Nintendo fans had a tremendous year in 2015. With so many fantastic Wii U and 3DS releases this year, I had a difficult time whittling away at this list, hesitantly casting out several great games, until finally reaching my own, personal conclusion.
With the year’s end rapidly approaching, I present to you my top five Nintendo games of 2015.
5. Yoshi’s Woolly World (Wii U)
Gameplay-wise, Yoshi’s Woolly World is a throwback to Yoshi’s unique style of 2D platforming that Nintendo has slowly incubated since Yoshi’s Island on SNES twenty years ago. With his latest entry on Wii U, the gameplay has never been better. As Yoshi, I thoroughly enjoyed running and flutter-jumping around, gobbling up baddies with his stretchy tongue, and either launching them across the screen or popping them out as eggs and saving them for later. Being a long-time Yoshi lover, I also feel right at home with all of the familiar faces and collectables. While some of the mechanics feel a little dated (I’m looking at you, egg-aiming system) and it is definitely on the easy side of the difficulty spectrum, the presentation of Yoshi’s Woolly World is one of the best that came out in 2015 on any platform.
Yoshi’s Woolly World takes the tradition of a hand-crafted art style to the next level with enough bright, colorful yarn and fabrics to put your kindergarten teacher into a blissful coma. The developer, Good-Feel, lives up to their name by delivering the most charming game of 2015, and I feel more care and attention to detail was given to this venture than Mario’s latest offerings, which says a lot. To top it all off, Yoshi’s Woolly World offers my favorite couch co-op experience of the year.
4. Splatoon (Wii U)
The biggest sleeper-hit in video games this year has to be Splatoon. On paper, and even in video, Splatoon has no right to be as fun as it is — an online multiplayer-focused third-person team-based shooter that uses ink instead of bullets. And it places emphasis on blasting more turf than opponents. And it has a bright and colorful, yet uninspired art style.
I will happily admit I was wrong for dismissing the game when I first saw it during E3 2014.
After only playing a few, very limited matches during Splatoon’s early “Testfire” beta, I could tell that Nintendo was onto something special. The squid swimming was a cool new method of traversal and stealth, the stages were balanced and interesting, and the vital teamwork was a breath of fresh air for online shooters. I realized that Splatoon does not try to be another generic shooter with a flashy coat of paint, but something very different and very fun. Moreover, Nintendo continued to vastly improve the game throughout the year with tons of new weapons, gear, maps, and the highly revered Splatfests — all for free. Splatoon has become one of my most-played games this year, and its surprisingly high sales figures show that I am probably not alone in this regard.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (3DS)
Yes, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D is a remake of a fifteen-year-old game, but I don’t care. That fifteen-year-old game happens to be my favorite entertainment experience of all-time. Any Zelda fan can tell you that Majora’s Mask is the odd-duck of the Zelda series (with the label of “black sheep” being reserved for Adventure of Link), due to its somber story, unique characters, meaningful side-quests, heavy atmosphere, exotic locations, mask transformations and, of course, its three-day loop mechanic.
Majora’s Mask is compact in a way that no other Zelda games are. For example, the land of Termina is much smaller than what players are used to with Hyrule, but it has much more to do and see. And there may only be four total dungeons, but believe me when I tell you that they are some of the best in the series. Indeed, some aspects of Majora’s Mask 3D are slightly antiquated, but the team at Grezzo did another excellent job in this 3DS remake of the N64 classic. Understandably, Majora’s Mask had its fair share of naysayers when it was originally released, but virtually every complaint against the game mechanics have been addressed in the 3DS version, along with a few additions. If you have the slightest hunch to play this game, or just could not get over the mechanics in the past, do yourself a tremendous favor and buy The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D right now!
2. Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
I have a confession to make: I never played the original Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii. It sounded like a perfect JRPG and I heard nothing but praise for it, but its limited, late release in North America played a role in my unfortunate procrastination of getting around to it. Then, finally in 2015, along came Xenoblade Chronicles X for Wii U.
With RPGs being one of my favorite genres, I am happy to report that Xenoblade Chronicles X is my favorite one released this year — JRPG or otherwise. The world of Mira is gigantic, beautiful, diverse, and full of wonder, prompting my urge to explore more than any other game in recent memory. With the aid of an engaging combat system, I often find myself wandering around and looking for trouble with anything that is willing to throw down. While not as smoothly polished as some other noteworthy open-world RPGs released on other consoles this year, Xenoblade Chronicles X is incredibly detailed in every facet. If you only have the money or time for one massive undertaking of a game this year, I highly recommend Xenoblade Chronicles X. Oh, yeah … did I mention the ability to pilot the giant mech Skells?
1. Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
It probably comes as no surprise that Super Mario Maker landed on top when I constructed this list. If you are reading this, chances are you needed something to do in between building your own Super Mario masterpiece and attempting your favorite level designer’s newest opus.
With the power of the GamePad, imagination, and the majority of assets and gameplay mechanics from Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros, anybody can finally create their own 2D Mario levels with the precision and quality that gamers have come to expect from Nintendo’s own development teams. The built-in tools allow easy construction, editing, and testing for the aspiring creator, and the ability to upload your creation for the world to instantly play is immensely satisfying.
As a creative type myself, I love being set loose with all the means I need to fulfill my childhood dream of designing, and then watching others actually playing my very own Super Mario levels. However, I also feel that even if someone never touches the creation tools to design their own levels in this game, they can still get hours upon hours of enjoyment from playing the perpetual torrent of levels coming from the living rooms of undiscovered creative geniuses throughout the world. My only complaint about Super Mario Maker is this: I do not know how Nintendo is going to top it.
And with that, I bring my top five Nintendo games of 2015 to a close. With so many great games not making the cut, I would love to hear your opinions on the matter. Do you agree with my list? What are your own personal top five Nintendo games of the year? As always, you can sound off with your comments below!