Best Wii U games
What to buy?
It's no secret that the Wii U is struggling. With sales much lower than expected, Nintendo's newest console lacks the software library it needs to really take off. Thankfully, that library continues to expand, and has a few high-quality titles at its foundation.
In order to keep you in the know, we’ve ranked the best games to own so far for the system, taking into account quality, use of the system’s unique features, and other intangibles. This is a living list, but as of right now the best Wii U rankings begin with...
Updated on 2/19 with the release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
15. Nintendo Land
Much like Wii Sports, Nintendo Land was created to be an inviting tech demo for Nintendo’s experimental new console. But that’s pretty much where the comparisons cease, because Nintendo Land is made to appeal to both the blue ocean of casual players as well as the millions of Nintendo junkies around the world. And though the 12 core minigames vary in quality, when Nintendo Land gets it right, it makes for great fun for up to five players.
Set in a virtual Nintendo theme park, each minigame is an attraction inspired by a different Nintendo franchise. The standouts of the bunch are intense versus battles like Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, in addition to deeper co-op adventures like Metroid Blast and Pikmin Adventure. Even if some of the single-player challenges are too shallow, Nintendo Land is a great party game perfect for introducing your friends to your new console, and will keep you entertained long after they leave.
14. 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.
13. The Lego Movie Videogame
If you haven't already seen The Lego Movie, do yourself a favor and watch it. If end up finding it as awesome as we did, then you'll want to check out The Lego Movie Videogame, a fun adventure that follows the plot of the film. Playing as various characters from the movie, including protagonist Emmet and his love interest WildStyle, you'll smash your way through various obstacles and environments, all made entirely of Legos.
The hilarious writing from the film shows up in spades here, and some of the plot's most memorable scenes translate incredibly well into fun gameplay. So, too, does the ability to swap between characters, all of which feel quite different from one another. Plus, if you've got some friends in tow, The Lego Movie Videogame makes for a great co-op experience. You know what they say: Everything's awesome, everything's cool when you're part of a team.
12. Call of Duty: Ghosts
Hankering for a shooter to play on your Wii U? Call of Duty: Ghosts is one of your few options, which is fine because it's a pretty damn good one. Now, it's by no means revolutionary--if you've played any of the recent CoD games, you have a good idea of what to expect--but it's a finely crafted experience that'll easily siphon hours from your life.
The admittedly lackluster campaign is offset by some fantastic multiplayer. Most of the maps now feature some minor destruction events that slightly alter their layout, and the new extinction mode, while not quite as exciting as zombies, is a great palate cleanser after a few competitive matches.
11. 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.
10. Darksiders II
The original Darksiders was a unique approach to the tried-and-true Zelda formula of dungeon exploration, but its sequel finally gave the Darksiders series its own identity. A massive action adventure game with tons to explore and challenging enemies to battle, Darksiders II is about the journey of Death, a Horseman of the Apocalypse, and his attempt to prove the innocence of War. Along the way he collects a ton of loot.
Hitting the Wii U a few months after 360/PS3/PC, this port remains one of the deeper adventures you’ll find on the console, particularly in the equipment department. The game uses the GamePad best when it comes to your loot inventory, mostly thanks to the touch screen streamlining the menus some. Other than that, the exclusive features are light, but that doesn’t detract from Death’s engrossing battles against angels, demons, and everything in between.
9. Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition
In case you were in a coma for the past couple years, gamers around the world were treated to one of the greatest superhero games of all time in Batman: Arkham City. A sequel to the already-ambitious Arkham Asylum, City carves out a big chunk of Gotham City for Batman to stalk, fighting crime and saving lives from the shadows. Everything we loved about the first game was expanded and improved, be it the combat, gadgets, enemies, and stealth navigation. This is a must-play game whether you love Batman or not.
What makes Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition worth it? From a value standpoint, it’s appreciated that the game includes all the DLC that was available on other systems, and even if many uses of the GamePad are fairly shallow, you have to give the developers credit for adding more Wii U-specific features than a majority of the launch ports. If you’ve missed the game until now, Armored Edition is a great way to finally experience it.
8. 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.
7. New Super Mario Bros. U
The Wii U’s launch lineup has been one of strongest in recent memory, thanks in no small part to launching with a brand-new Mario game, which hasn’t 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 it’s 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.
