In November of 2012, Nintendo kicked off the eighth generation for home consoles with their Wii U system. When it first launched, Wii U was an instant success. Over the past year, the public interest in Wii U has waned significantly, and Nintendo is having a hard time putting the console into peoples’ homes.
Right now a lot of people are probably trying to get their hands on Xbox One systems or PlayStation 4 consoles. While that’s all fine and good, I don’t want people to overlook Wii U. Right now Wii U has an excellent library of games, both exclusive and not exclusive, that really make the purchase of the system right now make a lot more sense than throwing down the cash for PS4 or Xbox One, both of which (this is less of a problem for Xbox One) are starved for high quality exclusives at the moment.
For the first few months after launch, Wii U had a disappointing library of games. However, the system now has quite the list of titles in its library, and many of them are completely exclusive experiences that can only be played on Wii U. If you are thinking about getting a Wii U this holiday season or already own a Wii U, then these 10 games are the titles that you should check out first.
But before getting into the 10 games that made the cut, I do feel the need to at least mention a couple of high profile Wii U exclusives that I am not including on the list for one reason or another. Nonetheless, these titles should also be on your radar.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD – I decided not to include this game on the list of exclusives because while there are both gameplay and graphical improvements in this game from the original GameCube version, most of the game can indeed be enjoyed on GameCube. That being said, the definitive version of Wind Waker can only be found on Wii U, so if you haven’t played Wind Waker in a long time and are looking for something that can freshen up the experience or if you’ve never played Wind Waker before, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is definitely the way to go on Wii U.
The Wonderful 101 – I’ve only been able to play the demo of The Wonderful 101, a quirky action game from the creative team at Platinum Games, so I wasn’t able to fully play it. Therefore, I couldn’t include it on the list. I’m not going to say one way or another whether it is a bad game or a fantastic game, but it is one of the high profile Wii U exclusives I still have yet to play, so I couldn’t fairly judge it before making this Top 10 list.
Earthbound – I usually wouldn’t single out Virtual Console releases, but Earthbound releasing on Wii U’s Virtual Console is a pretty big deal. Nintendo hasn’t bothered re-releasing the SNES classic on any of their digital download services previously, despite the demands of the hardcore Nintendo fans. When Earthbound did release for Wii U, it did so with great critical reception and the chance for the game to meet an entirely new player base. If you have a Wii U, there is honestly no better or cheaper legal way to enjoy this classic and quirky sci-fi RPG.
Rayman Legends – Originally slated to be a Wii U exclusives, the Wii U version of Rayman Legends is still considered the definitive version of the game, with exclusive content and features simply not found in any of the other versions of the game. It’s no longer an exclusive so I can’t put it on the list, but just know that Rayman Legends is one of the highest rated Wii U games of all time, right behind Super Mario 3D World.
10. NES Remix
NES Remix was a surprise announcement in the Nintendo Direct from December 18th. The concept of NES Remix is that the developers took a bunch of classic NES titles and created mini-challenges for players to obtain while playing those games. NES Remix also adds new characters to classic NES games and offers new twists on the core gameplay that made those games popular when they originally launched in the 80s. There’s a boat load of content to play through, and while NES Remix may not have all “hits” in its vast library of NES mini-games, it is still a nostalgic shot to the arm that can put a smile on the face of even the most cynical gamer.
09. Game & Wario
Game & Wario is strictly a party game. If you play the game by yourself, there is not a whole lot for the game to offer. However, the multiplayer modes make it worth playing, with some of the best multiplayer uses of the Wii U’s GamePad to date. Game & Wario is one of the most purely entertaining party games out there, and it uses the Wii U’s unique capabilities in very interesting ways.
08. Wii Fit U
On the original Wii, Wii Fit was sort of a phenomenon. Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus were responsible for Nintendo selling millions of balance boards, making it one of the most successful peripherals of all time. The combination of exercising and mini-games turned out to be a winning one.
For the Wii U, Nintendo has revived the Wii Fit sub-series and has improved it substantially. Thanks to unique pricing options and letting players consume the game in a variety of different ways, Wii Fit U is one of the most forward-thinking games in Nintendo’s lineup. Plenty of content and new features have been added to the already great formula, making Wii Fit U the best entry in the franchise to date.
07. Lego City Undercover
After I first played Lego Star Wars back in the day, I kept thinking of other properties that would make a fantastic transition to the blocky world of Lego. One of my dream games has always been Lego GTA, but I never expected it to come true…then Nintendo revealed a partnership with Traveler’s Tales to develop Lego City Undercover, which is more or less Lego GTA.
