10 years of Nintendo's BEST and WORST

It started with N64 and Game Boy, it ended with Wii and DS, and there was a whole lotta Cube in the middle. Come with us as we take a stroll down Memory Card Lane...


A new millennium, a new hope for Nintendo fans: Project Dolphin. Let’s wind the clock back a decade and set the scene…

Above: Mario was feeling a little defensive at the decade's start

It was the year 2000, telephones were still largely attached to walls, if you had a 56k modem you were considered a god, and Nintendo were in a bit of a ‘tizzy’. After dominating the console market in the ’80s and much of the ’90s, Nintendo began the new decade in grave danger of being pushed out of the market altogether.

Sony were the current leaders, having widened the videogaming audience with their PlayStation ‘brand’, and hype for the PS2, which was released worldwide later in the year, was off the chain. A beleaguered Sega had started losing faith in the Dreamcast, which became the first sixth-gen console to hit the market upon release in 1999.

And Microsoft’s mysterious Xbox had positioned itself as the ‘high-end console with a crap name’ after an impressive demo at the Game Developers Conference. It all seemed to leave Nintendo’s Project Dolphin without much of a purpose.

Above: This Gamecube preview vid had our hearts aflutter

So, naturally, it didn’t really help matters when the Dolphin was pushed back to 2001. Still, everyone perked up a bit when the console, now known as the ‘GameCube’, was finally revealed at SpaceWorld 2000. And not just because it wasn’t called the ‘StarCube’, as was widely speculated by the press in the run-up to the show. The cause of all the commotion was a series of startling tech demos featuring Nintendo classics in all-new 21st Century lush-o-vision.

Ultimately, little came of many of these demos, but they blew everyone away at the time. Samus made her 3D debut in a short vignette, but Metroid Prime was heavily redesigned between then and the game’s release.

The almost mythical ‘Super Mario 128’ made an appearance, in a funky demo which saw a giganto-Mario split into 128 miniature pipebotherers – but the project went back to the drawing board more times than Madonna, and would later form the foundations for Super Mario Galaxy, bypassing the Cube entirely. And most notoriously, Nintendo showed a clip of a realistic Zelda game, which was later shelved in favour of the cel-shaded Wind Waker. But we’ll let 2001 tell that one. Also delayed into 2001 was the next generation of Game Boy, upon which we optimistically imposed an image of GoldenEye and proclaimed: “Two Super FX chips might just make the Game Boy Advance capable of THIS!” Yeah, scoff all you want, Scoffy McScoffington, but we were bang on with most of our other predictions, which included portable versions of classics such as Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island, and a Mario Kart that the Game Boy could at last call its own.

Above: WWF No Mercy, still the best wrestling game ever!

There were some games released in 2000 – just about. But what did come out was largely of a high standard. Tony Hawk made his N64 debut, while WWF No Mercy and Ridge Racer 64 (“Terrifyingly quick”) also made an impression. No prizes for guessing the favourite, though – the de facto follow-up to GoldenEye, Perfect Dark.

Above: Perfect Dark was awesome... assuming you had an Expansion Pack

The year wasn’t without its disappointments, with the atrociously named Banjo-Tooie falling just short of expectations, while the much-hyped shooter Daikatana, produced by Quake designer John Romero, was one of the flops of the decade. And finally, when your grandchildren ask you about the year 2000, don’t forget to tell them about Blues Brothers 2000. It was quite something…

2000 VERDICT: 8
Some true classics showed their faces, but it’s a shame that the rest of the year was spent twiddling our thumbs, waiting for a console capable of wall textures that didn’t gouge your eyes out.


But above all of the, er, above, 2001 was the year of portable gaming. The much-anticipated Game Boy Advance was finally unleashed on the public this year. Buoyed by a strong launch line-up and by yet another delay to the GameCube (in Europe it would end up missing 2001 altogether), the GBA became one of the big hits of the year, if not the decade. Success was instantaneous – all 650,000 available GBAs found a happy home on launch day in Japan (the most popular colour was Milky Blue, apparently), and to date, 81.5 million of the dinky consoles have been sold worldwide, making it the fifth best selling console of all time.

