Classics define Nintendo’s upswing decade


5. Wii Sports (Wii, 2006)

In an industry defined by enormous budgets and Michael Bay emulation, Nintendo changed everything with a good idea and a tech demo.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The idea fueling Wii Sports is ingenious, but the game is little more than a glorified prototype, a mission statement meant to lay the groundwork for a revolution, not to define it. One can experience virtually everything the disc has to offer within minutes—it takes more time to boil bucatini than to play Wii Sports.

Yet even now, three years since hitting store shelves, this simple title stands as perhaps the greatest example of motion controls to date.

And arguably one of the most important video games ever released.

Nestled inside the box of every Wii sold in the United States, Wii Sports captured the imaginations—and checkbooks—of millions, many of whom hadn’t picked up a video game controller since Mario saved Pauline. Bowling, tennis, golf, baseball and boxing didn’t require lengthy controller explanations—just swing, and just throw.

This simplicity, with the depth afforded by realistic motions and the fun of playing with others, made Wii Sports timeless.

4. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GameCube/Wii, 2006)

There were 21 games available for Wii when the console launched in Nov. 2006, but for most gamers, only two mattered—Wii Sports and the new Zelda.

A contrast to the system’s pioneering pack-in, there isn’t anything new about Twilight Princess. Rather, the game refined the established Legend of Zelda template with unearthly precision, the nearly perfect recitation of everything that had come to define Nintendo’s beloved series since it entered the third dimension nearly a decade prior.

More than a century has passed since a boy from the forest banished evil from Hyrule, and an ominous twilight has begun to swallow the legendary land. For a ranch hand in Ordon, a tiny village secluded in a wooded corner of Hyrule, a similar destiny awaits.

Back to familiar stomping grounds, the same applies for us.

Familiarity bred contempt for some, but those able to appreciate the immense scope, great controls and dark narrative of Twilight Princess realized just how unique the game is among its predecessors. There had never been a more enormous, more engrossing or more refined Zelda than the vast, beautiful and complex Twilight Princess.