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The 15 Best Nintendo Mascots

A promotional image of a group of Super Mario characters.

The 15 Best Nintendo Mascots

Ever since the 1980s, no single company in the games industry has done a better job establishing iconic mascots than Nintendo. The studio has countless recognizable characters across multiple iconic franchises, with many spanning decades in the public eye. In a way, narrowing this list down to just 15 does Nintendo a disservice, such is the incredible amount of mascots the company has managed to create. This has given Nintendo an amazing slate of exclusives for its consoles, allowing it to remain competitive alongside the likes of Xbox and PlayStation.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the list of the 15 best Nintendo mascots of all time!

15. Captain Falcon

A Nintendo promotional image for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate starring Captain Falcon.

©Nintendo – Original

You can find Captain Falcon in the F-Zero games, beginning with the first title from 1990. With F-Zero being a series of racing games, he never fully gets the chance to shine, especially when compared to other Nintendo mascots who are front and center in their own titles.

Another reason Captain Falcon sits so far down on this list is the lack of activity. Between 2004 and 2023, the F-Zero franchise went into hiatus. While Captain Falcon made appearances in other Nintendo games, such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the character just hasn’t been particularly active for a long time. Still, the F-Zero series has a strong section of dedicated fans, and because of this, it’s impossible to exclude Captain Falcon altogether.

14. Wario

A Nintendo promotional image starring Wario.

©Nintendo – Original

First appearing in 1992, Wario began life as an antagonist of the Super Mario series. His yellow and purple caricature design is the perfect foil for Mario, resembling the iconic character with a few key differences. After his initial appearances, Wario grew quickly in popularity. This led Nintendo to give Wario a series of his own, titled Wario Land. They began in 1994, and the most recent of these, Wario Land: Shake It!, was released in 2008.

However, that isn’t the end of Wario. Alongside Wario Land, a new series was eventually released starring the character titled WarioWare. These games were shorter in length but picked up a strong audience of players. As a result, WarioWare endures to this day, with the most recent title being released in 2023.

Wario isn’t at the top of the list of Nintendo mascots, but there’s no doubt he’s an iconic character by himself.

13. Fox McCloud

A Nintendo promotional image starring Fox McCloud.

©Nintendo – Original

Fox McCloud is the main protagonist of the Star Fox series. He has appeared in every game in the series as leader of the Star Fox Team, with his heroic personality and cool design making him a favorite amongst fans. Fox has been around ever since the original 1993 title, Star Fox. While the series has always had its audience, it hasn’t necessarily broken out like other Nintendo franchises have, meaning Fox McCloud hasn’t had the same mainstream popularity as other mascots.

With the most recent game in the Star Fox series coming in 2017, and the character’s latest appearance being in 2018’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it’s been some time since we’ve seen Fox McCloud. He remains one of Nintendo’s most recognizable mascots, and we’ve got no doubt he’ll be back on screens soon enough.

12. Diddy Kong

A Nintendo promotional image starring Diddy Kong.

©Nintendo – Original

Diddy Kong is a character that goes under the radar sometimes. He’s the secondary protagonist of most Donkey Kong games, and is usually playable in small doses throughout these titles. Yet, the diminutive Kong doesn’t quite have the popularity of his much larger friend. His debut was the 1994 hit Donkey Kong Country, and it wasn’t long before he had a game of his own of his own.

This came in the form of 1997’s Diddy Kong Racing, which became one of the best-selling games on the Nintendo 64, as well as its 2007 remake, Diddy Kong Racing DS. Sadly, Diddy Kong has never had a full platformer of his own, and has remained a sidekick throughout pretty much his entire run as a Nintendo mascot. Still, not everyone needs to be a star!

11. Princess Zelda

A Nintendo promotional image starring Princess Zelda.

©Nintendo – Original

It’s ironic that Princess Zelda, of The Legend of Zelda, isn’t the highest-ranked character from the series on this list. Sometimes, that’s just how it shakes out. Princess Zelda is the guardian of the Triforce of Wisdom, as well as the princess of Hyrule. In earlier titles harkening all the way back to 1986’s The Legend of Zelda, she played more of a damsel-in-distress role, needing to be rescued by Link from the evil Ganon. However, in more recent games, she has taken a little more of an active role in the action, making her a more interesting character overall.

