The poll’s been closed and the votes have been counted. Wii U Daily’s recent ‘game of the year’ survey resulted in thousands of individuals voting, plenty of difficult decisions, and no small amount of confusion in the comments surrounding the exact definition of the word ‘year’ (I tease because I love. Somebody has to be the asshole, we couldn’t afford to get Joel McHale to host our award announcements).
Presenting, as voted by you, the games of the year in the following categories:
Best third party console exclusive
THE WONDERFUL 101
In one of the closest votes of the entire poll, Platinum Game’s colourful crime-fighters just barely edged out the blocky cops of Lego City Undercover to take the title of best third party console exclusive. And rightly so, as The Wonderful 101 delivers not only a great, unique take on the beat-em-up genre with a whole mass of heroes and epic morph attacks, but it does so in a way that could only be properly experienced on Wii U.
Best dark, gritty, realistic-looking title
ASSASSIN’S CREED IV: BLACK FLAG
No console can survive on exclusives, charm and original ideas alone, apparently. Huge, multi-million dollar Hollywood-style multiplatform games are the bread and butter of a huge number of gamers, and some of the best of 2013 were represented on Wii U. Batman might be darker, Deus Ex might be grittier, and CoD might be more realistic-looking, but it was Edward Kenway’s adventure through the Caribbean that’s been judged as the best of the year. Though nothing to do with the hardcore punk band that shares its name, Black Flag toned down the more annoying aspects of earlier entries in the series, brought back and improved the incredible naval warfare from the previous game and served it all up with Assassin’s most interesting locale and central character to date.
Best trendy retro-inspired indie sidescrolling platformer
With no shortage of games in this category, votes were fairly evenly spread across our four candidates. It was Cloudberry Kingdom that took the crown though, possibly owing to the fatal lack of death lasers and customisable capes in Giana Sisters. Cloudberry Kingdom does so many things so well it’s a surprise they all fit together without the whole thing breaking apart. Procedurally generated levels that seem impossible at first glance can be torn through once you get into the rhythm, and the addition of solid multiplayer and various gameplay-shifting gadgets means this is a game that could conceivably have scratched your 2D platforming itch all year long.
Best download-only title
A throwback to the golden age of adventure games, warts and all, The Cave is a game that could easily be overlooked when thinking about the games we loved from the past 12 months. Yet with very few exceptions no game released this year delivered humour, exploration or character development in quite the same way as Ron Gilbert’s tales of sin and immorality did.
Best party game
WII PARTY U
THE WONDERFUL 101
That there was a great deal of skepticism ahead of the release of The Wonderful 101 can probably be put down to several factors. Developer platinum games — the people who brought you MadWorld, Bayonetta and Vanquish — is known for a certain kind of action, and early trailers for 101 showcased a cartoony look pretty much at odds with their usual grit and explosions. In addition the main draws of the gameplay are all things that don’t really translate well to a 30-second spot. The homage to 90s Japanese TV shows like Power Rangers, the dynamic of gathering strength and unleashing various unite attacks, the great integration of the Game Pad, are all brilliant and surprising things we didn’t really know we were getting into before the fact.
Best gimmick game
WII SPORTS CLUB
It’s the game that sent millions of Wii consoles zooming into loungerooms across the world back in 2007, and the simple nature of its concept is a draw today (well, enough of a draw that you voted for it over Wii Fit U). The addition of Wii Remote Plus functionality, online play and a modern purchasing model add a bit of intrigue to the tried and true formula, and while the games themselves undoubtedly perform as well as they did 6 years ago, only time will tell if the revitalised brand can break out and convince players to pick up the gimmick again as the Wii U install base grows.
Best Miiverse community
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA SERIES The greatest thing about Miiverse is that each game’s community offers something completely different inside its own little bubble of fans and voyeurs. Whether you’re looking for or a collection of breathtaking screenshots from the game (Mass Effect 3), fun and unrealistic predictions about future titles (Smash Bros) or legitimate insanity of the most hilarious kind with plenty of creepy images of Willem Dafoe before Nintendo pulls them down (Rabbids Land), there’s a place you can go on Miiverse to find it. Of course what you’re likely looking for is astounding art created within the very tight limitations of the low-res, black and white message board. It’s almost indisputable that the Zelda community attracts the best of the best Miiverse artists on a consistent basis, and of course there are plenty of fun doodles and text discussions to occupy Zelda fans’ time together as well.
