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Another year of gaming has passed, so it's time to look back and pick out some of our favourites. 2015 was - it's fair to say - a mixed year for Nintendo; in terms of major game releases there were some undoubted highs, but also a range of disappointing spin-offs and minor releases. On the flipside it felt like a strong year on the eShop, with an enticing range of intriguing releases gracing both Wii U and 3DS.

As it is the season, we now have our Game of the Year festivities. First up here are the winners of the Nintendo Life staff voting, and on Christmas Day we'll have the all important Reader Awards that were chosen by you, the community. We were all voting in the same categories, so comparing results should be interesting for all concerned!

Below are brief details on how the staff voting worked.

  • Each staff member picked up to 10 games in each category, with points awarded from 10 to 1 in the correct order. If less games were picked, scoring was reduced accordingly.
  • All votes were tallied up with this points system.
  • As is always the case with our staff votes, some games suffer from circumstances and the far lower voting numbers seen in the community equivalents. Primarily, some fantastic titles are available in Europe but not North America, and vice-versa; this limits the potential votes, lowering their odds against those games that are available worldwide. Also, releases from December also have a tougher time winning, even though voting only closed on 22nd December.
  • We left out the Virtual Console in order to focus on new experiences and releases.

We call these "Staff Awards" as we certainly don't claim them to be outright Game of the Year awards as drawn up by a Royal Committee of writers, or whatever. It's simply a reflection of the team's overall favourites, accommodating the fact that we've all bought, played and prioritised games to our personal tastes. That's why we have a votes / points system. It's democratic, and an aggregate of the team's favourite games of the year.

Your community votes may, of course, tell a different tale from these results...

So, without further ado, let's get to the results.

Wii U Retail Game of the Year

Splatoon (Nintendo)
Splatoon (Nintendo)

A relatively comfortable winner, which is a testament to the impact this title has had on the Wii U gaming population in 2015. The new IP has shown that Nintendo can still create fresh ideas and reinvigorate genres, in this case competitive third-person shooting. It's been a mainstream success, with weekly updates and freebies keeping the online lobbies busy.

Second Place: Super Mario Maker (Nintendo)

Third Place: Yoshi's Woolly World (GoodFeel / Nintendo)

Fourth Place: Xenoblade Chronicles X (Monolith Soft / Nintendo)

Fifth Place: Kirby and the Rainbow Curse / Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush (HAL / Nintendo)

Wii U eShop Game of the Year

FAST Racing NEO (Shin'en Multimedia)
FAST Racing NEO (Shin'en Multimedia)

It's not easy for December releases to make it into the staff vote (with Xenoblade Chronicles X perhaps being a victim), but such is the must-have nature of this sci-fi racer that it stormed to number one in our Wii U eShop vote. It's a fantastic title, combining beautiful visuals with high-speed action and buttery smooth gameplay. A worthy winner.

Second Place: Affordable Space Adventures (KnapNok Games / Nifflas)

Third Place: Runbow (13AM Games)

Fourth Place: Freedom Planet (GalaxyTrail)

Fifth Place: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (WayForward, 2015 release in EU / Australia)

3DS Retail Game of the Year

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (Nintendo)
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (Nintendo)

It seems so long ago at this time of the year, but there was plenty of buzz around this title back in February when it launched alongside the New Nintendo 3DS models in the West. It's another terrific remaster from Grezzo, with sharpened visuals, strong performance and, most importantly, the same classic adventure. A favourite among keen Legend of Zelda fans, it's no surprise that this picked up our staff 3DS retail award.

Second Place: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (Capcom)

Third Place: Yo-Kai Watch (Level-5, NA and Australia)

Fourth Place: Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (Nintendo)

=Fifth Place: Nintendo Presents: New Style Boutique 2 - Fashion Forward (Nintendo, EU and Australia)

=Fifth Place: The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (Nintendo)

3DS eShop Game of the Year

BOXBOY! (HAL / Nintendo)
BOXBOY! (HAL / Nintendo)

A surprise in the number one spot, perhaps, though it actually won quite comfortably among our staff. A hugely charming puzzle platforming experience, it's another example of the whimsy and creativity that HAL Laboratory can muster.

Second Place: Pokémon Shuffle (Nintendo)

Third Place: 3D Out Run (SEGA)

Fourth Place: SteamWorld Heist (Image & Form)

Fifth Place: Gunman Clive 2 (Bertil Hörberg)

Overall Game of the Year

Splatoon (Nintendo)
Splatoon (Nintendo)

As per the Wii U retail category, this was a fairly unanimous choice. The colourful shooter has been a triumphant 2015 release for Nintendo, and a reminder of the young development talent that can lead a bright future with strong ideas and concepts. Few would have bet on Nintendo succeeding on a mainstream level with a competitive online shooter, yet it's achieved just that with Splatoon. A deserved winner of our Game of the Year award.

Second Place: Super Mario Maker (Nintendo)

Third Place: Yoshi's Woolly World (GoodFeel / Nintendo)

Fourth Place: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (Capcom)

Fifth Place: Xenoblade Chronicles X (Monolith Soft / Nintendo)


We're well aware of the oddity of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate coming in ahead of Majora's Mask 3D in the overall Game of the Year award after they were reversed in the 3DS retail gong; there were only a few points between fourth and sixth. We've checked our list, we've checked it twice, and it seems the voting was a tad naughty in its inconsistencies. Hey, no-one said democracy was a smooth business.

So there you have it, our staff's awards for 2015; don't forget that the reader/community awards (as voted for by you) will be revealed on Christmas Day at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern / 6pm UK / 7pm CET. In the meantime let us know what you think of these results in the comments below.