Feature

The best Wii U games

This article is provided by Tired Old Hack.

There are many theories as to why the Wii U failed to find an audience. The consensus is that it’s failure was caused by a combination of things. The first was poor marketing: Nintendo could never really succinctly explain how the Wii U’s unique two-screen gimmick worked, causing some to believe it was instead a tablet add-on for the original (flatlining) Wii.

The second, and more crucial reason, was that the Wii brand had become toxic among a certain section of the gaming community, who were frustrated that Nintendo had increasingly focused its efforts on appealing to a wider, mass-market audience of players instead of its traditional core.

However, the 13 million people who did buy a Wii U found that there were some seriously excellent first-party games on offer. The Wii U’s library may have been sorely lacking when it came to quantity – a Catch-22 situation resulting from poor hardware sales – but there could be no argument that many of its exclusives excelled in terms of quality.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

What it is: The fourth game in the Assassin’s Creed series, putting players in the role of pirate Edward Kenway as he sails the seven seas.

Why it’s Essential: Something about Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag appealed to even non-fans of the Ubisoft series. It may be the fantastic sea-based combat and the ability to seamlessly go from attacking enemy ships with cannons to boarding them and taking them over. Or it may be the way its massive world map is packed with tiny islands, large villages and forest areas full of nooks to explore, crannies to investigate and guards to stab in the face. Whatever it is, it’s worth a go.

Bayonetta & Bayonetta 2

What they are: The eccentric, reference-heavy action game from Platinum Games, and its Wii U exclusive sequel.

Why they’re Essential: Bayonetta is one of the coolest games ever made, starring one of the coolest protagonists ever created. Its combat initially seems a little underwhelming but once it all ‘clicks’ and you find yourself stringing together all manner of outlandish combos you end up feeling like the star of the world’s greatest action movie.

Its unique style isn’t for everyone but those who fall for Bayonetta fall for it hard.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

What it is: An adorable platform puzzler based on the Captain Toad levels from Super Mario 3D World.

Why it’s Essential: Given Nintendo’s love of dishing out Mario spin-offs left, right and centre it’s amazing to think it took another 20 years for Toad to get his own game (after Wario’s Woods on the NES). Still, get one he did, and Treasure Tracker has bundles of charm.

Its slower place adds a tactical element missing from most major Mario titles, and its bonus secondary objectives in each level – designed to separate the Toadsworths from the Baby Toads – will have you busy for ages.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

What it is: The fifth game in the Donkey Kong Country series, and the second developed by Retro Studios. This time Donkey and Diddy are joined by Dixie and Cranky as they try to drive off a bunch of arctic animals who are threatening to take over their island.

Why it’s Essential: When Retro Studios initially took over the Donkey Kong Country franchise there were fears that it wouldn’t quite manage to hit the same heady heights Rare did back in the SNES days. Those fears were given a swift punt when Donkey Kong Country Returns proved to be a beautiful, addictive and (most importantly) devilishly hard platformer that felt very much like a modern day take on the 16-bit trilogy.

Tropical Freeze effortlessly follows on from this with another set of delightfully difficult stages, each more challenging than the last but crucially never feeling cheap: every time you die it’s all on you.

Dr Luigi

What it is: The last and best thing to come out of Nintendo’s ‘Year Of Luigi’ promotion, this spin on Dr Mario brings the series to HD for the first time and adds some new gameplay modes with L-shaped capsules.

Why it’s Essential: It’s a little-known secret that the Wii version of Dr Mario is one of the finest online multiplayer puzzle games ever made. Dr Luigi offers the exact same online multiplayer mode (albeit in crisp HD), but also includes some interesting extra single-player features like a mission mode.

However, all the new stuff is by the by. It’s the multiplayer game that makes Dr Luigi what it is.

Hyrule Warriors

“This is a game most Zelda and Dynasty Warriors fans will enjoy, even if devotees of one might be concerned it’ll feel too much like the other”

What it is: A spin-off of Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors series featuring characters from the Zelda series of games.