Above: It's like a SNES you can hold

It’s not hard to see why the GBA took off like it did. Prior to its arrival, you could either enjoy a fully Technicolor portable device, or one whose batteries lasted longer than a packet of Raisonettes, but not both. But the GBA was an enigma, like a portable SNES in your hands, but also with a 15-hour battery life. “It couldn’t get any better without running on unseen mystical energies or oxygen,” we said at the time, perhaps not considering that a console that sucks up oxygen would probably be unsuitable for use on long-distance flights.

There was only one downside to the console, although it was a biggy: the lack of a backlight meant that you couldn’t see what was going on half the time. The problem was so bad that by the year’s end, hundreds of DIY backlight installation kits had been sold on eBay. We’ve still got our botched attempt lurking in our understairs cupboard.

Despite the excellence of early GBA titles such as Mario Kart: Super Circuit and Kuru Kuru Kururin, the best portable game (well, games) of the year was released for the humble Game Boy Color. Nintendo bravely franchised their Zelda series out to Capcom, who delivered not one, but two instant classics on the very same day, in Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons.

Above: The Zelda: Oracle games were a great send-off for the GBC

A great year for handhelds, then, but maybe not for handheld gaming’s most famous menagerie, the Pokemon, who were banned from Saudi Arabia for encouraging gambling, Zionism and ‘possessing the minds’ of children. Yikes. The N64 began to wind down as anticipation for the Cube increased, with Paper Mario the only Western release of note. Envious eyes were cast Japan-wards, though, as Eastern N64 owners had themselves a tremendous time with Animal Forest, a title that would later form the foundations of the Animal Crossing series.

Although a further delay to the GameCube’s launch was disappointing, hype for the scampy purple box of tricks reached fever pitch after an E3 blowout that gifted us our first glimpses of titles such as Super Smash Bros Melee, Pikmin, Eternal Darkness, Donkey Kong Racing and Starfox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet.

Above: C'mon Luigi, your game wasn't that bad

Far less well received was the debut of Chibi-Link at Spaceworld 2001. Although he’s now as dearly loved as Serious Broody Adult Link, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, the amount of fanboy bile thrown at the 30-second Wind Waker demonstration was almost unprecedented. “I feel slapped in the face and betrayed,” said one online commentator in response to Cel-dagate. “I’m embarrassed to be a Zelda fan. I’m going to walk off a very high cliff. Bye,” said another. Oh, internet. What are you like, eh?

Above: Hard to imagine this cute kid pissing off so many people

Despite the very existence of a Cartoon-Link threatening to rip apart the fabric of space and time, we survived long enough to see the release of the GameCube in Japan and the US, with the main launch title being Luigi’s Mansion. A fun game to be sure, but hardly a replacement for a real Mario game at launch. Though Super Smash Bros. Melee was a big hit, nearly making up for LM, and would eventually be the biggest seller for the system by the end of the Gamecube, while the new series Pikmin prived a fun distraction. What would 2002 hold?

2001 VERDICT: 7
Although it was clearly quite fundamentally flawed, the original Game Boy Advance was an ice-cool distraction from the lack of Cube-osity, even if it was bundled with Mario Bros. 2.

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  • Kytl - April 9, 2010 12:57 a.m.

    am i the only one who still loves Nintendo and was only disappointed with only a few things? call me a fanboy, but i also want a PS3, just for the BluRay and awesome RPGs guess i'll wait for the Wii RPGs that are coming and get some more DS ones, they should easily sate my thirst for console RPGs without ripping my wallet to shreds
  • simonabimosleh - March 17, 2010 3:57 p.m.

    I remember christmas morning opening up my gamecube, with double dash wow i was ADDICTED FOREVER and i still play that game today WOOT GO NINTENDO!!!
  • MaynardJ - March 9, 2010 11:26 p.m.

    And oh yeah, I'll get a Wii eventually but think I'll wait for the HD version. The stuff I played on PC deserves as much nostalgia but never had so many recurring mascots like Samus, Mario and Link. I guess that's what made Nintendo so legendary; these characters have been there for over 20 years and kept their charm even when their gams changed radically, Sonic and the Sony- and Microsoft-exclusive heroes don't even come close to that.
  • MaynardJ - March 9, 2010 11:19 p.m.

