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The Best Nintendo Games of the Decade

by Team VooksJanuary 19, 2020

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been discussing and voting on what we believe are the definitive Nintendo games of the past decade. 

All of the games on the list here are good, great even – but some are better than others. When we considered voting we thought about what games are good, but probably aren’t in the top per cent, what games could, should and must be on the list. Each of the above categories had a weight and we came out with a weighted score out 5, it was really close between some games.

These are games made, published or otherwise connected to Nintendo on any system from the last decade (including mobile). The games on this list define Nintendo’s last ten years, from the late years of the Wii, the Nintendo DS and then 3DS, the Wii U and now the Switch. Games released on multiple platforms are represented only once. 

Here’s Nintendo’s best from 2010 until 2019. 


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Developed by Nintendo EPD
Released in 2017 on the Nintendo Switch and Wii U

What can be said about Breath of the Wild that hasn’t already been said before? The game a work of art, a masterpiece and if you look back over the previous decade it would be up there with the best of the best.

Ever since Ocarina of Time the Zelda games followed a formula, it was a very good formula and it served the Zelda franchise well for nearly twenty years. However, after nearly two decades, that formula was starting to show cracks. Something had to be done, but it didn’t start here. Evidence of this change could be seen as early as Link Between Worlds where the team took a classic Zelda world and overlaid it with a new concept.

This trailer said the game would be out in 2015. Worth the wait.

Breath of the Wild took the construct of 20 years of Zelda games and threw it out the window. It’s a game you could play in any order, any way you’d like, problems could be solved a number of different ways and people are still finding ways to do things in the game years after release. 

When the game released, open worlds weren’t anything new – but this game did it differently. Rather than telling you all the places you can go, or all the things you can do, and how to do them – you just had to figure it out on your own. Hyrule was yours to explore and explore it in your own way. 

Maybe one of the best trailers of the decade too?

These kinds of games only happen every so often, and in my lifetime now Zelda has been upended and changed twice, and every time not only has Nintendo, The Legend of Zelda but the entire gaming industry been better for it. 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is our Game of the Decade. 

– Daniel Vuckovic

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Developed by Sora Ltd. and Bandai Namco Studios
Released: 2018 on the Nintendo Switch

When we talk about the best games of a decade, you need to not only consider the quality of a game but also its lasting impact and staying power. Super Smash Bros Ultimate may have only been out for just over a year, but there is little doubt that this game not only celebrates the legacy of the decades that have come before it, but it will also leave a legacy of its own in this industry in a way unlike anything else we may ever see again.

As a fighting game for both serious and casual play, it’s practically flawless. The series’ core mechanics have been refined to perfection, and the sheer amount of content in this one package is frankly dizzying. The World of Light story mode provides the best single-player experience yet, and there are enough multiplayer options to keep you and your friends busy for years. 

It’s mindboggling to think that a small passion project that almost didn’t get localised 20 years ago has evolved into one of the most beloved properties in Nintendo’s portfolio that celebrates not only their own history but that of many other companies so prolific in the industry. It’s unclear if we’ll ever see a collection this ambitious ever again, either from the Super Smash Bros series or from anything else.

It’s more than just one of the most defining games of the decade. Super Smash Bros Ultimate is a masterpiece, one of the most important videogames ever made, and Sakurai is simply better to us than we deserve.  

– Andrew Searles

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Developed by Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Released: 2010 for the Nintendo Wii

When Super Mario Galaxy 2 was announced it was a different time. There hadn’t been numbered sequel to a 3D Mario game before, there hadn’t been two 3D Mario titles on the one console and there hadn’t been a numbered sequel to a Mario title since 1990 (not including the Advance releases). So some were sceptical, people even said how dare Nintendo do something like this – Mario is special and shouldn’t be dolled out so often.

You know what, it turned out just fine. Awesome even.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 began as a “1.5” title according to a Shigeru Miyamoto interview with Wired, but they just had so many ideas that it became its own game. They really took it to another level.

