5. Mario Kart 8
Oh, it's another Mario Kart game, huh? Just like the ones you've played for hundreds of hours on almost every single system Nintendo has ever sold? Don't be so quick to judge, because Mario Kart 8 brings some huge advancements to the series, starting with the visuals. This game has to be one of the most gorgeous looking projects in Nintendo history; the company's overdue arrival into the HD era.
But MK8 doesn't just get by on its good looks. It brings a ton of gameplay changes, like greatly expanding the number of races, adding new anti-gravity sections that do a great job of freshening up all the retro courses that return, and finally adding an item that can counter the dreaded Blue Shell. The online gets a major boost too, and works smoothly throughout while letting players upload their racing highlight videos to YouTube. Mario Kart 8 is the most current the series has ever felt, all without giving up the pure multiplayer fun at the heart of the action. Oh, and the Animal Crossing DLC pack is worth every ultra charming penny for those new tracks.
4. Bayonetta 2
Nintendo's been such a clean cut, family friendly company for so long that it still boggles our minds to see Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U. Nevertheless, we were more than happy to see the wild witch find a home in the house that Mario built. It's that pinch of exotic spice the platform needed; a touch of over-the-top, hyper-sexy silliness that makes us feel better about being adults that still play with the baby system
And that gameplay; fast, slick, stylish, smooth, and every other adjective that can be used to positively describe an action game. Bayonetta 2 has us hooting and hollering as we take down that tough to beat boss, then diving back in for another try and the high score. With the original included as an added bonus, we'll happily take any excuse to fly ourselves to the moon one more time.
3. 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.
2. 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.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the most exciting game Nintendo's made in years. It drops decades of baggage and formulaic world-design by embracing the free-form exploratory nature of the very first game in the series, all while layering in dozens of modern, interweaving systems to make sure it never plays the same way twice. It has all the tools available for the kind of improvised mischief you'd find in Far Cry 2 or Metal Gear Solid 5, but still has that immaculate Nintendo touch in its characters, its quests, and its puzzle Shrines. Breath of the Wild is a bold new direction for The Legend of Zelda, one whose vistas and sunsets we'll be soaking up for years to come.
The Wii U's swansong is simultaneously the Switch's killer app, but however you decide to play, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a grand, colorful, and majestic adventure well worth experiencing. If you're not quite ready to take the plunge and drop $300 just for portable Zelda, or you want to give your Wii U a proper send-off, the Wii U version is more than capable, offering an experience that is virtually comparable to its next-gen successor.