Classics define Nintendo’s upswing decade


7. Mario Kart DS (DS, 2005)

Who knew two screens and online racing could usher in an apogee for the beloved Mario Kart franchise?

Boasting an aggregate score of 9.1 from the games press, Mario Kart DS has been a darling of the critics since its hyped Nov. 2005 release. In a rare example of critical and consumer agreement, the game has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide.

For those keeping score at home, that’s roughly 454 per hour.

But Mario Kart DS isn’t the best Mario Kart game because it sold well. The game stays clicked into DS systems worldwide because it perfected the traits which make the series so timeless—course design and multiplayer. The 16 new tracks, polished and precise, are almost perfectly designed, the grand culmination of 13 years of Mario Kart experience, and the multiplayer options are abound.

Factor in the 16 additional courses from past Mario Kart games, portability and online modes, and it’s easy to see why Mario Kart DS is so revered by virtually everyone.

6. Kirby Canvas Curse (DS, 2005)

What tennis and bowling did for the Nintendo Wii, Kirby did for the Nintendo DS.

Well, not exactly. But sort of.

Released before Nintendo’s unique new portable was a year old, Kirby Canvas Curse predated all explosive success the DS eventually experienced. It wasn’t the catalyst for its platform’s retail dominance as Wii Sports was, a credit more fitting for titles such as Nintendogs and Brain Age, but Kirby Canvas Curse was one of the earliest examples of what touch could do for games.

Alongside inventive titles like Yoshi Touch & Go, Kirby Canvas Curse justified the new features of the DS not by simply tacking them onto an existing mechanic, but by building an entire concept around them. Starting from the usual side-scrolling Kirby schematic, Canvas Curse subtracted a key element of any platformer—the protagonist’s legs.

The premise is simple—draw platforms and guide Kirby through the levels—but the impact is profound. Kirby Canvas Curse proves touch can be a practical and beneficial control method, not just a gimmick.