We’ve all known it for a long time, but now it’s official: the Wii U is dead. As the eagerly-anticipated follow-up to Nintendo’s phenomenally successful Wii, it’s clear that the Wii U was an unmitigated failure. Whether that’s down to poor marketing, poor communication, poor third party support, or poor specs (or, indeed, a combination of the lot) – that’s beside the point. All that needs to be realised is that it was a flop, and Nintendo learned the hard way that they cannot cruise forward solely on the wave of previous achievements.
However, that’s not to say the Wii U was a bad console. Flawed and unloved, certainly. But bad? For all its faults, it had a pretty solid library of games. Arguably one of the strongest software line-ups for any console, in fact – certainly for first party Nintendo stuff. Basically, the Wii U wasn’t all terrible. There’s no doubt in my mind that it will – or at least ought to be – totally eclipsed by the imminent launch of the Switch, but before the death knell for the Wii U tolls its last, let’s have a quick look back on the top five games that made me feel my purchase was justified…
Honourable Mention: Bayonetta 2 (2014)
Okay, okay, I know I said Top 5 but I just couldn’t let this one go unmentioned. While it’s just shy of claiming a place in my actual list, there’s one very simple truth that we all need to remember – without the Wii U, we would never have had Bayonetta 2. Condemn the console to the depths of history all you want, but it certainly pulled a few surprising punches during its tenure. A near-perfect action thrill-ride from Platinum Games, this is a Wii U title at its most unexpected and brilliant. Even better, if you bought the Special Edition, you got a definitive version of the first Bayonetta game (originally only for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) bundled in, complete with crazy Nintendo costumes. Bayonetta wearing Link’s tunic or Samus’ power suit? Hell yes. When you consider that Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 closely intertwine both narratively and gameplay-wise (they’re weirdly both sort of prequels and sequels of each other), it’s an irresistible package and one that comes highly recommended if you can get your hands on it. And remember: it’s only on Wii U.
5. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (2014)
Speaking of Bayonetta… here she is again, along with about a bajillion other iconic characters in the ultimate fan-pleasing fight-fest! Even I’m a little surprised that Smash Bros. is coming in so low on this list, but don’t let that put you off – this is one amazing, amazing game. Some of the best ever stages, some of the best ever mechanics… and, hands down, the best selection of fighters in any Smash game ever. In no other title (except, of course, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS) will you be able to play as Mario, Sonic, Mega Man, Pac-Man, Ryu from Street Fighter, Bayonetta, and Cloud from Final Fantasy VII… all at the same time! It’s a true masterpiece that, quite possibly, may never be topped. It’s positively bursting at the seams with content, and all it really needed to add a little longevity for me was a more in-depth single player experience (akin to Melee’s Adventure Mode or Brawl’s Subspace Emissary – basically, anything that isn’t the dire Smash Tour). Missed opportunities aside though, as far as multiplayer fighters go, they don’t come much better than this.
4. Mario Kart 8 (2014)
It’s a photo finish, but just racing ahead into the number four spot is Mario’s HD racing debut. When it comes to the core mechanics and track selection, I have no shame in admitting that Mario Kart 8 is my favourite entry in the series to date. It’s also got a killer soundtrack, and the graphics… oh, the graphics! Good lord, is this game ever gorgeous. I could gush and gush about Mario Kart 8 all day – and maybe someday I will. I clocked so many hours into this experience, and finally unlocking all of the Gold Kart parts was a very proud moment in my Wii U career. I dearly wanted to place this game higher up the list, but it’s impossible to deny a couple of harsh realities: firstly, the Battle mode is a hollow shell of what it used to be, and beyond the Grand Prix modes there isn’t a whole lot to keep coming back for if you’re a solo player. Secondly, there’s a better version only three months away: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe arrives on Switch on 28th April, with better resolution, more characters, and a much improved Battle mode. No new race tracks though, which is a little odd. Either way, it’ll probably make the Wii U version completely obsolete. At least I’ll always have the memories.
3. Splatoon (2015)
Thankfully, Nintendo’s only new IP in yonks is one that definitely (ahem) stays fresh. An online multiplayer shooter in a way that only Nintendo could do an online multiplayer shooter, Splatoon is a fun and refreshing take on the genre. You might even say it’s ink-redible. Paintball has never been so engaging, and it’s the game that spawned a thousand memes (you’re a kid now, you’re a squid now!). Again though, it suffered – at least to start with – because of a lack of content. The initial offerings were limited, and while Nintendo did beef the stage and weapon counts up considerably via free downloads, it’s clear they should have been there in the first place. Fortunately, there was a decent (if short) single player campaign to enjoy in the meantime, with some of the most ingenious level design and boss battles I’ve ever played. Not what you’d expect from a shooter! I can only hope that the creativity and longevity continues on into Splatoon 2 on Switch. Roll on the Summer!
2. Hyrule Warriors (2014)
I’ve nitpicked a lot so far about games lacking content. Not so here. If anything, I’m going to nitpick the opposite. Hyrule Warriors is a game with too much content. Way, way too much. It’s oversized, overstuffed, and over ambitious… and I love it. And that’s arguably only talking about the base game – there’s a cavalcade of impressive DLC that only adds, and adds, and adds to what you can do. So many characters, so many maps, so many missions… you could spend literally hundreds upon hundreds of hours trying to 100% this title. I salute you if you even dare to attempt it. Clearing Legend mode, the first Adventure map, and smaller sections of the other stuff was more than enough for me. Yes, the gameplay is a bit one-note and repetitive, and yes it can become a bit monotonous after a while. But you know what else it is? Cathartic. Slicing down hoards of foes with the Master Sword (or other weapon of your choice, however bonkers) is bloomin’ good pick-up-and-play fun. This is a love letter to all things Zelda that got me into the Dynasty Warriors style of gameplay and has made me considerably hyped for the upcoming Fire Emblems Warriors on the Switch. If it’s anything like Link’s hack and slash outing, it’s going to be a seriously satisfying experience.
1. Super Mario 3D World (2013)
A lot of people are quick to bash this one these days, and I don’t really know why. When it came out, everyone seemed to love Super Mario 3D World – and while I’ll happily admit it doesn’t have the scope or scale of Super Mario Galaxy, it’s also not trying to be the next Super Mario Galaxy. This is 2D Mario in a 3D space, the next evolution after Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS. From start to finish, it’s pure platforming bliss. Some of the best power ups in Mario history (cat suit and double cherry, anyone?), one of the best soundtracks, some of the best stages (Mario Kart throwback!), and an endless slew of originality that never dries up. If it’s got a flaw, it’s that it’s a little too linear and restrictive for its own good. But when I think of the memories I’ll take away from my Wii U, clearing the hard-as-nails Champion Road over and over again with all five characters is what my mind will spring to first. Heck, the fact that this is the first 3D Mario game where you can play as Rosalina(!) makes this a contender for the top spot alone. I have every faith that Super Mario Odyssey on Switch will be bigger and better in every way, but for my money, Super Mario 3D World is an underrated gem that fully deserves all the credit it can get.