2015 - Nintendo Loses A Legend
This year will always be remembered by Nintendo fans as the one which saw the tragic passing of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. Aged just 55, he left behind a considerable legacy, having presided over one of the most successful periods in the company's long history. He is missed to this very day.
Tatsumi Kimishima stood in to replace Iwata, and was tasked with steadying the ship during one of Nintendo's most challenging periods – but light was at the end of the tunnel in the shape of the Wii U's successor, codenamed 'NX'. Right from its first official announcement, it was stated clearly that NX would unite Nintendo's home and handheld businesses under one platform – something we thought was a pretty sound idea. Before his passing, Iwata claimed that it would "surprise" people and "change their video game lives". He was 100% correct on both counts; it's just a shame he didn't get the chance to see it.
With its successor looming on the horizon, the poor old Wii U endured a torrid year. Big-name projects were pulled after months of build-up, and we also got reports that promising projects had been abandoned before we even knew they existed. Still, the news that a new Zelda was in development caused hopes to rise, as did the news that former Rare developers were reviving the 3D platformer (although sadly, that particular game wouldn't see release on the Wii U in the end).
2015 was also the year that the near-mythical SNES PlayStation was unearthed; previously assumed lost to history, a working prototype was discovered, triggering thoughts of what could have been had Nintendo and Sony remained friends. It was also the start of Nintendo's move into the world of smart devices, with an announcement that it would be working with mobile content firm DeNA on a series of games based on its most famous properties.
The Wii U's release schedule was pretty dire in 2015, with Minecraft proving to be our most-read review. This was closely followed by Splatoon, one of the most exciting Nintendo exclusives in ages, as well as Super Mario Maker. Xenoblade Chronicles X was another rare highlight, while the likes of Mario Party 10, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Devil's Third and Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash rather felt like they were simply making up the numbers. The system was desperate for third-party support, but Lego Dimensions was perhaps the biggest non-Nintendo release of the year.
Meanwhile, on 3DS, Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D resurrected an old classic, and the New Nintendo 3DS exclusive Xenoblade Chronicles 3D introduced the Wii RPG to a new generation of fans. Stella Glow was another 3DS RPG worth a look, as was Code Name S.T.E.A.M., the latter being criminally underrated and seemingly forgotten today. Yo-Kai Watch finally made its western debut after taking Japan by a storm, while Chibi-Robo Zip-Lash ended up being something of a disappointment – and perhaps the final outing for the cult character, as the studio behind it appears to have vanished.
2015 got a new Zelda outing, but it wasn't exactly what people wanted. Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes failed to get our pulses racing, and was joined by Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival and Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer on the 'naughty' step. When even Nintendo is pushing out duds of this magnitude, you know it's a bad year to be a fan.
Most Popular Article of 2015: Not Everyone is Thrilled That Metroid Prime Trilogy Lands on the Wii U eShop Tomorrow
Most Popular Review of 2015: Minecraft: Wii U Edition (Wii U eShop)
2016 - What Once Was Old Is New Again
With the 'NX' still a year away and the Wii U and 3DS slowing down dramatically, it fell to vintage hardware to save Nintendo's bacon in 2016 – namely the NES Classic Edition, the announcement of which was comfortably our most popular article of the year in terms of traffic. The micro-console was a runaway commercial success and has paved the way for loads of imitators – as well as a follow-up in the form of the SNES Classic Edition.
The NES Mini wasn't the only thing that got people talking about Nintendo in 2016, however – the launch of Pokémon GO on smartphones was a global phenomenon which everyone was talking about. The success of the monster-catching app helped Nintendo's bottom line, and was one of several ventures into the world of smart devices – the other two being Super Mario Run and the now-defunct Miitomo.
With NX's official reveal mere months away, the rumour factory went into overdrive during most of 2016. The most notable example was a faked NX controller which fooled a great many people (not us, though). When the machine was officially shown off in October, it caused quite a stir.
With the Wii U drifting into memory, it was up to the 3DS to keep things afloat in the world of Nintendo. Pokémon Sun & Moon – one of the most commercially successful entries in the series – did just that, while Fire Emblem Fates, Dragon Quest VII, Final Fantasy Explorers, Bravely Default: Second Layer, Super Mario Maker, Hyrule Warriors Legends and Monster Hunter Generations all contributed to a decent year in terms of releases. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the much-maligned Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
Over on Wii U, the much-delayed Star Fox Zero was perhaps the year's biggest new release. It was joined by the likes of Paper Mario: Color Splash, Tokyo Mirage Sessions, Zelda: Twilight Princess HD and Pokkén Tournament. With Switch coming early in the following year, it was the Wii U's last chance to shine – and it didn't really, did it?
Most Popular Article of 2016: Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition Coming This November, Ships With 30 Games
Most Popular Review of 2016: Pokémon Sun and Moon (3DS)
2017 - Switch Cleans Up
While Nintendo began the decade brightly, by 2016 its stock was well and truly in the pits. The Wii U had failed to sell as expected, and the 3DS – while still popular – was beginning to show its age. The arrival of the Switch was timely, then; this all-in-one hybrid system has placed Nintendo at the vanguard of the gaming sector once more, and 2017 is where the road to redemption began.