Worst / most gratuitous Wii release
Yuck. Last year the version of FIFA 13 that came to Wii was just FIFA 12 with an updated roster. This year EA have done it again, replacing the 3 with a 4 and sending this crap out for the third year in a row to entrap unknowing Wii owners while skipping the Wii U as a platform altogether. You want soccer on your Wii U? How bad do you want it? Not this bad, I can assure you. FIFA 14 just beat out The Smurfs 2 in the voting, and that’s totally as it should be. At least the guys at Ubisoft and WayForward managed to stick the correct numeral at the end of their game.
Virtual Console – 1st party
Since the dawn of the Virtual Console, fewer games have been so frequently requested for the service as Earthbound. The game represents everything that’s great about Nintendo’s nostalgia-fuelled digital platform. As in incredibly rare and well regarded Super Nintendo game that until recently only existed in cartridge form, the beloved Americana-filled Japanese-filled RPG was almost impossible to play legally if you didn’t still have the game tucked away in your cupboard. Given new life on the Wii U, thousands of gamers now have the chance to experience the epic journey of Ness, Jeff and Paula, Keiichi Suzuki’s timeless soundtrack, and the joys of obliterating hippies with a frying pan.
Virtual Console – 3rd party
MEGA MAN 2
Given that Capcom has provided the vast majority of third party titles for Virtual Console, this fight was always going to come down to Mega Man and Street Fighter. The blue bomber wins out though, no doubt on the strength of its still-gorgeous 8-bit aesthetic, super-tough gameplay and of course its superlative soundtrack. Mega Man two refined and bettered almost all aspects of the boy robot’s first outing, delivering more epic robot masters, a more stable game experience and a giant robotic anglerfish that I still hate.
In video games, ‘story’ and ‘storytelling’ are two very different things. Complex, linear stories the like of which appear in big budget triple-A games need storytelling techniques pulled straight from film and literature to work. Meanwhile many other forms of storytelling, some entirely unique to games, are emerging more and more that don’t rely spelling out a naarative to the player in words or text, but allow them to discover and infer meaning through their own exploration. In Pikmin 3, cut scenes and crew logs at the end of each day deliver a fun traditional narrative, while the distinctly familiar flora, litter and detritus of the environments tell a much grander tale of their own. The mystery of the planet and the creatures that dwell there are is the player’s to explore and postulate on, and it makes for a brilliant backdrop for one of the years most enjoyable games.
Best musical score or soundtrack
Best visual design
Game of the year
SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD
The winner of the final three categories by a country mile, relegating The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD to second place in each one, is Super Mario 3D World. Here is a game where almost everything has been done right. The orchestral score is variously sweeping, climactic and smile-inducing, integrating with and informing the gameplay where it needed to while sitting comfortably in the background and setting a perfect tone for each level the rest of the time.
Meanwhile on the graphical side of things Nintendo, EAD and their development partners managed to bring a full-featured modern Mario game into the HD era with a level of success few could have seen coming. It’s no exaggeration to say 3D World is among the greatest-looking games released this year on any platform.
Gameplay is king though, and as the stunning response to our poll would seem to indicate (3D World won 63 per cent of the vote among a total of 13 nominees), Mario’s latest has it in spades. The game plays almost like a ‘best of’ collection of classic Mario systems and ideas, but with a constant slew of great new concepts over the top, be that brilliant one-offs like the Mario Kart themed level or ingenious new powerups like the double cherry that forced us to play in brand new ways. Throw in a series of intense secret worlds and a ton of collectibles for longevity, and it’s absolutely no surprise that we’re naming Super Mario 3D World our Wii U Daily game of the year for 2013.
But of course we aren’t the ones who decided which games would win, you are. Make sure you hit the comments below with your take on the great games we saw on Wii U this past year. Did you vote for something different? Were there other lesser-known games that did something really special in the last year you feel needs to be recognised? Should the definition of ‘year’ be altered to ‘a 14 month period’ in the future to make sure games released over a year ago have a shot? And looking ahead, just what could Nintendo possibly pull out in the new year to top the platforming perfection of Super Mario 3D World?