    After the NES and SNES, I temporarily left the big N for Playstation. I did finish Mario 64 on a friend's N64, however, and later played Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask on a Gamecube disc. We were never fanboys of one single console, but the best games I ever played are mostly from Nintendo and the Gamecube probably had the most gaming hours. I still use it and have a pile of games to play on it. By now, I also have a DS Lite, a PS2 and a 360, and may get a new gaming PC later this year to finally play Bioshock.
  • Duraji - March 9, 2010 7:16 p.m.

    Metroid Prime was released in 2002, not 2003. Also, Super Paper Mario was NOT delayed to Autumn. Maybe you're talking about European releases here, but if that's the case, they should be specified, as some of the other examples were.
  • renaissancelady - March 9, 2010 6:27 p.m.

    p.s. i you did not even mention cow racing on wii play !!!!! wat is wrong wit ya? no but seriously i can play mario galaxy still even though i had already played it to dust!
  • big rudy - March 8, 2010 12:22 p.m.

    Not even a mention of Pokemon on the DS?
  • metalgatesolid - March 8, 2010 9:13 a.m.

    I think you guys have been a bit generous on Nintendo. There where at least 5-6 years where no-one cared about them and Sony was King with GTA and MGS. Only now with the Wii have people started mentioning Nintendo without the words "what ever happened to..." infront of it.
  • StoveToTheFace - March 8, 2010 6:46 a.m.

    nintendo is lame used to be amazing NES-64 after that DOWN HILL! wii is the worst of the bunch and gets the most praise yes great idea but it dont work games look bad and the motion controlls suck
  • StoveToTheFace - March 8, 2010 6:44 a.m.

    im sorry since the 64 nintendo sucks..yeah they got a few great games a handfull of good games but 80% of their games suck..i used to be a big fan from nintendo through 64 but since then its been down hill...srry wii but you suck your over hyped and your games suck
  • bonerachieved - March 8, 2010 6:18 a.m.

    I loved luigi's mansion. It was my favorite game on the GC until Wind Waker came out.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - March 7, 2010 8:54 p.m.

    Luigi's Mansion was awesome. Don't deny it. And lol @ the fanboys trolling the hell out of this article.
  • Cyberninja - March 7, 2010 8:48 p.m.

    @jmcgrotty something tells me you never played the world ends with you or muramasa the demon blade.
  • Visual217 - March 7, 2010 6:28 p.m.

    I always loved Luigi's Mansion, until some asshole came and broke into my house and stole all my gamecube games, but I was fixing to get the original xbox. I've recently been having those moments where when I see a old game I loved, I wanted to buy it, like wind waker and Luigi's Mansion
  • SandroTheMaster - March 7, 2010 5 p.m.

    I don't like to go and bash Nintendo, but what's up with those ratings? Most of the time Nintendo got a high rating based off on the portables alone. And in 2008 Mario Kart Wii apparently made up for a year of thousands of Shovelware and, worst of all, Wii Music! Not only made up for, but apparently rated the Big N an 8 all by itself. Not to say it downplayed everything it done really wrong along the line, especially Nintendo's stubborn choice of resisting online gaming with all its might, and even after accepting, making it so damn hard to be play online that casuals would never figure out. (Damn friend codes)
  • IIIIIACEIIIII - March 7, 2010 4:38 p.m.

    I love Luigi's Mansion, but then again I hadn't played Super Mario 64 at the time so I wasn't expecting a sequel and had nothing to be disappointed about. Disregarding that however, I still think Luigi's Mansion is a fantastic game on it's own.
  • Zeb364 - March 7, 2010 12:05 p.m.

    By the way, Luigi's Mansion was a steaming pile of excrement. It's those type of games that have been causing the problem. Nintendo's Quality Control Department is on permanent vacation. And that's the last you'll hear from me on the subject.
  • Zeb364 - March 7, 2010 12:01 p.m.

