It's hard to believe that another year of gaming has passed, yet here we are. 2014 was a busy year for Nintendo, and the company certainly delivered a lot of thoroughly enjoyable games on the Wii U and 3DS. We also saw both eShop platforms grow further, particularly on the Wii U, with high quality downloadable goodies expanding plenty of libraries and backlogs.

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. Primarily, some fantastic titles are available in Europe but not North America, and particularly 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 votes, even though voting only closed on 23rd December.
  • We left out the Virtual Console this year, in order to focus on new experiences and releases from 2014.
  • Finally, as mentioned in the community voting article, Bayonetta was counted as an eShop game - it can only be purchased individually on the download store, with physical copies bundled with the sequel.

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, locked away at a remote retreat to deliberate on the outcome. Or to be less silly, 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!

Enough blabbing, let's get to the awards.

Wii U Retail Game of the Year

There were some major releases on the Wii U this year, and though the overall list may not have been overflowing with titles there was plenty of quality. Honourable mentions go to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Hyrule Warriors, both of which narrowly missed out on the top three.

Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 (Nintendo)

One of two rather obvious candidates for top spot, the outstanding kart racer secured a fairly comfortable win in the end. The anti-grav mechanic and HD visuals do much to truly make this one stand out, and the first batch of DLC was heaven for dedicated Nintendo fans.

Second Place: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Nintendo)

Third Place: Bayonetta 2 (Platinum Games / Nintendo)

Wii U eShop Game of the Year

2014 was truly an exceptional year for the Wii U eShop. We saw some exclusives and a host of top-notch multi-platform downloads, as some of the finest Indie developers and publishers around pitched in with memorable games. Narrowly missing the top three in this category were Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones and the HD iteration of SteamWorld Dig, among a number of others.

Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight (Yacht Club Games)

Despite a host of strong competitors, this terrific début release from Yacht Club Games was the dominant winner. Gorgeous pixel-based visuals, a kicking soundtrack and first class action-platforming contributed to making this one of the most talked about games of the year. Released on Nintendo systems as a console exclusive, its success will see it move across to PSN in 2015.

Second Place: Bayonetta (Platinum Games / Nintendo)

Third Place: Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition (Drinkbox Studios)

3DS Retail Game of the Year

The 3DS remains the jewel in Nintendo's crown, shifting millions of units a year and providing a number of fantastic retail experiences. It was a particularly strong year, with Level-5 and Capcom providing memorable titles, and just missing the top three we had games such as Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire (yep, we're surprised too!), Bravely Default (released early 2014 in North America) and a number of other excellent games. The list of those missing shows what a great year it was for the portable.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (Nintendo)

The runaway winner, this was the first entry of the iconic fighting series to arrive on a portable. It's an outstanding technical achievement, extracting every bit of power possible from the 3DS - with load times greatly reduced on the New Nintendo 3DS - and serving up an impressive amount of content. With move-sets matching across platforms, it's a welcome option for Smash fans to get their fix and improve skills when on the go.

Second Place: Kirby: Triple Deluxe (Nintendo)

Third Place: Tomodachi Life (Nintendo)

3DS eShop Game of the Year

Like its Wii U contemporary, the 3DS eShop brought us a number of excellent games, with plenty of unique and bite-sized experiences to keep us occupied on the portable. Honourable mentions for this category go to two Nintendo games, Steel Diver: Sub Wars and Rusty's Real Deal Baseball (which did particularly well in the voting considering it was never released in Europe).

Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight (Yacht Club Games)

We're not surprised that this wonderful game did the double, and it's an experience that works equally well (some would say better) on the portable. Unique features on the 3DS are lovely stereoscopic 3D visuals and a quirky StreetPass battle arena.

Second Place: Retro City Rampage DX (Vblank Entertainment)

Third Place: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy (Capcom)

Overall Game of the Year

This is the big one, a category in which any new Wii U or 3DS game is eligible, including eShop titles. The highest-ranking download game, in fifth place, was Shovel Knight - that's unsurprising due to it claiming both eShop gongs. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS grabbed fourth, which meant that it was the year's biggest and brightest Wii U games that seized the top three places.

Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 (Nintendo)

As per the Wii U retail category, the kart racer stole ahead of its brawling rival to claim the Nintendo Life staff Overall Game of the Year award. It's a worthy winner, not least because it's so representative of what makes Nintendo games so special. Accessible yet with hidden complexities and tricks, fun in single player or with a rowdy group of family and friends, while also proving highly addictive and exciting when racing online with strangers or within custom tournaments. With DLC adding to the mix, there's certainly a lively debate to be had over whether it's the finest Mario Kart game to date.

Second Place: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Nintendo)

Third Place: Bayonetta 2 (Platinum Games / Nintendo)

There you have it, our staff's awards for 2014; don't forget that the community awards (as voted for by you) will be revealed on Christmas Day at 9am Pacific / noon Eastern / 5pm UK / 6pm CET. In the meantime let us know what you think of these results in the comments below.