Top 50 Best Nintendo Characters Of All Time (Ranked)

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After five decades of making video games, Nintendo has created an army of colorful and charming characters that have played a significant role in most of our lives.

Some of these characters stick to the top of popularity polls, and we’re always excited to see what crazy adventures Nintendo will send our favorite heroes on next.

But which characters truly stand out the most?

Let’s take a look at some of the most remarkable characters in Nintendo’s massive roster.

 

50. Bloopers

Bloopers Nintendo Character in Super Mario

First appearance: Super Mario Bros. (1985)

Bloopers are one of the cutest creatures you can find in the Mushroom Kingdom and other areas of the Marioverse.

These squid-like creatures come in different sizes and colors depending on which game you’re playing, and while they’re usually present as enemies, you’ll also see them as items in the Mario Kart saga.

Racing is hard enough as it is, so the Blooper’s ink on your screen can royally screw things up.

 

49. Mr. Game & Watch

Mr. Game & Watch SSBM game

First appearance: Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001)

This two-dimensional black blob was added to SSB. Melee as an avatar of the Game & Watch line of consoles, developed and sold by Nintendo way back in the 80s.

His simple form and monochrome complexion stem from the fact that this basic handheld console ran on a 4-bit CPU, which couldn’t handle colors or anything too complicated.

Each one of his moves in the game reflects one Game & Watch game or another.

It’s all really unique, and a great way to remember a piece of gaming history.

 

48. Birdo

Birdo game screenshot

First appearance: Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988)

This coquettish egg-shooting dinosaur was initially introduced as a mini-boss.

Since then, she’s wormed her way into Mario’s extended cast, appearing in Mario Kart, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis… you get the idea.

Birdo has been a controversial character since her first appearance on the NES due to her description in the game’s manual, which stated that she “was a male who preferred to be treated as a female” – technically making her one of the first trans characters in gaming. There are explanations that it was just a type-o, but I guess we’d need more research on that one.

 

47. Hades

Hades in Kid Icarus: Uprising game

First appearance: Kid Icarus: Uprising (2012)

At the beginning of Kid Icarus: Uprising, you’re tasked with stopping Medusa who appears to be the game’s main antagonist – going so far as to prompt the credits to roll upon being defeated.

Then Hades appears.

This God of the Underworld makes himself known by interrupting the credits, revealing himself to be the mastermind behind Medusa’s actions.

While seemingly gallant and even flirtatious in his speech, Hades is a total sociopath who takes pleasure in human suffering.

 

46. Mr. Resetti

Mr. Resetti in Animal Crossing

First appearance: Animal Crossing (2002)

I love characters that break the fourth wall.

And Mr. Resetti’s whole concept hinges on that idea.

This angry mole works in Game Reset Surveillance in the Animal Crossing games, making sure all players remember to save their progress and berating them if they reset the game without doing so.

Do it enough times and he’ll even pretend to reset the game for you – just a little scare to remind you not to pull any funny business.

Fun fact: Since Animal Crossing: New Horizons has an auto-save feature, Mr. Resetti had to find himself another job in ACNH. Now he’s part of the island’s emergency rescue service.

 

45. Shulk

Shulk Xenoblade Chronicles screenshot

First appearance: Xenoblade Chronicles (2011)

Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the best RPGs ever made, which has made its main character – Shulk – a pretty popular hero.

And earned him a place on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s roster.

This blonde warrior wields the Monado – a powerful sword that grants him visions of the future and the power needed to face the Mechon, a race of mechanical beings.

His careful and methodical personality is a refreshing departure from the usual reckless JRPG protagonists.

 

44. Lucas

Lucas Nintendo Character in Mother 3

First appearance: Mother 3 (2006)

Lucas is the protagonist of EarthBound’s Japanese sequel – Mother 3 – which never got an international release.

In this game, we see this timid boy using his psychic powers to undermine a dictatorship that caused his mother’s death.

If that’s not badass, I don’t know what is.

Lucas gained considerable popularity outside of Japan thanks to his inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, with most people having no idea what game he comes from.

 

43. Bowser Jr.

Bowser Jr. from Super Mario Bowsers Fury

First appearance: Super Mario Sunshine (2002)

Bowser’s only son is a bit of a tragic character.

