This past week, Nintendo announced that after more of a decade they would be shutting down the Wii Shop Channel. Many gamers (myself included) have found memories of taking our Wii consoles online, putting in our Wii Point Card numbers and downloading a whole bunch of classic Nintendo, Sega and NEC titles onto the Wii system. But the Wii Shop Channel was also home to a whole catalogue of new games that made up the system’s WiiWare service. It was here that many of the system’s smaller and more experimental titles came into being and many of the developers that brought us these games are now responsible for big indie series’ thanks to their original success on WiiWare. So as a sort of goodbye to Nintendo’s original download service, we’re counting down the Top 20 Best WiiWare games starting with numbers 20 through 11 today (check back next Friday for 10 -1).

(Note that as a rule we are sticking to one game per series).

20 – Dr. Mario Online Rx

For the most part Nintendo avoided putting its biggest stars on WiiWare (and DSiWare for that fact) but Mario did get a title released on the Wii’s download service in the form of Dr. Mario Online Rx. As the title suggests what you get here is basically Dr. Mario but with online gameplay, allowing for one on one, virus busting-battles against friends or strangers. The game even made surprisingly great use of the Wii Remote’s pointer functionality in the new Virus Buster mode that your little Dr Miis take on hoards of rampaging viruses.

19 – Rock N’ Roll Climber

WiiWare was home to a whole bunch of wacky and weird games but there’s a seat at the ‘weird and wacky’ table specifically reserved for Rock N’ Roll Climber. In this game, you climb mountains to the rocking soundtrack of rock n’ roll music. Ok, pretty tame so far? Well add in the that game is almost entirely motion controlled with the Wii Remote, Nunchuck and Wii Balance Board for a full body experience and you have a game that feels like nothing else on the Wii or any other platform really. It may be a bit slow at times but if you were looking for something else to do with your Balance Board other than weigh yourself, this was a great (and hilarious) pick up.

18 – Maboshi’s Arcade

Maboshi’s Arcade may not seem like a very exciting premise on the surface as it’s essentially a pretty standard puzzle game. Where things get interesting though is that you’re actually playing not one, not two, not eight (that would just be silly) but three mini-games at once. You have to move between them fairly quickly in order to get your score as high as possible and the changing gameplay kept things fresh throughout. While most Wii party-throwers wouldn’t think to include Maboshi’s Arcade in their evening plans, those that did were in for a really fun time.

17 – NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits

A gorgeous 2D-puzzle platformer, NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits scratched an itch on the Wii that many of the system’s 2D platformers (and there we a lot)  couldn’t match. By offering up slower paced gameplay that put a focus on logic, playing with physics and skillful platforming the game managed to feel unique when it was released. I distinctly remember when this game was announced that many people were comparing it to the (then) long dormant Kid Icarus franchise but in reality the game plays very differently, with very little combat and an experience that foreshadowed games like Limbo in the years to come.

16 – Jett Rocket

A criminally underappreciated 3D platformer, Jett Rocket soars to #16 on our countdown. With gameplay that hearkens back to the Nintendo 64-era Rare platformers like Donkey Kong 64, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Banjo-Kazooie mixed in with Pilotwings style flight-platforming thanks to the titular jet-pack this was a perfect example of a game whose target audience was right at home on Nintendo’s system thanks to the popularity of platformers on the Wii. And the game seems to have done well as a few years later we got a full sequel on the Nintendo 3DS which is a rarity among original WiiWare titles.

15 – Contra ReBirth

Man, what ever happened to Contra? The series has been around for ever and has managed to keep its fan-base going strong despite a lack of recent releases. Contra ReBirth on WiiWare may seem like a silly title now considering how silent the series has been lately but those who picked it up back in the day found anything but a joke. With the same intense gun-play that the series made its name on this game is a contender for the hardest game on the WiiWare service. If you consider yourself a fan of the series I strongly suggest you give this one a download before it disappears forever.

14 – Excitebike: World Rally

It can be said that the ‘Excite’ series was never as popular as on the Wii. The system launched with the ExciteTruck which was followed by the immensely fun Excitebots: Trick Racing but there was actually a third ‘exciting’ game tucked away as a WiiWare exclusive on the system too. Excitebike: World Rally was in many ways a definitive version of the original game, featuring full 3D graphics, different camera angles and new game modes. True to its name, the game also included online multiplayer via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, allowing you for the first time ever (and since) to hit the track with friends and race to your heart’s content.

13 – Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King

The very first WiiWare I downloaded back in 2009, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is a spinoff of a spinoff that puts you in the crown of a little king building his inherited kingdom from scratch. And while sending adventurers out to have their own fun adventures may not seem like a blast managing your kingdom was a really fun time. Still a unique experience, on WiiWare and elsewhere, it’s a wonder that Square Enix never decided to revisit this gameplay style, even for the game’s spinoff (wow) sequel.

12 – Fluidity

Fluidity is another one of those Nintendo franchises (it got a sequel so it counts) that doesn’t get mentioned all too often but deserves some recognition thanks to its catchy soundtrack, sharp visuals and really great puzzle gameplay. Fluid-based puzzles are sometimes hit or miss (like that awful level in Snipperclips) but Fluidity (and its 3DS sequel) is definitely among the best of the genre.

11 – Lilt Line

See the above screenshot? What kind of game do you think it is? Hmm? Some weird puzzle game perhaps? Or maybe some a line drawing simulator? Lilt Line is in fact a music-rhythm game where you have to navigate a thing line through constantly changing environments that warp and distort along to a dubstep/trance beat. Its a simple concept but one that works so well, especially when paired with the motion sensing power of the Wii Remote.

And that does it for part one in this look at the 20 best WiiWare games. Tune in next Friday as we count down spots 10 through 1.