As ironic as it sounds considering how slow the company was to adapt to the innovations afforded by the Internet, Nintendo has become one of the best destinations for players looking for downloadable games. This year was special, however, in that not only did Wii U and 3DS offer a bevy of titles through their respective eShops, but for the first time fans were able to get hold of games for mobile platforms, too. There were a ton of digital titles that saw release in 2016, from small indie endeavors to premier triple-a games, too.
With games like Pocket Card Jockey to Rhythm Heaven MegaMix, it can be difficult to figure out which games reigned supreme over the past twelve months. Thankfully for you, dear readers, we’ve combed through the best of the downloadable best and assembled the top digital-only Nintendo titles of 2016. These are the downloadable games that everyone should start 2017 with!
BEST DOWNLOADABLE GAME
Did anyone really see Pokémon Go coming? The release date was known, certainly, and there was plenty of advertising (most notably during the Super Bowl) leading up to launch day, but the way that Pokémon Go exploded onto the mobile gaming scene was a true sight to behold. The reaction to Pokémon Go, which released during the franchise’s celebratory 20th anniversary year, was ironically similar to that of the original games and anime when they launched two decades ago. Everywhere from GameStops to 7-Elevens could merchandise for Pokémon Go be found, and even now there’s still more Pokémon swag on store shelves than has been seen in a long time.
All that fuss was deservedly warranted, though, as Pokémon Go encapsulated much of what makes the franchise special. As a social experience, Pokémon Go might have been lacking in the trading department, but it was a communal affair nonetheless, with players actually finding themselves leaving their living rooms and bedrooms to go on the prowl for the titular Pocket Monsters. Fans got to interact face-to-face, especially in popular “crawl” events where players would gather and comb through and area for Pokémon together. The title wasn’t without controversy, however, as some fans took things a bit too far driving and playing and/or trespassing on private property, but the undeniable joy of Pokémon Go wouldn’t be denied and still can’t, as it has rightfully taken the Nintendojo crown for being the best downloadable game of 2016!
BEST DOWNLOADABLE GAME RUNNERS-UP
Super Mario Run
Marking Mario’s first mobile outing, Super Mario Run was Nintendo’s attempt to bring the plumber back to the masses without sacrificing the core audience who has never left him. Thankfully, the company was able to do just that with Super Mario Run, delivering a game that boasts just enough of what makes a Mario title enjoyable while still leaving players wanting for more-hopefully to the point that they’ll go and pick up a Nintendo console and proper Super Mario Bros. installment! The title’s one-finger gameplay is spot-on with its precision, allowing for some truly taught runs through the Mushroom Kingdom. Whether collecting colored coins, gathering Toads, or just trying to beat a friend’s high score, Super Mario Run is a wonderful mobile title that iOS (and soon Android) users should be downloading right away.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome Amiibo
There are updates and then there are updates. Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome Amiibo came years after the game launched on 3DS, but it was such an ambitious update that it was worth the wait. Offering new gameplay functionality, including interaction with the line of Animal Crossing Amiibo and Amiibo cards, this update gave players plenty of reasons to come back to their neglected towns and start communing with their animal neighbors once more. Though at this point an unusual move, hopefully Nintendo will see fit to keep bringing the love to some of its older software, especially if it’s free like this! There aren’t many game developers that offer an update of this magnitude without charging a dime.
HAL Laboratory is best known for Kirby, but the studio is also capable of churning out gems besides those featuring the exploits of everyone’s favorite pink puffball. Case in point, the delectable BoxBoxBoy!, the sequel to the also delightful BoxBoy! on 3DS. The game features the monochromatic adventures of Qbby, a sentient cube who can create boxes straight from out of his body. This game upped the ante by allowing Qbby to spawn two sets of boxes from himself as opposed to the original title’s single set, expanding the gameplay possibilities greatly. A 2D puzzle/platformer hybrid, this is a real joy to play that any 3DS owner would do well to seek out.
What’s Your Take?
Thanks for checking out our selection of the best downloadable games of 2016. What games did you enjoy downloading this year? Are you incensed that Miitomo didn’t make the cut? Are you aching to tell the world that Pocket Card Jockey was one of your favorite games ever? Vote below and chat us up in the comments!