If you are a Nintendo fan, 2017 must seem like a breath of fresh air compared to the last half decade. The company has a brand new console out on the market and they are pumping out games at a rate of roughly one major release per month. Compared to the last years of the Wii U this can almost feel like the big N is either spoiling us or making up for lost time. But it’s just not the quantity of the games that are coming out but the quality as well. I find it hard to think of another year that Nintendo has been able to deliver so much rock-solid content for its systems while keeping enough in the tank for 2018 and beyond. So this begs the question – is 2017 Nintendo’s best year ever?
Before we go on calling 2017 Nintendo’s greatest year ever though, we first have to figure out what was the best year up to this point. This is no easy task as the company has had some fantastic years in the past like 1987 which featured the debut of Metroid, Zelda and Kid Icarus or 1992 which gave us Super Mario Kart and A Link to the Past. However, a search through the company’s archives does show one year in particular with an exceptionally high volume of games ranging from both mid to very high quality that just so happens to have been exactly 10 years ago.
In 2007 Nintendo was in a similar position to the one that it finds itself in today. The DS was enjoying a resurgence thanks to its Touch Generation line of games and the Wii had just taken the world by storm a few months before, Nintendo bolstered their success by leaning on their established IPs, releasing new titles in the Fire Emblem, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Pokémon and Mario series as well as a few titles from lesser known / brand new franchises like Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and Battalion Wars 2. This massive push of big games helped give the DS and Wii momentum throughout the year and once the generation was wrapped up Nintendo held the #1 and #2 spots for total hardware sales.
In an odd coincidence, many of these games can be directly compared to a later sequel / spin-off in 2017. Below is a chart with most of the major releases in both years in chronological order. Note how games in the Mario, Fire Emblem, Zelda, Metroid and Pokémon all received major titles in both years
So in a direct comparison between the two, both 2007 and 2017 stack up quite similarly however we do have to make some assumptions along the way. As of writing nearly half of the games on the 2017 haven’t year released, meaning we can’t be 100% certain as to their final quality. That being said, Metroid: Samus Returns, Super Mario Odyssey and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 have all been extremely well received by the press during preview events and its unlikely that any of those games will be considered sub-standard once final reviews are out. Comparing that to the late 2007 games like Battalion Wars 2, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games and Mario Party DS and its easy to see that 2017 may just have enough of an edge to take the throne as the company’s best year ever.
It’s also worth noting that as technology has changed, the method of delivery for games has also evolved, notably in the form of DLC (my memory may be failing me but I don’t think any of those 2007 games got DLC). That means that Nintendo can keep adding content to their older titles to not only extend the content of the game but make it an inherently better title too. Just look at the wonders that the Mario Kart 8 DLC did for that game on the Wii U. By my count nine of the games listed above will have or will be getting DLC at some point, giving gamers more bang for their buck and helping their favorite games earn a bit more longevity.
There’s no denying that 2017 has and will continue to be a banner year for Nintendo but will it be the very best? It’s not hard to see why it could be, with so many fantastic titles still to come over the next five months like Metroid: Samus Returns and Super Mario Odyssey its certain that if you own a 3DS or Switch that you’re likely to be a very happy gamer. And though it would be hard to beat the 1-2-3 combo of Zelda, Metroid and Mario in one year, 2018 is already shaping up strongly with new Kirby, Yoshi and Fire Emblem games in development. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another decade for another great Nintendo year.