Why it’s Essential: It’s funny how a lick of paint can change how accessible a game can be. For years the Dynasty Warriors games have offered epic battles with many hundreds of on-screen enemies, but their ancient, historical characters made it difficult for some to grow emotionally invested and become hooked.

Then along comes Hyrule Warriors, which is essentially a Dynasty Warriors game that replaces the likes of Lu Bu, Zhou Yu and Ma Dai with Link, Zelda, Midna and chums, and suddenly it all makes sense. This is a game most Zelda and Dynasty Warriors fans will enjoy, even if devotees of one might be concerned it’ll feel too much like the other.

The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

What it is: An HD remaster of Nintendo’s last ever GameCube game and first ever Wii game. Link has to save Hyrule from being engulfed by a corrupted parallel dimension called the Twilight Realm.

Why it’s Essential: Over the years Twilight Princess hasn’t really been held to as high a regard as the likes of Ocarina, Wind Waker or even Majora’s Mask for some reason. As one of the darkest Zelda games though, we still love it.

Clearly Nintendo does too, because otherwise we wouldn’t have ended up with this wonderful HD version complete with improved textures, amiibo support and a new Cave of Shadows feature where Wolf Link has to battle waves of enemies. The GameCube and Wii versions of Twilight Princess were always excellent, but the Wii U remaster is easily the best way to play the game.

The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

What it is: An HD remaster of the first GameCube Zelda game. Link joins a pirate crew and sails the seas to save his sister from the evil Ganon.

Why it’s Essential: The clean look of Wind Waker’s cel-shading meant the GameCube version continues to hold up well visually today, but the Wii U’s beautifully crisp HD version launches it into the sea like a squealing pig.

It may be a bit short and a tad easy by other Zelda games’ standards but The Wind Waker is great fun while it lasts and remains one of the finest entries in the series.

Lego City Undercover

What it is: An open world action-adventure game based on the Lego City series of building sets. It follows undercover cop Chase McCain as he tries to stop a crime wave being led by the evil Rex Fury.

Why it’s Essential: Lego City Undercover features hilarious dialogue and brilliant open-world gameplay. It really is the closest we’ve come to a Grand Theft Auto game suitable for children, while adults will surely get a kick out of all the movie references.

It does take a painfully long time to load at the start, but once you’re in it’ll take a hell of a lot to make you drop out.

Little Inferno

What it is: An interesting story-based puzzle game from the team behind World Of Goo. You’re given a toy fireplace and have to order different objects from its catalogue to burn them and keep warm. The reason for this is hidden from you, but you find out the bigger story as the game proceeds.

Why it’s Essential: Little Inferno is not a difficult game. You could argue it isn’t really a ‘game’ as such, more a weird trial-and-error experience where you burn things in a fire to see if they’ll progress the story. And yet, something about it really makes you fall for it. Maybe it’s the pitch black sense of humour, or its satire on the annoying timers you get in free-to-play games.

Or maybe there’s just something immensely satisfying about the way its myriad of objects all burn in a different way, letting you live out your arsonist fantasies in a much safer environment. Whatever it is, Little Inferno is something you’ll only play through once but should definitely play regardless.

Mario Kart 8

What it is: The eighth game in the Mario Kart series (well, technically the eleventh if you want to be pedantic and count the three arcade games).

Why it’s Essential: Ever since the days of the SNES every standalone Nintendo system has had its own sole Mario Kart game, and Mario Kart 8 is the best so far. It was already the best on day one, thanks to its brilliant zero-gravity addition which made for some fantastically abstract tracks without ruining that classic Mario Kart handling.

It got even better, though, when it became the first Mario Kart game to receive DLC packs, adding no fewer than 16 new courses (including magnificent ones based on Zelda, F-Zero, Excitebike and Animal Crossing) and six new characters including Link. With all the DLC stuff chucked into the mix Mario Kart 8 is the best Mario Kart to date, only bettered by the excellent Switch port.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

“Teaming up with friends and taking on its enormous beasts in lengthy, epic battles is an acquired taste”

What it is: The only Wii U instalment of Capcom’s popular Monster Hunter series, in which players team up with their friends to take down enormous beasts in lengthy, epic battles.

