Features: Nintendo Life's Game of the Year 2010 Awards

Find out what buttered our biscuits and floated our boats last year

Fantastic. Packed. Hardcore.

Whatever the word, it must be said that Nintendo gamers had an incredibly superfluous amount of quality software to choose from in 2010. Numerous long-neglected franchises returned to roaring glory, modern classics were born and “core” gamers could no longer complain about any perceived lack of interesting titles.

Today, we look at the games the Nintendo Life staff found to be the cream of the crop last year. Tomorrow, we reveal the Reader's Choice Games of the Year as voted by you.

WiiWare Game of the Year


After three entries in the BIT.TRIP series, Gaijin Games had well proven themselves, and CommanderVideo, to be adept craftsmen of retro-inspired insanity. We all suspected that the fourth entry, a platformer named RUNNER, would be something a little special, but what hit the Wii Shop shelf completely blew us away. So much so, in fact, that it became only the second WiiWare game to receive a 10/10 from us. Now that’s special.

Runners-up: Cave Story, Tomena Sanner

DSiWare Game of the Year

Winner: Cave Story

This category had some cut-throat competition, but in the end it became clear that the one DSiWare game you had to have downloaded in 2010 was Cave Story. With immense charm, diabolical difficulty at times and an amazing soundtrack, Cave Story on the go is too much goodness to pass up.

Runners-up: Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, X-Scape

Wii Game of the Year

Winner: Super Mario Galaxy 2

Nintendo did the seemingly impossible with the sequel to Super Mario Galaxy: taking a stone-cold classic and improving on it in nearly every way, crafting a stunning video game achievement. This is one tubby plumber with no fat and no filler.

Runners-up: Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn

DS Game of the Year

Winner: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Sky

DS has more RPGs than it knows what to do with them, but that didn't stop Level-5, Square-Enix and Nintendo from producing one of the best ones yet for the portable. If you've yet to jump on the DQ wagon, IX is the perfect place to do so.

Runners-up: WarioWare: D.I.Y., Picross 3D

Best Sound

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Few franchises are as inexorably tied to their soundtrack as Mario, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 proved that Nintendo still has some of the best composers in the business. It's epic, adventurous and playful all at the same time, a perfect match for a nigh-perfect game.


Best Visuals

Super Mario Galaxy 2

The Wii may not have the most horses pulling its carriage, but in the right hands can still compete with the powerhouses in its own way. Super Mario Galaxy 2's visuals pulled no punches, pummeling all comers on the same console.

Runners-up: Monster Hunter 3, Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Best Online

Winner: Monster Hunter 3

Wii is not exactly known for providing smooth online experiences, but hats off to Capcom for somehow convincing Nintendo that online gaming on the little white box doesn't have to suck so bad. Totally addictive, ridiculously packed with content and just plain exciting, made all the better by taking off the console's kid gloves.

Runner-up: GoldenEye 007

Most Improved Sequel

Winner: Red Steel 2

Ubisoft's Wii FPS series has come a long way from it's barely functional launch origins. The two couldn't be more different really. Not only did the sequel finally deliver on the original promise of accurate sword- and gunplay thanks to Wii MotionPlus, but it ditched the hokey realism of the first go around and embraced a cartoonish, over-the-top Western/samurai look that is much more pleasing on the eyes.

Runner-up: No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

Surprise of the Year

3DS announcement

Nobody could really say they saw this one coming, and especially in such an un-Nintendo-like fashion as a short, cryptic press release in the middle of March. But once E3 rolled around and we all finally found out what Nintendo has up their sleeve for the successor to their most successful handheld, well, our eyes melted from staring into a sun of joy.

Disappointment of the Year

Winner: Disney Epic Mickey

Heart-breaking, really. With all the talk of a brand-new, Wii-exclusive, darker Mickey Mouse adventure that was supposed to take advantage of a unique morality system and helmed by acclaimed game designer Warren Specter, hopes were high that Disney's latest would be a fantastic adventure. Instead, we got an outdated 3D platformer for a console that already has some of the best in the genre with a clunky camera and pedestrian morality system. Ouch.

Runners-up: Metroid: Other M, Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition

Fanboy Moment of the Year

Philip "Chicken Brutus" Reed: The return of Celda

For me, my fanboy moment of the year was seeing cel-shading return for the visual aesthetic of Skyward Sword. The graphic design and animation in Wind Waker was perhaps the best I'd ever seen in a video game, and even now, eight years later, I don't believe it has been surpassed. My fear was that Nintendo intended to discard this approach (barring the handheld sequels) in an effort to separate themselves--and the series--from the criticism often leveled at Wind Waker. And whether you enjoyed the game or not, there's no arguing against the fact that the cel-shaded animation allowed it to hold up visually through the advances in hardware in a way that no other console game had really managed before. The muddy, dreary, mirthless world of Twilight Princess may have been ostensibly more realistic in its design, but it also looked out of date before it even hit shelves, and its environments never even approached the robust creativity of Wind Waker. Seeing the cel-shaded approach return to the console Zelda series is something to be excited about; the vivid blues and greens and yellows of Wind Waker spoke to creativity and adventure in a way that the muted browns and greys of Twilight Princess could not. Score one for artistic merit over realism.

Damien "Damo" McFerran: It's on like [redacted]

Seeing Donkey Kong back to his best was like cheering on the latest accomplishments of an old friend. Donkey Kong Returns entertained me like no other game in 2010, offering up addictive gameplay infused with old-school charm and sensibilities. Retro Studios did a wonderful job on updating the classic platforming concept, and I'm sure many of the original programmers that were at Rare during the production of the original games will be happy - and possibly a bit jealous - with what has been achieved with this Wii sequel.

Nintendo Life Game of the Year 2010

Winner: Super Mario Galaxy 2

Sure, Nintendo is an exceptionally talented developer, but with Super Mario Galaxy 2 they proved just how big a bunch of jerks they really are. For no reason whatsoever other than to see if they could do it, they trot out a sequel to one of the best 3D platformers of all time and make it even crazier, even more chock-full of new ideas and clever scenarios, putting all other developers in every department to shame. Just because they felt like it. Meanies.

Runner-up: Donkey Kong Country Returns

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