I mean sure, he’s bratty and bad-tempered, but he’s only a kid with some serious daddy issues and no motherly figure in sight.

Despite being dealt a questionable hand in life, Bowser Jr. is smart, energetic, and industrious – designing his own flying robots and other machines to impress his dad by making Mario’s life impossible.

We can only hope he eventually gets the recognition and love he deserves.

 

42. Dimitri

Dimitri from Fire Emblem: Three Houses screenshot

First appearance: Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)

One of the most recently-created characters in the list is Dimitri – a chivalrous Prince from the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus who uses his incredible skill with lances and other powers to protect the weak.

He’s the Blue Lions’ leader and one of the most powerful characters in the game.

As a youth, Dimitri was forced to watch helplessly as his entire family was murdered by political rivals. This left him with a deep-seated survivor’s guilt but also motivated him to become stronger to protect others from suffering as he did.

 

41. Banjo & Kazooie

Banjo & Kazooie in Banjo-Kazooie

First appearance: Banjo-Kazooie (1998)

This inseparable duo consists of a brown honey bear with an amiable personality and his bad-tempered avian friend.

They’re a fearsome combo when they put their mind to it. Their collaboration is incredible, allowing them to pull off incredible feats like defeating Gruntilda – the spooky witch that’s the main antagonist in Banjo-Kazooie.

Fun fact: Banjo was first introduced in Diddy Kong’s Racing (1997), but he just isn’t the same without his breegull friend.

 

40. Koopa Troopas

Koopa Troopas from Super Mario Bros.

First appearance: Super Mario Bros. (1985)

These turtle-like denizens of the Marioverse are the foot soldiers of Bowser’s army and some of the most recognizable characters in the series, mostly because they’re in every single game in some shape or form.

If they’re not patrolling levels waiting for Mario to stomp them, their shells are featured as items or power-ups. They’re also a common sight as playable characters in Mario spin-offs like Mario Kart and Mario Tennis.

Fun fact: Before the Koopa, came the Shellcreeper – a turtle-like enemy seen in the original Mario Bros. (1983).

 

39. King Boo

King Boo Luigi’s Mansion game screenshot

First appearance: Luigi’s Mansion (2001)

The Ruler of the Paranormal Dimension may not be the biggest Boo around. But he’s undoubtedly the most powerful – and he has it out for Mario & Luigi for having squashed so many of his servants.

This leads him to become Bowser’s collaborator in many dastardly plans, though kidnapping Mario in Luigi’s Mansion was his own idea. Considering his role in Luigi’s solo series, he can be viewed as the green plumber’s arch-nemesis.

While evil to the core, King Boo isn’t without a heart. He cares a lot about his subordinate boos, and he thinks they’re adorable.

 

38. King Dedede

King Dedede in Kirby’s Dream Land

First appearance: Kirby’s Dream Land (1992)

This round and pudgy penguin has been a returning antagonist in the Kirby series since the first game.

King Dedede is to Kirby what Bowser is to Mario.

That said, this powerful bird isn’t all that bad – and he’s been known to wield his signature wooden mallet in the name of justice whenever he and Kirby face a common threat, as seen on Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.

In other words, he’s Kirby’s arch-frenemy.

 

37. Baby Mario

Baby Mario Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island gameplay

First appearance: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (1995)

Mario has been having adventures ever since he was a baby. And his little brother Luigi was under his constant protection.

As seen in SMW2: Yoshi’s Island, Mario’s heroic abilities have been sharp since his infancy. He was just as brave and courageous as his adult counterpart, if a little more reckless.

He’s a common sight in Mario spin-offs like the Mario Kart saga and many sporting events – just like Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, and even Baby Rosalina.

 

36. Conker the Squirrel

Conker the Squirrel Diddy Kong Racing

First appearance: Diddy Kong Racing (1997)

Conker was originally introduced as a happy-go-lucky red squirrel in Diddy Kong Racing. He also retained this wholesome personality for Conker’s Pocket Tales on the Game Boy Color.

Then he became an alcoholic.

You read that right. By the time Conker’s Bad Fur Day came around, this adorable critter had become a greedy and crass frat boy of a character who stumbled his way across most of the game in a drunken stupor.

