Classics define Nintendo’s upswing decade


A lot can change in a decade. Just ask Nintendo.

In Apr. 2003, with the month’s rains at their dreariest, the company reported fiscal GameCube sales of 5.6 million units, less than half the total forecast in 2002.

Six Aprils later, Nintendo closed another fiscal year with sales of 25.95 million Wii systems, nearly a five-fold increase over 2003, as the company famous for the power-up evidently dipped into its own stash.

For Nintendo enthusiasts, however, the story of the last decade is much richer than the dull tales of fiscal sales and record-setting profits. Even as the company was struggling at retail, Nintendo published some of the most memorable games in its history, giving us familiar faces, strange new places and of course, plumbers in outer spaces.

From its darkest days to its brightest, this was an erratic decade for Nintendo. But through it all, fantastic games were a constant. Join us as we remember the best.

10. Pikmin (GameCube, 2001)

Twenty years had passed since his mischievous gorilla, mustached plumber and green-clad boy hero leapt from our television screens into our hearts, but as should the “Walt Disney of electronic gaming,” Shigeru Miyamoto had a few more icons for us to meet.

And he found them right under his nose. In his garden.

Released just weeks after the launch of GameCube in 2001, Pikmin was a resounding creative triumph, one of the most inventive games Nintendo had done in years. Telling the story of Captain Olimar and his crash landing on a strange alien world, Pikmin challenges players to help Olimar retrieve the 30 scattered pieces of his smashed ship, reassemble the craft and return to his home planet of Hocotate.

The catch? With Olimar’s life-support systems expiring, he has just 30 days to leave the planet. To do so, he needs help from the curious Pikmin, teensy alien critters with special abilities who follow Olimar like rats accompanying the Pied Piper—albeit helpful rats.

A charming variation on real-time strategy, Pikmin established that even in a new millennium, Nintendo wouldn’t stop being Nintendo.


  1. I totally agree with your No. 1 pick. I loved that games, despite the controversy. I felt that the gameplay was fluid, and it really drew me into the games’ series mythology; it was after this game that I really became a fan of the series, and not just some of it’s incarnations.

  2. Notice how the latest one was 3 years ago.

  3. I’m glad to see Canvas Curse on the list. Its probably my favorite DS game. why hasn’t there been a sequel?

  4. Yes, Metroid Prime is a nearly perfect reimagining of the Metroid series…unless you enjoy ducking, running, flipping through the air or any Samus’ other standard moves. Thank God for Retro Studios, surely Metroid Fusion alone wouldn’t have been enough to revive the series! All hail the greatest Nintendo game of all time, etc., etc…

    Excuse me while I barf.

  5. Well done with this article, I really enjoyed it.

    It’s a shame that Canvas Curse wasn’t as successful as it really should have been, it was truly excellent.

  6. I agree with wind waker. its personally my favorite zelda game of all time. unique exploration mixed with some quirky characters all beautifully rendered in a beautiful array of colors.

  7. Happy that windwaker was no.1. got cranky with all pepole that bashed it and refused to play the great game because of its look. i still got an article from the game geezer hung on my wall about windwaker 😀

  8. Excellent list! As I approached #1, I was afraid NSMBW was going to be there. Not too sure why, it was silly in retrospect, but its happened SO MUCH this month. Yes, its a fun game, but not THAT good.

  9. After I saw Smash Bros, Twilight Princess and wii sports earlier on the list I was wondering what the heck number 1 could be, but there you go! I loved TWW, well, all but the monotonous collecting of triforce pieces.

  10. Fantastic List. I agree with everything 100%. Wind Waker is definitely my favorite Zelda game. I’m not sure I’d call it my favorite game ever, but it IS the only one I take time out to play every year.

  11. An addendum:

    You mentioned the hairs standing up on your neck when the classic theme starts playing. I had that kind of moment when you first meet Gannondorf and he, without even turning to look at you, says, “It’s been a while, boy.” He’s been waiting for Link to show up because it’s happened so many times before, and he knows Link better than he knows himself. Because he’s played this game so many times, he knows what’s going to happen before it does, like some cosmic play. I may be reading too much into it, but that’s just my favorite “neck hair moment” in WW.

  12. Three cheers for Canvas Curse. Love that game.