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The 25 best Wii U games

The best Wii U games are a fantastic celebration of everything Nintendo's previous console had to offer. The perpetually beleaguered Nintendo console launched in 2012 following the success of the Wii, and a short five years later has found itself all but forgotten, as Nintendo gradually but inevitably 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.

Read more: Star Fox Zero review

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 went there, and it turned out to be a great game too. Lego City: Undercover includes a massive city to explore and all the charm Lego games are known for, without the Adults-only rating that 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 sim 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're tasked with saving the world one GamePad stroke at a time.

See, your superhero can command his followers to form giant weapons - whips, swords, etc - which is achieved 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 death (or undeath), 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, enhancing 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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