What an icon.

 

35. Pit

Pit Nintendo Character in Smash

First appearance: Kid Icarus (1986)

While Pit’s first appearance was on Kid Icarus for the NES, his character wasn’t well-established until the recent Kid Icarus: Uprising on the 3DS, where his funny personality shines through.

In it, he’s written like a Greek hero tasked by the Gods – specifically Palutena – to slay a great evil on Earth in the form of Medusa.

This fantastic game was one of the best on the handheld console, with great humor and solid gameplay that earned Pit lots of popularity – though his rise to fame began with his inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

 

34. Palutena

Palutena in Kid Icarus screenshot

First appearance: Kid Icarus (1986)

Despite being around since the original Kid Icarus on the NES, Palutena’s true personality was only revealed in Kid Icarus: Uprising for the 3DS.

She’s a wise and empowered woman who cares for humankind and protects them from other immortals, believing gods shouldn’t intervene in human affairs.

She’s also a bit quirky, has a large appetite, and doesn’t like being called “ma’am” despite being basically immortal and unaging.

This drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of Light is Pit’s patron deity and his greatest ally except when she’s wiping the floor with him in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

 

33. Meta Knight

Meta Knight Kirby’s Adventure

First appearance: Kirby’s Adventure (1993)

Other than the pink blob, Meta Knight is the most mysterious character in the entire Kirby franchise.

While often fought as a boss in several Kirby games, his intentions are hard to understand.

He’s chivalrous and seems to follow a strong code of honor, but his alignment with King Dedede and the like cast a shadow over his noble nature.

Fun fact: This incredible power was also evident in Super Smash Bros. Melee, to the point where the character had to be banned from tournaments to keep them fair.

 

32. Falco Lombardi

Falco Lombardi Star Fox Gameplay

First appearance: Star Fox (1993)

This anthropomorphic bird is one of the most respected and skilled pilots in Fox McCloud’s squad, always coming in at the last minute to help turn the tide in your favor.

Sure he’s a little full of himself, and has a problematic personality, but he’s still a total badass and seems to genuinely care about his allies.

He’s been playable in Super Smash Bros. from Melee onward, which has further cemented his popularity.

 

31. Jigglypuff

Jigglypuff in Pokémon Gold & Silver

First appearance: Pokémon Red & Blue (1996)

This Normal/Fairy-type Pokémon’s rise to fame can be seen as a series of coincidences – beginning with its inclusion in the original Super Smash Bros.

The Balloon Pokémon’s remarkable similarity to Kirby allowed developers to use the latter’s design as a base for the character, saving them a ton of work – and so, it was chosen to appear.

It also owes its popularity to its comic relief role in the Pokémon anime, where its power to put people to sleep by singing a lullaby is part of a running gag we all (probably) remember fondly.

 

30. Mewtwo

Mewtwo in Pokémon Red & Blue

First appearance: Pokémon Red & Blue (1996)

Mewtwo is a very unique Pokémon, as he’s the only man-made critter in the entire Pokémon universe.

This fills him with immense existential anxiety, not knowing what his role in the world should be.

He seeks to ascertain his existence by proving himself stronger than everyone else. He also feels a strong connection to Mew, as his DNA was used as a base for Mewtwo’s creation.

Mewtwo must be one of the most complex characters in the Pokémon franchise, and along with Team Rocket’s Meowth, he’s one of the very few Pokémon able to communicate with humans.

 

29. Rosalina

Rosalina in Super Mario Galaxy

First appearance: Super Mario Galaxy

Rosalina is a powerful cosmic Princess residing in the Comet Observatory with the Lumas – a cute little star-people race with a fleeting existence.

She’s a powerful magic-wielder and apparently immortal, making her a formidable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. She’s also featured in recent Mario Kart and Mario Party games despite only being relevant in Super Mario Galaxy’s story.

Rosalina lost her mother at a young age, and her motherly relationship with the Lumas is a reflection of this. It’s not only her that’s keeping them company, but the other way around.

 

28. Captain Olimar

Captain Olimar from Pikmin

First appearance: Pikmin (2001)

Captain Olimar is a man of few words, but he’s incredibly resourceful and has great leadership skills.