Why it’s Essential: Monster Hunter is not the sort of game you can get to grips with in 15 minutes and be well into within an hour. It’s a discipline that has to be learned and mastered over many hours, something that will take an enormous amount of effort to conquer and pays you back with an immense feeling of accomplishment when you do.

Teaming up with friends and taking on its enormous beasts in lengthy, epic battles is an acquired taste, but once you do acquire it all other games’ boss battles will seem unusually simple by comparison.

NES Remix 1 & 2

What it is: A series of time-based mini-games based on Nintendo’s library of classic Nintendo Entertainment System titles.

Why it’s Essential: Like the Wii, the Wii U has an extensive Virtual Console offering a library of retro games from the 8-bit to 64-bit era. Long-time players may want a little more than the same games they played 30-odd years ago, though. This is where the NES Remix games come into play. Each takes a selection of 8-bit NES titles and splits them into a series of missions, tasking you with mastering specific elements of each game on a time trial basis.

It’s a fantastic way of introducing new players to the classics in a more bite-sized fashion, while also giving people who already know them inside-out a brand new way to play. Getting rainbow stars on every mission will take you an age.

New Super Mario Bros U & New Super Luigi U

What it is: The fourth New Super Mario Bros game and the eleventh Super Mario side-scrolling platformer overall (and its DLC add-on). Instead of kidnapping Peach and taking her to his castle, this time Bowser takes over Peach’s castle and launches Mario and chums far away into the distance.

Why it’s Essential: New Super Mario Bros U offers another helping of expertly designed and tuned stages, each of which adds a completely new gameplay mechanic to the table before swiftly ditching it to make way for the next.

Its DLC add-on New Super Luigi U is essentially a full game in its own right, completely replacing every level with a brand new one and putting Nintendo’s best character in the starring role. If it’s solid 2D platforming you’re after, Mario still can’t be beaten.

Nintendo Land

What it is: A Wii U launch game designed to show off the different abilities of the Wii U GamePad through a variety of single-player and multiplayer mini-games based on popular Nintendo franchises.

Why it’s Essential: Nintendo Land is the game that sold many on the Wii U’s capabilities, while simultaneously confounding others and making the system look more complicated than it actually is.

Nintendo Land was Nintendo’s way of demonstrating ‘asymmetrical gameplay’, a clunky buzzword that essentially meant local multiplayer using two screens to show different viewpoints for different players. It absolutely nailed the concept first time too. Most of its mini-games – Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Mario Chase – remain hilarious local multiplayer experiences four years after launch.

Sadly, it’s undoubtedly a commentary on the development community both inside and outside of Nintendo’s offices that no other game throughout the Wii U’s lifespan has managed to take the baton from Nintendo Land and offer similarly entertaining asymmetrical multiplayer.

Pikmin 3

What it is: The third entry in the Pikmin series. Three alien explorers called Alph, Brittany and Charlie, are sent to the planet PNF-404 but their ship crashes, meaning they have to use the help of the native Pikmin to fight off any hostile creatures and get back home.

Why it’s Essential: Even after all these years there are still fewer things that make you feel worse in gaming than accidentally leading your squad of Pikmin into a dangerous area and seeing a flood of Pikmin ghosts float away into the sky.

This Wii U threequel offers more of what made its predecessors so enjoyable, making the real-time strategy genre accessible to gamers who may otherwise find it too overwhelming. Its multiple control methods – each as useful and relevant as the others – also ensure you’re more likely to find a system that best meets your own playing style.

If the previous two Pikmin games passed you by, this is a perfect place to start.

Resident Evil: Revelations

What it is: A Wii U port of a game originally designed for the 3DS. Taking the Resident Evil series back to its roots, it’s a traditional survival horror game in which Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield team up to stop a bioterrorist organisation infecting the world’s oceans with a virus.

