One of the neat little features that Nintendo has implemented into both its Wii U and 3DS consoles is a playtime recording app, that tracks which games you've been playing, and for how long. Nintendo probably implemented this so parents can make sure their kids aren't spending too much time playing games when they should be doing homework, but it's a fun little way to, at the end of the year, reflect back on the games that I've really been playing.
And so, here are the ten Wii U games that I have spent the most time playing in 2015, in ascending order of how much I've played it. The 3DS list will be published on January 1 (since next Friday is Christmas Day and, I mean, you guys don't want me working on Christmas, right?
Animal Crossing amiibo Festival
Just sneaking in at #10 is Animal Crossing amiibo Festival. As I mentioned in my recent review, I don't necessarily think that this game is anything special, but it is a digital board game, and I do love my board games.
And, I've got to admit, I really like using my amiibo as playing pieces, and the simple charm of the game makes it a really good option for a casual Friday board game with the family. Unless Square Enix were to produce a new Boom Street (or Fortune Street, depending on your location in the world), Animal Crossing amiibo Festival is, almost by default, going to be the best digital board game on the console.
Mario Party 10
"Now wait," I hear you say. "You gave Mario Party 10 a far better wrap than Animal Crossing, so surely it's the better board game?" Well, it's the better game, that's for sure, but Mario Party 10 isn't much of a board game, really. It's a party game/ mini game compilation, with the lightest of board game features to keep the action moving along. I enjoy it for that, but I do with that Nintendo would return the series to its roots - Mario Party 2, especially, was one of the best digital board games out there, and it just happened to have some riotous fun mini games thrown in for good measure.
I'm still playing Hyrule Warriors regularly. Having seen just about everything there is to see in it now, there's no new surprises, but it's still a lot of fun to jump into in multiplayer, and the level design is interesting enough that I've enjoyed replaying levels over and over again to grind up my characters and get all the loot. I'm looking forward to seeing what the 3DS version can offer, because if this game goes portable too, I'll disappear for days after badly over missing my train stop while playing this and winding up somewhere I've never heard of before.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
To be fair this game will probably shoot further up the rankings, given that it's still something I am playing most actively as I work towards a review (it's coming, I promise!). Naturally as an JRPG Xenoblade was always going to be a time sink, but the massive open world, huge range of side quests, and lengthy narrative makes this one a time sink even more than most. I'm still not entirely sold on the game, for reasons that I will explore in the review, but one thing's for certain, it's gorgeous enough that simply exploring the world is more than keeping my attention.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
I'm not even a big fan of platformers, but I cannot stop playing Shantae games. This is for a couple of reasons; they're lighthearted and fun. They're pleasing on the eyes, have great soundtracks, but most of all, they have Shantae. Oh Shantae.
We need more games that are set in a fantasy Middle East. We need more good, interesting, fun and empowered female characters like Shantae. I wouldn't say no to more harem costumes. I can't stop playing Shantae, but boy am I looking forward to the day where she also steps out of her world of pixilation and joins us in the HD future.
I played through the first Fire Emblem to get released in English (the GBA one, retitled to "Fire Emblem" from whatever it was called in Japan) twice this year, as it's actually my favourite in the series. I adore the leading lady, Lyn, you see, and that, coupled with the nostalgia (of being my first experience with Fire Emblem) has made this one a game that, I suspect, I will forever be able to replay and enjoy. I stick the TV on to a movie, load this up on my Wii U gamepad, and I'm basically set for the night.
This was certainly my surprise of the year, because it really isn't a genre I enjoy, but I found myself settling in for marathon sessions of 6, 7, 10 hours for months with Splatoon. It's fast, furious, and has good energy, and I enjoyed the fact that Nintendo managed to come up with a team-based shooter that is completely bloodless, and doesn't even really focus on direct combat. It's very much the Nintendo way of doing things in subverting expectations and coming up with something even more fun as a result. While the appeal of the game has started to wane, and I don't see myself playing it much in 2016, it certainly provided value for money nonetheless.
Despite a much more modern (and very, very good) Nobunaga's Ambition landing on the PlayStation 4 this year, I actually spent dozens and dozens of hours playing the SNES Virtual Console port of Nobunaga's Ambition on my Wii U. For a similar reason to Fire Emblem I enjoyed having this game on in the background on my gamepad as I watched a movie or television, and I really enjoy the turn-based combat system (which the PlayStation 4's NA has replaced with a real-time combat system).
I think I might be the one major game critic out there that genuinely loved Devil's Third (looking at Metacritic, that certainly seems to be the case, anyway), but as the Wii U game that I have spent more time playing than any other (aside from one), it should be obvious that I really love Devil's Third. I love how transgressive and subversive it is, how it deliberately upends conventions, and the way it does so with such complete attitude and defiance. We need more games like this. Tamonobu Itagaki is a genius.
Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water
I have completed Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water no fewer than six times, and every time I play through I find a new way to appreciate it. It's the most effective horror game I've played in years, and it has the most interesting and deep narrative since Silent Hill 2. I love the way that it forces players to let the enemy get close in order to be effective in combating them - really twisting the "flight or fight" mechanic around in the minds of most players. But more than anything I love the atmosphere and the art style. Project Zero on the Wii U is the most gorgeous game I've played this year. Imagine what Nintendo and Koei Tecmo could do with the NX.
- Matt S.