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2015 wasn’t exactly the greatest year in Nintendo’s history – but that doesn’t mean it was bad either. While our next console Zelda title was pushed back to 2016, we did get two 3DS entries in its placed. Splatoon hit the Wii U bringing a Nintendo feel to the competitive shooter realm, and Yoshi’s Woolly World scratched that lighthearted itch that Kirby’s Epic Yarn first relieved for us 5 years prior. Throw on top of those titles a Super Mario Maker and you have an argument for Nintendo being right in the thick of things with the “big boys” this year.

The 3DS hardware is showing its age and the Wii U is not far from being usurped, but Nintendo has proven to us once again in 2015 why they are still one of the most consistent and cherished publishers/developers around.


 

Nominees

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D

Who would have thought that a game originally released back in 2000 would make a Game of the Year list in 2015? A 3D remake to the N64 classic, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D is exactly what we hoped it would be. The graphics have been upgraded and are now viewable in 3D. The gameplay is smoother all around and the title’s developer even went in and simplified some of the more cumbersome management aspects of the original entry.

Majora’s Mask is recognized as one of the best Zelda games of all-time to some. The 2015 3DS version did its predecessor justice and then some.

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes

While The Legend of Zelda for Wii U was delayed out of late 2015 and now slots into late 2016, we were instead treated to the wonderful multiplayer based Tri Force Heroes. The first multiplayer focused Zelda title since Four Swords, it was well received while really being the first of its kind.

Are you going to work cooperatively or competitively with the two other Links accompanying you? Much like when New Super Mario Bros. hit on Wii, you have to expect the unexpected from your teammates in this game. While one moment you may be working together to take down an epic boss, the next your casually thrown into harms way so your “teammate” can get the rupees that lie ahead. Mix in an interesting costume/dressing mechanic that affects your individual Links’ stats, and you’ve got probably the most unique Zelda game (outside of Hyrule Warriors) to hit the series in years.

Splatoon

Splatoon

Who saw this coming? When Splatoon was first revealed at E3 2014, no one really knew what to make of the title. Nintendo jumping into the competitive shooter realm? And an ink-based territorial one at that? But Nintendo’s pedigree proved true once again, and Splatoon was a surprise hit in 2015.It’s only downfall seemed to be a lack of depth as far as features went.

But once you coupled the base game with a continual trickle of free downloadable content, a few months after release Splatoon was a force to be reckoned with. It’s community is still strong to this day and the game’s pop-cultural “vs” matches continue to rally and split the community. Splatoon was an excellent first outing for Nintendo and solidified the new IP and it’s “Inklings” as staples to Nintendo’s stable for years to come.

Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker

The promise of Super Mario Maker doesn’t rest in 2015. What’s truly special about this game is that it’s essentially a Super Mario game that never ends. Sure, the game’s suggested levels need some work (enough with the auto-play and music levels already), and there was that issue with level creation features slowly unlocking, but Nintendo fixed the latter issue and is actively working on the former. Outside of that, what more could you want from this game?

Yoshi’s Woolly World

Yoshi's Woolly World

Following up on the delightfully unique Kirby’s Epic Yarn comes Yoshi’s Woolly World. Much like Kirby, Woolly World‘s art style is something wonderfully stylistic that sets it apart from most other platformers. While the title’s length and difficulty are at a level that Mario experts could sleepwalk through, the sheer character and imagination put into the world make it a must try for Wii U owners.


 

Winner

Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker

Was there ever any doubt? As a contender for Victory Point’s overall Game of the Year in 2015, Super Mario Maker proves you don’t have to be a “traditional” game to hang with the big boys. It’s Nintendo’s continued involvement and communal focus that really sets it apart though. The company is listening, and it’s evident, making what could have been a great game into something with the potential to be truly special for years.

Super Mario Maker isn’t just a straightforward Mario maker, it’s also loaded with personality and quirks. The special costumes alone are at well over a hundred now (with more coming) and it’s a smile inducing moment every time you come across one you didn’t know existed. Meanwhile, Nintendo is now also actively designing levels of their own to spotlight. Not to mention every update and addition thus far has been 100% free of charge. Combine all of that with an extremely talented community of at home designers, nearly endless design possibly, and you have what could evolve to be one of the greatest Mario titles of all-time. It doesn’t get much higher praise than that.


 

For the complete list, visit our Game of the Year Awards hub page to see the full list. To learn more about our grading policy, read our review policy.

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Growing up a 90's kid, Jeff found his love for gaming during Nintendo's heyday. Because of that, you could call him a "Nintendo Fanboy" (albeit a rational one) to this day. Outside of his passion for the gaming industry, he’s also an avid sports enthusiast (New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies mainly) and enjoys quality/popular TV shows and movies.