So, that's it then – another decade is over. The past ten years are perhaps a little unusual in that they've been a reverse of the ten that preceded them; in the year 2000, Nintendo was struggling to keep pace with Sony in the home console arena and was facing competition for the handheld market thanks to rival portables. By the time the DS and Wii arrived, however, the company was arguably the toast of the video game world. Both consoles sold in record numbers, and as the decade drew to a close, it seemed that Nintendo was unstoppable.
As we all know, the dawn of the next decade proved the old adage "pride comes before a fall", and neither of Nintendo's follow-up systems managed to emulate the same success of their forerunners, leading some 'industry experts' to state that the Japanese giant should retire from hardware and focus on software.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves! Let's summarise the last ten years using words and pictures, shall we?
2010 - Starting In Control
The new decade started as the last one ended – with the Wii in complete control. According to Amazon, Nintendo items locked out nine of the top ten spots for most popular products during Christmas 2009 and the console sold 3 million units during the festive period in the States, with robust DS sales also contributing to a record-breaking year. Such was the Wii's power that it was even being used to rehabilitate inmates in British prisons!
Elsewhere, the news that Nintendo and Nokia almost worked together on a mobile phone caused quite a stir – the project never got beyond the concept stage, but it would have been interesting nonetheless.
...some rumour got out that I didn't really like that game... I just want to clarify that that's not the case, because I was very involved in that. And even emailing almost daily with Tim Stamper right up until the end.
Speaking of Donkey Kong Country, the game's Wii successor Donkey Kong Country Returns arrived in 2010, and was given a glowing 10/10 score by this very site.
In terms of other reviews, the most-viewed review we ran during 2010 might shock you. It was Ubisoft's superb Castlevania-like DSiWare title Soul of Darkness, which scored 9/10. Elsewhere, Call of Duty: Black Ops was rated on both the Wii and DS, while Metroid: Other M earned 9/10 – a rating that, in hindsight, might prove controversial today. Another surprise review was the 5/10 we handed Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Collection, calling it "a prime example of what happens when a highly-esteemed developer decides to push out a product with the minimal amount of effort." Eek. Thankfully, Mario's other big outing in 2010 got a perfect score, so wasn't all bad.
Treasure's much-hyped sequel Sin & Punishment: Star Successor was another highlight, as was the long-awaited 10th Mega Man entry. Sonic's much-hyped (and now mostly forgotten) fourth entry also arrived on WiiWare in this year. On Nintendo DS, Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver scored 9/10.
Most Popular Article of 2010: Super Everdrive Flash Cart Miniaturises Your SNES Collection
Most Popular Review of 2010: Soul of Darkness (DSiWare)
2011 - The Birth Of Nintendo Direct
The biggest story we ran during 2011 in terms of pure traffic is proof that saying dumb things in public is always going to trigger interest. In this case, it was Peter Vesterbacka of Angry Birds developer Rovio, who, no doubt emboldened by the success of his free-to-play game, branded Nintendo DS titles "$49 pieces of plastic" and stated that, if he were Nintendo, he'd be worried about the rise of smartphone games, too.
Fast forward 10 years, and guess what – Nintendo is still selling $49 pieces of plastic, and is doing pretty well out of them, too. Meanwhile, Rovio has struggled to find a successor to its Angry Birds brand; in 2015, it laid off 260 employees after associated toy and merchandising revenue fell by almost half during the previous year, and in 2018 was forced to shutter its London studio after disappointing results.
2011 also marked the debut of the 'Nintendo Direct' concept, a format established by Nintendo and now cloned by its rivals. Back in 2011, the idea of creating a video to announce new games seemed like something of a cop-out, especially as shows like E3 were still seen as the traditional platform for big reveals, but Direct broadcasts have now become the centrepiece of Nintendo’s schedule, generating millions of views and plenty of hype – as well as some arguably unreasonable expectations.
The biggest hardware release of the year was, of course, the arrival of the Nintendo 3DS, which launched to much fanfare but then was quickly reduced in price when it became clear that it just wasn't selling in the volumes Nintendo required. Nintendo also revealed its plans for the Wii's successor, the Wii U, which almost got Skyrim, apparently. Hey, we only had to wait a few more years, right?
Meanwhile, of Nintendo's new home console, Sony said "welcome to 2006" – a cocky comment, given the success of the Wii, but it was ultimately proven right – the Wii U wasn't a threat to the PS3 or PS4 (we didn't know that in 2011, however).
It was a bumper year for amazing reviews, thanks to the fact that the Wii was enjoying its last big push and the 3DS had only just arrived on the market. Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was our most-viewed review in 2011, while the likes of Super Mario 3D Land, Zelda: Skyward Sword and Mario Kart 7 were close behind. Wii owners were also blessed with the excellent Xenoblade Chronicles, while 3DS owners benefitted from a remastered edition of Fox McCloud's superb N64 adventure.
Elsewhere, we were honoured to get our very own curated section on the 3DS eShop, albeit for a limited time only. Fame at last!
Most Popular Article of 2011: Angry Birds Dev Calls Nintendo Games "$49 Pieces of Plastic"
Most Popular Review of 2011: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS)
2012 - Landing With A Thud
This was the year that Nintendo released what was supposed to be the glorious successor to its most popular home console ever, the Wii. Instead, we got a machine that – while still home to some amazing games – would ultimately end up being one of the company's most embarrassing commercial flops.
Not that we knew that in 2012, of course! We were all very excited about the Wii U, despite some rather negative stories regarding its lack of power and the fact that it didn't provide a big jump over the existing PS3 and Xbox 360 systems. But hey! Check out those rounded disc edges! And we've got that "unprecedented partnership" between Nintendo and EA to look forward to! Ahem.
