Happy 3rd birthday to the Wii U! Today marks three years since Nintendo’s latest home console hit shelves, and while many claim the system hasn’t reached the success that was expected, it would be a lie to say that it doesn’t have some of the most stunning games available on the market to date. To celebrate three years of the console’s lifecycle, I’ve compiled my top 10 games that the console currently has at the moment.
10) The Wonderful 101
Hideki Kamiya, and his team over at Platinum Games, brought about a very unique game exclusively to the Wii U, The Wonderful 101. This isometric action-adventure title has you controlling 100 civilians-turned-heroes from an alien invasion on Earth. Between its vibrant art-style, refreshing gameplay, and strong soundtrack, The Wonderful 101 is a game that should be experienced by any Wii U owner (or newcomer).
9) Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water
Fans clamored for it since the Wii U’s creation, and we’ve finally received it. Fatal Frame is the long-running horror series that started during the PS2 era and had an interesting road. Starting as a PS2 exclusive, then going multiplatform with the original and sequel on Xbox, then back to PS2 exclusivity for the third installment, then the fourth game being exclusive to the Wii…talk about being all over the place. Well, Nintendo has invested its share on the property ever since they nabbed Fatal Frame 4, but unfortunately never came stateside. Thankfully, Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water (the fifth installment) has received a western release, and while it’s strictly available in digital format, it’s better than nothing at all. With the game’s weapon based around a camera, the GamePad opened up a whole new level of immersion. Using the GamePad as your camera, the game feels like it was meant to be played this way since the very first installment. With an intriguing story, horrifying elements, strong atmosphere and engaging gameplay, Fatal Frame is an absolute must-own for any horror fans.
8) Hyrule Warriors
Take the Zelda universe, and then mesh it in the same style as Dynasty Warriors and/or Warriors Orochi, and you’re given the surprise hit of 2014, Hyrule Warriors. Developed by Omega Force and Team Ninja, this game was a great spinoff on the highly successful franchise. Slashing away at (literally) thousands of enemies each level, taking on epic bosses, playing as numerous characters from the Zelda universe whether solo or co-op, made for an immensely entertaining take on the series.
7) Super Mario 3D World
The character that defined gaming as we know it, Mario games have always had a level of polish, brilliance, and downright fun that countless games still can’t capture. Instead of creating an epic scale Mario game like Super Mario Galaxy 1&2 were on the Wii, Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube, Super Mario 64 on the N64, etc., we are given an updated take on the 3DS’s Super Mario 3D Land, with brand new worlds, new abilities and 4-player co-op. The game is also the very first HD 3D Mario game, and it looks beautiful. It also introduced us to Captain Toad, which led to his own game a year later. Super Mario 3D World may not be the grandiose scale Mario game we were hoping for on the Wii U, but that doesn’t detract it from being an excellent game.
6) Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
“So they’re finally here, performing for you, if you know the words, you can join in too…” Ok, so it may be 16 years since that song got stuck in our heads courtesy of DK64, but man, Donkey Kong games are some of the finest platformers ever designed. Retro Studios took on a Herculean task with Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii, and they decided to take care of some “unfinished business” with its sequel, DKC: Tropical Freeze. Gone are the motion controls, and reprising their role as composer was none other than David Wise, the mastermind behind the brilliant SNES Donkey Kong Country soundtracks. This game is no walk-in-the-park, nailing the old-school difficulty feel of the SNES originals. This game truly captures everything we loved since the first DKC on the SNES: tight gameplay, sublime soundtrack, and stunning visuals. This is one platformer that every Wii U owner must have.
The biggest surprise hit for Nintendo that released earlier this year, Splatoon provided Wii U owners an exclusive that refreshingly tackles the shooter genre. Instead of your typical grey-toned, bloody-screen, gritty war environments, Nintendo created a shooter that’s quite ingenious. You play as Inklings, a hybrid of humans and squids, whom can instantly transform between the two formations. All weapons revolve around ink, which must be shot and splattered around the environment to help traverse your way around areas quicker. Its 4-on-4 multiplayer also steps away from your typical Team Deathmatch, and replaces it with Turf War, a graffiti-style game mode that’s all about which team can splatter the most amount of ink on the map. It’s immensely gratifying, deep and rewarding. Nintendo also provided a plethora of free DLC via patch updates, whether it be new levels, new weapons or new gear. Splatoon is easily Nintendo’s biggest new IP, and one that shouldn’t be missed by any means.
4) Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U
Super Smash Bros. is one of Nintendo’s system-selling franchises, hands-down. This is the game that gets your friends together to duke it out as your favorite Nintendo or third-party affiliated character in the dream matchup you’ve always wanted to see. Also adding into the mix of things are Amiibos, which when scanned on the GamePad via NFC, lets your Amiibo learn your fighting style and level up to become your best partner to bring into a Team Battle. With its largest roster ever (which is still expanding with the recently announced Cloud from FF7), 8-player multiplayer, smooth online mode, Mii Fighter creations, stunning visuals, and perfectly fine-tuned gameplay, Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U is a game that doesn’t need much said to know.
3) Mario Kart 8
Another flagship title for Nintendo that has been a worldwide phenomenon is Mario Kart, and with Mario Kart 8, Nintendo wasn’t playing around. Visually, Mario Kart 8 stands as one of the finest-looking games this generation (and that’s also includes that of which we’ve seen on the PS4 and X1 as well). The gameplay has also been fine-tuned to provide much more balance with the vehicles, no matter whether you’re driving a kart or bike. With the most extensive roster, 2 DLC packs that added an additional 16 courses and extra characters, smooth online play, plethora of control options and downright addictive gameplay, Mario Kart 8 is one of the sole reasons a Wii U should be in everyone’s house.
2) Bayonetta 2
Now here’s an exclusive that was announced back in 2012 that had fans of the original cursing at the heavens. Bayonetta 2, which was pitched to SEGA but turned down, came to fruition thanks to Nintendo’s partnership with Platinum Games…and what a miracle that turned out to be, because Bayonetta 2 was not only my personal 2014 Game of the Year, it is by far one of the greatest action games ever made. Bayonetta 2 took everything that made its predecessor stand out, and upped the ante tremendously with every epic boss battle feeling like something that would normally feel like a final boss battle in other games. The bombastic, stylish gameplay is silky-smooth, and near impossible to put down once started. Also, there are several Nintendo-specific unlockable costumes, an online co-op mission mode, and they’ve even remastered the original Bayonetta on a separate disc, and packaged it together. Bayonetta 2 is the perfect example of a sequel that trumps its predecessor (and that says a lot since the original was excellent). There is no better action game available on the Wii U.
1) Super Mario Maker
Remember all those countless hours playing Super Mario? Whether it was the very original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, or the recent New Super Mario Bros., you’ve had your fair share at the gameplay. Now take those memories, and be granted the ability to actually create your own levels from scratch in the simplest way possible, utilizing visual and gameplay styles from the Mario games just mentioned. Sounds pretty amazing, right? Well, it is…and it is also Nintendo’s biggest title for the Wii U. Thanks to the ingenuity of the GamePad, creating a level in Super Mario Maker takes literally minutes, and provides a deep amount of customization as well. Add in the best Amiibo functionality to date, which lets you scan an Amiibo to use that character as a costume for Mario (the original NES style only though), and you open up even more limitless creations. Super Mario Maker takes the perfection of the series, and provides players with the tools to create their own personal style to anything they can imagine. This is why Super Mario Maker is the number one game to own.
While those are my top 10 choices for which games Wii U owners (and potential newcomers) should strongly consider adding to their collection, there are numerous others that I really wanted to put on the list. However, for obvious reasons, not all of them can make it on the Top 10. And these games are strictly based on what’s been available from launch day to its three-year birthday. With games like Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Star Fox Zero, and the new Legend of Zelda games releasing within the next 12 months (to name a few), the Wii U certainly isn’t lacking in games (or exclusives).
What are your favorite Wii U games? Did they make the list? Sound off in the comments below!