This week, I’m picking the games that defined Nintendo’s Wii U console.
No matter how you feel about it, the Wii U is most definitely a low point in Nintendo’s illustrious history. Coming off the back of the Wii’s impact on the mainstream gaming zeitgeist, the Wii U simply failed to deliver a console that inspired the market as its predecessor had done. Let us not forget that the system was both released and replaced this current generation – If that’s not an admission of a failure on Nintendo’s part, I don’t know what is.
But that’s not to say that there weren’t any games worth picking up the system for. Given that third-party support had all but dried up in a matter of months, Nintendo kept the system going for as long as they could, with first-party titles and a few third-party partnerships that resulted in some quality games. Some of these standout games have even found their way to the Nintendo Switch console, giving them a further lease of life. These are the games I feel defined the Wii U for me personally. You might well disagree, so I’d love to see your picks in the comments below.
If someone told you five years ago that not only would we see a sequel to Bayonetta, but that it would also be a Nintendo-exclusive console property, you’d probably think they were madder than a Japanese action game. Bayonetta 2 took the very best elements of the original release and cranked them up to eleven. Actually, probably up to 15. It didn’t necessarily redefine the wheel, but it never needed to, giving fans of the first game a lot more of what they loved, and new players a Bayonetta title that was a lot more approachable.
Developers Platinum Games are known for fast-paced, ultra-arcade action and Bayonetta 2 delivers this in shovel-loads. It’s the sort of action game that you might be able to get by with some button mashing, but eventually, you’ll understand the importance of evading enemy attacks and being a little more strategic with your attacks, and putting combos together. There’s a flow to everything going on that compels you to keep playing because it just feels so damn good to play, no matter what your ability. Platinum even added a touchscreen mode, which made the same simple enough for anyone to play.
With both Bayonetta 1 & 2 coming to Wii U, these games were tweaked to add a little more Nintendo flavour to the proceedings, with a handful of nods and winks, including costumes based on Princess Peach, Daisy, Fox McCloud and Samus. This was on top of the two titles also featuring many a reference to classic SEGA games, too.
Now that these games have been ported to the Nintendo Switch, and a third game coming exclusively to the system, there’s really never been a better time to spend a little time in the company of the Umbran witch herself.
The Wii U never really received a traditional follow-up to the Wii’s excellent duo of Super Mario Galaxy releases, and instead received new instalments in two different takes on Super Mario – New Super Mario U was an early game for the system, that was a classic 2D take on the series, but the title I’d like to put forward on this list is Super Mario 3D World. Rooted in the Nintendo 3DS’s Super Mario 3D Land, this is a platformer with a 3-dimensional environment, but with a fixed camera. Similarly to the New Super Mario series, this game also allowed up to four players to play at the same time.
I’m putting this game on the definitive list because I feel it has that Nintendo magic in a way the New Super Mario Bros. U didn’t. Because of the fixed camera, it has that frantic platforming feel you get in a 2D game, but because the action takes place in a 3-Dimensional space, the level design can be a little more playful. There are truly some incredible levels in this game, such as a brilliant homage to Super Mario Kart, or several levels that rely on platforms that flip over in time to the stage’s background music.
It’s a title that goes back to the well of classic Super Mario design, calling back elements of older releases, such as the character traits of Super Mario Bros. 2, as well as a return to the power-up-centric design of those pre-Mario 64 games. The introduction of new power-ups like the ridiculously cute Cat Suit and the mind-bending Double Cherry also open up new gameplay possibilities, from the climbing and gliding abilities of the former to the multi-character controlling possibilities of the latter.
Whether played alone or with friends, this is a modern platforming classic that successfully tweaks the Mario formula into something a little bit different, expanding on what was great about the original Super Mario 3D Land. Sure, it doesn’t really play to the Wii U’s gimmicks, but that’s honestly for the best.
We’ve all got a favourite Mario Kart, and this one is mine. Mario Kart 8 is as perfect as the long-running racing series gets for me – The finished product of two and a half-decades of minor and major evolutions to the formula, all wrapped up in one of the slickest packages ever delivered by Nintendo.
Mario Kart 8 is the sort of game that absolutely would not look out of place in an amusement arcade, thanks to those beautiful, colourful visuals running at an eyeball-melting 60 frames per second. But it doesn’t just look great, it also plays like an absolute dream – Nothing beats the feeling of drifting around a corner at full speed, dodging enemy shells and replying with your own.
The anti-gravity gimmick is pretty subtle, in-fact you probably didn’t even realise it was there, but it brings a subtle change in strategy as the road areas that flip your vehicle into anti-gravity mode require you to flip your thinking and ram players in order to receive a small speed boost.
As always, it’s a fantastic multiplayer experience, with a much better online infrastructure than previously experienced in the series, but of course, the four-player offline mode is still just as enjoyable as ever.
