Every Nintendo Cartoon, Ranked

the legend of zelda cartoon series
(Image credit: DIC Enterprises)

I recently discussed which PlayStation games I'd like to see adapted for TV, but you know what? That's not my true heart, because even though I'm a huge Sony fanboy, my true heart belongs to Nintendo. That company has had its fair share of TV shows, most notably Pokemon (check out our listing of the 12 best Pokemon from the original series, by the way), but also a number of other shows as well.    

I count eight, actually. Because while there have been other Nintendo adjacent cartoons over the years, like the awesome Double Dragon and Mega Man, I don't consider them pure Nintendo shows, since those characters have appeared on other platforms. And, no, Sonic doesn't count, either, since even though he's NOW on Nintendo platforms, if you're an old school head from the '90s like myself, then you'll know that Sega and Nintendo used to be bitter rivals back in the day.  

So, no. Sonic cartoons will not be on this list. But, you know what? I take back what I said earlier about Mega Man, since while the blue bomber did indeed have his own show, he was also on another, more Nintendo specific TV show as well. Speaking of which… 

captain n the game master

(Image credit: DIC Animation City)

8. Captain N: The Game Master (1989-1991) 

I will give Captain N: The Game Master this (and only this): Without it, we might not have ever had the awesome Sega Genesis title, Kid Chameleon, as the premise of that game is pretty similar to this earlier show: A teenager gets sucked into a video game and has to save the day. 

In this show, the teenager in question has to face off against Nintendo villains like Mother Brain from Metroid (who legit sounds like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors), King Hippo from Punch-Out!!, and Eggplant Wizard from Kid Icarus. But, fear not, since Captain N is aided by Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Mega Man from his titular series, Pit from Kid Icarus, and Princess Lana from, er, Captain N: The Game Master

You couldn't make these characters any less like their video game counterparts if you tried, though. I already mentioned Mother Brain, but Simon Belmont is a beefcake pretty boy, Mega Man sounds like he smokes three packs a day, and Kid Icarus has this annoying tendency to add "icus" at the end of every sentence. Sure, the show has a cult following, but it's mostly because of its faults, since Captain N is not bad as in good, like the Powerglove. It's just bad as in bad. And that's not good.  

Donkey Kong in Donkey Kong Country

(Image credit: Nelvana Limited)

7. Donkey Kong Country (1997-2000) 

Donkey Kong Country is one of the first TV series to be entirely computer generated, and guess what. It shows. The premise is simple: There's a magical coconut that grants wishes, and Donkey Kong protects said coconut…That's it. 

It's the everything around that paper thin storyline that puts this show so low on this list. First, let's talk about the songs, because yes, there are songs on this show, and they are not good. Like, at all. Then, there is the repetitive nature of every episode of King K. Rool trying to acquire the magic coconut, only to always lose. This barely holds up for the series debut, let alone 40 episodes.  

No, Donkey Kong Country is not fun in any way whatsoever. And while we'll see DK again in the upcoming Mario movie (Isn't it weird, by the way, that Donkey Kong is in the Super Mario Bros. movie?), this early misstep is a good indication of what not to do to everybody's favorite ape in the red tie.   

Saturday Supercade logo

(Image credit: Ruby-Spears Enterprises)

6. Saturday Supercade (1983-1984) 

Okay, so I'm kind of breaking my own rule from the intro here, because Saturday Supercade included NON-Nintendo franchises like Pitfall!, Q*Bert, and Frogger cartoon segments, but I feel like I HAVE to include it here since it also features Donkey Kong (Voiced by Soupy Sales!), Mario (Voiced by Peter Cullen!), and Donkey Kong Jr. (Voiced by Frank Welker!).

Honestly, the Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. cartoons were probably the best out of the lot, even though they're really not very good themselves, either. Saturday Supercade is old, and it feels it. The cartoons are kind of all over the place like early '80s cartoons tended to be, and the games are so old, you kind of feel like you're watching ancient history, which, you kind of are. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s also not incredibly compelling, either. It's…fine. 

Bowser in The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3

(Image credit: DIC Animation City)

5. The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990) 

Give the second Mario cartoon credit — at least it stayed pretty faithful to the source material. The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 featured sounds from the game, items from the game, and the Koopalings from the game. In several ways, it was superior to the first Mario cartoon, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! 

But, it was also lacking in one key regard, and that's that it had no live-action segments. Sure, that shouldn't matter in a ranking of the best Nintendo cartoons, but it does, because the live-action portions from The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! are likely ingrained in pretty much every Nintendo fan's head who's actually watched the show. (Seriously, ask anyone what they remember more from that series — the cartoons or the live-action segments — and I'm pretty sure they'll tell you the live-action segments.) Plus, I don't like Mario's voice in this cartoon. No Captain Lou Albano, no bueno.  

Mario and Luigi in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!

(Image credit: DIC Enterprises)

4. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! (1989) 

Swing your arms, from side to side. Come on, let's do the Mario! The first Super Mario TV show is actually quite charming. The cartoons, which chronicle the adventures from the game Super Mario Bros. 2, are sandwiched between live-action segments starring Captain Lou Albano as Mario and Danny Wells as Luigi. High art!

Plus, every Friday, we also got episodes of The Legend of Zelda, which were not good, but at least it gave Link one of his most ridiculous catchphrases ever in, "Well, excuuuuuse me, Princess."  It wasn't a perfect Mario show, but it was superior to the Mario 3 cartoon since it had live-action segments, and it got the job done, so that's all that matters.  

Luigi and Yoshi in Super Mario World

(Image credit: DIC Animation City)

3. Super Mario World (1991) 

Though it also has no live-action segments, I feel like Super Mario World is the best of the Mario cartoons, and here's why-It's the only one that feels truly unique. Taking place in a prehistoric setting, and swapping Yoshi for Toad in the main roster, Super Mario World is like if The Flintstones (Fleentstones?!) took place in the Mushroom Kingdom, and it actually works.   

Now, granted, the cartoons aren't anything to write home about, but I find these stories more engaging than the other two Super Mario cartoons, which is why it makes it so high on this list.  

Kirby at a table

(Image credit: 4Kids Entertainment)

2. Kirby: Right Back At Ya! (2002-2006) 

Running for 100 episodes (!), Kirby: Right Back At Ya! is insane to me since its protagonist doesn't talk. Instead, all of the other characters, most notably King Dedede, do all the talking and joke-telling around Kirby, and it's a small wonder that a show about a pink puffball that sucks in pretty much everything and absorbs their power, could be engaging for tons of episodes, and still work. 

But it did, and Kirby: Right Back at Ya! was a silly and fun show, and there really isn't much else to say about it. I loved this series back then in both action and humor, and I still enjoy it today. It holds up.  

Ash and Pikachu in Pokemon

(Image credit: OLM, Inc)

1. Pokemon (1997-) 

I mean, come on now. Number one had to be Pokemon, right? Whether it be the original anime, or the current gen, every Pokemon anime series has brought something unique to the table with its vast array of pocket monsters and storylines.

Not only that, but Pokemon birthed several great movies from the popular series. The plots are simple, but effective, and all of the series have been engaging in some way or another. No question, Pokemon is the best cartoon series to ever come out of Nintendo, and it's not even close.

But what is your favorite Nintendo cartoon? For entertainment that combines video games and TV, make sure to stop by here often!    

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.