Classics define Nintendo’s upswing decade

Infendo

1. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (GameCube, 2003)

“This is but one of the legends of which the people speak.”

If you were at all apprehensive about Wind Waker, the controversial Zelda title in which Nintendo stripped protagonist Link of his Nintendo 64 machismo in favor of a look more Rankin and Bass than Ocarina and Majora, the game’s quintessentially Zelda intro should’ve eased your concerns.

If the tiny hairs on the back of your neck didn’t stand at attention once the epic Zelda theme began to play, why are you even here?

Of course, the stylistic change—a complete reversal of the dark and gritty vibe of the last Zelda, Majora’s Mask—was the big story in regard to Wind Waker, but it was about much more than making the game more colorful. Rather, Wind Waker’s hyper-expressive cel-shaded graphics created a vivid new world surprisingly rich in character.

It’s an absolutely gorgeous game, especially in 480p on Wii.

More importantly, Wind Waker also introduced advanced new combat techniques, including the fierce helm splitter. Ironically, the adorable, innocuous-looking Link felt more like a legendary swordsman than ever before, giving Wind Waker’s swordplay unexpected depth.

Perhaps the only thing more unexpected than his skill with the blade was Link’s propensity for gruesomely skewering his enemies with it.

Wind Waker was memorable for these reasons and more, a game with a lot more magic than perhaps critics have given it credit for. It isn’t as epic as Ocarina, as dark as Majora or as gargantuan as Twilight Princess, but that’s precisely the point. Among the four 3D Zelda games, Wind Waker stands apart as the most distinct.

And if you ask our esteemed Infendo staff, one of the best.

And that’s our list, chiseled out in conference, of the best Nintendo games of the decade. Did we miss any of your favorite Nintendo games? Let us know in the comments!