The 2010s are officially behind us. We’re saying goodbye to a decade that birthed tons of fantastic games, and Nintendo was no slouch in releasing plenty of the most memorable titles. Beyond the best of the best like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, games like Xenoblade Chronicles stand at the top of their genre while new entries rejuvenated series like Donkey Kong Country and Fire Emblem. Hidden alongside these classics-in-the-making is Kid Icarus: Uprising, a spunky 3DS title from 2012 that does not enjoy a legacy matching its stunning quality or its strong initial sales and reception.
From the legendary Masahiro Sakurai and his team at Project Sora, Kid Icarus Uprising is a hybrid third-person shooter and rail shooter that draws players in with fast, addictive action and sweetens the package with hilarious voice acting, colorful and creative environments, and addictive scaling difficulties and weapon crafting systems. The unorthodox controls are an issue at first; many players, including me, played through hand cramps while adjusting to the game’s fast, twitchy stylus usage. Once hand muscles got used to the awkward, strained flexing, however, players were sucked into an energetic world teeming with mythological beasts and sarcastic back-and-forths.
While there are several amazing components under the game’s hood, the gameplay in Kid Icarus: Uprising steals the show. Fast-paced rail shooting and creative, heavily varied third-person segments were a joy to play again and again and again. Even after completing the single-player mode, I had no desire to put the title down, instead opting to spend hours and hours in multiplayer or pushing myself to experiment with the game’s many different weapon types while tackling levels at higher and higher difficulties.
Going into missions, you could set the game’s sliding difficulty scale wherever you wanted and then bet hearts, Kid Icarus: Uprising’s currency, on your beating the level. With your winnings, you could finance your growing armory by collecting and fusing weapon gems. Crafting stronger weapons gave you a better shot at a tougher difficulty the next go-around. You can see how the cycle repeated itself once or twice — or a few dozen times — while players were hooked on the incredible assortment of levels.
Combined with the stellar gameplay experience, the endearing charm in Kid Icarus: Uprising pushed the game to new heights and firmly established it as one of the best games on 3DS. Pit, Palutena, and the game’s many mythical heroes and villains always had something to say, and thanks to strong voice acting and a great script, that was a very good thing. Jokes were genuinely funny, Palutena was a believable mentor, and Pit gave off some seriously contagious and decidedly plucky enthusiasm as a developing warrior.
Aside from voice acting, towering bosses and the environments they inhabited built an adrenaline-pumping journey. Players traveled through massive coliseums, underwater palaces, cosmic seas, and a flaming underworld while facing legendary monsters like Hydra and Cerberus. In spectacle, personality, fun, and polish, Kid Icarus: Uprising is among the best of Nintendo’s 2010s efforts.
Unfortunately, Kid Icarus: Uprising faded from the public eye within a couple of years of its successful release, there was never any talk of a sequel or port, and there does not appear to be one on the horizon. What could have been the cornerstone of another reborn Nintendo IP was instead an exciting one-off return to an abandoned series. More content with Super Smash Bros., Sakurai seems quite satisfied with his one outing with Pit and co., and I don’t see how anyone can blame him for it. We got a self-contained, exciting foray into a mythical world of gods and beasts, with some of the best rail shooting since Star Fox 64 and some of Nintendo’s best third-person shooting, period. No matter what happens with the series in the future, Kid Icarus: Uprising is one heck of a game.