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...
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.
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.
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.
A game made exclusively for Nintendo DS, sometimes you can't help but marvel at how developers are somehow able to squeeze home console-sized RPG epics onto tiny handheld systems with the most modest of specs, and Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies stands as an impressive feat. Boasting a wealth of new gameplay features, Wi-Fi compatibility and multiplayer action as well, this remains a significant milestone in portable gaming and helped increase western interest in this hallowed Japanese RPG series.
Bringing the handheld series to home console, Rhythm Heaven Fever (or Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise as it was known in Europe) showcased the series' infectious beat-based surrealism on the TV for the first time. It's almost as fun to watch as it is to play.
SteamWorld Heist is an entirely different proposition to its predecessor SteamWorld Dig, and that's no bad thing. Its quirky blend of a 2D perspective, allied with turn-based strategy and skill-based attacks, is a surprisingly addictive combination. There's impressive depth to the overall mechanics, and it's all topped off with a level of presentation that's both charming and accomplished. Whether seeking challenging strategy or an entertaining story, this title delivers both in its own unique way and has certainly stolen plenty of our time; we haven't even got all the hats yet. Wherever you choose to play it, you won't regret it.
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.
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.
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.
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.