Galaxy 2 also had one of the most perfect soundtracks, much like its predecessor, the grandness of space matched with an equally grand soundtrack. Sky Station Galaxy, Melty Monster Galaxy, Throwback Galaxy and more. It’s the kind of soundtrack you can just close your eyes and have your troubles float away.

While Super Mario 3D Land and World were great, it took Nintendo seven years to come close to matching the grandness of Super Mario Galaxy with Odyssey. Do yourself a favour, find a Wii and play these. They’re a treasure.

– Daniel Vuckovic

Mario Kart 8 / Deluxe

Developed by Nintendo EAD
Released in 2014 for the Wii U, re-released as a Deluxe version on the Switch in 2017

Growing up, Mario Kart has always been such an important part of my life. I have such vivid memories of gathering around my cousins’ TV to battle it out with the Bob-omb Blast mode in Double Dash, huddling up with all my friends to play Mario Kart DS, and being blown away at being able to steer with motion controls in Mario Kart Wii. However, Mario Kart 8 was the very first game in the franchise that I actually owned… and I was really bad at it. No matter how much I played against my friends, I could never surpass them – but the game was so fun that I was determined to. 

With Nintendo supporting the original release of MK8 with probably some of the best DLC they have ever put out, it was impossible to get bored of this game even if you really wanted to. It quickly became one of my favourite games of all time, and when they eventually came out with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch – buying it on day one was a no brainer to me, especially considering that they added even more content.

I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is such a timeless game. I can’t even imagine how they would create something more refined and more fun than what already exists. If Mario Kart 9 never comes out? That’s totally fine – because what we have now is already so damn incredible.

– Skye Son

Super Mario Odyssey

Developed by Nintendo EPD
Released: 2017 for the Nintendo Switch

What do you do with a series like the 3D Mario games? Super Mario Galaxy 1&2 took him into space, the final frontier! Mario ran and jumped around planetoids IN SPACE. There’s not a much bigger scale you can take things, so do you go back and make a more back to basics 3D game, or do you find new ways to push the series? Nintendo did it again, this time introducing Cappy the cap and a novel way to interact with the different lands. Cappy also acts as Mario’s cap. When you throw him at an enemy, Mario can possess them gaining access to all kinds of different abilities outside of his usual moves. You can also possess other items within the area for some creative methods to get around.

It’s not like Odyssey is a return to greatness, because the Mario Galaxy games were great. What it did do was keep the series fresh and a joy to play. 2017 gave us the game where not only could you run away from a realistic Tyrannosaurus Rex (well as real as a T-Rex is these days), you could also be the T-Rex with a little Mario cap and moustache. We also got Wedding suit Bowser with slicked-down hair, what a time to be alive! 

While the Mario Galaxy games are stuck on the Wii & Wii U, Odyssey being on the Switch meant you can play this full-fledged Mario adventure on the go (as well as on the TV if you really wanted to). Super Mario Odyssey is one of many amazing games to come out on the Switch, whether it’s the lovely visuals and designs, the catchy tunes (the ending of the big boss fight is a highlight) and just being a fun game to play. Like Mario Galaxy, Odyssey will be hard to top.

– Paul Roberts

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Developed by Retro Studios
Released in 2014 for the Wii U, re-released as a Funky Kong version on the Switch in 2018

Donkey Kong Country Returns was a great return for the DKC series. Tough platforming with the classic Kong duo Donkey and Diddy, only it was missing Dixie. Tropical Freeze rectifies this, bringing back Dixie Kong and also Cranky. Kong Island has been frozen by the Snowmads (still miss the Kremlings), and to return the island back to its former tropical paradise you’re going to have to kick some tail. Along the way DK and crew will roll, cartwheel, pogo and hair-spin their way across a range of different levels, while also collecting the classic KONG letters and puzzle pieces to unlock extra levels. 

