With Nintendo recently shutting down the production of the Wii U, their latest console can officially be declared dead. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to have a good time with this underrated little machine. Though its catalog doesn’t run as deep as other consoles, the Wii U supports a great collection of games you can’t play anywhere else. If you’re late to the Wii U party, or simply need a refresher, you’re in luck. The following list contains the best Wii U games out there.
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No one makes fast-paced, flashy, and highly technical brawlers like Platinum Games, and Bayonetta 2 stands as their best creation to date. This stellar sequel cuts out the cheap deaths from the original and doubles-down on the developer’s trademark madness for one amazing experience you can only have on the Wii U. Seriously, Bayonetta 2 starts with a set piece that would end most other games, and the action only ramps up from there.
Of course, Bayonetta’s excellence makes perfect sense when you realize she’s the brainchild of Hideki Kamiya. He’s the former Capcom developer who directed the first Devil May Cry before moving on to create Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and other modern-day classics. And, if you’ve never gotten around to playing the first game, this Wii U sequel comes with a port of the original right in the case. Even if you’ve already completed Bayonetta 1, a second playthrough could be worth it. How else could you blaze through those levels a second time dressed as Super Mario’s Princess Peach or Metroid’s Samus Aran?
At first glance, a competitive multiplayer shooter from a developer new to the genre might not seem like the greatest idea. But Nintendo took the idea and ran with it, creating an approachable and wildly creative experience perfect for veterans and newcomers alive. Unlike most online shooters, the point of Splatoon isn’t wasting members of the opposing team, but rather, coating as much of the map as possible with your designated color of ink. (Though wasting members of the opposing team certainly helps with this goal.)
Splatoon’s unique approach means even passive players can play a vital role in their teams success, while the more aggressive ones can take to the front lines, or snipe from strategic locations. No matter which role you prefer, Splatoon has a weapon to help you fill it, and many ways to tweak your specific play style with a variety of accessories and clothing. The icing on the cake is Splatoon’s bold style, with its bold colors, ridiculous outfits, and original songs written in the language of the characters. Ultimately, Splatoon exists as one of Nintendo’s biggest surprises in recent years, making its sheer greatness feel even more special.
Super Mario Maker
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After 30 years of Super Mario games, Nintendo finally gave players the chance to put their own level-designing skills to the test with 2015’s Super Mario Maker. In our modern age of vast, 3D worlds, the straightforward, side-scrolling antics of Mario may seem a little simple in comparison, but looks can be deceiving. With the huge array of parts available—and many styles to craft them in—slapping together a worthwhile level can often take hours. Sure, you can always scatter enemies, traps, and power-ups haphazardly, but, like Nintendo, you’re presumably making these levels for an audience to enjoy.
In fact, it’s the social aspect of Super Mario Maker that makes the creative process so rewarding. After you upload your levels to Nintendo’s servers, real people can play them, add comments to specific sections, and even reward you with a coveted gold star if they think your stage is up to snuff. If you’re not keen on creating levels, Super Mario Maker has a nearly unlimited amount of content, what with how it gives you access to tons of levels made by Nintendo and budding designers. If you’re a fan of Mario’s 2D roots, there’s a lot to love in this Mario creation kit.
Super Mario 3D World
Super Mario 3D World might not be as revelatory as the Wii’s Super Mario Galaxy was nearly a decade ago, but it’s still an amazing game that does a great job of expanding on its 3DS predecessor. Simply put, it’s pure fun delivered in the traditional Mario fashion, meaning lots and lots of variety. It’s a game that rarely uses the same idea more than once, making it a consistently fresh experience that’ll leave you wanting more by the end.
That said, Mario scholars love 3D World most for giving players the ability to finally play as Princess Peach alongside Mario, Luigi, and Toad. (Previously, the New Super Mario Bros. games swapped her for a Toad of a different color.) But really, no discussion of Super Mario 3D World can happen without mentioning the cat suit power-up, which transforms the entire cast into fur-suited fuzzballs, perfectly primed for Internet fame. Oh yeah, and outside of making the Mario characters cuter, this feline form also allows them to scale walls. This new power definitely provides a new angle on traditional Mario action.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
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The Wii U isn’t known as an RPG machine, but it’s the only place to find one of the best ones in recent years. Xenoblade Chronicles X comes from a long line of esteemed RPGs, dating back to the PlayStation’s Xenogears. Though Xenoblade acts as a spiritual successor to the old Xeno games, it carries many of the same themes. But mainly, it features big, cool robots in an RPG setting, so what more could you want?
