There’s only so many hours left until the end of 2019, or maybe it’s already happened to out time travelling friends across the globe. Either way, this decade was packed full of great games, so we’ve jumped on the bandwagon of listing some of our faves!
The following ten games are all those that we loved or meant something to us. Whether you’re still stuck in 2019 or already celebrating way into 2020, check out our top ten games of the decade!
Clarification – This list is purely based off of their European release dates and not necessarily their initial launches.
Pokémon Soul Silver ~ Nintendo DS ~ March 2010
One of my favourite ever video games to be released was Pokémon Crystal back in 2001 on the Game Boy Color, and ever since Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green were released on the Game Boy Advance, I longed for the day the second generation of games would get a remake. I cried happy tears when I saw the announcement, and was absolutely thrilled to return to Johto with Soul Silver on the Nintendo DS when it was released in the United Kingdom in March 2010. I loved the game so much that I decided I would purchase Heart Gold at the earliest opportunity, and luckily my friend at the time wanted to sell his copy. I still have them to this day, and never plan to part with them.
I appreciate how all pokémon have the ability to follow behind you, like Pikachu did in Pokémon Yellow. It was highly amusing to have Wailord bouncing its gigantic weight behind you as you stroll through Goldenrod City. I also appreciated the packaged Pokéwalker, which brought back fond memories of my Pocket Pikachu Color, where as a child I would run around all day and gather up watts to send back to my game. The Pokéwalker had way more features, and you could carry a pokémon around with you to help level it up before sending it back to your game. The game is quite hard to find at a reasonable price these days, but if you are looking for a great pokémon game, I will always recommend Heart Gold/Soul Silver.
Xenoblade Chronicles ~ Nintendo Wii ~ August 2011
It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of the Xenoblade series, if you’ve ever followed me before. For the longest time of my life I had major issues with attention span while playing games, particularly RPGs. I would always have a lapse in interest around the 30 hour mark of a game, which made finishing lengthy games something of an impossibility. This might explain why Pokemon was always a series I was consistently able to see the credits for, as they often hovered around the 20-30 hour mark for core story completion. But all this changed with an arduous seven year battle with Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii.
Technically, I only really started playing it properly at around 2014 once Shulk was revealed for Super Smash Bros. 4, even though I had owned it day and date of its European release in 2011. It was a very on and off relationship, one which picked up again with the announcement of Xenoblade 2 and really kicked back into gear when the Torna expansion was fully showcased. I finally managed to finish this gargantuan game in August of 2018. It was the first large scale RPG to truly grip me in a way no other really has and it awakened something within me, the ability to actually see RPGs to their credits. I am truly thankful for Monolith Soft for this masterpiece. Not only that, but it’s a fitting title for this best of the decade article, as it kicked off the beginning of the decade in all regions and will also be arriving at the beginning of the next with its Definitive Edition remaster.
Donkey Kong Country – Tropical Freeze ~ Nintendo Wii U ~ February 2014
Even if this had turned out to be the last game ever made by Retro Studios, I’d still be satisfied. A title that originally had quite the lukewarm hype cycle leading up to its release on Wii U in early 2014, Tropical Freeze shattered expectations for a 2D platformer and finally got the extra praise it deserved with last year’s port on Switch.
In my eyes, Tropical Freeze is one of the most flawless games ever made. If you like platformers, you’re doing yourself a complete disservice if you haven’t played Donkey Kong’s greatest adventure. Level designers can learn from this Kong; every single stage feels incredibly different and equally cared for. Take any three levels in a row, and you’ll find an immense variety of backdrops and mechanics. Three levels in the second world usher the Kongs from a heart-pounding ride on Rambi the rhinoceros from a volcano to a gusty, horn-powered ascent up a mountain to a sawmill that serves as a mine cart ride turned toboggan ride turned mine cart ride again.
Constantly changing level design isn’t all that makes this game feel so alive. One could argue that the soundtrack does so most of all. David Wise has always been my favorite composer, and his magnum opus is the music to Tropical Freeze. There are dozens of original tracks that evoke all manners of feelings from calm reflection to pumped up expedition. I want to find myself swimming through the gorgeous underwater silhouette levels and platforming on persnickety ice pops at least once a year. If we never get another Donkey Kong Country game again, at least the franchise ended on its most triumphant note.
