How good can one green dinosaur do when they head off in their own direction? Pretty well – most of the time anyway…
First seen in 1990 with the Japanese release of Super Mario World, Yoshi quickly rose to prominence beyond the borders of Dinosaur Land. Not only does Yoshi make an appearance in just about every Mario spin-off and even most main Mario games, but he’s starred in more spinoffs than any of Mario’s friends. Sorry, Luigi. But just how good have the Yoshi-led adventures been?
From the many Yoshi’s Islands to multiple spinoffs and even the very recent Woolly World, we pulled together a list of every solo Yoshi game and ranked it from worst to best. Just the ground rules: these are games built to star Yoshi, not have him as a playable fighter or one fourth of a Mario platformers’ playable roster. These are games starring one or more Yoshis, all of varying quality, though Yoshi’s soundtracks are usually fantastic. Let’s start with the very worst…
Talk about wasted potential. This not only has the pedigree of being developed by future-Pokemon-creators at Game Freak, but this is also Yoshi’s first ever solo outing AND one of his only appearances on the NES. Additionally, it’s the only game that’s simply the dinosaur’s name, which had to be a big draw for kids in the early 90s. All of that historical significance doesn’t do much to bolster this middling puzzle game. The idea of swapping around egg shells to match Mario enemy types is just the type of simplistic puzzle you expect Nintendo to completely understand, but this is a big whiff. At best it’s an inoffensive time waster that moves… so… slow… that there’s about zero tension for most of a given game. This is for Yoshi completists only.
10. Yoshi Topsy-Turvy
Nintendo detractors often complain that Nintendo is too in love with adding gimmicks to everything, and Topsy-Turvy is one of the times the critics were dead-on. Released when the Game Boy Advance had already been replaced by the DS, this late-in-the-lifecycle title is about rolling Yoshi back and forth using a motion sensor built into the cartridge. The gameplay is similar to the much better WarioWare: Twisted, and rolling Yoshi back and forth feels like a Wii minigame stretched waaaaay too thin in a retail release. Topsy-Turvy is the first Yoshi title from developer Artoon, and this is their weakest – not that Artoon’s other Yoshi titles are much of an improvement over Topsy-Turvy’s subpar quality.
9. Yoshi Touch & Go
Touch & Go is an interesting counter to Topsy-Turvy. T&G was a somewhat early Nintendo DS release, and it’s quite obvious that the game is still trying to figure out what to do with the system’s many features. Built from a DS tech demo called Balloon Trip, Touch & Go uses stylus controls almost exclusively, tasking players with firing eggs and protecting baby Mario on his path back to the stork. Touch & Go is by no means bad, but everything it does well was done better in many later games, Yoshi titles included, which making this game a tad irrelevant.
8. Yoshi’s Cookie
Released only a year after Yoshi, the dino’s second puzzle game was a marked improvement (especially on the SNES). This confection-based game is about Mario and Yoshi baking and matching up identical cookies to clear the screen. It’s similar to Tetris Attack’s swapping mechanic (more on that later), but with turning entire rows at a time, sorta like a delicious Rubik’s Cube. Yoshi’s Cookie won’t ever top a “best puzzle games” list, but digging up this SNES cart is a tasty little treat.
7. Yoshi’s Story
If this was a ranking of the cutest Yoshi games, this one would do a little better, but the first follow up to Yoshi’s Island isn’t much beyond a pretty face. The smart platforming design and inventive power-ups are nowhere to be seen, replaced with the most average of sidescrolling action. Yoshi’s Story has a storybook design, but with lazy Donkey Kong Country graphics, and some very short stages. No amount of cuteness cat fix that.
6. Yoshi’s Island DS
This game should’ve been the greatest sequel in gaming history as the long-awaited follow-up to Yoshi’s grand SNES journey with Baby Mario, but it was not to be. Artoon made a passable sequel that certainly looked the part with retro-pixel art, but the gameplay doesn’t reach the same level of sublime beauty from the original Yoshi’s Island. There are some harsh difficulty spikes in YIDS, which are made even worse by the game creating a dead zone of space between the two screens. The trick of adding in more infant versions of Mario characters puts the series one step closer to Muppet Babies (and has filled the margins of every Kart and sport-based spin-off since), but their gimmicky gameplay isn’t too bad. Still for all of the new kids, Baby Mario remains the preferred partner for this adventure.
Where’s the top portable entry and one of the best puzzle games ever? The next page has it all – including the the best Yoshi game ever!