Tropical Freeze was great on the Wii U, unfortunately, it was too late to help bring more people over to the doomed console. Fortunately, Nintendo has given some Wii U games a second life on the Switch, and Tropical Freeze is great here. Colourful and packed with content, Tropical Freeze is challenging platforming backed with another great DKC soundtrack by David Wise. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, along with DKCR it brought the Donkey Kong series to the new hardware after an extended absence. With the addition of the Switch now we can swear and angrily put down our Switches in frustration anywhere we want.

Retro was kind enough to bless us with Funky Mode in the Switch port. Funky Kong is included along for the trip, providing a less intense challenge if you just want to enjoy all the levels, or if you just like being that funky surfboard riding ape. It’s been a long time now since Rare was involved with the Donkey Kong Country series, and while it’s a long time between games, Retro is more than capable of making great DKC games like Tropical Freeze.

– Paul Roberts

Animal Crossing New Leaf

Developed by Nintendo EAD
Released in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS

Animal Crossing: New Leaf isn’t just a game, it’s a way of life. This isn’t game you play for 20 hours and trade-in and you’re done. This is a game that consumes you, takes up all your spare time. A game that gets you playing with your friends, working together, trading and more.

Unlike a lot of games though no one cares about lag, or headsets, or killstreaks. There’s no real way to ‘win’. Animal Crossing, and New Leaf, in particular, is a game about living. On paper, having a mortgage, doing gardening, and paying the bills sounds just about as it does in real life, but you do it in Animal Crossing with the cutest bunch of little critters ever.

You work together to build your town, make it a nice place to live for you and for its residents. Something we all should be doing, it’s just more fun to do it with animals. New Horizons can’t come soon enough.

– Daniel Vuckovic

Tetris 99

Developed by Arika
Released in 2019 for the Nintendo Switch

If you’ve ever gotten sucked into any form of Tetris, you’ve probably found yourself muttering to yourself “just one more” every time you’ve lost. Tetris 99 is no different.

In today’s day and age, the battle royale genre has never been more popular. So many companies have been trying to strike their own form of gold by turning their most popular franchises into some form of Fortnite. Who would’ve thought that one of the most successful attempts at this would be freakin’ Tetris?

Tetris 99 turns the greatest game of all time into the most intense form of itself it has ever had, and boy, it is addicting. The constant support that Nintendo has funnelled into this game has been astounding – with many events capitalising off the hype of other big Switch releases, and regular competitions rewarding the top 999 players with $9.99 worth of eShop Gold points.

What started off as a seemingly small and experimental eShop game has continued to snowball into something truly special, and we can only hope that this game continues to thrive throughout the new decade. A game with such a deep, addictive and satisfying gameplay loop deserves to stick around for as long as possible.

– Skye Son

Pokémon Go

Developed by Niantic and The Pokemon Company
Released in 2016 for mobile devices

The inclusion of Pokémon Go on this list will no doubt upset some people. Technically Nintendo has had very little to with it, it’s not published or developed by them – but it is their property.

What everyone will agree on is that Pokémon Go was one of, if not the biggest pop culture events of the 2010s. You couldn’t go anywhere after June 2016 without hearing about it. It was on the news for both good and bad reasons, it changed laws, it spawned companies and communities, and it brought Pokémon fans. People who had never even thought of playing Pokémon before, or perhaps hadn’t played it in a very long time.

Pokémon Go did one more thing too, it made Pokémon a thing again. For those old enough to remember there was another time when Pokémon was the biggest thing in the world. Pokémon never ‘died’, but without Go it’s hard to imagine Pokémon being as big as it is now.

Pokémon Go has made a whole new generation of Pokémon fans. Those first few weeks when Pokémon Go launched were the closest the world was to world peace. What a time.

– Daniel Vuckovic

Super Mario Maker

Developed by Nintendo EAD
Released in 2015 for the Wii U

Do you remember those times when you or your friends said that you could create a better Mario level than the ones you were playing, turns out is not as easy as you might expect, but there was nothing but fun in trying and that was what Super Mario Maker delivered.

Not only did it let those with a desire to become master gamer makers try their hand at it, but it also meant that for the first time ever, but gamers around the world could also play Mario levels that were not made by Nintendo, this was a turning point for Mario and gamers.

