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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.