2016 is nearly at an end, and it was an interesting year for Nintendo. It made its first moves into mobile, played its part in the extravagances of the Pokémon 20th Anniversary, while also going big on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It was a year that also had some lows, such as supply issues with the popular NES Mini, relatively quiet release slates (particularly for Wii U at retail) and some negative publicity around Super Mario Run. The big event of the year was likely the Switch reveal, which has nevertheless been overwhelmed by rumours courtesy of the Nintendo ship being far leakier than usual.

With plenty to digest, some of our writers have put together thoughts on their highlights (and lowlights) from 2016; we'll also have a full editorial on Nintendo's year before 2017 rolls around.


Mitch Vogel

Let's get one thing out of the way, 2016 was not a good year for the Wii U. 2015 already made it blindingly evident that the company was ceasing development on new projects, opting instead to shift them to what is now known as the Switch. Unfortunately, we felt the full effects of this in 2016, wherein very few major releases came to the ill-fated platform. Sure, there were some highlights, like Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE and Paper Mario: Color Splash, but they were unfortunately too scarce to be anything beyond short-lived bumps in interest.

The announcement of the Switch certainly didn't help the Wii U either. I don't think I've ever seen a console get abandoned as fast as the Wii U; it felt like I was writing every week about another game in development that's cancelling its Wii U port in favour for a Switch version. There was even a rumour that Breath of the Wild wasn't performing up to Nintendo's standards and would be cancelled in the same vein. The scary thing is, I could easily see that as actually happening; the E3 demo was inconsistent, and while there's certainly been a lot of time to polish it up, it wouldn't be out of the realm of reason for Nintendo to pass on the Wii U port, although it would irreparably torch fan relations and trust in doing so.

Though the Wii U has been consistently hitting new lows, it hasn't all been doom and gloom with Nintendo. Pokémon GO was one of the biggest sensations of this summer, and while that wasn't a direct Nintendo game, it still importantly boosted brand awareness for the company. I've never seen anything — game-related or otherwise — unite people in the same way as Pokémon GO. Nearly everyone I know played it to some degree and I'll never forget the first time I visited a park near my house wherein literally hundreds of people were milling about catching 'em all. People of all ages and demographics were being connected in a way that's never been done before, and I think it'll be a long time before anything manages to do something on that scale again.

And, of course, the 3DS has continued being Nintendo's biggest source of stability (software updates included). Games like Pokémon Sun and Moon, Monster Hunter Generations, and Kirby: Planet Robobot have continued filling out the already impressive software library on the aging portable and proven that it will continue to be a viable platform even in a post-Switch world. There's a reason that Nintendo is keeping the 3DS around, and it's been nice to have a Nintendo platform that, in many ways, has made up for the continued shortfalls of the Wii U.

Image: Luke Plunkett

Liam Doolan

This year will be remembered as an exciting new chapter in Nintendo's history. The company's movement into the mobile games market is arguably the best decision they've made in a long time. Unless you were in total isolation, it was hard to ignore the Pokémon GO craze that swept the globe earlier this year. I haven't seen this widespread level of enthusiasm in Pokémon since the original trading cards and games were released in the '90s. I think it's definitely contributed to the success of Pokémon Sun and Moon on the 3DS.

The recent release of Super Mario Run on iOS devices has been just as positively received. I believe Nintendo's decision to promote its first Mario mobile game at an Apple keynote was a smart decision. The magnitude of this type of event is unrivalled given the popularity of new iPhone unveilings and Apple conferences. Nintendo's social media application Miitomo is the cherry on top. It's got to be one of my most played games this year, since its release. I somehow lost my copy of Tomodachi Life on 3DS quite a few years ago, so this spiritual mobile variation has been giving me my daily Mii fix since.

Of course, there have also been a few bumpy moments for Nintendo this year, but based on the what we've seen of the company's mobile activity so far, I haven't heard this much discussion about Nintendo and the likes of Mario since the Wii & DS generation. Good or bad, I honestly think this is a step in the right direction moving forward.

Ben Stegner

Wow, what a year. Despite the obvious lack of Wii U retail games, loyal players had enough to keep them satisfied through 2016. On the good side, Twilight Princess HD was finally the definitive version of the game (no motion controls, and the best graphics), Color Splash wasn't a total disappointment like Sticker Star, and the Wii U got caught up on some games previously available on other platforms (like Super Meat Boy).

Digital led the year. The newest Phoenix Wright game was highly anticipated and didn't disappoint. Rhythm Heaven Megamix is the meatiest entry in the series but still a perfect entry point for new players. And we got BoxBoxBoy!, one of the finest titles of the year and a sequel to a surprise hit. Virtual Console was decent too, with cult hits like StarTropics and some good SNES times for New 3DS owners.

