With recent confirmation that production of the Wii U is to stop and the fact that everyone’s waiting for the Nintendo Switch to launch, now seems like a good time to take stock on the Wii U’s life.
Sure, it didn’t set the world alight in terms of sales or in the number of games released on the platform, but I’ll be damned if I hear people say it ‘didn’t have any games’. Here is my list of 10 (and a bit) games that were essential to Wii U owners. Maybe now that the Wii U is relegated to the bargain bin, you’ll be convinced to pick up the console and see what you were missing out on, as these are some real class titles that span multiple genred. Let’s-a-go!
It’s amazing to think that a Ubisoft launch title would be anything other than filler but ZombiU managed to blend survival, horror and make great use of the Wii U’s second screen. I honestly can’t think of many games that even attempted to build a game around the Wii U’s unique hardware quite as much as Zombii U did.
The game itself is fairly straightforward. Almost like a first-person rogue-like, you need to make your way through a zombie infested London and scavenge for weapons and items. What made the game unique was the way that dealing with items and storing them into your backpack was a real gameplay feature. Your backpack inventory was shown on the second screen and it was vitally important to keep stock of what you had and what you needed, often shifting things around to make room oddly shaped new items. What made this brilliantly tense was that the game didn’t pause whilst you were looking at the second screen. Whilst you were busy shifting blocks around on a grid, your main TV would show you a zombie shambling towards you, making for the most stressful version of Tetris you’ve ever played.
The game also had some other neat ideas, like leaving messages to online friends and having to do corpse-runs to collect items you’d gathered on previous attempts. It did make its way to the other consoles but it lost a large part of its magic when it lost the Wii U’s second screen.
As a kid I’d always dream of being able to make my own Mario levels, often drawing them out on paper and wondering how they’d play. Mario Maker taps into that and does it with such skill and accessibility that it’s opened up people’s eyes to level design in a big way.
What’s most impressive with Mario Maker is just how simple it is to get started. By using the Wii U’s second screen, all you need to do is drag and drop blocks, pipes and koopas onto the screen and you’re good to go. What’s also worth mentioning is the fine line Nintendo have walked between staying faithful to the original Mario games and also letting players be more creative with their designs.
This is because whilst most of the items, enemies and features you’d find in the games are in Mario Maker, there are also some new and unique elements too. By combining different items together you can make enemies that behave in ways never seen before and that allow you to create something really unique. The only downside to all of this is that Mario Maker is hamstrung by Nintendo’s bizarre and poorly designed online system. Huge friend codes and a search function that doesn’t work too well make it more difficult than it needs to be to find a friends level. Still, that’s a small gripe when you consider Mario Maker has essentially given you millions of Mario levels to play through.
It’s odd to talk about how Mario Maker’s online functionality is so poor but then talk about how Nintendo managed to create their first online multiplayer shooter and do it so, so well. Everyone was surprised to see how Splatoon had turned out but make no mistake, this is not your standard Call of Duty.
Splatoon has the Nintendo magic sprinkled throughout, from the design of the colourful world, the outlandish transforming squid-children and the amazingly upbeat music, Splatoon is unlike any shooter you’ve played before. Firstly, it’s not all about killing the opposition. Instead, the aim of the game is to ‘paint’ as much of the map your own colour as you can. Sure, you can shoot the opposition, which causes them to have to wait and respawn, but this should only be used as an opportunity to do more painting.
The game had a solid 12 months of support, with new weapons and maps being added as well as monthly ‘battles’ being played out where players could decide what team they represented (for example – team cat or team dog?). It’s now not being really added to, which is no surprise given the Wii U isn’t even being made anymore. There’s still enough people online to make it worth picking up though!
Whilst some fighting game purists look down their nose at the Smash Bros. series, it’s hard to not be impressed by the impression the game has made on the fighting game community. Super Smash Bros. is regularly played at all manner of tournaments and is well respected by many in the scene, yet despite its hardcore audience it still has that pickup and play accesibility that makes it shine with the more casual audience.
This is because there’s no complicated combos to learn and special moves are never more than a simple button press away. On top of this, the level of fan service is outstanding, with characters from all of Nintendo’s big franchises, appearances by some of its more obscure characters too as well as guest appearances by the like of Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII. Super Smash Bros for the Wii U is a deep and complicated fighting game that is easy to play and simple to understand. An amazing feat and a game that the Wii U can be proud of having in its library.