After crash landing on an unknown planet, he manages to repair his ship by enslaving the local sentient vegetable population – and he even returns later to continue exploiting the planet’s resources.

The original Pikmin was one of the very best games on the GameCube, catapulting Olimar to fame and earning him a place on the Super Smash Bros. roster since its third installment.

Fun fact: Olimar’s original Japanese name, “Orima”, is the backward spelling of Mario in the Japanese syllabic alphabet.

 

27. Pikmin

Pikmin Characters Screenshot

First appearance: Pikmin (2001)

Olimar is pretty cool, but he owes his life and his game’s success to the humble Pikmin.

These sentient plant-animal hybrids come in several shapes and sizes, each with their own special abilities. For example, yellow Pikmin can resist electrical currents, blue ones breathe underwater, and red ones are impervious to fire damage.

These color-coded creatures make their home in Onions – flying ships that keep them safe at night by hovering above ground, and can produce more Pikmin seeds from prey and other nutrients.

 

26. Toad

Toad from Super Mario Bros.

First appearance: Super Mario Bros. (1985)

One of the cutest characters in the Marioverse is Toad, a genderless mushroom retainer working for Princess Peach as an advisor and aide.

They’re not the strongest individual, and they’re pretty cowardly when faced with danger – but their loyalty to Princess Peach is unmatched.

Fun fact: Despite being virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the Toads, the one that appears alongside the rest of the cast in most Mario games is indeed a specific Toad.

 

25. Diddy Kong

Diddy Kong from  DK 3D N64

First appearance: Donkey Kong Country (1994)

The youngest member of the DK crew is Diddy Kong, an energetic chimpanzee that’s always following his uncle Donkey Kong around.

He’s smart and agile, which makes him the perfect sidekick for the strong and heavy Donkey Kong – but he’s not afraid to step under the spotlight when given a chance.

As we saw in DKC2: Diddy Kong’s Quest on the SNES, and Diddy Kong Racing on the N64.

Other than that, Diddy Kong has become a returning character in several Mario spin-off titles – including all the sports games and even Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

 

24. Pauline

Pauline Donkey Kong game screenshot

First appearance: Donkey Kong (1981)

While most people know Princess Peach as Mario’s main romantic interest, there used to be another damsel-in-distress in his early days.

After being rescued from Donkey Kong in the eponymous arcade game, Pauline decided to turn her life around – becoming a performer and a skilled politician.

Nowadays, she’s the charming and fashionable Mayor of New Donk City – and she sure knows how to run the show.

 

23. Lucina

Lucina in Fire Emblem: Awakening

First appearance: Fire Emblem: Awakening (2012)

At the beginning of Fire Emblem: Awakening, we meet a masked Marth that could only have come from the past.

Except it’s not Marth, and they come from the future.

Pragmatic and determined, Lucina traveled to the past through the Outrealm Gate to stop Grima from murdering her family and plunging the world into chaos.

As Chrom’s daughter, she’s a descendant of Marth, which explains why a mere mask was enough to fool everyone.

 

22. Captain Falcon

Captain Falcon F-Zero

First appearance: F-Zero (1990)

Captain Falcon is the F-Zero franchise’s main character – a bad-ass racer from Mute City that rose in popularity as one of the founding members of the original Super Smash Bros. fighter roster.

His character design is bad-ass in a way strangely reminiscent of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – and his Falcon Punch is one of the most iconic moves in SSB.

That said, his forte remains racing hover-cars at insane speeds – and if you’ve ever played F-Zero, you know how hard that can be.

 

21. Squid Sisters

Squid Sisters in Splatoon Screenshot

First appearance: Splatoon (2015)

The entertainment scene in Japan is dominated by “idols” – all-around performers who sing, dance, and participate in variety shows to showcase their charming personalities.

The Squid Sisters (who’re actually cousins) are the most popular idols of Inkopolis in the first Splatoon game, performing hit songs like “Ink Me Up” and “Calamari Inkantation” as well as hosting the Inkopolis News program.

They’re passionate about their music and entertaining their fans, and their slightly eccentric personalities were a hit with the player base.