6. Rayman Legends
Few games mix whimsy and challenging fun as successfully as Rayman Legends, a wholly entertaining platformer that'll simultaneously put your skills to the test and a smile on your face. It all starts with the hand-drawn aesthetic. The cartoon-like visuals are downright gorgeous, and the characters--Rayman, his pal Globox, and the wizard Teensies--have plenty of quirky animations and personality.
Of course, that wouldn't mean much if the gameplay wasn't good, but Legends is one of the best platformers around. Each level is packed with hidden secrets and a slew of obstacles--ranging from deadly pits to equally deadly bad guys--that'll keep you on your toes. And each of its multiple worlds closes out with an incredible music stage, where every jump and action happens to the beat of a song. Don't miss out on this excellent game.
5. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Who would've guessed that Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag would become one of the best pirate games ever made? Protagonist Edward Kenway is one of the coolest AC characters to come along since Ezio, and his do-what-I-want attitude fits in perfectly with the carefree lifestyle of his pirate pals. The beautiful setting alone is worth a trek through AC4; you'll parkour through lush Caribbean jungles, swim through shark-infested waters, and obtain your own pirate ship with which you can siege any vessels you encounter on the ocean and loot them for all they're worth.
The Wii U's GamePad also has some pretty awesome features. First, there's the obvious benefit of being able to play entirely on the GamePad itself, which is great when the TV isn't available. And, if you want to enjoy the gorgeous visuals without clutter, you can move the entire HUD to the GamePad. A pirate's life for Wii!
4. 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.
3. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Gaming has come a long way since 2003, but the Zelda series has yet to truly improve upon the brilliance of Wind Waker. The gorgeous, understated art has aged gracefully, as has the action-packed gameplay and mystery-rich dungeons. Wind Waker took all the tropes of the Zelda franchise and reimagined them in a story that’s both reverent of franchise mythology while still taking chances with expectations.
When Nintendo returned to the title for an HD remake, the developers did far more than upscale the visual fidelity. Wind Waker HD fixes the majority of the few real problems the game had, such as the spotty pacing near the end and the sometimes-frustrating stealth. The best Zelda game ever made just got better, and is worth turning on your Wii U for--whether you played the original or are dying to know what all the fuss is about.
2. Pikmin 3
The Wii U's killer app has arrived, and it's not a Mario game. Yeah, we were surprised, too. Pikmin 3 is everything we wanted and more, and makes a great case for the Wii U hardware. Pikmin has been Nintendo's smartest franchise since Olimar first stumbled around an alien planet, putting strategy and planning ahead of platforming and brawling, and this game pushes the envelope even further. Patrolling the massive, beautiful world as the crew of the SS Drake is awe-inspiring, and you'll love collecting fruit and fighting strange animals around the huge world.
Better yet, it takes great advantage of the second screen by allowing for multitasking that would be damn near impossible on any other platform, enhancing the already-impressive gameplay by letting you control all three characters at the same time. It's everything you want from a next-gen game--it's pretty, it's smart, it wouldn't have been possible on older hardware, and... it's fun. It's really, really fun.
1. Super Mario 3D World
No, Super Mario 3D World isn't the next Mario Galaxy. It's a much safer bet for Nintendo, and one that's in line with the company's attempts at appeasing the core while retaining the casual crowd. But don't let that dissuade you--it's an incredible success, and while it doesn't really feel as ambitious as Mario's space-bound journeys, it might be the closest thing we'll ever get to a sequel to Mario 64.
With fantastic gameplay and some of the best level design in the franchise's history, 3D World is a landmark achievement in platforming. It's downright ingenious at times, with clever worlds that nod to the franchise's past without being too obsessed with its own legacy. And while you might come for the core gameplay, you'll find the multiplayer actually finally works as a complement instead of a detriment. Whereas previous attempts turn the precise platforming of Mario into a chaotic mess of head-bouncing, 3D World's 3D worlds mean you're actually able to play together without getting in each other's way. It's an evolution, a revolution, and a must-own.
What are Wii U waiting for?
This is a work in progress, so look forward to this list getting updated with each new hit that comes to Wii U. What upcoming Wii U games do you think will join this list? And do you think we missed any great games? Let us know in the comments!
Do you also own Sony and Microsoft's next-gen consoles? Then check out our list of best PS4 games and best Xbox One games.
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