There was a time where JRPGS were found almost solely on Nintendo consoles. Not since the SNES has this been the case, however, with a lot of JRPGS making the move primarily to Playstation consoles and more recently the DS / 3DS. This doesn’t stop the Wii U having two of this generation’s best JRPGS though. Rather than add them as separate entries, I thought it’d be an idea to combine the two and let you decide.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions FE is as close as you’ll get to a Persona game on Nintendo’s console. Like a lot of Persona games, you and your band of teenage chums need to fight an evil power. Also like Persona games, it looks stunning and has an amazing art style. On top of the looks, the hundreds of hours of gameplay and the brilliant combat system, there’s tons of Fire Emblem nods and winks. Plus all of the characters are essentially JPop idols so every now and then they’ll burst into song. Weird? Yes. Hard? Yes. Beautiful and amazing? Yes!
A less traditional JRPG comes in the form of Xenoblade Chronicles X. Dumping the traditional turn-based battles for more action orientated, almost MMORPG battle system, Xenoblade Chronicles X is set on a huge open-world with tons to explore and discover. What really makes the game stand out is the mech suit you eventually obtain. This suit is ideal for battle and allows you to traverse the giant map and take on some of the harder and much larger enemies throughout the game.
It’s all well and good being able to create your own, old-school 2D Mario levels, but what Nintendo console would be complete without an absolutely outstanding slice of platforming action? Super Mario 3D World doesn’t really do too much which is new but it does offer some of the best 3D platformer since Super Mario 64. It’s also a great multiplayer game, with 4 characters being on screen at one time it does get hectic but it never stops being incredibly fun. Also, the cat power-up is one of my favourite power-ups ever!
Similar to Super Mario Land 3D, there’s not too much to say about Mario Kart 8. If you’ve played a Mario Kart game before then you know what you’re in for. This being said, what you’re in for is the best Mario Kart game there’s ever been. This is the first Mario Kart that’s in HD and it looks beautiful. There’s also the courses themselves, which involve all sorts of gravity defying sections and allow you to race around track inspired by a number of Nintendo games, including Zelda and F-Zero.
Steamworld Dig, Shovel Knight, Little Inferno…
There’s been a number of truly impressive indie titles that made their way onto the Wii U and this is worth celebrating because it marks a real change in Nintendo’s philosophy. Starting towards the end of the Wii’s life Nintendo started making moves to getting indie developers onto their console, but it’s really been the Wii U where things opened up.
Thanks largely to the Wii U’s support of the Unity engine and Nintendo’s willingness to adopt indie developers there’s a number of these smaller titles that are well worth your time. As mentioned, Shovel Knight, Little Inferno and Steamworld Dig are all standouts for me, though there’s plenty of others to enjoy. Fingers crossed that Nintendo continue this approach with their next console too.
When the creator of Viewtiful Joe has a new game out, I tend to pay attention no matter how good it looks. In Wonderful 101’s case all of my attention was well deserved. Wonderful 101 is a fairly old-school brawler in some parts but then it’s quick to throw in weird and unique ideas that make use of the Wii U’s second screen. For example, whilst you’re fighting you don’t control a single character but instead are in charge of a whole mob of superheros. To defeat your enemies you need to get your team to work together to create a new form. Think of how the Power Rangers used to combine their mechs together and you’ll get the idea.
This was done by drawing shapes on the Wii U’s controller, or you could use the right analogue stick to ‘draw’ the shape that way. Also, the second screen was used to offer a different perspective to the isometric view you’d see on your main screen. This meant that although the game was mainly focused on fighting, there was plenty of secrets and hidden heros to find throughout each level by using the second screen’s unique viewpoint.
I remember when people were annoyed that Bayonetta 2 was going to be a Nintendo exclusive but the fact is that without Nintendo publishing Bayonetta 2, it would never have got made. What a shame that would have been.
If you love games like Devil May Cry (or maybe you’re a fan of the first Bayonetta) then you’ll love Bayonetta 2. It’s full of over the top set pieces and has a combat system that rewards massive combos and lightning quick reflexes. At certain points the game can be incredibly tough but that just makes it all the more rewarding when you finally defeat whatever angel or demon you’re currently battling. The whole game is a completely outlandish rollercoaster ride full of unforgettable moments and ludicrous characters – it’s unlike anything else Nintendo have ever been involved with before or likely to be involved with ever again.