The best games on Wii U
The Wii U may not have as many games as rival platforms, but what it does have is a string of high quality exclusives and experiences you won’t find anywhere else.
There are plenty of great cross-platform titles on Wii U, and if you enjoy Call of Duty, Batman: Arkham and Mass Effect you’ll very likely enjoy the Wii U versions of them. But we didn’t feel the need to pad this list out with a bunch of multi-platform releases and ports: Team VG247 reckons the games below are sufficient reason to buy a Wii U all on their own.
Let’s celebrate the unique and wonderful offerings of a console that provides a real alternative to the homogeneity of Microsoft and Sony’s offerings. Here they are in alphabetical order.
We kick things off with an exclusive still sowing salt among the Wii U-less. The market for Platinum Games’ particularly polished brand of stylish action may not be huge, but it is fervent, and Nintendo was the only company with the funds and the motivation to serve Bayonetta 2 up to those who demanded it.
By signing Bayonetta 2, Nintendo proved it’s quite capable of serving the hardcore – when it chooses to. Unique opportunities like an anticipated cult sequel, and a strong relationship with both Sega and Platinum Games, provided just the sort of experience the big N likes best: something you can’t do anywhere else.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Your mileage will vary dependant on your tolerance for ice levels in platformers, but with its second Donkey Kong Country game Retro Studios demonstrated once again its understanding and mastery of those elements that made Rare’s series so beloved.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is one of the best games for playing with or around your kids, but it’s also just terrific fun for grown ups. Provided you haven’t completely lost all your platforming skill, you’ll soon rediscover the pleasure of fluid and precise sidescrolling – and the joy of exploring a world put together specifically to please you with its warmhearted brand of fun.
By marrying the appeal of mega-property The Legend of Zelda with the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors, Nintendo did something Tecmo Koei has been struggling with for years: it made it socially acceptable for western gamers to admit they enjoy a bit of Omega Force’s OTT battlefield action.
Like all the Warriors games Hyrule Warriors offers scaling difficulty from button mashing masturbation to a challenging Hero mode, but skips the inaccessible fighting game-style technical precision of the broader franchise. Don’t worry though – there’s so much content to explore that you won’t miss it.
Just Dance 2015
The Wii was jam-packed with terrific party games, but the Wii U hasn’t been as forthcoming. Maybe it’s the lack of novelty that has left efforts like Wii Party U and Wii Sports Club feeling a bit underwhelming – but then again, Just Dance remains terrific despite not exactly wowing us with innovation every year.
If you want to waggle your body in various potentially embarrassing ways with or without a bunch of mates (or kids), Just Dance 2015 is the Wii U’s best opportunity to do that. And who doesn’t want to that? People who invest too much of their personal dignity in how they shake their ass, that’s who.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
Remember when everyone was making a huge fuss about Wind Waker’s cartoon stylings? How wrong they all were: the sailing-focused Zelda turned out to be one of the very best the series has ever produced. (Will history repeat itself with all ruckus over the new Link? Very probably! Nintendo hits the target far more often than it misses.)
Since we’re all still waiting for a native Wii U series entry, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD is the best way to get your Zelda fix on Wii U. It’s a classic well worth revisiting, and far too many of you haven’t had the pleasure at all.
Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart is one of the bastions of the industry, so of course the latest and greatest series entry had to go on the list. But Mario Kart 8 is particularly notable not just for being bigger and more beautiful; it’s one of the best examples of the new, connected Nintendo – a company that finally understands we are all online, and the benefits that brings.
Nintendo has continued to release irregular but exquisite DLC and updates for the racer, keeping it very firmly in public consciousness and remaking it in fresh new ways. The recent 200cc update in particular has brought about a whole new game.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
The Monster Hunter formula really shines on portables but for those of us who don’t face a lengthy commute with our fellow adventurers every day a home console version is perhaps more appealing. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the very best such experience.
If you’re yet to try Monster Hunter, imagine intensely difficult action combat combined with a loot-based crafting system, and you’re part way there. If you can find a veteran to help guide your journey, all the better – there’s so much to learn and to conquer before you can proudly call yourself a true hunter of monsters, and you will need buddies to get there.
“What if, right,” you said, in the high pitched voice you use when you’re trying not to exhale but have had an idea that simply cannot wait. “What if you took a bunch of old NES games, and took out some of the best bits, and made them harder and better?”
“And then what,” your best mate said, their glassy eyes suggesting they weren’t entirely following the thread of your genius.
You coughed. “And then,” you said, thinking about it. “And then everyone – everyone loved it, innit.”
