Feature: Our Top Ten eShop Games

A year of old and new

The Nintendo 3DS eShop recently turned one year old, a year that's seen updates, a new look and a broad range of games. In its early weeks it struggled with a lack of exclusive releases, but after a year we've seen a number of developers pitching in on the service with high quality titles. The 3DS Virtual Console has also brought us some extra titles from Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Gear and even NES. All told, there's plenty to choose from.

To kick off a week of features celebrating this landmark, our team have voted for their top ten download titles on 3DS so far. The voting excluded any software that was also available on DSiWare, while freebies from the 3DS Ambassador Scheme were only eligible if they'd since been released for purchase on the eShop. Eight staff members joined in, with a total of 30 games earning at least one vote, an indication of the variety on the platform. Some titles suffered in the voting due to only being available in one region, as there were four contributors from both Europe and North America. With that said, let's get started.

Despite naming this the third title in the Super Mario Land Game Boy series, this one is all about Wario and his own set of abilities. Rather than sticking a Mario template on a Wario game and keeping it simple, Nintendo put plenty of thought into giving the new man — the enemy from the previous entry in the series — his own identity and style. The end result is one of the finest platformers on Game Boy, bolstered by a memorable soundtrack that stands up today.

Those who experience Donkey Kong on Game Boy for the first time may have a bad first impression, as it initially reproduces the basic levels from the original arcade. It's one big tease, however, as it quickly expands into a full-blown platform-puzzle title, where Mario busts out some rather neat moves such as handstand flips and jumps. All in the quest to rescue Pauline from the villainous Donkey Kong: recent rehab seems to have made the ape a much nicer mascot.

Punch Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream is, as most already know, an NES game. The fact that it's never been a handheld title didn't discourage Nintendo from bringing the iconic boxing game to 3DS; we're rather pleased that it did. A basic concept of dodge and punch with remarkably simple controls, it's a title that progresses to maddeningly tough difficulty. If you want to go all the way and defeat Mr. Dream, you'll need to start training.

This Game Boy Color re-release of the first portable title from The Legend of Zelda franchise was the first splash of colour to grace the 3DS Virtual Console. A remarkably epic adventure considering the limitations of Game Boy, it's a title with a number of small, subtle touches that stick in the memory. Whether it's the quirky characters or the appearance of a Yoshi doll, it shows the best of what makes the franchise one of Nintendo's elite.

The 3DS eShop isn't just about games, as this painting/drawing application allows artists to produce beautiful art with their stylus pens. It doesn't teach you how to draw, but provides a substantial tool-set to cover almost any requirement, with options to draw from photos for those learning basics. Throw in local canvas sharing and an online gallery that allows you to browse submissions and enter your own, and what you have is a wonderful app worth considering.

Wario may have stolen his way into the top ten, but Mario is still showing him who's boss on Game Boy. This second title in the series has plenty of classic Mario platforming action, but also has some intriguing power ups and terrific level design. Awesome music is included as standard, and it's an adventure of decent length that, like Wario's entry, stands up well to modern standards.

Renegade Kid's accomplished retro-platformer missed out on European votes, so it's unknown whether this could have placed higher in the chart. Our European writers can only look on with jealously as this title gets rave-reviews in North America: gorgeous pixel-art accompanied by tight controls and clever leaps between background and foreground contribute to one of the very best titles on offer in the eShop. European release is said to be getting closer, so we'll see whether it can improve on its placing next year.

WayForward Technologies has developed a strong reputation on Nintendo handhelds, and Mighty Switch Force reinforced that impression. With bright, vivid visuals and challenging puzzles, based around the 'switch' component to affect blocks and the environment, this title offers a lot of fun while it lasts. Then WayForward recently provided improved visual effects and extra levels for free, which was rather nice.

Pullblox, or Pushmo in North America, appears to be Nintendo's highest profile first-party release on eShop, appearing in TV adverts and marketing. It deserves that status, combining a cutesy image with a huge amount of puzzle content, as you're tasked with using your peculiar hero to pull and manoeuvre blocks to reach the top of a tower and rescue a kiddy. It starts easy and gets exceptionally difficult, and if you want more you can create and share levels with QR codes.

The choice of VVVVVV as our number one should tell you one thing about our staff; we love a challenge. The concept and visuals of this title couldn't be simpler, and you run and flip gravity to negotiate a route through deadly environments in order to rescue stranded ship-mates. If you like to beat games without dying, don't download this, as it's perfectly normal to lose hundreds of lives when beating the campaign, though generous checkpoints ease the pain. When the main job is done there's hours of play to be had in the user created levels, one by a certain Notch, creator of PC-behemoth Minecraft.

So that's our top ten, though a number of quality titles missed out. What do you think of our list, and what are your top ten eShop games? If you want to declare your favourite, you can also vote on our Facebook poll.