The 25 best Wii U games

With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's release in early March 2017, the Wii U has effectively ridden off into the sunset. The perpetually beleaguered Nintendo console launched in 2012 riding high off the success of the Wii, and a short five years later has found itself all but forgotten, as Nintendo replaces it with the much more exciting and much more versatile Switch. It was a failure by virtually all metrics, except the one that really matters: the games.

Even with the lackluster sales and cumbersome GamePad, Nintendo's Wii U played host to some of the best games the publisher/developer has ever made. Strange games that have no business existing like Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE and Bayonetta 2, new franchises like Splatoon, and some of the best Super Mario and Super Mario-adjacent games all found a home on Wii U, and while not every game took advantage of the GamePad's unique input features, those that did were unlike anything you could find on any other device. So as Nintendo enters an exciting new era, let's take a few minutes to celebrate the 25 best Wii U games ever made.

25. Lego City: Undercover

We've heard you joking, saying, "someone should make Lego Grand Theft Auto!" whenever a new Lego game was announced. You never expected anyone to do it, did you? But then, all of a sudden, Traveller's Tales actually did it--and it was super good. Lego City: Undercover includes a massive city to explore and all the charm Lego games are known for, all without the M rating open-world crime games usually get. Instead, it's a fun trip through a blocky city that anyone can enjoy, filled with things to build and people to save.

Exploring the world as Chase McCain is a ton of fun, and being able to change into eight different outfits to take on new jobs adds plenty of gameplay variety. Donning an astronaut costume will let you zoom around in a jetpack (because apparently astronauts have jetpacks), and dressing as a firefighter allows you to put out fires you find in the open world. Though you'll likely miss co-op, which was oddly omitted from Lego City, there's a good chance you'll be distracted enough by the dozens of hours of content that you'll barely notice it's missing.

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24. The Wonderful 101

Don't mistake The Wonderful 101 for some sort of group-management game like Pikmin--this is a full-on action game wrapped in a Viewtiful Joe disguise. You control a superhero in a wonderfully realized world full of sass and puns (no surprise considering The Wonderful 101 comes from Platinum Games, the team behind Bayonetta). With dozens of followers under your command, you must save the world one GamePad stroke at a time.

See, your superhero can command his followers to form giant weapons--whips, swords, etc--which is done by drawing the corresponding shape of said weapon on the GamePad's touchscreen. While this is a great use of the Wii U's unique controller, in practice it can be rather difficult to draw certain shapes on the fly while simultaneously dodging attacks onscreen. Still, The Wonderful 101 is packed with charm and humor in equal measure, and even though its gameplay doesn't always translate into fun, it's a mostly enjoyable adventure all the same.

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23. ZombiU

Ubi’s surprise launch day hit is still as terrifying as it was back in 2012. London has been hit by the zombie virus and you’re one of the few survivors out there who hasn’t turned into a brain hungry staggering fiend. It’s not like zombies haven’t been done to, well, death but ZombiU manages to crank up the tension in a number of ways. It’s permadeath for one thing. Send your intrepid survivor out into London town and die and you’ll restart as another person entirely, complete with backstory. All that’s left of your previous character is a shambling corpse and one that you’ll probably have to kill if you want your precious rucksack of stuff back.  

ZombiU is brutal and nasty. Survival is difficult, weapons are scarce, but a lot of the fear stems from some terrifyingly inventive uses of the gamepad. While you’re rummaging around in your rucksack for loot, you’re prime zombie munching fodder so every gaze into your inventory is a serious risk. Looting enemies and sniping is all done through the gamepad too so it all genuinely feels designed for the console instead of shoe horned in. Officially the scariest game on Wii U. 

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22. Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a rarity: a reboot that's immensely better than its source material. It takes the granularity of the original PC classic, cuts much of the excess baggage, and streamlines the experience with tightened combat and modern open-world design touches. The result: a game that honors its past while looking forward, all wrapped up in a transhumanist narrative that combines real existential questions and typically schlocky conspiracy narratives to thrilling effect.

The Director's Cut arrived a few years later on Wii U, fixing the boss fights to allow for non-lethal methods of engagement, enhances the graphics, lighting, AI, and more, and even integrates the second screen on the GamePad to allow for more intuitive and immediate controls. It may have lost exclusive status like nearly every other non-Nintendo Wii U game, but it's still a great version of a stellar game.

