It’s that time of the year again, when sites hand out awards and crown a game of the year. I could do the same, but instead I thought it would be entertaining to take a deep dive into the daily records on my Wii U and Nintendo 3DS to see which games I actually played the most in 2015. It took a bit of work to add up how many hours I played each game during each month of the year, but after all was said and done, the following are my top 11 games on Nintendo systems that I spent the majority of my time with this year.
#1: Xenoblade Chronicles X
This one doesn’t come as a shock to me, as I’ve put in well over 100 hours into the game during December, and I’m still not done. I’ve been absolutely captivated by the enormous world of Mira, and finding all of the collectibles and leveling up all of the different classes has been a fantastic experience. It’s easily my favorite RPG of the year, although I did play quite a bit of Dragon Age Inquisition on the PS4 and would heartily recommend that one as well. Sure, there are some small nitpicks with Xenoblade Chronicles X (I will cover those in my review once I’m done writing it), it’s not only my most played game of the year (on a Nintendo system – I’ve sunk even more hours into Destiny on the PS4), it’s also my favorite. If you at all like Japanese RPGs, give this one a shot!
One of the standout hits of the year for the Wii U, Splatoon really captures the imagination and quirkiness that can only come from the minds at Nintendo. The controls take a little while to warm up to, especially if you’re using the gyros to aim, but once they click, the game is an absolute joy to play. The unique weapons, the crazy stages, and the always-entertaining community Splatfests make the game diverse and fun. Plus, look at all of the updates the game has received over the last six months! A slew of new maps to do battle on, over 60 additional weapons and pieces of gear, and several new modes of play help to keep veteran players on their toes and give new players even more bang for their buck. It seems like every other week there is something new and fresh (sorry) to check out, keeping me coming back for more.
#3: Super Mario Maker
With over 3 million courses to download and play, this might just be one of the greatest 2D Mario games ever made. Not only is it fun to discover new and exciting levels, but creating your own can be even more fun and rewarding. With a new search system in place to filter levels and Nintendo offering up special featured courses, it seems like every couple of days there’s something new waiting to be played. Small updates have added in even more course design elements, giving creators greater design freedom to really create special stages. There’s a lot to like here, but I can’t help but think if it were multiplayer or had an option to create an entire game, complete with overworld map, that I would’ve probably sunk even more time into it and it would have ranked even higher. Still, this is definitely one to check out if you haven’t done so already! Check out my review here.
#4: Yoshi’s Woolly World
I was eagerly anticipating Woolly World for quite some time. I feel it sort of got lost with its October release date, launching after Super Mario Maker and around the same time as Tri Force Heroes. Japan and Europe received the game much earlier in the year, and I think it would have garnered more attention had it come out in the summer months over here as well. No matter the date of release, the game is an excellent sequel to a franchise littered with average games. It’s the closest to the original in many ways, but it has its own creative style and excellent level designs that make it stand apart. The graphics are gorgeous, the music is catchy and the game plays marvelously. The two-player co-op is a nice addition, but like many 2D platformers (I’m looking at you, Little Big Planet and New Super Mario Bros.), unwanted deaths can lead to a higher frustration level, and oftentimes a more difficult game. As long as you’re patient with your partner, all should end well. Very few games pack in the secrets like this one does, and it’s fun to try and locate all of the items in every level. Even if you’ve already bought Super Mario Maker, don’t pass this one up, as it’s a fun experience, and a must-buy if you enjoy 2D platform games. Check out my review here.
#5: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
Released the same day as the New Nintendo 3DS XL in America, Majora’s Mask is one of those games that really benefited from the increased graphical power of the 3DS. The grainy and ugly textures found in the N64 original are gone and replaced with new textures that combine with the 3D effect to make the game look fantastic. Lots of little improvements make the game experience more enjoyable without changing too much to annoy fans of the original. Some consider this game the best in the series. While I wouldn’t go that far, I had a great time exploring the land of Termina and figuring out all of the puzzles in the dungeons. If you’re looking for a grand adventure on the go, this should be in your 3DS.
