Classics define Nintendo’s upswing decade


9. Metroid Prime (GameCube, 2002)

Within any classic, there are always a few defining moments. Mario’s 3D arrival outside Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64 and Link’s first steps onto the grassy expanse of Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time, for example, were scenes their fans will always remember.

But perhaps none have been more memorable or powerful than seeing Samus Aran’s desolate world through her cold glass visor for the very first time.

When Nintendo and Texas-based Retro Studios revived the Metroid series in 2002, they didn’t just resurrect it—they reinvented it. While escaping an exploding space station and fighting off murderous space pirates just minutes into Metroid Prime, my wide eyes and quickened pulse made it clear their efforts had resulted in something special.

The first Metroid game to break from the series’ side-scrolling roots, Prime is often credited with creating a new genre—the first-person adventure game. Though it plays like a first-person shooter, Prime’s unique emphasis on exploration and atmosphere truly set it apart.

Seven years later, Metroid Prime stands as one of the most brilliant Nintendo games of all-time, a nearly perfect reinvention of a classic.

8. Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64, 2000)

Like a sibling perpetually trapped within the enormous shadow of a popular older brother, Majora’s Mask was perhaps destined to be overlooked.

Often just an addendum in discussions about Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask was the most bizarre and unconventional Legend of Zelda game since 1988’s Adventure of Link. Unfortunately for its retail potential, bizarre and unconventional are rarely desirable to the mainstream.

Majora’s Mask has sold less than any 3D Zelda console game. Ever.

Among Zelda fans, however, Majora’s Mask is justly remembered as one of Nintendo’s most ambitious titles, a dark and smart twist on the traditional Zelda formula. Leaving Hyrule after the events of Ocarina of Time, Link encounters a rogue Skull Kid and his wicked fairy companions. After they steal his Ocarina, Link gives chase and ends up cursed, lost in the peculiar land of Terminia.

Terminia resembles Hyrule, but barely, like an inverted snapshot of Zelda’s celebrated province. Majora’s Mask takes us to a world rich with personality, where vestiges of the familiar are twisted, but just familiar enough.