If you didn’t play the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles, X amounts to the same kind of RPG. Simply put, you’ve given a huge world, and almost too many things to do in it. If you think of this game as a single-player MMORPG, you’ll start to get the idea. Saying Chronicles X stands as the best RPG on the Wii U doesn’t mean all that much, but it’s still incredibly worthwhile. Just expect it to take up 100-plus hour of you if you expect to get the most out of it.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
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The Donkey Kong Country games helped the Super NES win the console wars, and while the Wii U hasn’t been so lucky, Tropical Freeze may be the best game in the series to date. This latest DKC sequel keeps the fast-paced platforming of the past, and throws in some new “helper” characters to spice things up. Dixie Kong allows Donkey Kong to jump higher and float, while Cranky uses his cane to give your jump attack more oomph. And Diddy’s back, of course—with his rocket jump from Donkey Kong Country Returns.
Along with being a great platformer, Tropical Freeze is also beautiful looking and sounding game. The detailed, varied backdrops contain some of the best graphics you’ll ever see on the Wii U, and the music couldn’t be any better. Original DKC composer David Wise returns to compose for Tropical Freeze, proving he hasn’t lost a scrap of talent in the passing decades. If you love Mario, but already played his handful of Wii U games, definitely give this one a go.
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Pikmin fans had to wait ten years, but they finally got their sequel—and it’s a great one to boot. Essentially, this series takes the form of a cartoony real-time strategy (RTS) game. You control packs of critters who come in different colors that signify their abilities, and use them to fight enemies and carry treasure. Keeping your tiny army intact requires careful planning, especially since Pikmin 3 lets you control three different teams simultaneously.
Just as Pikmin 2 added new varieties of those little carrot people, 3 has its own additions. Fairy Pikmin can fly, while Rock Pikmin can break certain obstacles and do more damage to enemies. These new twists, combined with the already solid Pikmin foundation, makes this sequel one of the best games on the Wii U. If you’ve never jumped into the series before, this is a great place to start. (And since the Wii U is backwards compatible, you can always move on to the older games.)
Mario Kart 8
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It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a Nintendo system has a good Mario Kart game, but this one is really good. Rather than going with a gimmicky approach, Mario Kart 8 feels more like a “back to basics” installment. Still, Mario Kart 8 at least innovates in one big way. Its collection of tracks has you racing up walls, through loop the loops, and even upside down. Thankfully, the perspective always stays fixed to your racer, so things never get too pukey.
It also helps that a Mario Kart game has never looked this good. Nintendo’s racing series took 21 years to make it into HD, and they definitely took advantage of the surprisingly powerful Wii U. Even the music receives an upgrade, as live instruments to most of the work instead of synthesized ones. And since Nintendo inexplicably went with a jazz theme for Kart 8, expect to hear a lot of great sax solos while power-sliding around corners. If that doesn’t sound appealing, you’ve clearly never heard F-Zero music sound so classy.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Since 2001’s Super Smash Bros. Melee, Nintendo’s fighter has pretty much been a known quantity. Essentially, this series amounts to a video game pinata chock-full of Nintendo fan service. If that sounds appealing to you, look no further than Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. It’s simply the biggest and best Smash Bros. to date, not to mention the prettiest. With so much content and so many features, you have to wonder where Nintendo could possibly go from here.
Along with beloved returning character, this Wii U Smash Bros. also offers some worthwhile additions. Mega Man, Pac-Man, and the Duck Hunt duck and dog combo definitely make for the most interesting additions to this sequel. And if you don’t mind paying for DLC, you can also play as Ryu from Street Fighter, or Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. Smash Bros. for Wii U essentially launched Nintendo’s line of Amiibo figures, so this could be your entry into that world as well. Since they’re so much cheaper and easier to find these days, there’s never been a better time to start hoarding those attractive chunks of molded plastic.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
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Though Zelda fans didn’t react well to Toon Link’s original unveiling, The Wind Waker has gone on to become a beloved classic. Originally released for the GameCube, this sprawling adventure trades the rolling hills of Hyrule for a vast, open sea. The Wii U update polishes this already great game, making it an absolute must-play. (Especially if you’ve never played it before.)
Along with making the jump to HD, this version of The Wind Waker also adds a few improvements. Sailing now goes by much faster than it did in the original version, for one. Wind Waker HD also does a great job of eliminating some of the more tedious elements from vanilla Wind Waker. Ultimately, you won’t be able to find a better version of this fantastic Zelda adventure. And if this is your first time with The Wind Waker, you’re really in for a treat.
To find out more about Nintendo’s next console, check out our full coverage of the Nintendo Switch.