#6: The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
Two Zelda games back-to-back? You know it’s a good year for gaming when we’re graced with more than one great Zelda game – on the same system no less! The two games are quite different, with Tri Force Heroes focusing more on the multiplayer element and featuring a top-down graphical approach. The same satisfaction of solving puzzles and finding the correct items to use at the right times is present in both titles, but Tri Force Heroes feels more like a side quest with smaller bitesize objectives to complete versus the mega adventure of Majora’s Mask. This game really shines when you have two other friends to join up to conquer the areas together. It’s even more fun if you’re in the same room yelling back and forth at each other and laughing and having a great time. Keep in mind you only need one copy of the game to do local 3-player co-op, so if you’ve got some friends over tell them to bring their 3DS systems along. It’s better designed and more enjoyable than 4 Swords was on the GBA and GameCube. Check out my review here.
#7: Mario Party 10
I will admit I was kind of surprised this made my list. I guess I played it more than I thought! This series has had its ups and downs, and I’m not particularly fond of many of the things in this version. For example, the Bowser mode is pretty boring and every time I’ve played it with friends it hasn’t been a great experience. However, I was most surprised with the amiibo mode. Although the board is a simple square, it felt more fast-paced and it was quicker to get to the mini-games. Plus, I’m not a big fan of all the players riding around in a vehicle together, which is a “feature” found in the other modes of the game, so the amiibo section felt more like the past entries in the series. The game isn’t without its faults, and if you haven’t liked Mario Party in the past, you definitely won’t enjoy this one. I still find it a fun game to play with a group of friends. Plus, if you add alcohol to the mix you can have an even better time.
#8: Nintendo Badge Arcade
I debated putting this on the list as it’s not much of a game, but in a way it’s still very much a game. Using the claw to try and nab pins for your 3DS HOME screen is somehow fun and satisfying – and can be very addicting. The free to play aspect really tries to get you to spend real money for more tries, and I’ll admit to spending $4 in my desperate attempts to grab certain pins. It’s a cute application that I find enjoyable and I’ve even laughed out loud at some of the bunny’s comments. This one definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you give it a try you might be hooked.
#9: Code Name S.T.E.A.M.
Intelligent Systems’ unique take on the strategy genre failed to leave a big mark with many gamers, but Code Name S.T.E.A.M. features a zany cast of characters with a crazy plot. The mechanics work well and the graphic style resembles something out of a comic book. I really had a fun time playing the game, and after it updated to allow for faster enemy turns it became much more enjoyable. I’ve seen this title marked down as low as $15 over the past few weeks, which is a steal if you’re a fan of games like XCOM.
#10: Mario Kart 8
I know this game didn’t come out in 2015, but remember this list contains my most played games of the year. Part of the reason it racked up enough hours to snag a spot on the list is because of the DLC that arrived earlier in the year, bringing the total number of tracks up from 32 to 48, and adding a host of new characters. Throwing in 200cc mode was just icing on the cake. You can’t have friends over and not play some Mario Kart 8 – it’s just the perfect multiplayer game on the Wii U. It has dethroned Mario Kart 64 as my favorite in the series. The only disappointing aspect is the battle mode, which can’t hold a candle to the original SNES and N64 versions. Still, the amazing graphics, excellent soundtrack, new power-ups, and its competitive nature simply can’t be beat. You need this game in your life.
#11: SteamWorld Heist
Why does this list go to 11? Because the time I spent playing SteamWorld Heist was mere minutes under Mario Kart 8, and I felt it was only fair to include it. Plus, it’s the only third party game that I spent enough time with in 2015 to rank this high. That’s not to say I didn’t play other third party games. Adventures of Pip, Chariot, Typoman, Runbow, and Zombi U all made an appearance on my play history for 2015, but none of them had as many hours as the aforementioned titles. And it’s no wonder, as SteamWorld Heist is by far and away one of the best 3DS games, and easily the best eShop-only game, released this year. If you enjoy turn-based strategy games with witty dialog, unique battle mechanics (not many games allow you to ricochet your bullets off surfaces to deal damage to the enemies), and high production values not often seen on the 3DS, then you should immediately give it a download. It’s one of my favorite games of the year! Check out my review here.
That’s it for 2015. What games did you spend the majority of your time playing? Send me an e-mail with your Top 11 played Nintendo games of the year and we might discuss them in our first podcast, coming in January!