Your friend nodded, slowly. “Yeah,” they said. “Yeah. That would be – that would be good. We should write to Nintendo.”
Nintendo got your letter.
New Super Luigi U
One of the highlights of The Year of Luigi, New Super Luigi U is an unusual modern Nintendo offering. On the one hand, it doesn’t have any particular astounding new twists or even environments not seen in New Super Mario Bros. U. On the other hand, it’s an incredibly polished piece of platforming, and possibly the tightest modern sidescroller.
The Year of Luigi is just one example of the way Nintendo has repeatedly managed to carve out a huge slice of gaming consciousness this generation despite its lack of market share. This entry is tinged with sadness, because nothing represents The Year of Luigi so well as the gentle, earnest tones of late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.
New Super Mario Bros. U
The prettiest traditional side-scrolling Mario game there is. Support for up to five players, although this mode has been known to cause heated rivalries and occasionally descend into fisticuffs. New power ups. New modes. What else even needs to be said? Absolutely nothing. And yet there are people who still haven’t dipped in.
So let’s talk for a little while about the enduring appeal of platformers. Shooters may require decent twitch reflexes – well, some of them – but it’s 2D platformers that really teach you fine motor control. It’s funny how it’s almost easier with a D-pad than an analog stick, isn’t it.
Yes, it’s a collection of mini-games. No, it’s not total bollocks. Nintendo Land provides the same service to the Wii U as Wii Sports did for the original console: it beautifully showcases the console’s unique features and mass appeal – but this time, the weight of some of Nintendo’s most popular properties adds to its gravity.
I’m not suggesting Nintendo Land is a game you will play for hours every day for months, but it is certainly something you should pull off the shelf when you have a guest who’s curious about video games – or just want to have a good laugh with some friends. So playful, in that perfect Nintendo way; it’s worth picking up just for the insight it provides into Nintendo’s vision for the much-derided console.
Also: until there is a real life Nintendo Land you can go and hug Mario in, this is the happiest place on Earth.
That Pikmin 3 does not loom larger in the consciousness of gaming must be credited to the Wii U’s modest footprint, because on its own merits it is a classic. The Pikmin formula is no longer unique, having spawned a couple of imitators (not unwelcome, given the paucity of Pikmin content itself), which only emphasises Pikmin 3’s perfection: novelty is not the secret of its success.
A little bit like Lemmings, Pikmin has players in control of a number of small creatures whose differing abilities can be exploited and combined to navigate the environment and achieve various goals. The level and puzzle design is achingly good, and the overarching goal of the story campaign ties it all together beautifully, so you never feel like you’re being spammed with busy work.
Rayman Legends is terrific on any platform, but we felt it deserved a special nod on Wii U – and not just because it famously started off as a launch exclusive before being delayed and eventually pushed further back for a sim-launch on multiple platforms.
Despite all this kerfuffle, Ubisoft did alright by the Wii U with this one, making terrific use of the Game Pad for touch-based co-op. This wonderful feature allows even the most controller-averse to contribute to gameplay, which is great for kids and gaming newbies alike.
You could also argue that the sheer joy of play inherent in Rayman Origins is most at home on a Nintendo platform. We wouldn’t argue.
Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure
Scribblenauts in general doesn’t get enough credit; this amazingly freeform puzzle series has a fascinating and impressively well-implemented core mechanic in which players can summon an enormous variety of objects to aid them.
Th Wii U-exclusive Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure is particularly good, though. Not only can you finally write in “Superman” and get what you wanted instead of a potential copyright infringement notice, the breadth of DC Universe nerdery on display is breathtaking. There are something like 2,000 characters in here, and you’d have to be a pretty hardcore fan to know them all. Add onto that the ability to modify your summons with adjectives (“zombie Batman” is the famous example) and you have a recipe for total chaos.
Shovel Knight will soon be available everywhere to everyone, but the first console release was for 3DS and Wii U because indie developer Yacht Club Games knows where its most hardcore fans were likely to be. The retro action adventure struck an immediate chord with those who’d grown up playing NES side-scrolling classics, and they raised their voices and credit cards high to secure the indie for themselves.
What to say about Shovel Knight? You hit things with a shovel, which can also be used to dig or bounce around like a pogo stick, and collect stacks of loot in order to buy magic power-ups. There are eight other Knights to battle in addition to the one you’re trying to rescue, a big baddy to take down, and loads of secrets to uncover. On Wii U, you can leave messages for other players, Dark Souls style. What’s not to like?
