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The Best Wii U Games of 2016

A sparse year.

It's safe to say the Wii U's had a somewhat sparse year. With the Switch on the way, Nintendo is clearly shifting its development focus elsewhere. Since the turn of the year, a total of around 150 games have released for Wii U, but it's difficult to name more than a handful. There's indie darlings like Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee - New 'n' Tasty!, old reliable Lego titles like Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the odd big third party port, like Minecraft Story Mode, but nothing really huge immediately comes to mind. Luckily for you, GameSpot has done the digging on your behalf, so take a look at the five best games the Wii U had to offer in its last full year in the limelight.

Pokken Tournament is a bizarre Pokemon-Tekken crossover, and offers Pokemon fans something they've been dreaming of since the series' inception in 1996: characters actually fighting. Until now, Pokemon games had only shown the monsters performing small movements in battle. Pokken Tournament finally showed series favourites like Charizard and Gengar physically hitting each other, giving the fighting game a sense of impact that some say the franchise had lacked. It stayed faithful to the games' tactical roots too, with Mega Evolutions, support characters, and a two-phase attack system meaning you'll need to be quick in your head as well as your fingers to succeed. And it does all this without overwhelming newer players, which is important because although it's definitely a hardcore fighting game, many people playing will simply be big fans of Pikachu, just like you and me.

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Next up is another crossover, this time between Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem. Tokyo Mirage Sessions takes the plot and relationship-building of a Megami Tensei or Persona game, but the rest is unmistakably Fire Emblem. So while demons are attempting to take over the world and you've got to make friends to beat them, the characters, weapons, and skill upgrades are all from Fire Emblem. A crossover like that could have felt weird, with art styles and gameplay systems clashing, but developer Atlus has beautifully merged the two games into a great dungeon-crawler. In fact, the characters and mechanics are married so well, and this strange mashup so at ease, it feels like the two franchises were always destined to be together.

You might not have heard of Axiom Verge, but it's easily one of the best games on Wii U this year. It's a side-scrolling indie metroidvania, developed by just one man, all by himself. Being made by a one man army didn't hinder Axiom though--its mysterious plot draws soon you in, before new, perfectly balanced mechanics and items push you on. Small drones, grappling hooks, and laser drills allow you to explore new parts of the world--if you're good enough. Axiom Verge is also bursting with secrets--one weapon, called the Address Disruptor, corrupts objects into other items. Using it on different enemies might destroy them, or conjure a new platform that leads to a secret area, and so on. The amount of secrets you discover even affects the ending you get, so there's always a reason to revisit. It's well worth a playthrough--or five.

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Another indie game reaches the top five in SteamWorld Heist. If you're unaware, imagine XCOM, as a 2D side-scroller, with your crew a rag-tag squad of robots. Each character has a unique special ability, plus their own kooky sense of humor. But it's the fact that it's "XCOM in 2D" that's the real hook here; it's rare to find a strategy game presented this way, but somehow it works. And the fact that you have to aim shots yourself means you can't blame it on a dice roll if you miss!

Last up is Paper Mario: Color Splash, a game that seemed to fly under a lot of people's radars when it launched in October--some fans were upset that it appeared similar in style to Paper Mario: Sticker Star on 3DS. Happily however, Color Splash is a delight. It cuts down on the text-heavy nature of some previous Mario RPGs, and even has 2D paper effects to rival Tearaway. Above all, it brings a sense of humor too many games forget, and much like Nintendo itself, is heartwarming to the core.

GameSpot's Best Wii U Games of 2016

Pokken Tournament

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Axiom Verge

SteamWorld Heist

Paper Mario: Color Splash

GameSpot will be unveiling its picks for the best games of the year throughout all of December. Click here to see more.