Over the years, there have been many games in The Legend of Zelda series. It’s one of the most iconic franchises in all of gaming, and it’s only right that its titular character belongs on this list. Zelda is a great Nintendo mascot, and she still has plenty of potential to be explored in future titles. We can’t wait to see what comes next for Zelda.

10. Tom Nook

A Nintendo promotional image starring Tom Nook.

©Nintendo – Original

The fans call him “Tom Nook the Crook” for a reason. Tom Nook is the main Nintendo mascot for the Animal Crossing series, selling players the starter house in each game, while collecting a portion of their hard-earned cash as mortgage payment throughout.

Tom Nook has been front and center of the Animal Crossing games ever since its inception in 2001, all the way to the recent Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The games have only continued to grow in popularity, and now stand as one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises. Tom Nook has been there for it all. But still, let’s not mistake Nook’s popularity for likability. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Many in the community see him as a thief who relishes stealing players’ cash. Love or loathe him, you can’t deny the impact of Tom Nook as one of Nintendo’s best mascots.

9. Yoshi

A Nintendo promotional image for Yoshi's Crafted World.

©Nintendo – Original

Much like Wario, Yoshi is another character who began as a side character in the Super Mario series before gaining popularity in his own right. Unlike Wario, Yoshi is a sidekick to Mario, helping him throughout his adventures. Mario will often ride Yoshi through the levels as a fun change to the gameplay.

Yoshi made his first appearance back in 1990’s Super Mario World. His stock rose extremely quickly, and the first Yoshi game was released in 1991. That’s right – Yoshi got his own series, which sent the character’s popularity into the stratosphere. He became one of the most important Nintendo mascots, and importantly, he continued to appear in Super Mario games in his previous role. This meant that even when there was a break in the Yoshi games, gamers still got to play with the character.

The most recent game in the Yoshi series was Yoshi’s Crafted World, from 2019. It’s been a hot minute since we got a new title in the series, but we’re pretty confident in saying he’ll be back.

8. Princess Peach

A Nintendo promotional image for Princess Peach: Showtime!

©Nintendo – Original

Princess Peach’s first appearance came in the 1985 title Super Mario Bros., where she was titled Princess Toadstool. She serves as Mario’s main love interest. In most games in the series, she has been kidnapped by Bowser, and it’s up to Mario to save her. Her role as a typical damsel in distress seems somewhat dated, and in more recent titles, this has changed somewhat.

Nowadays, Princess Peach gets much more involved with the action, and is often a playable character with her own abilities and movesets. This has allowed her to become a more fleshed-out character of her own, instead of just a tool for Mario’s story. She’s even starred in a few games of her own, including Super Princess Peach and Princess Peach: Showtime!

As Princess Peach continues to come into her own, we expect her to grow even more in popularity as one of Nintendo’s best mascots.

7. Samus Aran

A Nintendo promotional image for Metroid Prime Remastered.

©Nintendo – Original

Samus Aran is the main protagonist of the Metroid series, beginning with the 1986 original. Her story is of an ex-soldier, who becomes a galactic bounty hunter, taking missions from the Galactic Federation. The reveal that Samus is female was a surprising one for many players, but one that led the way for positive female representation in video games at the time. Samus’ Power Suit is one of gaming’s most iconic designs, and there’s a reason it has remained relatively untouched ever since its inception.

It could be argued that Samus’ longevity is as impressive as any other on this list. She remains an extremely popular character as part of the Metroid Prime series, and the only reason she isn’t higher on this list is due to the absolute gaming powerhouses ahead of her. With Metroid Prime 4 years into development, there’s an exciting future ahead for Samus.

6. Bowser

A Nintendo promotional image starring Bowser.

©Nintendo – Original

Ever since Super Mario Bros. (1985), Bowser has been Mario and Luigi’s main antagonist. With the goal of conquering the Mushroom Kingdom, Bowser frequently captures Princess Peach, holding her against her will while his Koopa army holds off Mario. His appearance in so many Super Mario games has made him an iconic Nintendo mascot, and just a solid figure in pop culture in general.

What’s so interesting about Bowser is that his evil has no reason. There’s no complex backstory that gives reason to his actions – he’s just a good old-fashioned villain. In a series mainly aimed at younger players, this is all he needs to be to make him the perfect foil for Mario.

