What a year for the Virtual Console! In particular, Wii U was host to many gems: Japanese-only releases, a veritable selection of DS titles, and last but certainly not least, the overdue arrival of Nintendo 64 games. Despite the oft-criticized “drip feed” release method being well in effect, the console debuts and software surprises render 2015 the best year yet for retro gaming on Wii U. But which goldie-oldie came out on top?
BEST VIRTUAL CONSOLE GAME
Metroid Prime Trilogy
One of Nintendo’s rarest Wii games was met with much cheer, and considering how it’s the three Metroid Prime games in one package, it’s not hard to see why. Touched up with immersive motion controls and faster load times, the games that put Retro Studios on the map resonate with Nintendo fans just as they did a decade ago. Behind Samus Aran’s visor, the worlds of Tallon IV, Aether, Bryyo, and more enrapture through their concentrated amounts of lore, weapon upgrades, and scary alien lifeforms. Now, the question of which Prime is the best is certainly up for debate, but brought together, they provide a collection that’s more than worth your buck.
BEST VIRTUAL CONSOLE GAME RUNNERS-UP
Dreams really do come true! Translated, localized, and scheduled for American release on NES over twenty five years ago, the first of the beloved Mother trilogy finally arrived to Western audiences via downloadable form for Wii U. While Shigesato Itoi’s first attempt at gaming lacks the fine polish found later in the series, the newly-christened EarthBound Beginnings remains just as hilarious, genuine, and heartfelt as its successors. Now players no longer have to resort to dubious ROM dumps to experience Ninten’s journey, which is defined through parodies of American culture and RPG tropes, cats who swim through the ground, and even a poignant scene of young love. Now can we please finally get Mother 3, NOA?
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The most critically-acclaimed game for N64 has been re-released how many times now? Doesn’t matter, for this masterpiece still holds up nearly two decades later. Link’s journeys through youth and adulthood lay the foundation for the most beloved “hero’s journey” narrative in gaming, Ocarina of Time’s quest presents an exemplary use of time travel (the most oft-cited example being when Link visits the zombified– or shall we say ReDeadified– remains of Hyrule Castle Town as an adult), and quite possibly the greatest set of dungeons in the series (the Forest Temple!). If you never picked up the original N64 cartridge or any of the numerous re-releases before, really, what are you waiting for?
Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 needs no introduction, but that it shows up here at all is a testament to the game’s quality. It’s the game that pioneered 3D gaming as we know it, so rough edges are bound to pop up. Maybe some of the objectives have shown their age, but Super Mario 64’s tight controls and open freedom in both level design and progression remain ever popular with fans. Be it swimming through the waters of Jolly Roger’s Bay or soaring through the skies of Rainbow Ride, fans old and new can relive the title that changed gaming…and the horrors of coming face-to-face with Unagi the Eel!
Everyone’s favorite Mario-flavored blend of storybook fantasy and parody also returned last year! Framed within a charming “My First RPG” context, the paper-thin quest of Mario is filled with cameos, in-jokes, and side quests that bring the entirety of the Mushroom Kingdom to life. More importantly, it’s the game that gave birth to NOA localization as we know it today, what with characters spouting slang of all sorts and, like EarthBound before it, gleefully ripping on RPG tropes. The script may not reach the masterpiece highs of its GameCube and Wii sequels, but it’s enough to have even the most hardened gamer into giggle fits.
And that’s our selection for the best Virtual Console games of 2015. But do you agree with how it went down? Let us know not just in the comments, but by participating in the poll below!