In general Nintendo prefers to forge its own path rather than do what others have done, no matter how successful, so the news that it was making a competitive multiplayer shooter was a bit of a surprise. We ought to have known better; Splatoon is, of course, utterly unique.
One of the most interesting aspects of Splatoon is how gameplay emphasis shifts back and forth between shooting and taking territory. Shooting other players won’t win you matches, but you need to keep the other team from rolling over the map, so you can’t just ignore it either; this design encourages flexibility or co-ordinated teamwork, and rewards expert knowledge of the game’s small collection of maps.
Nintendo is keeping eyes glued to the battle between squid and kid with regular content drops and events, and it’s wonderful to see the company stepping up to the connected age so well at last.
Super Mario 3D World
Traditional 2D Mario is all very well, and Nintendo arguably does that style of game better than anyone else, having invented it. But Nintendo is never happy unless it’s doing something new and delightful, and Super Mario 3D World is both of those things.
3D platforming is, in general, a bit of a horror – but with very careful level and camera design Nintendo pulled it off. And there’s more than the existence of a third axis worth celebrating here: you can make Mario a giant! Or put him in a cat suit! The cat suit bit is a bit disturbing, actually, if you are so-minded and watched the Japanese trailers.
Super Smash Bros. Wii U
Nintendo’s spectacular catalogue of properties is such that the idea of putting them all into one game is the stuff of fanboy dreams. But it’s also the stuff of reality, and the result is an absolutely terrific brawler anyone can pick up and play.
Series creator Masahiro Sakurai has said he wants Smash Bros. to remain an accessible party-style game rather than letting it get all eSports-ready, but that hasn’t stopped it becoming one of a few chosen favourites of the tournament scene. When you face a master of the art you’ll know it.
Wii Fit U
Not the phenomenon its precursor was, and suffering from post-music game era aversion to peripherals such as the balance board, Wii U Fit is nevertheless one of the best health titles on consoles. It’s not a total lifestyle solution, of course, but it’s a motivating and accessible way to introduce exercise to your day to day and begin to be mindful of your health and goals.
Nintendo has made some interesting noises about a new business in quality of life tech, an absolutely booming market as we all desperately seek solutions to the guilt of modern living and the lure of the demond carbohydrate, or whatever your personal poison may be. Although we hope the big N will dial down some of its old-fashioned ideas about what constitutes health, if Wii Fit U is any indication Nintendo could be very successful – and genuinely helpful – in this sphere.
The Wonderful 101
Hideki Kamiya’s Wii U exclusive superhero game is an interesting little beast with similarities to Nintendo’s own Pikmin. Players command not one, not three, but a ravaging horde of 101 colourful characters. By drawing these heroes together, players can utilise various special attacks and effects in order to defeat enemies and solve puzzles.
The Wonderful 101 is not as polished as Pikmin, to which it will forever be compared, with control issues and difficulty spikes. That last one can be as much a selling point as a flaw, though; if you want a challenge, The Wonderful 101 serves it up on a plate. It also packs in more charm than any one game really requires; you’ll quickly forget these aren’t licensed characters.
Yoshi’s Woolly World
The newest entry on our list, Yoshi’s Woolly World proves, yet again, that Nintendo does cute better than anyone else. Our yarny little friend is so charming it makes your heart ache, and has driven interest in the tie-in yarn Amiibo to feverish heights.
A thoroughly polished and delightful little adventure, Yoshi’s Woolly World is worth a second look for its notable difficulty split. It’s laughably easy to pick up and play through, but if you want to unlock its secrets you’re in for a challenge serious enough that the woolly look will put you in mind of the rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Its bite is all the more painful for its innocent exterior.
A Wii U launch title, ZombiU is a fascinating blend of genuinely interesting ideas. A survival horror set in London, it casts players as a random character and sends them out to loot the equipment they need. Should they die, as they almost certainly will, it’s permanent – and another random survivor steps up to the plater. You can actually find your own corpse shuffling around (and if you’re lucky, steal your old loot back), and encounter your Miiverse contacts, too. There’s some terrific use of the Game Pad, and you can leave messages for friends, Souls style, to ease their journeys.
Poor sales of this unique Ubisoft Montpellier title helped nail shut the coffin on Nintendo and Ubisoft’s relationship, but, well, Nintendo maybe wasn’t the best place for a zombie survival game, despite both companies’ hopes to the contrary. It’s a disloyal observation on a best of Wii U list, but we’re pleased to learn ZombiU is making its way to other platforms, where it may garner greater success and encourage Ubisoft to pursue such experiments further.