The decade started weird for Nintendo. Their handheld business was as successful as ever, but the aging Wii was showing signs of fatigue. The introduction of the Wii U proved to be a bit of a letdown, but the company surfed on the success of the 3DS and the gigantic pile of money made by the Wii. Things would get better for Nintendo, with the Switch arriving in 2017. Everything has been golden ever since.
Spending most of the decade behind Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo had a lot of opportunities to get weird with its games. Some of these reinventions paid dividends (think Breath of the Wild), but others were either shunned or flew under the radar. We are here to shine a light on that last category because Nintendo is more than just Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon. Let’s see what most gamers missed from the Big N in the past ten years.
10 Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (2014)
After years of being second (if not third or fourth) fiddle, Toad was finally given his own adventure. His mission: Explore the world and find gold stars. This sounds incredibly simplistic, but it’s also what makes the genius of this game.
The gameplay is easy to understand, and the challenge comes from figuring out the clever puzzles. The game was a bit of a miss on the Wii U, as was the entire system, but Nintendo knew they had something good. The game was ported to the 3DS and Switch, with the latter version finally shipping a million copies.
9 Miitopia (2017)
The critical reaction to this game was mixed. Some called it too simple and too cute, while others praised its customization and leisurely pace. The truth is that it’s a surprisingly deep role-playing game, with a surprising story and fun combat.
While most of the world decided to pass, the game was thankfully popular in Europe. Its sales in the territory equaled those of Japan and North America combined. With Nintendo seemingly pushing the Miis to the side since the Switch was released, it is unlikely that this game will be ported to the new system like other overlooked games of the previous generation.
8 Sin & Punishment: Star Successor (2010)
While Sin & Punishment: Star Successor was released in 2009 in Japan, the West had to wait until 2010 to get their hands on the game. So, it counts!
The first game of the series was a hit in Japan but was never released outside of the country until the game was ported to the Wii’s Virtual Console. Its success on the service finally warranted a sequel, one which received critical acclaim, but gamers did not bite.
As an on-rail shooter, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor offers non-stop action that lets the player focus on the most important thing of all: Shooting aliens and lots of it. It’s gorgeous to look at and tons of fun, and it’s still a steal on the second-hand market, so get a copy while you can.
7 Paper Mario: Color Splash (2016)
After the disappointment of Sticker Star, Nintendo needed something completely different to revive the Paper Mario series. Color Splash was just that, with a brand new card-based combat system and a story that’s as close to the genius of Thousand-Year Door as you can get, but it seems like fans had been burned too badly.
Will it get that Switch port that Nintendo seems to give to most of its overlooked Wii U library? One can only hope, but it would be more than deserving of a chance to find a bigger audience.
6 Yoshi’s Woolly World (2015)
Sure, this game sold decently, but it did not get the respect that it deserves. No matter how good his games are, Yoshi is always treated as the series for younger gamers because of the insanely cute graphics.
In reality, this is a game that starts easy and ramps up the difficulty at a constant rate, until you reach the devilish difficulty of the final few levels. "The Wonderful World of Wool," as it is called, will challenge even veteran platforming fans. There’s also the music, which is low-key one of the best soundtracks of the decade.
5 Boxboy! (2015)
The series has gained a bit of traction in the last few years with the release of a few sequels, but the original was a surprise to most. Some reviewers called the game “sterile” and “restrictive,” but to those who were able to go past its black and white 2D graphics, BoxBoy! proved to be a challenging puzzle platformer.
This one is a 3DS exclusive, so if you missed out on this sleeper hit the first time around, be sure to catch BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! on Switch, which has all the charm of the original, but on a bigger screen.
4 Ever Oasis (2017)
A common complaint of Nintendo fans is that the company often relies on the same few cash cows instead of creating new franchises. And yet, when a game like Ever Oasis comes around, less than 300,000 gamers answer the call.
It’s an original story with colorful characters, a great story, and fun real-time combat. The only issue is that the graphics were maybe too cute for their own good, but if you can look past the sickly sweet visuals, you’ll discover a game that compares favorably to more famous RPGs like Octopath Traveler or I Am Setsuna.
3 Metroid: Samus Returns (2017)
Despite being a critical darling, the Metroid series seems to be constantly selling less than other licenses of similar clout. Samus Returns was no different. It once again did everything right, reimagining Metroid II with modern comfort, adding new mechanics and improvements to the original.
Samus Returns is a beautiful game for sure, but in the tradition of the franchise, the music turns out to be the star of the show. Don’t wait for the remake of the remake, grab it while you still can!
2 Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido (2018)
It’s hard to find new twists to make puzzle games feel original. More often than not, you either match pieces or clear a screen. Sushi Striker improves on the whole thing by combining both concepts and turning it into a frantic battle against the computer, or another player.
The only issue is that it’s a game that plays better on a touch screen, and while it’s something the Switch does beautifully, most gamers do not think of the system as a touch-based one. Still, grab yourself a stylus, and give this inventive puzzle-brawler a chance.
1 Astral Chain (2019)
Released in August, Astral Chain was off to a good start and then seemed to vanish from the collective consciousness. We must fight to give the game its rightful spot, which is right at the top with some of the best releases of the year.
Astral Chain is one of the most inventive games Nintendo has released in a long time, combining an ambitious story with stylish graphics and precise gameplay. For those who think that Nintendo’s games are often too simple, give Astral Chain a try. It will test your skills in a way few other games manage.