Even though it didn't have as wide exposure as other game consoles on the market, Nintendo's Wii U continued to thrive in 2015, thanks to a number of first party exclusives and other games that made the platform extremely fun to play.
Here's a quick rundown of this year's most noteworthy games:
Super Mario Maker
Playing a Super Mario game is one thing. Making your own, however, is entirely another. Super Mario Maker took a simple concept and ran with it, offering hundreds of tools for fans to use as they built their ultimate dream (or nightmare) Mario level. In addition, the game got an even bigger boost with amiibo support, as players could scan their favorite characters into the game, adding a much needed twist to the usual blueprint. If you haven't played this yet, you're truly missing out.
Once again, Activision released a Skylanders game with fundamental replay value, this time adding vehicles to the mix. As a result, the game featured racing challenges on top of its platforming antics, making for a fun time against friends on the track. In addition, the Nintendo versions of the game got some cool exclusives, in the form of playable Donkey Kong and Bowser characters, who tore up the Skylanders world as if it were their own. The Wii U version is definitely a must-have.
For those that have been longing for a good Sonic game on the Wii U platform, Freedom Planet is about as close as you're likely to get. Designed by the team at GalaxyTrail, it's a classic side-scrolling platform featuring a number of terrific animal characters, fighting evil robot forces while trying to bring peace back to their world. With old-school visuals, sound and gameplay, Freedom Planet is a charming addition to anyone's game library.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Monolith Soft's latest role-playing adventure has been a long time coming, and it was certainly worth the wait, packing an immense territory to explore, along with excellent gameplay systems that can take hours to master, as well as new party members to recruit and gain chemistry with. On top of that, this is easily the best looking Xenoblade game to date, taking advantage of the Wii U's high-definition support and presenting a compelling world worth exploring.
Fast Racing NEO
Those of you who have been longing for a sequel to Nintendo's popular F-Zero racing series, well, you'll have to wait a little while longer. While you do, though, you can check out Shin'en's exciting racing game, which is very close to F-Zero in terms of spirit, but provides an all-new twist on gameplay with alternating engine types, so you can either boost to victory or get dragged behind. With a fast frame rate, strong multiplayer support and challenging tracks to master, Fast Racing NEO goes full speed ahead.
Party games don't get any more rambunctious than 13AM Games' offering, which supports up to nine (!) people in a single match. In this game, the goal is to get first place on a running track, but beware – it can change on the flip of a coin thanks to the ever-shifting background colors, which can work either for or against you, depending on your character. Featuring delightful visuals and a frenzied variety of levels, Runbow is a party you shouldn't miss.
Those of you looking for an alternate take on the third-person shooting genre should definitely grab a paint gun and join in the fun with Splatoon. Filled with entertaining multiplayer action, a variety of maps and a number of goods that can be unlocked via in-game shops, it comes through in a colorful manner, with the kind of strategy-filled shooting you'd find in other games, but with paint easily filling in for the usual blood. That makes for a fun experience for all ages – even if it means getting a little bit dirty.
Yoshi's Woolly World
It's been a while since we've seen any sort of addition to the Yoshi's Island franchise that started back on the SNES, but Woolly World easily fits the mold. In this yarn-filled adventure, you'll have to overcome a number of challenges as you work alongside your fellow Yoshi to find secrets, unravel enemies and avoid dangers. With all of its hidden goodies and an engaging two-player co-op mode, Woolly World is definitely a game that won't, ahem, string you along.
Adventures of Pip
This fine side-scrolling platformer from Tic-Toc Games resurrects the classic style of game you'd find in the 32-bit era, with stylish visuals that bring back a lot of retro elements, along with cunning level design that will force you to find every secret on a stage, or think quickly as you change forms to get through the stage in one piece. The ability to unlock a village where you can buy additional goods is sweet as well, and Jake "Virt" Kaufman's soundtrack hits the spot. Pip pip hooray, indeed.
Affordable Space Adventures
Not your typical downloadable fare for the Wii U, Affordable Space Adventures is a quirky puzzle/adventure game from the team at KnapNok Games, where you'll need to figure out different functions in order to proceed through each stage. It's definitely not your typical space shooter adventure, especially considering that it has strong support for co-op play, as you and your friends work together to get through each stage in one piece. It's a lot of fun, so don't miss it.
Finally, this last Wii U release for the year released to very little fanfare and advertising, forcing some fans to search through online retailers to secure a copy. This adventure, from legendary Ninja Gaiden creator Tomonobu Itagaki, is definitely one for those who enjoy cheesy action, whether it's gutting an opponent with a machete or letting your machine gun do the talking with a few well-timed headshots. It may not be everyone's cup of Joe, but those of you in the mood for a cheesy action game won't be disappointed with Third.