2012 was also the year that Nintendo released a revised Wii system, presumably to target those people on the planet who didn't already own one – you know, hermits in caves, undiscovered tribes in the Amazon, that kind of consumer. With no online functionality and reduced AV connectivity, the Wii Mini was hardly the greatest swan song for the console.
The most-viewed Wii U review of the year wasn't New Super Mario Bros. U or Nintendo Land. It wasn't Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, either. Nor was it ZomibU, the much-hyped Wii U exclusive that did so much to show off the potential of the system's GamePad controller. It was, in fact, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013, which, alongside Just Dance 4 on Wii, picked up thousands of hits. As did Wipeout 3 on Wii U – although we're willing to bet that some of those views came from people who thought that Sony's amazing anti-grav racer had somehow been ported to Nintendo's new system. Alas, we were not that lucky.
The 3DS was also going strong, with titles like Code of Princess, New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Kid Icarus: Uprising all scoring well. Speaking of the 3DS, Nintendo continued its proud tradition of tinkering endlessly with its handhelds by releasing the 3DS XL a year after the launch of the original model.
In Nintendo Life-related news, editor James Newton left us to join Nintendo of Europe, and was replaced by the tag-team of editorial director Damien McFerran and staff writer Thomas Whitehead, who would shortly become overall editor.
Most Popular Article of 2012: Using USB Storage with the Wii U
Most Popular Review of 2012: Code of Princess (3DS)
2013 - 3DS Picks Up The Slack
2013 was the year that the 3DS really hit its stride, showcasing a host of amazing games (which we'll come to shortly) and hoovering up sales to the point that Nintendo decided to release another iteration of the console in the form of the 3D-less 2DS – a move which sparked some degree of hilarity in the process. Nonetheless, the system was a solid way to increase Nintendo's market share, as the 3D effect on the original machine was thought to cause issues with the eyeballs of very young children (also known as Nintendo's target audience).
2013 also saw the passing of former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi. The man who took the company from playing cards to video games (via toys, Lego-style blocks and even "love hotels"), Yamauchi guided Nintendo through a resurrection that made it one of the most recognisable brands on the face of the planet.
The other big news in the world of Nintendo – outside of a character in a swimsuit getting censored – was the release of EarthBound on the Virtual Console, a long-awaited event. Nintendo Network ID, Miiverse and the glory of unified eShop funds came to the 3DS, and there was the not-all-that-shocking revelation that FIFA would be skipping the Wii U in 2013, despite seeing a release on 3DS and Wii. So much for that partnership, EA.
The year was full of amazing games on both 3DS and Wii U. On the latter, we had the likes of Super Mario 3D World, Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Wonderful 101 and Pikmin 3, but we also had to put up with the rather dismal Sonic Lost World. Third-party support was on the wane, but the Wii U still managed to secure versions of Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag, Disney Infinity and Call of Duty: Ghosts.
On the 3DS, pickings were even sweeter. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D took the Wii original and added a three-dimensional twist, while Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate gave Capcom's popular franchise a much-needed boost in the west (and was also on the Wii U). RPG fans had Shin Megami Tensei IV and Bravely Default to savour, while Nintendo's first-party output went into overdrive. 2013 is the year that Zelda: Link Between Worlds, Luigi's Mansion 2, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Pokémon X & Y and Fire Emblem Awakening all arrived – making it arguably the best year in the console's history.
Most Popular Article of 2013: How To Capture Video And Screenshots From Your 3DS
Most Popular Review of 2013: Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
2014 - Thank Goodness For amiibo
Another year, another hardware release for Nintendo – and just in case you were in any doubt about which platform was earning the company the most money, it would be the New 3DS which took its bow in 2014. Complete with more powerful internals, a better 3D effect and (on the smaller model) interchangeable faceplates, it was the best 3DS system to date (and remains so, in our opinion).
Elsewhere, Nintendo lifted the lid on its NFC figurine range, amiibo. These highly-collectable toys have been going strong ever since, outlasting the likes of Skylanders and Disney Infinity. Still, amiibo has had a rather bumpy time in those years – and Nintendo confused collectors by stating that some would only be available in limited quantities, which encouraged scalpers to buy up stock and flog it online at inflated prices. D'oh.
While the 3DS was still doing very well, the poor old Wii U was starting to lag behind. We had complaints from third-parties and frustration at missed features; the news that Star Fox would be coming to the console did lift spirits, as did the news that Miley Cyrus owned one, but on the whole, things didn't look amazing for Nintendo's home console.
However, while sales were in the doldrums, the Wii U still enjoyed some pretty decent games in 2014. Mario Kart 8 stole the show, even if it was accused of racism at one point (yeah, we know), while system exclusive Bayonetta 2 thrilled with its fast-paced action and style (it was joined by its forerunner on Wii U, which was a very welcome addition). Smash Bros. arrived on the console with a massive bump at the end of the year (it was on 3DS, too), while Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze gave platforming fans a reason to smile. Hyrule Warriors was a good idea which felt like a little bit of a filler release to make up for the Wii U's lack of games (that hasn't stopped Nintendo re-releasing it twice since then, of course), and the arrival of Ubisoft's Watch Dogs after many months of delays felt like something of an anticlimax.
Over on 3DS, the good times continued to roll. Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire arguably took the top spot, followed by the likes of Tomodachi Life, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Fantasy Life and Shovel Knight. Yoshi's New Island was a bit of a disappointment, however, but after an amazing 2013, the 3DS was always going to struggle to pull another amazing 12 months out of the bag.
Most Popular Article of 2014: Building the Perfect Team in Pokémon X & Y
Most Popular Review of 2014: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)