In the days before the internet really took hold, most tips and strategy for games came from two places. Your friends (or a friend of a friend on the playground, of course) who could tell you what to do, or a game magazine! And the most knowledgeable game magazine for Nintendo games was, of course, Nintendo Power. Not only could you get tips from the monthly magazine (I had a subscription throughout the N64 lifespan) but could also buy guides dedicated to one game for a cool $9.99. Or you could get your choice of a free guide when you renewed your subscription each year! I loved the guides then, and I love the guides now. With the glory days of physical strategy books behind us, I have a lot Nintendo Power Player’s Guide nostalgia.
Though you can now use the internet to find detailed FAQs and walkthroughs for almost any game, I still prefer playing with a physical guidebook nearby if I have one. They’re so charming-cleverly written, full of jokes and cool inside information, and beautifully laid out maps! I really don’t have a huge collection of guides-just a few that I picked up on a whim many years ago or with my NP subscription renewal. I’ve also purchased a few guides more recently from eBay, both for nostalgia, and for some genuine help for tough retro games! The guides featured below are by no means a “best of” list, just a few special ones from my collection that I have nostalgia for. I’ll also share a “favorite feature” of each that makes it stand out to me!
Before jumping in…
Two quick notes! If you’d like to see full high quality scans of complete guides, check out the Internet Archive. You can find quite a few beautiful PDFs of old game guides and magazines. It’s pretty awesome, especially for guides that are insanely rare and expensive (like the magnificent Earthbound guide!). Please add to the database if you have something that isn’t featured!
And second, be sure to check out Nintendo Force magazine if you miss Nintendo Power as much as me. Okay, enjoy the list!
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (N64)
I picked up this guide on a whim when I purchased the game at Wal-Mart, using money I had made babysitting at the time! It’s both insanely useful and packed full of fun diagrams and factoids about the original Star Wars trilogy vehicles. Rogue Squadron was a fairly tough game, especially if you were going for 100% gold medals (which I obviously was, because I had copious free time in 1998). The tips to achieve that sweet, sweet gold were invaluable!
Favorite feature: The vehicle diagrams, specs, and stories found before each level’s guide. So cool if you’re a Star Wars fan!
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64)
I never actually owned the Ocarina of Time player’s guide during the N64 era (though it’s awesome and I found one much later!). But I did have the guide for Majora! My parents kindly bought me Majora’s Mask when it came out, as a surprise gift for making Varsity Cross Country that year (fun fact about me: I’m still an avid trail runner). When they saw me looking at the guide at the cash register they let me get it too!
Playing through Majora’s Mask for the first time, using the beautifully laid out and well written guide for help when needed (it’s hard to find all the heart pieces!), was so much fun. I can still remember playing late into the night, wondering through Clock Town with the Halloween lights in my room for added atmosphere. Majora’s Mask is one of the best N64 games and overall Zelda games-give it a try if you haven’t played it!
Favorite feature: The “Bomber’s Notebook” appendix in the back! The sidequests in Majora’s Mask are numerous and often quite complex. Having a handy visual reference for them was so helpful!
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (GBA)
This was a recent pickup! My wife and I both absolutely loved Fire Emblem: Three Houses (our first with the series). So naturally I wanted to play more of the series, and picked up both of the GBA games on the original carts. The only problem? I’m not that great at tactical strategy games! I really enjoy them, but in terms of skill I’m much more of an “action/adventure and platformer” kind of guy. So when I found a good auction for this guide and the original Fire Emblem on GBA, I went all in! So far I’ve only completed Sacred Stones (hence the choice) and I had a blast! The guide is a delight, and much like the game, is packed full of charming visuals that have aged incredibly well.
Favorite feature: The map layouts. Being terrible at these games and afraid of losing my characters to “permadeath”, I found the maps to be invaluable for planning out my strategy!
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GameCube)
Another recent pickup! (side note: I had no idea there were “Player’s Choice” branded guides until I saw this on eBay). I had only played through Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door once in my life until a few months ago. Since my first playthrough was back in college when the game came out, I figured it was time for another go! I thought it’d be fun to pick up the guide to add some nostalgia. And I had a great time playing through the game, consulting the guide when I got stuck, but mostly just enjoying the awesome visuals and jokes within it. I’m happy to report Thousand Year Door holds up really well and is still my favorite in the series!
