We ran our list of the best games of 2015 earlier this month, but we’ll break it down by console for you. We’re not just looking at console exclusives, but at the full range of releases for the year, excluding collections, reissues and remasters. So a game like Guitar Hero Live could pop up on multiple lists, whereas compilations like Rare Replay will be getting their own separate list. We’ve already done our Xbox One list, and now it’s time for the Wii U.
Nintendo’s weird little system continues to struggle both with sales and respect, which is a shame: some of the best games of the last few years have only been available for the Wii U. It has the best line-up of exclusive games of any console this decade, but offers almost nothing beyond that, so it languishes far behind the competition. This year was no different, with two of our favorite games of the year coming out only for the Wii U. Even if you don’t feel like making any Marios, though, the Wii U brought something you’d like this year. Here are the best games that came out for the system in 2015.
10. Lego Dimensions
Lego’s foray into the “toys-to-life” genre corralled a number of beloved movies and TV shows into one game. With characters and scenarios from The Lord of the Rings, The Simpsons, The Wizard of Oz, Doctor Who and more, Lego Dimensions tosses some of the most iconic pillars of pop culture into a blender and shoots out a fun action game where you can literally build your own character in the real world. It possesses all the recognizable hallmarks of a Lego game—it’s legitimately funny, and nails the spirit of what it adapts, although playing it can grow a little repetitive. Still, it’s a charming game that can be enjoyed by all ages.—Garrett Martin
9. Disney Infinity 3.0
The latest Disney Infinity finally adds Star Wars to the mix. That’s another powerful draw in a game that heavily relies on our familiarity with its characters and settings. Nostalgia only takes you so far, though, and Disney’s great blender of a game crams as many different game types as possible into its various play sets and toy box expansions. It’s a third-person platformer, an open-world game, a side-scroller, a dungeon crawler, a kart racer, and whatever else you want it to be, thanks to the deeper-than-ever toy-box mode. It’s basically our childhood imprinted on a disc and dispersed across a line of beautifully designed toys, and then sold back to backwards glancing adults and excited children alike.—GM
8. Guitar Hero Live
Guitar Hero Live, with its streaming music video channels, is now as much of a music delivery service as it is a game, and that ensures its livelihood, at least in my household. As long as they’re running and updating Guitar Hero TV, I’ll carve out time for this game. It offers something that no other game, and really, no other TV station, currently does: a powerful combo of play, nostalgia and discovery. I mean, I’d never buy a Darwin Deez record, but I’m glad I’ve seen that video, you know?—GM
7. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is meant to be played with style. To trudge through each level, your movement dictated by an impatient ever-forward swiping of your magic paintbrush, is to completely miss the point (and hundreds of shiny baubles hidden off the main path). On the very first stage, you can draw a line and send Kirby toward the goal. Or: Draw a curving line upward, sending Kirby up off the screen. You’ll find a sky filled with stars, the game’s currency and arbiter of special attacks, granted after collecting one hundred. Go high enough and the world goes black-and-white, the story conceit providing player a challenge along with simple animus.—Jon Irwin
It’s easy to lose track of what’s happening in Runbow, at least when you have a full nine players logged in (or even half of that). Imagine if Mario Kart was somehow crossed with Smash Bros., and then allowed up to nine players to compete. Depending on what mode you play, it can be a violent, headline scramble towards the finish line, or a comical game of king of the hill, or a relatively traditional single-player platformer. With a great score, vibrant colors and multiple variations on elementary gaming concepts, Runbow might be the most overlooked gem on the Wii U this year.—GM