For me, the biggest disappointment of the year came from Star Fox Zero. Controls aside, the game failed to re-capture the magic of true branching paths of SF64. The two-player was pretty fun, but the thought of playing through that game again anytime soon makes me feel ill.

Overall, 2016 was a year when we had to carefully enjoy what we had. The few major releases from Nintendo were mostly good, but we still got a taste of the Switch to keep us excited for more. Let's hope 2017 brings the quality and quantity we know Nintendo can deliver.

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Alan Lopez

One foot cemented into a cinder block made from materials of the past, the other outstretched and suspicious, toes gingerly dipped into the future: this Dadaist sculpture is Nintendo in 2016.

It is absolutely unheard of that a major, digital entertainment company in this modern age would call a mulligan on an entire calendar year. But because Nintendo's software and hardware development remains in complete upheaval in preparation for a major hardware release in 2017, 2016 will be consummately remembered as the year Nintendo entered the mobile market.

In fact, there likely has never been an easier end-of-year narrative to write for the 127 year old company; hardly anything was released all year, all the while Pokémon GO made gamers out of everyone you've ever known. Yet the fact that this denotation is true virtually by default does not make it any less anachronistic. Nintendo on your smartphone? THAT Nintendo? For their fans around the world, the transition has been a strange mix of excitement, eye rolling and fun. The optimist might say "growing pains".

From a personal standpoint - one with two decades of Nintendo sensibilities coursing through his veins - I'm here to reaffirm to you that Nintendo as crafters of whip smart gameplay is in no danger of being extinguished … at least not if some of the tiny projects the company scattered throughout the year are anything to go by. Novel but critically successful titles like Nintendo's BoxBoxBoy and Game Freak's highly unlikely Pocket Card Jockey, a digitally released, horse racing solitaire simulator (!), prove that two of Nintendo's major game development pillars / close partners have still got it. And with uncharted waters up ahead in 2017, Nintendo is going to need a lot more where that came from.


Matthew Forde

For many 2016 will be seen as the year the Wii U was truly laid to rest, though mockers will claim the system was buried before it started, it was 2016 that I felt put the true nail in the coffin. What onlookers do not realise is that in its final year as Nintendo's home console there were still some delightful experiences to be had. Polar opposite to this, the 3DS had another strong year with contributions from both first and third party software contributing to the already vast library of games. Digitally too there were some unexpected hits like Pocket Card Jockey and 6180 the moon that possibly fell under the radar; I'd absolutely recommend both.

In truth, the gargantuan that is Pokémon kept the wheels turning, with Pokémon Red and Blue being released on the Nintendo eShop in late February helping to kick off debatably the Pocket Monsters' most popular year since their original release. Many then rekindled their youth when Pokémon GO made its way onto the App Store in July, and within a week became the most downloaded mobile game ever. Personally I fell back in love when X & Y were released after years of what I felt were stagnation in the series, so with this in mind I was thrilled to see everyone from teens to the elderly trying to catch a Pidgey on their local corner. A highlight (or lowlight depending how you look at it) of my year was hearing rumours that an Omastar had appeared approximately half a mile from my location. Next thing I know my friend and I are sprinting through the streets of York desperate to catch this rare beast. Moments like this and so many were experienced throughout the world making Pokémon GO an undeniable success, unseen on this global scale and unlikely ever to be seen again.

On the fighting scene Pokkén Tournament gave long-term franchises like Street Fighter a run for their money and, finally, when you think Poke-mania couldn't rise even higher, the seventh generation brought Pokémon Sun & Moon. For the first time since the Game Boy the conventional rules had been torn up and given a fresh paint of coat, therefore making my experience the most fun I've had since Crystal.

Undoubtedly the year of Pokémon, there was one game that to my surprise eclipsed everything Pikachu tried to throw at me. Never having ventured into the series, I was astonished at just how much joy I had with Kirby: Planet Robobot. Now I know Kirby is normally known for its lack of challenge and sometimes seen as too kid friendly, yet the pink puffball carried one hell of a whack. Suiting up like a camp Iron Man, Kirby's adventure into Planet Robobot provided me both exhilarating and challenging levels making use of the 3D capabilities more than any other title for the handheld. Just the right length at around 8 hours, Planet Robobot never let up being the most solid outing I've played in sometime. In a year full of Poke-madness, Nintendo's ginormous leap into the mobile market with Super Mario Run, an overall gloom feeling with the Wii U, mass celebrity deaths and certain political events worldwide, for me I find it fantastic that the gleeful pink blob resides at the top of my tree this Christmas, ready to sound in the New Year.

Share some of your thoughts, highlights and lowlights from Nintendo's 2016 in the comments below.