Bowser doesn’t have his own series yet. Ultimately, he’s not the type of character that needs it. His appearances in Super Mario titles, as well as other games such as the Super Smash Bros. series, are more than enough to put him in sixth place on this list of the best Nintendo mascots.

5. Kirby

A Nintendo promotional image starring Kirby.

©Nintendo – Original

Is there any character in all of gaming as adorable as Kirby? We’re not sure. This little round guy first appeared in Kirby’s Dream Land in 1992, and has been a staple Nintendo mascot ever since. The Kirby games are some of the most popular in Nintendo’s library, with the character appearing in over 50 games since his inception.

Despite Kirby’s cuteness, there’s something unsettling about his ability to simply inhale his enemies and take on their own attacks. It makes for great gameplay mechanics, but it’s certainly strange to watch. Over the years, Nintendo has used the character in a bunch of different ways, not limited to mainline games, spin-offs, an anime, manga adaptations, and appearances in other games such as the Super Smash Bros. series. This experimental approach has allowed Kirby to remain fresh to players, which is why he still remains so popular today. Make no mistake – Kirby is here to stay.

A Nintendo promotional image for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD.

©Nintendo – Original

Link is the primary protagonist of The Legend of Zelda series, appearing in many different forms across the franchise. His most frequent look is his most iconic, with his green tunic and hat combined with the Hyrule Shield and Master Sword. The brave Hylian Link serves to protect Hyrule from the evil Ganon, with his destiny intertwined with Princess Zelda.

Link has been the main protagonist ever since the 1986 original, and has been silent the entire way through. Silent protagonists are rare nowadays, so it’s incredible that Link has established himself as one of the most iconic video game characters of all time. Given the remarkable critical reception to the last two games in the series, Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, we’re going to hazard a guess and say we’ll be seeing a lot more of Link over the next decade or so.

3. Pikachu

An in-game screenshot from Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu.

©Screenshot from Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu.

Having Pokemon mascot Pikachu at number three speaks to how massive the next two on this list are. Pikachu has been at the forefront of Pokemon ever since Generation 1 began with Pokemon Red & Green in 1996, assisted by its role as one of the protagonists of the Pokemon anime series. The adorable yellow creature is one of the most instantly recognizable characters in all of pop culture, and is one of the few on this list that even non-gamers could pick out of a lineup.

Since 1996, there have been nine Pokemon Generations. Pikachu has featured in each and every one, including a 2018 game of its own titled Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! Let’s be honest: Pokemon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither is Pikachu. Easily one of the most iconic Nintendo mascots of all time, Pikachu has the potential to rise on this list yet.

2. Donkey Kong

A Nintendo promotional image starring Donkey Kong.

©Nintendo – Original

Who else but Donkey Kong to claim second place? The character has endured many different eras of video games, starting with the original Donkey Kong game, which was originally exclusive to arcades. No matter the era, Donkey Kong always adapted and stood the test of time to introduce itself to a new generation of gamers.

Donkey Kong‘s most popular period was comfortably the ’90s. Then, we had titles like Donkey Kong Country defining an entire genre. Nowadays, the character features a lot more in Mario games than in his own titles, although they do still arrive periodically. He may not be as popular as he once was, but in terms of his peak, only Mario and Luigi surpass Donkey Kong among the best Nintendo mascots of all time.

1. Mario and Luigi

A Nintendo promotional image starring Mario and Luigi.

©Nintendo – Original

We’re putting these two together – after all, there’s no Mario without Luigi. These two characters transcend the video game medium. Your grandma could point out Mario and Luigi, no problem. Mario started out as the playable character in Donkey Kong, but 1983’s Mario Bros. saw him and Luigi get their own game together. This kickstarted one of the most successful video game series ever, allowing Nintendo to lean into Mario and Luigi as their main mascots, a status they retain to this day. Nintendo without Mario and Luigi is like cereal without milk – it’s just wrong.

There have been a ton of subseries starring Mario and Luigi – sometimes alone, sometimes together. Anything with these two characters on it is guaranteed to sell like hotcakes, and Nintendo has done a fantastic job with quality control over the years to ensure that every time a Mario or Luigi title is released, it’s sure to be a good time.

We’d go as far as to say that Mario and Luigi aren’t just the best Nintendo mascots – we think they’re the most iconic video game characters of all time.

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