Classics define Nintendo’s upswing decade


3. Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube, 2001)

As my red nose hinted, it was a long, cold walk across campus.

Behind the picturesque beauty of falling snowflakes, the frigid dark that accompanies the dying days of January draws sound from the Earth as quickly as it does warmth, a vacuum of silence and stillness broken only by the snowflakes and those brave enough to test it.

As I walked inside and shook the flurries from my coat, I was greeted by a gust of warm air matched in intensity only by the volume inside.

I was almost 30 minutes early, but the melee had already begun.

To my immediate left, inside one of the largest rooms in our student union building, dozens had already gathered. The sound was just a murmur as I approached, occasional shouts of jubilance or defeat the only specifics I could distinguish amidst a wall of sonic exuberance breaching my cochlea like ten thousand Rohirrim at first light.

It was a tournament—no, it was the tournament. But when I saw they were fighting the old fight, I had to ask why. The retort was brief.

“Dude, it just doesn’t get any better than Melee.”

2. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, 2007)

Over the course of the last two decades, I can remember only two releases that obliterated the expectations their colossal hype created.

One was Ocarina of Time. The other was Super Mario Galaxy.

If it surprises you to see Mario’s intergalactic adventure mentioned with the same reverence as Ocarina, widely considered the greatest game ever made, you’ve obviously never played it. Galaxy deserves every accolade bestowed upon its spectacular brow, a triumph that stands with the finest achievements in the history of the industry.

As did Sunshine, Super Mario 64 and the four classic side-scrolling games before them, Galaxy tasked Mario with rescuing Princess Peach, a dangerous mission he’d complete by stomping enemies and collecting coins. But unlike its predecessors, Galaxy turned these familiar parameters upside-down, making the standard Mario formula feel not only new, but wholly innovative and compelling.

Toying with gravity gave Mario’s platforming prowess a captivating new edge, and the game’s sensational visuals and presentational polish ensured Galaxy looked every bit as magnificent as it played.