Stardew Valley ~ Nintendo Switch ~ October 2017
I didn’t actually get into Stardew Valley until a year or so after it’s Nintendo Switch launch, but it’s something I fell in love with instantly. It had elements from both Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing where you can farm, build friendships, and just live life electronically. What really sets Stardew Valley from other popular life sims is how there’s a bit more gritty realism and depth you won’t get with most games of this genre. Every character has their own issues and backstories. Take Shane, my in-game husband, for example, at first glance, he just seems like your typical grumpy drunk, but the more time you spend with him, the more he opens up about his depression; it’s rare to see such a real issue like this explored within a game.
There’s a lot more to do though. The game also has RPG elements where you can level up your different skills, such as gardening, fishing, and even combat. At certain milestones, you can also choose one of two classes which earn your further bonuses. There are a couple dungeons to explore for valuable treasures guarded by many pests. Overthrow a corporate megastore… or join it! There’s a lot to do.
What struck me most though was the online co-op. To most, this may just seem like any multiplayer feature, but it truly meant something to me at the time. Last year was a weird year for myself. I had suffered quite bad from depression and social isolation and then my grandmother died from a stroke a few weeks before Christmas. Darren was kind enough to spend some time with me over co-op on Stardew Valley (as well as Sea of Thieves, a title that would be on this list if it were on a Nintendo platform) which helped to distract me from everything that was going on, and eventually led to a pretty good friendship!
Kid Icarus Uprising ~ Nintendo 3DS ~ March 2012
Despite being a huge Nintendo fan, the Kid Icarus franchise had long escaped me, and I was dismissive of it. But all this changed with Kid Icarus: Uprising on the 3DS back in 2012. The game is memorable to me due to its hilarious dialogue, there were so many great moments and quotes, such as the interaction between Pit and Hades, and quotes from Pit, highlighting how much of a geek he was with all his background gaming knowledge.
My absolute favourite feature of this game is its incredible soundtrack, which included composers Motoi Sakuraba (Tales of series) and Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger). I consider this to be my favourite video game soundtrack ever, and continue to be dumbfounded by the amount of effort and quality that went into it, considering it was a handheld title. Despite its well documented control issues, the game is up there as one of my favourite ever 3DS titles
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors ~ Nintendo DS ~ November 2010
Much like how Xenoblade awoke a passion for RPGs within me, the first entry in the Zero Escape series awoke a passion for mystery adventure games. Most comparable to point and click adventure games on PC, 999 weaves in visual novel story elements into the mix to tell an utterly gripping mystery plot where nine individuals are kidnapped and trapped on a ship, forced to tackle tricky puzzles in order to find the door marked with a 9 to escape. It really took full advantage of the DS to make having dual screens a part of the actual narrative, with narration being told on the bottom screen and spoken dialogue, along with character portraits, on the top screen.
What really sets this game apart from other puzzle-adventure games is just how deep the rabbit hole goes with its story. 999 deftly interweaves mathematics, pseudoscience and philosophy into a marvellous whodunnit that keeps you glued to both screens throughout the whole game. It gradually drip feeds elements of the plot which keep your mind flowing with possibilities as to what might happen next, leading to wonderful “aha!” moments with both the story and the puzzles presented to you. Mixed with split paths which lead the story in different directions, all of which play a key part in working out the true route, it’s really difficult to explain any further as to why 999 is so compelling without stepping into the realm of spoilers. Sadly, it hasn’t been released on a Nintendo system since, despite having been remastered on PC and PS4 with its sequel, Virtue’s Last Reward, as The Nonary Games. Here’s hoping it gets a much deserved Switch port.
Metroid: Other M ~ September 2010
This might just be the most overhated Nintendo game ever released, and I can actually understand why. This isn’t the game most Metroid fans would crave for or even expect in their wildest dreams, but that’s why I love it so much.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of the more traditional 2D and 3D Metroid adventures. But what 2010’s Other M brings to the table is a unique take on the Metroid formula, bringing to life what I would have imagined Super Metroid to feel like in a 3D space. A pinch of Metroid Prime influence lingers for first-person missile shooting, but otherwise, this game is a different beast entirely. It’s a Team Ninja action game first and foremost, but it also eloquently combines Metroid-style progression and abilities into a well-paced formula of exploration.
To add to this game’s uniqueness, it has a story that could rival an arc in a soap opera. Unlike the also underrated Star Fox Zero (which almost made this list), Other M is an even greater departure from its series roots; it’s just the story that really gets experimental, not the controls.