Super Mario Maker offered up the most intuitive way to make a level in years, if you wanted an item in a set spot, you just tapped that location and it was done. Every item, enemy, object and beyond, all behaved as you expected them too and the best bit, you could swap between themes or complete game styles with the press of a button.

Finally, in the wake of the game’s release, Nintendo kept releasing updates to the game that added more and more tools for players to use, a strong game that just kept rewarding those who invested in the creation and even if you didn’t. The community that spawned from this game, even in the darkness of the Wii U era was something amazing.

– Luke Henderson

Super Mario 3D World

Developed by Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Released in 2015 for the Wii U

When discussions are had over the best Mario games – even when limited to just the 3D ones – Super Mario 3D World is rarely included. It lacks the revolutionary impact of Super Mario 64, the masterful creativity of the Super Mario Galaxy titles, or the wonderous exploration and discovery found in Super Mario Odyssey. It’s a back to basics, simplified Mario experience.

It may just be my favourite of them all.

Super Mario 3D World takes the linear, compact design of 2D Mario games and brings it gloriously into the third dimension. Levels are short but filled with creativity, expertly displaying Nintendo’s brilliant approach to level design. Ideas are plentiful and never outstay their welcome, and the tight platforming controls make it a delight to play.

For me though, it’s the inclusion of four-player multiplayer that truly sets it apart. The New Super Mario Bros series has had multiplayer before, but the wider 3D spaces make for a thoroughly enjoyable co-op experience as opposed to a frustrating one where everyone just gets in each other’s way. The cherry on top is the crown awarded to the player with the most points at the end of each level, adding a delicious competitive element to co-op play that makes playing just one more level so compelling.

This is an underrated gem, and I truly hope this style of Mario game gets another day in the spotlight in the future.

– Andrew Searles

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Developed by Next Level Games
Released in 2019 for the Nintendo Switch

Luigi is probably the most notable outlier among Nintendo’s icons, with most everyone else predominantly featuring in their own platforming series; Mario, Yoshi, Kirby, DK, Wario. There are exceptions of course, but Luigi remains one of the weirdest as he stars in his own franchise of spooky capers: Luigi’s Mansion. And the 2010s saw him getting caught up in spooktacular hijinks twice.

But Luigi’s Mansion 3 stepped up on his 3DS adventure, by bringing back the Dark Light mechanic and innovating on sucking up ghosts with the Poltergust by letting him slam them back and forth. This third adventure was also the debut of Gooigi, the slippery and malleable clone of our hero who can smush through gates, pipes and drains.

The jump from 3D to HD is a notable one, as Luigi’s Mansion 3 marks the series’ first ‘current-gen’ version, despite the Wii U’s entry to the standard in 2012. And it takes advantage of the situation, by presenting beautiful cutscenes and animated gameplay moments; the scaredy-cat reactions of Luigi trembling around corners is always charming.

The Luigi’s Mansion series differs from others by Nintendo in that it’s still relatively young in number of releases, compared to the dozens of platformers starring his more-famous brother. And it’s because of this that the series remains fresh and whimsical. 

– Angelo Valdivia

Splatoon

Developed by Nintendo EAD
Released in 2015 for the Wii U

When Nintendo announced Splatoon for the Wii U it was wild, there are kids but they’re also squids? Not only that, but Splatoon was a family-friendly online multiplayer third person shooter, which doesn’t sound like it should make any sense. Instead of the focus being on killing one another, two teams pitted against each other aim to cover the arena with their teams coloured ink from paint-themed weapons. If you’re reading this you most likely know what the hell Splatoon is, in all its colourful ink-filled chaos. The game grabbed everyone’s attention with the bright cartoony visuals, unique gameplay, catchy music and the short burst matches being so damn frantic and fun.

