new age, he finally got his title after such a strong reaction to his appearance in Smash. He's the typical hero with a sense of justice, faith, and he knows his way around a bow. Though a capable fighter, Pit often sees the good in everyone, and would rather show compassion then kill. But he's also young, and with that comes a host of problems; that and his "dark" counterpart may offer more insight into a more sinister side of this hero. It adds a little complexity, which earns him a spot on this list. -Sara Gitkos
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