Fun fact: The names Callie and Marie are a wordplay on “calamari” – the Italian word for “squid”.

 

20. Toadette

Toadette from Mario Kart: Double Dash

First appearance: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (2003)

Created as a racing companion for Toad in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Toadette has slowly but surely established herself as one of the Mario franchise’s mainstays – with roles in Mario Party, Mario Kart, and so on.

While she’s definitely the cutest mushroom around, her looks aren’t her only forte. She’s also resourceful and smart – as seen in her role as an archivist for the Toad Brigade in Super Mario Odyssey, and her appearance in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

Fun fact: Toadette can transform into “Peachette” when wearing the Super Crown in New Super Mario Bros U. Deluxe. This form is awfully similar to Princess Peach, making some wonder whether the monarch is actually just another Toad under the crown’s effects.

 

19. Ridley

Ridley in Metroid

First appearance: Metroid (1986)

Ridley, also known as the Cunning God of Death, is a draconic alien from Planet Zebes and the Metroid series’s main antagonist since its first installment.

This fearsome reptile looks like the secret lovechild between a Xenomorph from the movie Alien and one of Daenerys’ dragons from Game of Thrones.

It’s a fearsome rival for Samus, and it’s one of those enemies that doesn’t seem to stay dead thanks to advanced Space Pirate tech. This is evident in the Metroid Prime series, where we fight his cybernetic Meta Ridley form.

 

18. Ike

Ike Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance Gameplay

First appearance: Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (2005)

If I ever found myself in need of a hero to rescue me from mortal danger, I’d like them to be like Ike.

This strong and sincere warrior began his journey in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance as a young mercenary working in his father’s company.

Back then, he was already determined and courageous – but his struggle to protect Princess Elincia and free Crimea from Daein’s invading forces tempered him into a truly admirable man, as seen in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.

He hates meaningless bloodshed and will go to great lengths to avoid conflict if possible – but when push comes to shove, he’s never afraid of testing his steel against strong opponents.

 

17. Ganondorf

Ganondorf in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

First appearance: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

Ganondorf is the sole male in the Gerudo tribe and the carrier of the Triforce of Power.

This doesn’t only give him incredible strength and an aptitude for dark magic, but also an unquenchable thirst for more power.

When push comes to shove, he can transform into his pure demonic form – Ganon.

That said, it’s never enough to overpower the courageous Link and his allies, as seen at the end of TLoZ: Ocarina of Time.

Fun fact: Technically, Ganon has been around since the original Legend of Zelda (1986), but his humanoid form – Ganondorf – was only introduced in Ocarina of Time.

 

16. Ness

Ness from EarthBound gameplay screenshot

First appearance: EarthBound (1994)

The MC of the SNES classic EarthBound was an unlikely addition to the original Super Smash Bros. roster, helping create the cult following they both enjoy today.

Ness inhabits the small town of Onett, in Eagleland. His design was meant to resemble an average kid in 90s USA – well, a psychic child, that is.

All things considered, he’s a pretty realistic kid.

In EarthBound, he’ll even get lonely if he spends too much time apart from his mom – even if that time is spent trying to save the world.

 

15. Isabelle

Isabelle in Animal Crossing: New Leaf

First appearance: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2012)

Nintendo is well-known for producing plenty of wholesome, cheerful games – and Isabelle seems to be the embodiment of that philosophy.

After her role as the Mayor’s secretary in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Isabelle became extremely popular among the player base. With time, she has become the de facto mascot of the Animal Crossing franchise.

This popularity also landed her a spot in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and even Super Smash Bros. Ultimate along with the Villager – an incredible feat for someone as conflict-averse as she seems to be.

Fun fact: Isabelle’s Japanese name – Shizue – seems to be a phonetic wordplay with her race, Shih Tzu.

 

14. Fox McCloud

Fox McCloud Nintendo Character in Star Fox

First appearance: Star Fox (1993)

This genetically-modified fox with technological augmentations is the leader of his own squad of space-faring anthropomorphic animals, and one of the biggest bad-asses in Nintendo history.

Among other things, he’s known for being overpowered in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

That said, his real skill lies in piloting combat vehicles such as the Arwing and the Landmaster – as seen in games like Star Fox 64 and Star Fox: Assault.