Nintendo expected us to work as teams, and with no voice chat offered it meant kids and adults and everyone in between could play without having nasty things screamed at them. It, of course, sent everyone off to external voice chats at your own risk. Then there was Nintendo’s online service, while it was free it was also not very good. If you were a Telstra user like myself, if you had the wrong modem any online gaming through the Wii U was out of the question. It wasn’t perfect, especially in Australia, especially with unreliable connections and long wait times. But it still tended to work more often than not, and it was really fun to spend an hour or two joining friends for matches regardless of what team you’re on.

Other online-focused games rely on paid expansions or subscriptions to add extra weapons, characters or maps, or to just use their servers. Splatoon provided all of its added content for free and provided it for well over a year. Splatoon’s ‘tug of war’ with ink could get repetitive, but its strength was always in playing it with friends. There were events known as Splatfests, where everyone participating was tasked with choosing a side to fight for, such as cats or dogs. While it never felt like they saw their full potential in the original game, in Splatoon 2 they felt like a much bigger (and much more populated) event. 

Since 2015 the Squidlings have become another regular face within the Nintendo stable, even making it onto the Smash Brothers roster. Splatoon 2 expanded on the original game in some big ways and the franchise is still going strong. For a game that risked being too novel for its own good on a struggling console when it first came out, Splatoon will hopefully surprise us again soon in the next decade.

– Paul Roberts

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Developed by Grezzo
Released in 2019 for the Nintendo Switch

One of Nintendo’s biggest surprise announcements of 2019 was made in its first Direct of that year: an HD remake of Game Boy’s The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Switch. Being the first handheld outing for the series, it’s a fondly-remembered entry for fans and has one of the quirkiest stories and casts in a Zelda game.

Not only was Link’s Awakening gifted a masterfully implemented, tilt-shift visual style, but also a complete musical overhaul with orchestrations featuring woodwind instruments like oboes and bassoons to bop along to. The entire aesthetic captured the feeling of being a child again, playing with miniature figurines inside a playset.

The Zelda series has always been a tentpole IP for Nintendo, and while other, larger games will always push the series forward in terms of scope, innovation, and revenue, this particular game was pure fan service in a way the company doesn’t indulge too often. Link’s Awakening represents Nintendo’s willingness to look further into its back catalogue and reinvigorate those smaller games which had an impact, and hopefully, this is a step towards more of those relatively forgotten games getting a new lease on life (Donkey Kong ‘94, plz).

– Angelo Valdivia

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Developed by Nintendo EAD
Released in 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS

Ever since The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time set the template for what a modern Zelda should be, the series has adhered pretty closely to the formula. It’s difficult to argue for messing with something that has consistently produced a string of incredible games, but as the years went on there was a tiny bit of fatigue setting into the franchise’s predictable rhythm.

Four years before Breath of the Wild would arrive to complete reinvent the wheel, Zelda tipped its toes in the experimental water with the utterly brilliant The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Serving as a quasi-sequel to the classic A Link to the Past, the series returns to the same land of Hyrule from the original and shares the split world mechanic from that game, but shakes up the traditional Zelda formula in numerous ways that make everything feel fresh again.

The introduction of a rental shop to switch out key items opens up the world map by allowing more flexibility with the order in which you tackle dungeons and explore the overworld. The dungeons are clever and inventive, with the combination of the wall-painting mechanic and the 3D depth adding new dimensions to exploration and puzzle-solving. The combat feels great and simply moving around the world has such a delightful fluidity to it that combines with the finely tuned pacing that makes for a Zelda adventure that’s incredibly tough to put down. 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is another Zelda masterpiece that sits just behind Breath of the Wild as my favourite Zelda of all time, and deserves to be included amongst the best Nintendo games of the decade.

– Andrew Searles


Honourable mentions:

Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii), Splatoon 2 (Switch), Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch), Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch),
Pokemon Sword and Shield (Switch), Pokémon Black and White (DS), The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii), Yoshi’s Wooly World (Wii U), Pokemon Sun and Pokémon Moon (3DS) and Super Mario 3D Land (3DS).

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About The Author
Team Vooks
When more than one of the Vooks team writes something together we use this account to publish it. No mere single account can hold us all.

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