Lego City Undercover is notable for its charm and constant parody of open world games like GTA. The game is genuinely hilarious, and it has plenty of unique objectives to go along with the typical Lego action. Chase McCain is one of the best original characters that Traveler’s Tales has developed so far. I hope we get a sequel that takes the concept even further.
06. Wii Party U
I’ve always found the Wii Party series to be criminally underrated. Wii Party on the original Wii was a blast with friends, and honestly one of the best party games I’ve ever played. Wii Party U brings even more four player fun to the table, and it also incorporates the GamePad in a number of ways.
With multiple game modes and was to play it, Wii Party U is a great mini-game compilation and perfect for gaming parties. It completely stomps other games in the genre, even Nintendo’s own Mario Party franchise.
05. Pikmin 3
Hardcore Nintendo fans have been begging for a new game in the Pikmin series for years. Pikmin 3 was quietly announced at a post-E3 Nintendo Developer Roundtable, and when it was announced that development had shifted from the Wii to Wii U, Pikmin 3 quickly became one of the most high profile titles in the Wii U’s library of exclusive games. Pikmin 3 released to rave reviews, and for good reason; the world of Pikmin is gorgeous, the gameplay is addicting, and those little Pikmin are just so gosh darn cute, aren’t they?
04. New Super Mario Bros. U
People forget that Wii U actually had a pretty incredible launch with some truly fantastic exclusive games released for the system right out of the gate. In fact, I would go as far as to argue that the Wii U’s launch lineup kicked the asses of PS4 and Xbox One’s lineups, and that the Wii U library is probably going to be better than the libraries of those consoles for at least a couple of years.
Regardless, New Super Mario Bros. U was a part of the Wii U’s launch lineup. Another entry in the 2D style of Mario platformer that saw a resurgence originally on the Nintendo DS, New Super Mario Bros. U didn’t bring a whole lot of innovation or new gameplay mechanics to the tried-and-true series, but the game definitely delivers on nostalgia and the pure fun factor.
03. Nintendo Land
Some cynical people on the Internet will immediately dismiss Nintendo Land because it is a mini-game compilation. Those people are fools and are missing out on one of the most purely entertaining gaming experiences that I’ve had in years. Nintendo Land takes some of Nintendo’s biggest franchises and creates addicting multiplayer games out of them primarily using Wii U’s GamePad. I spent many years with Nintendo Land, and it is made even better when you get people together to play.
American critics were unfairly harsh on ZombiU, when in actuality it is easily one of the best survival horror games of the last decade. ZombiU combines our culture’s zombie obsession with some of the brutal gameplay mechanics from games like Dark Souls. The premise is simple: players have to survive the zombie apocalypse in London, England, and if they, they’re dead forever and must start a new character.
This hardcore approach to the genre is what helps ZombiU stand apart from the rest of the pack. ZombiU also uses the GamePad in cool ways, and this combined with the gorgeously haunting visuals and terrifying atmosphere help make ZombiU one of the scariest games available on any system. I have my fingers crossed that Ubisoft will give us a ZombiU 2, but so far my prayers haven’t been answered.
01. Super Mario 3D World
Was there really any question? Super Mario 3D World brings four player multiplayer to the 3D Mario franchise for the first time. The game is a successor to Super Mario 3D Land, but dialed up to 11. Super Mario 3D World is also one of the best looking games I’ve ever played, and that includes titles released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and even PC.
The art style is unmatched. Mario in HD is one of the best visual treats available in the gaming industry. And not only that, but it plays excellently, with brilliant, innovative level design and that classic Mario feel that only Nintendo can create. Is it quite as perfect as the Super Mario Galaxy games? No, but is anything? Super Mario 3D World is one of the best platformers ever made and it’s a game that can only be played on Wii U.
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If you already have a Wii U and are looking for games to play on it, there are plenty of options, as this list clearly illustrates. If you’re thinking about buying Wii U, then these games and the honorable mentions are the titles that you should consider picking up with your system, as they will ensure that you get plenty of hours out of the thing right out of the box. And finally, if you are one of those cynical people that denounce Wii U for no real good reason other, hopefully this list shows that Wii U is currently the eighth generation home console with the best library of games by a wide margin.
Wii U’s first year has concluded, but what will 2014 bring for the system? Well, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is not far off. Mario Kart 8 is on its way, as is the highly anticipated Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. A new Zelda is being revealed at next year’s E3 event, and before that players can experience an entirely new take on the franchise when Nintendo and Tecmo Koei release Hyrule Warriors, a crossover of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors. 2014 is going to be one of the biggest years for gaming, and Nintendo will make sure that Wii U is not lost in the shuffle.