The Best DSiWare Games of 2011

Kicking off our best of series is a whole lot of tactical thinking. Except for when that all goes out the window because of pesky human nature.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 01/01/2012 10:00 4 Comments     ShareThis

It used to be that DSiWare was unexplored territory. Nintendo’s first attempt at downloadable handheld games and software, DSiWare was one of those things that people watched intently, just waiting for it to explode (for better or worse). To be very candid, it didn’t really explode at all– it kind of puttered, sputtered, and all those other things a downloadable service without immediately apparent games will do. But when Nintendo’s 3DS hit the scene, with its Nintendo eShop, people who never owned a DSi before suddenly had access to all the great stuff on the scene– which really only encouraged developers to make even more games for DSi. And of course, there were plenty. Let’s check out what happened this year on DSiWare:

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords

The best things in life are free– or so we hear. And when that freebie is a Zelda game, with extra material despite its port origins (check out that Realm of Memories above! that wasn’t in your GBA remake!), hey, that’s even better. While The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords originally came from the GBA remake of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, its multiplayer capabilities were limited in that everyone had to have their own cartridge, in addition to Game Boy Advance systems and link cables. Now, true, people still need their 3DS systems– but due to Amazing Advances in Technology and Generosity, the game and connectivity are no longer problems! That means that as long as you’ve got a 3DS– and friends with 3DS systems– you can have the most multiplayer fun you’ve had since New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

With Four Swords comes new items (magnets, anybody?) and new levels, including some based on A Link to the Past and the original The Legend of Zelda game for NES. And of course, most importantly, there’s now a single-player mode– just in case you throw your friends down pits enough for them to leave you forever. Hey, nothing can stop Link!

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

You’ve probably played puzzle games before, but never a game like Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords— unless, of course, you’ve played Puzzle Quest 2, in which case, this game is just as great!

If you’re a veteran gamer like quite a few of us, you might remember Steven Faulkner’s Warlords games, choc-full of turn-based action (and hot-seat multiplayer! woo!) that sadly have not resurfaced in recent days. (Warlords IV doesn’t exist and don’t try to tell us otherwise.) Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords actually revisits Faulkner’s universe, which makes sense considering he’s a designer on staff, except in totally puzzling fashion– players swap tiles until they get three of the same, in order to gain experience, gold, mana, and all sorts of other stuff you’d usually find in RPGs. And though it’s a crazy combination, it definitely works well, addicting us out of our minds, sending us through fantastical locations throughout Faulknerland, and ultimately making Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords our first runners-up in the best DSiWare games of 2011.

Plants vs. Zombies

It’s probably for the best that handheld video game systems have battery lives, because otherwise we’re sure that we’d be playing games like Plants vs. Zombies until we entered vegetative or zombie-like states ourselves. (One of us played forty-five hours of Plants vs. Zombies in a week. That’s roughly six and a half hours a day and the person in question may or may not have become very much unhinged afterward.) (I promise it wasn’t me.)

PopCap Games, known for having bottling addiction and selling it in the form of Bejeweled and Insaniquarium, gave Plants vs. Zombies to DSiWare this year, and consequently made it so tower defense games would be more addictive than ever. Players are tasked with planting sunflowers, spuds, and lily-pad cats (we kid you not) to fight off an ever-growing horde of zombies, from aquatic dolphin-bies to athletic, pole-vaulting demons. And while the mechanics are simple, and the levels not so difficult (once you get the hang of things), PopCap is intimate with us hardcore gamers– we just can’t help playing the game. (Though it does omit VS, Puzzle, and Survival modes– and the brilliant sunflower-related music video, which is terrible.) We’re enthralled nevertheless!


Magical Whip: Wizards of the Phantasmal Forest, Antipole


Tell us which of the above titles you’d pick as the winner, or if you think another game is more deserving, select “Other” and tell us in the comments!

[poll id=”89″]

4 Responses to “The Best DSiWare Games of 2011”

  • 1570 points
    penduin says...

    I enjoy Plants vs. Zombies a great deal, but it’s worth mentioning that the DSi version is pretty severely gimped. There’s no zen garden, no endless mode, and the brilliant ending video is gone.

    The garden’s an acceptable loss, but the other two omissions are criminal. …And they’re mentioned in the article. Were you thinking of the DS cartridge?

  • 849 points
    ejamer says...

    No mention of Mighty Milky Way? I don’t think it beats out Zelda (free is hard to beat) but an excellent game nonetheless…

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