Why it’s Essential: A cracking adventure set partly on a mutant-infested boat, Revelations brings back the claustrophobia and tight settings of early games in the series. If you’re the sort who misses the old puzzle-solving, atmospheric gameplay in the style of Resident Evil 1 and 2, this is the fella for you.

Star Fox Zero

What it is: The sixth Star Fox game, finally bringing back a series fans spent years waiting for.

Why it’s Essential: When Star Fox Zero launched and it quickly became clear that its control system actually required you to get used to it and learn how to master it, this led to many assuming that it simply didn’t work well because it was so unlike Nintendo.

“When you do finally adapt it slowly becomes one of the best games in the series.”

In reality, Star Fox Zero just takes some time to get to grips with. It’s going to take you a while to become an expert Arwing pilot, and when you do finally adapt it slowly becomes one of the best games in the series.

Splatoon

What it is: An online multiplayer game where teams of four use ink-based weaponry to try to paint the arena with as much of their colour as possible. The twist is that your character can turn into a squid and swim through any of the ink that’s been fired.

Why it’s Essential: “Waaah, Nintendo doesn’t have any original IP!” came the cry from the self-appointed hardcore. “Shove this into your eyeholes and don’t remove it until you realise what a fool you’ve been,” replied Nintendo with gusto.

It was talking about Splatoon, an unhealthily addictive online multiplayer game that’s a weird mix of Team Deathmatch and Capture The Flag while also being suitable for younger gamers. And lo, the self-appointed hardcore saw that it was good.

Super Mario 3D World

What it is: The sixth 3D Mario platformer sends Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad on an adventure to rescue little fairy creatures called Sprixies from Bowser. Offering simultaneous four-player gameplay, it also introduces the new Cat Suit and brings back the Super Leaf which turns our heroes into a raccoon.

Why it’s Essential: The Wii U’s 3D take on Mario doesn’t get enough credit for the way it manages to make free-roaming gameplay more approachable for less experienced players who may have struggled with Super Mario 64, Sunshine or Galaxy in the past.

By limiting the analogue sticks to just eight directions of movement and making many of the levels more linear it becomes an interesting halfway point between the freedom of a ‘true’ 3D Mario game and the tight, restricted 2D gameplay of a Super Mario Bros title.

This, along with the inclusion of a four-player multiplayer mode that’s actually playable unlike the messy New Super Mario Bros ones, makes it a great game for Mario fans new and old alike.

Super Mario Maker

What it is: Released to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Maker is a level design tool that lets players make their own 2D Mario stages and share them online for others to play.

Why it’s Essential: If you’ve ever believed you could make a Mario level as good as the ones made by Nintendo, Super Mario Maker is the perfect way to discover that no, you can’t.

In its typical style, Nintendo has taken something – the level editor – which has often been complicated and fiddly in the past and introduced it in such a user-friendly way that even small children will have fun making their own Mario stages.

The ability to switch between Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros graphical styles and gameplay engines at the press of a button is an absolute touch of genius too. Ultimately, just having an endless supply of Mario levels to download and try out makes this the perfect game for when you have 10 minutes to kill.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition

What it is: The eighth game in Bandai Namco’s fighting series, featuring nearly 60 playable characters and a bunch of Wii U exclusive features.

Why it’s Essential: Tekken lies somewhere in between Street Fighter’s hardcore ‘master this or die’ gameplay and Dead Or Alive’s ‘a hamster could probably win a couple of matches by running over the controller’ level of accessibility.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is your typical Tekken game, then: a user-friendly, but deep fighter that has no problems whatsoever with not taking itself too seriously. This is best proven in its Wii U only features, including the return of the Tekken Ball beach volleyball mode and the new Mushroom Mode, where you can eat Mario mushrooms to grow or shrink your fighter.

The Wonderful 101

What it is: Another offering from Bayonetta director, Hideki Kamiya and PlatinumGames. You take control of an army of unique superheroes, using their morphing abilities to form massive weapons.

