This list can really be boiled down to nominating the best exclusives for the console whether Nintendo made them, or not. It should then come as no surprise to see Zelda, Metroid, Mario, and other key franchises on here. Why do these and the others rank so highly some thirty, twenty, or however many years later? It all comes down to craftsmanship. Nintendo has an eye for detail and perfection. That’s the simple answer, but there is more to it for these ten threequels.
10 Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
As the name suggests, this is the third entry in the Mario and Luigi series, which is actually the third attempt at creating a Mario centered RPG. Anyway what makes this so good is that Bowser finally had his time to shine as one of the good guys. When one of his plans goes south, the two plumbers are miniaturized and swallowed by him. Half the game is the King of all Koopas laying waste to Mushroom Kingdom invaders while the other half is spent with the brothers inside his body. It is very weird, but it actually works.
9 Star Fox 64
For a long time Star Fox 64 was the second game in the franchise, but it was built on the scraps of the canceled SNES game. A game that was practically complete, but never released. That is until the SNES mini came out, which released that game in its completion. So what should we call Star Fox 2? Is it the 9th game, or the 2nd? If it wasn’t obvious, for the purposes of this entry, we think it fits better in history as a long, long delayed second title, making Star Fox 64 one heck of a threequel.
8 Kid Icarus Uprising
Kid Icarus Uprising is such an overlooked game because of one thing: the controls. Players had to create a claw like position with their hand in order to aim and move with the 3DS Stylus. It was a pain at times, but it was well worth it. The vibe is a lot like Kingdom Hearts. It’s funny, full of great characters, and colorful action to boot. It is easily the best game in this short-lived series, with this being the last. Hopefully this isn’t the end for old Pit.
7 Trials of Mana
For a long time Western fans had the belief that Secret of Mana was the best game in the franchise. Although apparently Japan was very fond of the third that never released over here...until this year that is.
Included in the Switch Mana collection, players finally got to understand why this game actually is so much better. It is still mind boggling to know it took almost two decades to get this into English, but the wait was thankfully well worth it.
6 SteamWorld Heist
The best think about Image & Form’s SteamWorld series is that they are never satisfied with one genre. They keep getting better and better too. What began as a tower defense game evolved into a digging Metroidvania that then evolved into an X-Com style RPG. SteamWorld Heist is one heck of a threequel and is tied for being the best entry in this ever-changing franchise. SteamWorld Dig 2, which launched after this, is also pretty stellar. Maybe this too can have a direct sequel.
5 Mother 3
Unlike Trials of Mana, Mother 3 is still amazingly trapped in Japan. No matter how much fans cry out Nintendo still hasn’t given into their pleas even though one of the stars, Lucas, is in Super Smash Bros. That is okay because there is an English patch made by dedicated fans. What sets it apart from EarthBound is its revolving cast of protagonists along with focusing on two brothers who have been dealt a bad hand in life. If this won’t make one cry, then nothing will.
4 Mega Man 3
There is a popular debate online as to whether Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3 is the superior game. Here is a reality breakdown: both games are equally fantastic. The second can be thanked for improving the original’s flawed idea and the third is just more of that with the edition of Rush. It doesn’t matter which one is “better” because for gamers, we are all winners thanks to these two gems existing in the first place.
3 Super Mario Bros. 3
This one is a bit of cheat. Actually, it’s more confusing than anything. In all regions Super Mario Bros. was released. The sequel to that differs. In Japan they got The Lost Levels, but in the West there was Super Mario Bros. 2, which was rebranded from a game called Doki Doki Panic. Either way Super Mario Bros. 3 is the third game in all regions. Hopefully that math checks out, but if not that is okay because it is hard to deny the power that was this game at the time. Heck, a movie was framed about its release: The Wizard. Remember that one?
2 Super Metroid
Super Metroid is the real reason Metroidvanias exist. Yes, the first game had a similar gameplay style, but it wasn’t until this third entry that Nintendo really figured it out. All other Metroid games and Metroidvanias then can be traced back to this seminal classic.
Although we should give Castlevania: Symphony of the Night some credit for adding RPG elements. That is a short history lesson to showcase just how important this game is and thankfully those that missed it for two decades can now check it out on Switch.
1 The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Just as Super Metroid is responsible for dictating the rest of the games in its series, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past can be thanked for guiding its franchise into dominance. If one really thinks about it Ocarina of Time is just this game, but in 3D. There is always one short quest of collecting things, which turns into a bigger quest of collecting more things. There are semi-linear dungeons all solved with an item in said dungeon. This masterpiece is also now out on Switch so stop reading and go play it!