Pocket Card Jockey was last year’s best Nintendo game that no one played

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I spent most of 2016 in transit. Until the end of the year, I wasted hours a day on a strenuous but scenic journey. This is what I will remember for the past 12 months – but not just the time I spent alone on trains and on foot, but also how I spent that time.

Typically, I slept if I was on the train early in the morning, or fell asleep late at night. (I was a frequent passenger on both.) Sometimes I would write, or read, or look out the window. Most of the time, I simmered in my anxious thoughts and calculated how little time I would have for myself when I got home at the end of a long, long day. It was rarely enough to start the console game that excited me; I barely had time to eat dinner and watch TV before I went to bed and started all over again.

For a while, however, I spent my train trips doing none of the above. Instead, in the early summer of 2016, they started to feel too small. I had to thank my dear Nintendo 3DS: she made me discover Jockey pocket card, the new love of my life.

I downloaded the Nintendo eShop title after hearing how surprisingly fascinating it was. It helped that it was the rare game created by Game Freak that had nothing to do with its most famous (and my favorite) series, Pokémon. It was an easy purchase.

It is, for me, at least. To others, Jockey pocket card can be a tough sell. It’s a strange bird, combining several genres in one exhilarating mash-up. The player is an amateur jockey trying to break into the horse racing world, after his death in a race going terribly wrong gives him the kick in the pants he needed. (Yes, this cute game starts with the hero’s death.) Once they are back in the game, the jockey can breed a variety of horses from birth, hoping to please their wealthy sponsor and prove that they may not be. so bad at racing, after all.

It’s not just a horse racing simulator, however. In reality, Jockey pocket card is more of a reimagining of my all-time game, Solitaire. Each length of a horse race requires players to knock out a quick match of Solitaire. The faster they can clear the cards, the better; not to do so means bad news for this poor horse.

Being good alone doesn’t make you good at Jockey pocket card, because there are tons of other variables to consider. (There are things called oneness and comfort zones to be concerned about, if we’re going deeper into the weeds.) Jockey pocket card impossible to stop playing.

My love for single player card games, cute horses and matches that end in minutes Jockey pocket card my addiction. His dark humor made it my obsession. He was a reliable train companion, whether I had a bad day or was exhausted or, too rarely, in a fairly solid mood.

I’ve always preferred handheld games, even when I wasn’t someone who spent most of my time on the go. I appreciate that most of them only require a short time and that stopping and restarting games is easy. They’re also often weirder than the games I play at home; name a console role-playing game from last year that’s as weird (and good) as the marriage obsessive Fire Emblem Fates.

But spending all my time alone and in vehicles, I could hardly ever devote myself to a console outside of my 3DS. Much like my rigorous and repetitive daily commutes, the handheld was one of the few constants I had in 2016. Jockey pocket card was another, and always having my 3DS with me made it easy to get started at all times.

My love affair with Jockey pocket card finished, as business does. I still think about it with emotion, but I have moved on to other games, on my 3DS and elsewhere. When I finally, luckily, cut my trips in half, I got to check out all those console games that I had missed. My little 3DS has become a little less exciting and definitely less attractive.

I remember my love for handheld games, and this weird eShop title in particular, not just because it’s the gaming season of the year. More than that, reading Polygon’s roster doesn’t reveal a single portable game – not even one from Nintendo. This is shocking to me, who spent more hours with Nintendo handheld games than any other in 2016.

Since this is a niche game, I doubt that many of us at Polygon, beyond the privileged few, were able to play Jockey pocket card. I wouldn’t expect such an underrated and tiny version to make it into the big leagues with Fall of the Titans 2 and Dishonored 2 and other well-known suites. I still can’t help but be disappointed, even though I feel emboldened to continue recommending the best, most low-key DLC game of 2016.

Of Jockey pocket card To Pokémon Sun, the games I fell in love with on my 3DS last year made my daily work worth it. I’ll never make up those wasted hours – but because of the simplicity and the weirdness Jockey pocket card, I won’t regret them anytime soon.


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