Favorite feature: The clever “one liners” for each section of strategy. Some are just generally known cultural references, and some are very “late 90s/early 2000s” nods. But they’re all amazing!
Conker’s Bad Fur Day (N64)
This guide is a masterpiece of hilarity. With Nintendo Power refusing to cover Conker’s Bad Fur Day in its general magazine (because of its mature rating/content) the writers had an absolute field day in the dedicated guide. I distinctly remember it was covered in plastic in stores so you couldn’t even flip through it! The entire guide is seemingly written by Conker himself and has all kinds of ridiculous, zany meta jokes and humor in it. Conker’s Bad Fur Day may not be one of my favorite platformers on the N64, but it’s easily a favorite Nintendo Power Player’s Guide!
Favorite feature: The layout and the HUMOR. There is an absurd (and glorious) dedication to the style of jokes from the game present on every single page. It even looks like Conker pasted it together himself. It’s truly a work of art and a delight to read through.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii/GameCube)
I was lucky enough to pick up a Wii the first weekend it was released. I had to get up at 5am to get in line at my local Best Buy, but I got one! And of course, I grabbed a copy of Zelda: Twilight Princess alongside this beautiful guide. Dungeons in Twilight Princess were never that difficult (though they are excellent in their design), but I still love the aesthetics of the guide! I’ll always fondly remember it for two reasons. First, for the nostalgia of playing through the game when the Wii was released in my first year of teaching. It brought a lot of comfort during a stressful year! Second, I believe this was the last Nintendo Power Player’s Guide for a Zelda game. It will forever be in my collection!
Favorite feature: The entire guide is very “simple and clean”, much like the design of the Wii console. I also really enjoy the 3D rendering of the items at the start of the guide!
I bought Banjo-Kazooie without ever really playing it, so I figured I’d grab the guide as well! Like Zelda, I really just used it as a reference if I was truly stuck or couldn’t find the final few collectibles. And it so helpful with that! I’ll always remember playing through the game for the first time with my little sister, finding every last jiggy and honeycomb piece in the creative and colorful worlds. I’ve now completed Banjo-Kazooie so many times that the guide is completely unnecessary. But I still take it out during a playthrough just for the Nintendo Power Player’s Guide nostalgia!
Favorite feature: The rhyming “world intros” from Gruntilda that the Nintendo Power staff wrote. They’re completely unnecessary, but show the genuine love and care that went into making these guides. Here’s the one from Freezeezy Peak, my favorite level:
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (SNES)
Since I didn’t own a Super Nintendo as a kid, I don’t have many guides from the era. What I do have I bought more recently, like this beautiful DKC 2 guide! I’ve honestly got the game memorized to 102%, but wanted to pick it up since it’s one of my favorite games of all time. And it’s a blast playing through it with the guide nearby! I learned quite a bit about shortcut barrels from the guide, which I never really knew the location of. And all of the images and character models in it are just a delight.
Favorite feature: The 3D renders of the Kongs, animal buddies, collectibles, enemies, and bosses. It’s instant nostalgia.
Super Metroid (SNES)
Super Metroid is one of my top three favorite games of all time. It’s absolutely brilliant in every possibly way, and I play through it at least once a year. It took my friend and I years to complete the game the first time, but I can 100% speedrun the game in about 90 minutes! I know the map of Zebes so well that my children were probably born with knowledge of it (I’m aware that makes no sense scientifically). Yet I picked up this guide recently, during a “classic game day” with one of my best friends, Kamal. It wasn’t only for the nostalgia of one of the best games ever made, but for the happy memories of gaming with an awesome friend during stressful times. Worth every penny.
Favorite feature: The hand drawn sketches of Samus and all the creatures of planet Zebes. They’re beautiful. Just look at the glory of this page on Kraid!
Are you nostalgic for a specific Nintendo Power Player’s Guide? If so, which one? Do you still use any of them when you play through older games today? Or did the guides never really appeal to you? Please share in the comments below!