As the 21st century passed from its teens into its twenties, we looked back over the previous ten years in the video game industry. It was 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, and so much variety available across all consoles, it's a truly exciting time to be playing and sharing video games.
We asked Nintendo Life readers to rate their favourite games of the previous decade on Nintendo consoles and their ratings created the following ranked selection of the very best games between January 2010 and December 2019. 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 didn't 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...
As a sequel, Bravely Second: End Layer does everything right. It improves on its predecessor in nearly every way, shakes things up enough to still be exciting for players who may have recently poured sixty hours into the first game, and offers a meaningful chance to reconnect with beloved characters. Even better, it's a nearly-perfect JRPG in its own right. Beautiful, well-written, and endlessly engaging in gameplay and story, this is a wonderful example of why people fall in love with the genre. Simply put, Bravely Second is a must-play for JRPG fans, and one of the 3DS' finest games.
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.
Despite coming from the previous generation, Bayonetta 2 shines brightest on Nintendo Switch. It runs without a hitch at 60fps, looks incredible in both TV and tabletop modes, and offers an addictive free-flowing combat formula that sprinkles in platforming, light exploration and a ridiculous story to create something that you simply need to experience. If you’ve never played it for before, you’re in for a treat. If you’ve already played it, it’s even more bewitching as a handheld gem.
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.
There's no doubt about it, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is one of the most refined and enjoyable platformers money can buy. The levels are all beautiful, the characters move with fluidity and brilliant responsiveness, and the inclusion of Funky Kong brings balance for those who have less experience with brutally tough platformers. It’s so well-made that it’s almost too well-made; there's an absence of a certain 'rough-and-ready' charm found in Rare's original DKC trilogy. You know you're splitting hairs when your biggest complaint is that a game is too polished, though. After beginning life on Wii U, Donkey Kong’s Switch debut is streamlined, rewarding, and immensely good fun; any fan of 2D platformers simply has to get this game.
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.
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.
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.
Retro Studios revival of Rare's treasured Donkey Kong Country on SNES came after the developer had successfully reinvented Nintendo's Metroid as an exploratory first-person shooter, so perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised that the team was able to recapture the spirit of Rare's DKC platformers three console generations later with Donkey Kong Country Returns. However, it still came as something of a surprise just how good the game turned out, reimagining the SNES template for the 21st Century.
The 3DS port is equally impressive, but you really can't go wrong with whatever version you can get your hands on. When it comes to resurrections, it seems Retro is your go-to studio and DKC returned in fabulous form on Wii.