Happy New Year everyone! As the 21st century passes from its teens into its twenties, we've been looking back over the last ten years in the video game industry. It's been quite the rollercoaster journey for Nintendo in particular, riding the highs of the Wii and DS period through the trials of the Wii U and 3DS era right up to the success of Nintendo Switch. As developers continue to push the boundaries of the medium things are only going to get better, and with the dawn of a new console generation and so much variety available across all consoles, it's a truly exciting time to be playing and sharing video games.
We asked you lovely people to rate your favourite games of the past decade on Nintendo consoles and your ratings have created the following ranked selection of the very best games of the decade. Remember, even after publication this list remains malleable and will change to reflect the User Ratings of Nintendo Life readers, so don't worry if you forgot to rate your favourites. Simply head to the corresponding game page, hover over the Game Rating star and click to score your chosen title.
Enough talk, let's take a walk through your Nintendo console Games of the Decade 2010-2019...
Building on the solid foundation of Kirby: Triple Deluxe, this is a game where the pink ball can transform into Mech Kirby. We’d have probably scribbled that in the design doc, given ourselves a pat on the back and gone down the pub for a celebratory pint, but HAL surrounds this central idea with brilliantly designed worlds, trademark rainbow visuals and enough charming moments to make Kirby: Planet Robobot the finest 3DS outing for The Most Powerful Video Game Character Of Them All™ (as confirmed by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate). We always knew he was more than candyfloss with a face.
Monster Hunter: World has done the business on other platforms and attracted a far broader audience than ever before to a series that already enthused a sizeable playerbase, especially in the east. The Monster Hunter games have always required a big investment and many fans insist the 'traditional' grind and other franchise foibles are necessary to the 'authentic' Monster Hunter experience. Crafting items from the enormous beasts you’ve taken down can be hugely rewarding, and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is possibly the best of the 'classic style' - the best way to find out if you’ve got the bug for the series. Although Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate works on an original model 3DS, we’d recommend playing on a New 3DS for camera control and a better framerate. Lovely.
Splatoon 2 is just about everything you could ask for from a sequel. It builds on everything the original online team shooter set up and then some; almost every single major issue people had with the first game has been resolved, showing that Nintendo is genuinely listening and wants to deliver the absolute best experience possible. It maintains the freshness you’d expect and throws in countless big and small changes and additions, every one of them for the better. Splatoon 2 is simply ink-redible.
SteamWorld Dig 2 is another confident effort from Image & Form, and a worthy successor to the original. Stylish and good-looking, it also has the series' trademark humour and, yes, a pretty good soundtrack. It refines and expands upon the qualities of SteamWorld Dig and hits some delicious high points. Whether you played the first game or not, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a must-have - its charming aesthetic and cast set the scene for a tightly designed and clever exploration game.
Those who brushed Pokémon Black and White 2 off as simply more of the same at the time were sorely mistaken. On a superficial level the Pokémon games have not changed much, and for good reason; the foundation that was placed way back in Pokémon Red and Blue was incredibly solid and engaging from the off. By adding more around it and tweaking things under the hood, the series has grown far beyond its humble monochromatic origins even if the pace of change is a little more glacial than some would like. The naming of these entries, their status as the first 'direct' sequels in the franchise, and the fact that they weren't being released on the then-new 3DS console arguably did these games a disservice and masked their greatness. Make no mistake though, these are two of the finest games in the series.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is almost the perfect continuation of Rare's Donkey Kong Country series in many ways. Retro Studios managed to offer the perfect balance of old and new elements to to create one of Wii's finest platforming experiences and a game that should challenge even seasoned platforming fans. The main game itself is easily enough to make it worth your time, but figuring in the massive amount of replay value makes it an even more appealing package. Of course, this was the foundation for the wonderful follow-up Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, but if you've only played that entry it's still well worth tracking down a copy of Donkey Kong Country Returns on Wii (or the excellent 3DS port).
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is an attractive remaster with some nice additions, encompassing improved controls, visuals and enjoyable extras for fans. It's a deep, involving 30+ hour adventure, which draws the player in with plenty of honesty and soul. It may have stuck a little too much to the Ocarina formula, but we're certainly glad this one came to light again on Wii U and gave us the opportunity to revisit Twilight Princess once more.
Stardew Valley offers its players a chance to live a second life – one where you can forget the troubles of the real world and get excited over finding a particularly rare carrot. It is a truly magical experience; games can often be enjoyable but they don’t all manage to be as captivating as this. This is the sort of game that ideally requires a significant amount of time to be invested; the enjoyment doesn’t necessarily come from the day-to-day actions you perform, but rather from the general growth of pride, satisfaction, and sense of security as the days go by. Fans of games such as Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing will be right at home here and, for those who aren’t, there is a decent chance this game might just surprise you.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is sprawling, diverse, complex and entrancing. It utilised the Wii U's capabilities not only to produce a beautiful world, but showed how something as simple as a map on the GamePad screen can be invaluable. What's most impressive is the dynamism and impression of freedom in play - level caps and grinding are naturally part of the equation, yet they're managed within a structure where even small missions or Affinity quests greatly enhance the narrative and sense of place. To truly experience the story of this human colony and the vast planet Mira requires exploration and patience, and Monolith Soft found an impressive balance in bringing its vast range of gameplay systems and mechanics together. Occasional bottlenecks are infrequent and easily overcome in the broader experience, and overall Xenoblade Chronicles X delivers a hugely impressive RPG adventure. It was an enormous accomplishment for Monolith Soft and an irresistible part of the Wii U library.
Another technical marvel, quite how Monster Games fit Monolith Soft’s 3D epic onto a tiny handheld is still something of a mystery. The second screen meant most of the Wii original’s HUD gubbins could be shifted to the bottom screen, but the scope of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D’s world meant it was restricted to running only on the updated ‘New’ 3DS models. It was never going to beat the Wii version in a beauty pageant but having it on a handheld gave busy gamers a better shot at seeing everything this brilliant 100-hour action RPG has to offer, and that’s as true today as it was in 2015.