This eighth instalment also quite a big turning point for the series, as well thanks to the addition of DLC and Nintendo’s first attempt at a Season Pass. Controversially, it adds non-Mario content such as brand new tracks and characters from other franchises like F-Zero, Animal Crossing and The Legend of Zelda – But these new additions still fit in perfectly, while the new tracks are just incredible. In addition, the 200cc mode that was added later on is the fastest that Super Mario Kart has ever been – Matching the sort of speeds you’d expect from an F-Zero release.
It might have been made redundant by the Deluxe version on Nintendo Switch, but it doesn’t stop this original entry being a definitive Wii U release.
Nintendo gets a lot of stick (and quite rightly) for relying too much on familiar franchises and not taking enough risks in terms of new IP, but in Splatoon we see the old guard at Nintendo giving way to a new generation of developers, and with them, some exciting new ideas.
Splatoon is the beginning of this brave new world for Nintendo. A third-person, online multiplayer-focused shooter that is, for the most part, less about violence and more about capturing turf by spraying ink over it. Hyper-coloured and with a brilliant aesthetic style, it’s a clever take on a shooter – With your chosen weapons both serving to frag your opponents as well as to paint the arena, as well as your ability to swim through ink in your color, the gameplay has a brilliant flow to it.
The highest compliment you can give Splatoon is that in splitting the focus in between offensive manoeuvres and painting territory, all as part of a team, you always feel like you’re making progress and are contributing to the goals of the team. Even if you’re not great at taking down enemies, you can easily slot yourself in the role of painting or provide support to others. Even without voice chat, it’s surprising how well you can feel as part of a team.
While the default control method, where you tilt the Wii U controller to aim might have its detractors, it’s a surprisingly elegant method of being able to move, aim in any direction and shoot all at the same time.
Meanwhile, Splatoon’s crowning glory is it’s minimal, but effective approach to world and lore building. Every element of the game, from the fashion-focused equipment, the in-game celebrities, Callie and Marie – And even the in-game music, all come together to give you an insight in this fascinating world of squids and octopuses.
Another title that has been superseded by a Nintendo Switch release in the form of its own sequel, this is still an excellent franchise debut that paints a positive image of Nintendo’s future.
I think there are very few of us that didn’t think it would be awesome to design our own Super Mario levels, so it’s astounding to think that we wouldn’t officially get our chance until 2015’s Super Mario Maker.
With a fair bit of DNA from the Super Nintendo’s Mario Paint creativity suite, Super Mario Maker provides a simple but surprisingly powerful toolset for making practically any sort of Mario game you could ever want. The prospect of infinite Mario at your disposal is a pretty exciting one, especially when you can share and download created levels over the internet.
And once you do begin to see what other levels are being created by other talented people, you’ll be astounded by the creativity on display. Granted, a large quantity of levels are Rube Goldberg machines where they use the physics and attributes of various objects to take Mario from start to finish without a single button needing to be pressed – Which is pretty amazing the first few times you see it, but quite irritating when you just want to play, but nothing compares to seeing new levels with clever ideas that not even Nintendo have come up with – All created within the seemingly rigid framework of Mario Maker.
It’s just as much fun to create levels and challenge friends and family to tackle them, being as forgiving or as utterly merciless as you like, and it’s a game that will keep you entertained and engaged for as long as you want to be.
I finish up this list with a game that pretty much defined the Wii U’s entire lifespan. Following the Wii’s Skyward Sword, fans of the series were itching to see what would come next for The Legend of Zelda. Early Wii U promotional videos promised a return to the darker aesthetic of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess and in true Zelda style, year after year passed with a little glimpse here and there of what Link’s next adventure could be.
In 2014, a teaser trailer was released that showed off a beautiful landscape, followed by a cloaked Link running from a new enemy, then letting loose a magic-infused arrow before fading to a white screen teasing a release date of sometime in 2015.
More time passed, and it was eventually clear that a new Zelda release would once again signal the twilight of one console and the dawn of a new one, as Breath of The Wild would be released as one of the Wii U’s last big games, and the first to appear on Nintendo’s new Switch console, as had been done previously on Gamecube and the original Wii.
Breath of The Wild was a brave new direction for the series, eschewing the standard narrative and progression structures of the past, with this latest release going fully open world with the sort of ambition and execution only possible by Nintendo. While the Wii U version would be released after the Switch version, it was by no means any less of a game, barring a slight graphical downgrade and losing the portability of its newest sibling.
While this new direction possibility alienated as many fans as those who adorned it with acclaim, it was the perfect way to bookend the Wii U – A console that, while underperformed, gave Nintendo a chance to sow the seeds for the future – And that is possibly the Wii U’s real legacy.
Do you agree with these games being the definitive Wii U releases? What games would you add to this list and why? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you.
I’ll be back next week with another video, but until then – Please like this video, share your thoughts in the comments and subscribe down below if you haven’t done so already. Thanks for watching, and happy gaming!