Fun fact: Fox’s design was initially inspired by Inari – a Japanese god of prosperity often depicted as a fox.

 

13. Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong from DKC

First appearance: Donkey Kong (1981)

This banana-loving gorilla started out as the main antagonist of the eponymous arcade game.

But he’s since turned over a new leaf and become one of Mario’s well-known friends – making appearances in Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., and more.

Part of his popularity comes from his protagonist role in Donkey Kong Country for the SNES – easily the best platformer on the platform, with incredible pseudo-3D graphics that look great to this day, and a fantastic soundtrack by David Wise.

Fun fact: Technically there are two different “Donkey Kongs”. DK Senior went on to become Cranky Kong, and the protagonist of Donkey Kong Country is his grandson.

 

12. Yoshi

Yoshi in Super Mario Maker

First appearance: Super Mario World (1990)

One of Mario’s most trusty companions is Yoshi, some sort of gecko/dinosaur with the power to lay explosive eggs after swallowing enemies he captures with his sticky, prehensile tongue.

Despite starting out as a sort of power-up for Mario, Yoshi quickly went on to star in his own games – starting with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, where he and the other Yoshis help keep Baby Mario safe.

One of my favorite Yoshi games is Yoshi’s Story for the Nintendo 64. This platformer helped establish the character – and it was one of the best games on the system.

 

11. Bowser

Bowser from Super Mario Bros.

First appearance: Super Mario Bros. (1985)

The Great Demon King of the Koopas is always trying to kidnap Princess Peach so he can marry her and legitimize his conquest of the Mushroom Kingdom – but, of course, he’s always stopped by Mario.

This has made them into archenemies, though they’ve been known to put aside their differences when facing a common threat.

Having Bowser on your side is a definite boon, considering he’s powerful, breathes fire, can change his size at will, and boasts some real talent for dark magic.

Despite being an evil lord, I’d say Bowser is a better ruler than Princess Peach.

His nation has a well-trained standing army, and he has a couple of advisors – like the Magikoopa Kamek.

 

10. Waluigi

Waluigi in Mario Tennis

First appearance: Mario Tennis (2000)

Just like Mario has Luigi, Wario has Waluigi.

This lanky anti-hero first appeared as Wario’s doubles partner in Mario Tennis. Apparently, they hit it off, becoming a sort of evil dream team from that point on.

Waluigi is Luigi’s foil – going so far as to wear an upside-down L on his hat.

His evil personality stems from being somewhat unlucky and feeling like the world has it out for him.

Still, he’s excellent comedic relief. And his meme-centric popularity has earned him a bit of a cult following.

Fun fact: Contrary to popular belief, Waluigi isn’t Wario’s brother. They’re just a couple of dastardly dudes with an appreciation for each other. Even the villains need friends, right?

 

9. Princess Peach

Princess Peach from Super Mario Bros.

First appearance: Super Mario Bros. (1985)

The ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom is an elegant and sophisticated lady.

But don’t let that fool you, because this monarch is not afraid to get her hands dirty when the time is right.

There had been other damsels for Mario to save before her, but Peach was the one who stuck. She’s charming, cheerful – and always up to slum it with her servants in Mario Party, Mario Kart – and even Super Smash Bros.

While Mario is usually around to give her a hand, she’s perfectly capable of rescuing herself. In fact, she even rescues the Mario Bros. in Super Princess Peach on the Nintendo DS.

 

8. Wario

Wario - Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

First appearance: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (1992)

When it comes to anti-heroes, none are as iconic as Wario.

This big, bad Italian man is basically bizarro Mario – a caricature of Nintendo’s poster boy meant to evoke feelings of humorous disgust with his crass and rude personality and ridiculous looks.

That said, Wario is much more than comic relief.

He’s an incredibly resourceful and dynamic man who’s been at the front of several enterprises. He even stars in his own game series: Wario Land and WarioWare.

His inhumane strength and aggressive demeanor made him a fearsome fighter in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and he’s returned for every game since.