It's genuinely hard to think of a better first year for any Nintendo platform when it comes to software. Following its arrival at the start of 2017, the Switch was blessed with Sonic Mania, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, DOOM, NBA 2K18, Snipperclips, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Rocket League, LA Noire, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, FIFA 18, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Pokkén Tournament DX, Fire Emblem Warriors, Yooka-Laylee and Super Mario Odyssey – as well as loads of other worthy games. Considering the lack of support the Wii U suffered, the flood of games the Switch received was a breath of fresh air and unquestionably helped it sell like hotcakes throughout most of the year, giving it valuable momentum which has arguably been maintained up to the present day. We still found the time to grumble about it, though.
Switch wasn't the only hardware success which Nintendo experienced in 2017, however – it also released the SNES Classic Edition, a follow-up to the NES Classic which boasted some of the best titles of the 16-bit era – as well as the previously unreleased Star Fox 2. The company also refreshed its 3DS line (again) with the New Nintendo 2DS XL.
While the Switch got the cream of the crop as far as games were concerned, the 3DS still scored some sizeable titles, with Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon being the most noteworthy. It was joined by the utterly superb reboot Metroid: Samus Returns and the exclusive JRPG Ever Oasis. Elsewhere, Capcom's Monster Hunter Stories finally made it to the west, while Hey! Pikmin failed to live up to its potential. Oh, and the Wii U got Zelda: Breath of the Wild – something that's easy to forget given that it was the biggest Switch launch title.
Most Popular Article of 2017: Zelda: Breath Of The Wild All Shrine Locations Walkthrough And Map
Most Popular Review of 2017: NBA 2K18 (Switch)
2018 - Sophomore Success
When 2018 began, the bad old days of the Wii U felt like a distant memory, but there was always the question of whether or not Nintendo could keep the momentum up for another 12 months – especially as it seemed to have front-loaded its release schedule to ensure that the console enjoyed a bumper 2017.
The year gave us some usual news stories, such as Nintendo Switch consoles cracking under pressure (or heat, as some believe) and the arrival of Bowsette on the scene. Oh, and a dusty copy of Mario Kart 64 was discovered under a store shelf where it had remained hidden for two decades.
There were also legal battles, with the rapper Soulja Boy being forced to withdraw a bunch of cheap Chinese-made emulation consoles from his personal store after a negative reaction online. Nintendo also flexed its legal muscles in a case involving two Arizona-based ROM-sharing sites.
The Switch continued to get a regular supply of amazing games, too. Nintendo offered up the likes of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Pokémon: Let's Go, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Mario Tennis Aces, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition and Super Mario Party. However, it was third-party support which really counted during 2018, with the console benefitting from the likes of NBA 2K19, Starlink, Octopath Traveler, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, Wolfenstein II, Dark Souls Remastered, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom and Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle. Oh, and there was the little matter of Fortnite, one of the world's biggest games, coming to the system.
It was also the year that indie releases really stepped up a gear; 2018 gave us Hollow Knight, Celeste, Dead Cells, Undertale and The Messenger – a fine selection of eShop classics which were accompanied by many, many other worthy indie releases as Nintendo's system revealed its suitability for small-scale projects with big hearts. On the 3DS, meanwhile, Luigi's Mansion and Wario Ware Gold provided something to get excited about.
Most Popular Article of 2018: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Full Character Roster List
Most Popular Review of 2018: Starlink: Battle For Atlas (Switch)
2019 - Ending On A High
We're nearly up to the present day, and what a way to round off the decade. 2019 saw Switch sales going through the roof, and while Sony and Microsoft ready their next-gen systems, Nintendo has been given the chance to steal back some mindshare – which it has unquestionably done with its latest system.
After months of rumours, Nintendo even added to the Switch family, releasing the Switch Lite, a system aimed at younger players or those shopping on a tighter budget. It wasn't all good news in the world of Switch, however. Issues with Joy-Con analogue sticks 'drifting' resulted in a class-action lawsuit against Nintendo. Oops.
Other big news items included the saga of the Sonic movie trailer; the first caused quite a stir (for the wrong reasons), forcing Sega to go back to the drawing board by delaying the movie's release date and changing Sonic's look.
Keeping on the topic of Sega, we also saw the company's answer to the NES and SNES Classic Edition consoles: The Genesis / Mega Drive Mini. In a year where Nintendo declined to add to its Classic Edition line, we also got offerings from Capcom and SNK, as well as Analogue's amazing Mega Sg. Analogue also confirmed that it would be producing a FPGA system capable of playing all Game Boy games.
While the 3DS drifts into memory, it was kept in the public eye by the fact that some crazy fool actually released a game that cost $100 for it.
The Switch's sales momentum was maintained by yet another crop of excellent games, with Nintendo leading the charge via the likes of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Astral Chain, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Super Mario Maker 2, Luigi's Mansion 3, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, Yoshi's Crafted World, Daemon X Machina and Tetris 99. Pokémon Sword & Shield also made its debut, but its release was overshadowed by 'Dexit', one of 2019's more controversial moments.
The Switch continued to benefit from some fine third-party support during 2019, with the likes of Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, Wargroove, Witcher 3, Collection of Mana, Hellblade, Cuphead, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, Final Fantasy VII, Crash Team Racing and Alien: Isolation, to name but a few. We were also treated to not one but two releases in the Assassin's Creed series, as well as the amazing Cadence of Hyrule, one of the best (and most unexpected) mash-ups we've seen in ages.
Most Popular Article of 2019: Best Nintendo Switch Couch Co-Op Games
Most Popular Review of 2019: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (Switch)
So there you have it – Nintendo's decade in review. Do you think the company had a good ten years? What do you think the next decade will bring? Let us know with a comment – and have a great 2020!