Other M ends up weaving a complicated, verbose tale of motherhood, deception, corruption and duty. I understand well that most fans don’t appreciate Samus as a character brooding over her tragic past, but I was intrigued by how a usually silent protagonist viewed the morally grey world around her. Top that off with some of the most impressive cinematics a Nintendo franchise has still ever gotten to this day, and you get a gloomy, claustrophobic adventure unlike any other.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time/Majora’s Mask 3D ~ Nintendo 3DS ~ June 2011/February 2015
Okay, so I may be cheating a little by including two games here, but I’d like to think that they are both the same game in two parts… that works, right? Either way, it was difficult to choose between the 3DS remakes or Wind Waker HD, but thought it were fitting to pick the games that really started the Zelda remake trend… and also started my harsh luck of a remake being announced right after I complete the bloody original!
Both games are still two of my favourite Zelda games to date, and Grezzo did an absolutely wonderful job at remaking them for the 3DS. Not only did it fix a lot of issues (I’m looking at you Iron Booties) but it also made the game a lot more accessible for a brand new generation. Those who grew up playing the originals on the N64 can now show their children the wonders there were to be had in the 64bit era. Both games also truly pushed the envelope on what the 3DS could do, especially with the console’s poor launch… I still think the 3D effects in OoT/MM 3D are some of the best on the 3DS!
The road to Majora’s Mask 3D’s launch was something quite special too. Years before it got announced, fans got creative and started ‘Operation Moonfall’, a petition project to try and have Majora’s Mask get the Ocarina of Time 3D treatment. The movement went as far as to designing fantastic posters to send to Nintendo to respond to their cause. Whether the petition influenced the development of Majora’s Mask 3D or not, it’s nice to see passionate gamers banding together on a non-toxic level!
Metroid: Samus Returns ~ Nintendo 3DS ~ September 2017
I consider myself a huge Metroid fan, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect we would ever see the traditional 2D side-scrolling Metroid games to return. But that’s exactly what happened back in 2017 when Metroid: Samus Returns released on the Nintendo 3DS. This faithful reimagining of the original Metroid II: Return of Samus title was a breath of fresh air after the controversial offerings of Metroid: Other M in 2010 and Metroid Prime: Federation Force in 2015.
The game was a delight to play. It retained all the classic elements of Metroid, yet acknowledged the Prime franchise, and included new Aeion abilities. Nintendo proved that the traditional method of gameplay could still work in the modern day, thirteen years after Metroid: Zero Mission. It gave me hope that we may finally see the sequel to Metroid Fusion, almost twenty years later. Samus was well and truly back!
Fire Emblem: Three Houses ~ Nintendo Switch ~ July 2019
Fire Emblem has made a massive resurgence in the last decade. Back in the decade before, the series seemed to be on death’s doorstep, with Shadow Dragon massively underperforming. In fact, the sequel/remake, New Mystery of the Emblem, didn’t even see any form of western release. It all changed with Fire Emblem: Awakening though, considered a last ditch effort within Intelligent Systems. This do or die effort paid off though, as Awakening has become one of the most popular games in the entire series. But it isn’t Awakening I’ve chosen to select though, it’s the most recent release in the series; Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Three Houses does what Fire Emblem: Fates tried to do with a branching narrative and actually pulls it off in spades. No matter which of the titular three houses you choose to spend your academic career with, each route is filled with intrigue, conflict and plenty of tea time. It seems so unfathomable that they went from such flat, one-note characters in Fates to having an entire cast of students in Three Houses with such diverse personalities and backstories. Even when playing through one houses’ route, I often found myself wanting to know about the motivations of the other houses, leading to me actually wanting to replay with new game+ after clearing the Crimson Flower route (which people say is actually the least interesting). There will be many, many more hours sunk into Three Houses as I tackle each route, one by one.
These are only some of the great games the past decade has provided us… and these are just games for Nintendo systems, there’s even more on various other platforms too! Do you have any other games you enjoyed in the past ten years? if so, let us know in the comments below or on our social media pages.
From NintyBuzz, we wish you a Happy New Year and, until next time…
Keep on buzzin’!
I am a huge Nintendo fan, hence why NintyBuzz exists. I especially love all things Zelda and Metroid. NintyBuzz was started by me back in the Summer of 2014, it started out mainly as a hobby, though the site has gradually grown, and I hope it grows for many years to come!