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21. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze,

If you've ever played the Donkey Kong Country series on Super Nintendo, you know that those games are hard. Yet despite the fact that you will die again, and again, and again, it never seems so bad because the challenge is fair, and even the trickiest platforming section feels conquerable with enough effort. That same spirit of sublime difficulty is alive and well in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, the Wii U sequel to Retro Studios' excellent 2.5D reboot of DK's jungle-stomping franchise.

Besides the tough-but-gratifying running and jumping, Tropical Freeze has great presentation and polish. It's packed with subtle detail and vibrant visuals, and a great soundtrack makes the whole experience all the more enjoyable. Plus, the three different Kongs you can partner up with--Diddy, Daisy, and Cranky--each have a unique ability, providing some variety in the way you approach each challenging obstacle. Sure, Tropical Freeze is tough, but it's difficult in all the right ways and is a must-own title for any Wii U owner.

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20. Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge came to Wii U about a year later than every other console, but this means Nintendo got the definitive version of this gorgeous, old-school Metroidvania game. The Wii U version added a leaderboard function for speedrunners - on other consoles, you have to record this info yourself - and you can always see the map on the Wii U GamePad. For a game about exploration, this a revolutionary addition. There are no hints in Axiom Verge - no arrows pointing you where to go - so the incorporation of the Wii U’s second screen is a masterstroke.

This may be a form of heresy, but it’s safe to say Axiom Verge is better than many of the classics that inspired it, and if you’re going to play any version of it, this is the one to pick up.

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19. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Imagine a host of your favourite JRPG characters clocking off, unbuckling their swords and kicking back at the weirdest nightclub on the planet, and you’re somewhere close to Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. It’s a concept so absurd it's almost alienating, combining elements from relatively niche games such as Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, and an aspirational teen J-Pop storyline. But this is precisely what makes it so special. 

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a fun, incredibly player-friendly romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously - yes, bad things are happening, but everything is bright, cheerful, and tongue is firmly in bubblegum-flavoured cheek. If you want a game that’s happy to throw in mid-dungeon song-and-dance routines to fake anime theme songs, this is the only place to come. It's magnificently weird and proud of it, using a ridiculous concept to craft a solid, surprisingly engrossing JRPG that's impossible to resist.

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18. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

When it comes to Monster Hunter you either get it, or you don't. If you don't, then Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate feels like an unintuitive mess of mechanics. If you do, than you'll find yourself losing hundreds of hours slaying monsters, looting them for parts, crafting new gear, and then doing it all over again. Ultimate's Wii U version is the definitive iteration of the game, with strong visuals, great controls, and online play that'll keep you grinding for a long time.

And, honestly, if you fall into the "don't get it" class, you might as well give Ultimate a go anyway. It has all of the fun of an MMO smashed into a game you can play solo--and if you end up getting hooked, you can pick up the 3DS version as well, and transfer your character between the two to keep playing no matter where you are.

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17. New Super Mario Bros. U

The Wii Us launch lineup has been one of strongest in recent memory, thanks in no small part to launching with a brand-new Mario game, which hasnt happened since 1996. This time around Nintendo created a new entry in the well-loved retro franchise New Super Mario Bros. And believe us when we say its the best 2D Mario since the SNES days.

Inviting to new players while still being challenging, New Super Mario Bros. U has tons of interesting new enemies, clever stage design, and fresh approaches to classic Mario boss battles. NSMBU also offers a surprising amount of replay value thanks to engrossing minigames and levels packed with secrets. If you only have room in your budget for one game on the Wii U, it should be this one.

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16. NES Remix Pack

We dare you to tell us that the NES era wasnt a pinnacle of gaming culture. Try to pretend that Mario didnt rock your sox, or that the open-ended depth of the original Legend of Zelda was a complete game changer and youll have the world calling your BS in minutes flat. Unfortunately that time (much like the rest of our childhood) has passed, but that doesnt mean we cant dive into the old classics with NES Remix.

But while all of our old favorites return for another round, this collection throws a few curveballs into the mix as well. Series mascots can bleed into separate franchises, some levels are completely transformed, and silly challenges like hyperspeed modes or autorunning only give us more ways to play the games weve beaten to death. With luck, this could catch on for other generations as well.

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