    Nintendo's just gotten lame. I was a fan since the NES but in both the N64 and Gamecube eras I ended up buying Sony's consoles (Playstation and PS2) because they were kicking Nintendo's ass about half way through the consoles lifetime. Then they just gave up. They stopped trying to make impressive, innovative games that push the boundaries of the medium and instead focused on slapdash efforts that would appeal to "untapped markets" (which, when translated from money grubbing marketing department speech, means "people who don't really give a shit anyway"). These games were primarily sold on gimmicks (motion control, touch screen, etc.) that completely lost their appeal once the novelty wore off and are only ever used again when a new gimmicky attachment is released (DS with a camera, balance board, Wii motion plus, etc.). Now these technologies are clearly not entirely useless because some people on the creative side have found ways to use them properly and have therefore produced some real quality games (there's no need to state them here because they were all extensively covered in this article) but the rest were fly by night toss away's. The 360 and PS3 are sporting revolutionary titles like the Halo franchise, Modern Warfare 1 and 2, the Bioshock franchise, Uncharted franchise, Fallout 3, Gears franchise, and even the Left 4 Dead franchise which proved you don't need the top tech to make an amazing game. Meanwhile every game on the Wii needs to be categorized completely separate from any 360 or PS3 games cause they aren't even close to the same league. And that is the quintessential problem with the Wii. When the games on the console have to be justified as being on that console, there's a problem with the console. Essentially, the commonly used phrase "it's good for a Wii game" demonstrates perfectly just how flawed the Wii is.
  • evilgerbil666 - March 7, 2010 11:12 a.m.

    I'm sorry but I don't really agree on the amount of praise Nintendo have recieved here. In terms of making money and bringing non-gamers into the world of gaming, they've done a fantastic job, better than any other company out there, but they've always created the biggest in-flux of gamers, and have always made alot of money as a result. I personally feel Nintendo have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way, they've run the "Nintendo Quality" into the ground with the appauling amount of shovelware and medicore games they pump out, focusing on gimmicks to keep them above the competition. If I'm not mistaken, I remember they also stated at one point they care more about their casual gaming audience now, which I feel is a real slap in the face to the original fans who helped build them. The games listed here are all great yes, but they're usually just covered up within seconds by some new pet game or cheerleader crap, it's almost as if these games are just thrown out there to keep the old fans happy. I'm not saying Nintendo are the only company out there making shovelware and bringing down the industry, but they're definatly the biggest cause of it all. They need to drop this gimmicky, childish generic look they're creating for themselves, stop the shovelware, and focus on more games like the few listed in this article. P.S: Weegee's mansion was pretty awesome.
  • crumbdunky - March 7, 2010 8:27 a.m.

    Grats, GR, you got through that without mentioning Okami failing for a second time even on the console who's controls seemed destined to make it EVEN better! That kind of restraint is something I never thought you had in yourselves. Take a bow! Hopefully Ninty are being sensible and by moving SMG2 and M(OM) to summer releases know they have a Zelda up their wii sleeves for the holiday season-otherwise they may start losing some casual fluffsters to Natal and some more serious gamers to PS3 and Arc whenn it arrives with some PS3 retooled classics etc. I'd love to see them woo the third parties and take the fight baxck to 36/PS3 with a run of games that, while satisfying for serious gamers, can find ways of being accessible to casuals without getting dumbed down-maybe we'll have to ALL accept the new control options of NSMBWii in many more games IF we want Ninty to tend to our core gamer. RS2 and NMH2 look great games(I'm in the UK,sadly)but the lack of games from the third parties that we see every week on PS360 means Ninty remain unable to corner many serious gamers and the fight for the casuals is only now hotting up and I've seen nothing to say Natal isn't SOLELY aiming for that market(though, with luck E3 will say "bye" to Natal lag and "hello" to something resembling what you might actually call a "video game" fr Natal). Anyway, I see challenges ahead for Ninty who have usually been at their very worst just when it looks like they've cracked it. Certainly, imo, they need a lot more support for M+ and mre projects to stay Wii exclusive from 3rds and more games like the Wii Version of the next PoP which seems tailor suited to Wi and it's individual attributes while still tryingg to ring similar bells and whisytles to it's PS360 cousins.We'll al;so see the new DS later this year which should be good but I predict, overall, the start of a fight whch may be culminated sometime mi next generation as Sony and MS position themselves to make grabs at different parts of the Nintendo userbase. BTW, never understood why, and as someone wh played them all first day and loved them as dearly as anyone at the time, people STILL like to think of the Prime series as inferior on some basic and irrefutable level-silly majority of gamers!