 

7. Princess Zelda

Princess Zelda from The Legend of Zelda

First appearance: The Legend of Zelda (1986)

The Hylian people’s Princess used to be just another damsel in distress. But she has progressively become more and more of a bad-ass with each new release.

In Ocarina of Time, she assumes the identity of the ninja-like Sheik to support Link from the shadows. In Wind Waker, she’s a resourceful pirate who’s loved by her crew – and so on.

The rightful ruler of Hyrule is actually the reincarnation of the goddess Hylia, and she carries the Triforce of Wisdom. This makes her a powerful magic user, with powers like teleportation, telepathy, and precognition.

These skills are quite useful in Super Smash Bros., where she’s been a returning character since Melee.

 

6. Luigi

Luigi in-game screenshot

First appearance: Mario Bros. (1983)

Mario’s green-coded brother used to be nothing more than an unremarkable sidekick.

But Nintendo has done a great job fleshing out the character.

Scaredy and a little eccentric, Luigi is pretty comfortable just following his brother around – but when push comes to shove, he always overcomes his fears to protect what he loves.

This even includes rescuing Mario from time to time – as seen in Luigi’s Mansion for the GameCube.

With time, he’s crawled out from under his brother’s shadow and has gotten plenty of solo games, including the Luigi’s Mansion series, New Super Luigi U, and even Dr. Luigi.

 

5. Pikachu

Pikachu from Pokemon Let's Play

First appearance: Pokémon Red & Blue (1996)

The poster child for the Pokémon franchise has become an icon of Japanese pop culture worldwide.

This Electric-type rat is one of the most recognizable video game characters ever created – and he only became more notorious after the release of Pokémon Detective Pikachu, where an amnesiac talking Pikachu is played by Ryan Reynolds.

However, the most famous Pikachu belongs to Ash Ketchum in the Pokémon Anime.

 

4. Samus

Zero Suit Samus in Super Smash

First appearance: Metroid (1986)

The Metroid series protagonist was one of the first independent, powerful, and inspiring women in gaming – and she’s still a symbol for strong women in the industry.

While she’s undoubtedly good-looking, that’s hardly her main appeal. Samus is resourceful, smart, and wears a full suit of high-tech armor like no other.

She must also be pretty good at yoga, or turning into a ball as she does in most games would be completely impossible.

Despite her job description being that of a bounty hunter, this bad-ass lady is the de facto Protector of the Galaxy. If you want to learn more about the character, you should play Metroid: Other M on the Wii.

 

3. Kirby

Kirby in Kirby’s Dream Land

First appearance: Kirby’s Dream Land (1992)

Kirby is the kind of character that reminds us not to judge a book by its cover.

He may look like an adorable pink blob – well, he is – but he’s also one of the strongest beings in the universe, thanks to his ability to copy the powers and skills of anyone he swallows.

Kirby uses this power to protect the galaxy, and specifically his home in Planet Popstar.

This cheerful and energetic round ball even stars in his own anime: Kirby: Right Back at Ya!

All of this has made Kirby into an extremely well-loved character – especially in Japan, where he consistently tops Nintendo character popularity polls.

 

2. Link

Link in The Legend of Zelda

First appearance: The Legend of Zelda (1986)

On a day-to-day basis, Link would probably prefer to chill out and sleep late into the day, much like we see him do at the beginning of most games – including Ocarina of Time.

Still, he’s always quick to answer the call of duty.

And he’ll put everything on the line to protect Hyrule and his beloved Zelda (who he’s often confused with by non-gamers).

Yet for a silent protagonist, Link has a lot of personality.

His bravado is shared by every single one of his incarnations – after all, he’s the vessel for the Triforce of Courage.

 

1. Mario

Mario in Super Mario 3D Switch

First appearance: Donkey Kong (1981)

The Mushroom Kingdom’s protector is an Italian plumber designed by a Japanese man in the 80s – and he didn’t even have a name in his first appearance!

Despite this unconventional start, Mario has become the face of Nintendo and gaming as a whole.

In some places of the world, he’s even more recognizable than Mickey Mouse.

Which is saying a lot.

This short-and-pudgy gentleman has appeared in over 200 video games, and it doesn’t look like he’ll stop anytime soon.

From tennis to racing and even practicing medicine – Mario can do it all.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.