Why it’s Essential: One of the most shamefully poor-selling Wii U games, The Wonderful 101 is easily one of the best third-party exclusives on the system.

Like Bayonetta and some other Platinum titles, there’s a slight learning curve and at first you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. Then it all clicks and you realise you’re actually playing something pretty special.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

“It features an absolutely enormous open world populated by all sorts of weird, wonderful and often massive creatures”

What it is: The latest game in the Xeno series and the spiritual successor to cult Wii game Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s about protecting the human race as they seek to coexist with the natives on an alien planet.

Why it’s Essential: To be blunt, Xenoblade Chronicles X’s Wii predecessor is a slightly better game, but that doesn’t mean X isn’t still a magnificent RPG adventure. Like the Wii game, it has a quick and seamless battle system that makes grinding an enjoyable pursuit rather than the dull task it is in many other RPGs.

It also features an absolutely enormous open world populated by all sorts of weird, wonderful and often massive creatures. You’re talking well over 100 hours before you completely see and do everything in this one.

ZombiU

What it is: Arguably the best Wii U launch title, Ubisoft’s first-person horror has you trying to survive in a zombie-infested London.

Why it’s Essential: ZombiU is a first-person survival horror game, and as such resources are low and combat is deliberately clunky and difficult. It’s designed to make you come to the conclusion that fighting the zombies head-on is a last resort, not your primary objective.

Get used to ignoring what its viewpoint suggests and playing it more like a Resident Evil game and ZombiU will absorb you into its creepy, geographically inaccurate version of London.

Honourable mentions

Batman: Arkham City & Arkham Origins
The second and third games in the Batman: Arkham series offer plenty of baddy-punching action and detective shenanigans.

Bit.Trip Presents Runner2
An infuriatingly one-more-go rhythm platformer from the studio behind the Bit.Trip games on WiiWare.

Child Of Light
A beautiful game from Ubisoft that’s part turn-based RPG, part platformer. Created using the same UbiArt graphics engine as the recent Rayman games.

Darksiders II
Brilliantly moody adventuring in which you play as Death himself. Imagine a Zelda game where you play as the bad guy.

FAST Racing Neo
The Wii U may never have had an F-Zero game but this futuristic effort is pretty bloody close and it runs at a gloriously smooth 60fps to boot. If Nintendo had any sense it’d hand the keys to F-Zero over to developer Shin’en and get it to make a Switch instalment.

Game & Wario
A selection of comedy mini-games designed to make use of the Wii U GamePad’s unique features. It’s a bit light on content but if you find it cheap it’s a great laugh.

Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition
A Metroidvania style platformer with a sense of humour, this has you playing as a Mexican luchador tasked with rescuing El Presidente’s daughter.

Lego series
A whole host of licensed Lego goodness. Each game feels similar but considering how perfectly tuned its ‘all ages friendly’, drop-in drop-out co-op is that’s no bad thing.

Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition
A puzzle platformer which has you making blocks appear and disappear by pressing a ‘switch’ button. Deceptively simple to get used to but gets fiendishly difficult.

Pokken Tournament
A Pokemon fighting game developed by the team behind the Tekken series. This makes it a surprisingly adept fighter.

Pulblox World
Known as Pushmo World in the US, this is the third game in the Pullblox series (which is usually on 3DS) and is another clever little bock-based puzzle platformer.

Rayman Legends
A beautifully designed platformer and the first game to use the UbiArts engine, which allows for hand-drawn cartoon-quality sprites.

Shovel Knight
The ultimate ode to 8-bit platformers, with more nostalgic nods than you can shake a heavily pixellated stick at.

SteamWorld Dig
A steampunk indie game that shows what Mr Driller could be if it was turned into a proper adventure game. Short but compelling.

Thomas Was Alone
A puzzle platformer with minimalist graphics, lovely music and a witty storyline narrated by Danny Wallace. You’ll either love it or hate it: I fall into the former camp.