Production on the Nintendo Wii U has halted less than four years after it launched. Not surprising that with the Nintendo Switch looming, the Wii U is close to extinction. In most respects, the Wii U was a failure for Nintendo. From confusing marketing to its cheap-feeling tablet controller to the dated graphics and UI to the lack of third party support, the Wii U just never caught on like Nintendo expected. Still, there were some great games for the console, and now is the perfect time to rank its very best offerings.
10. Mario Kart 8
Nintendo’s venerable kart-racer, while not a radical innovation on the series, introduced a number of small changes into its winning formula. The antigravity aspects were particularly well-integrated. Masterful track design, and a much quicker pace–not just literally, but with customization features, too–made Mario Kart 8 as engaging and addictive as ever. Even though we wish it would’ve included the dual racer component of Double Dash, Mario Kart 8 was nothing but quality in its efforts. Smooth, 60 fps, and a vibrant color palette made this the most fluid and beautiful entry to date. The vast character roster (30 racers), and a fairly well-implemented online mode added consummate replay value. It’s fun solo, but like its predecessors, it truly shines in the company of friends, both on the couch and online.
9. Bayonetta 2
If Nintendo had managed to get a few more third-party exclusives like Bayonetta 2 onto the Wii U, perhaps the console would’ve thrived–or at the very least, survived a little longer. Most were surprised when PlatinumGames decided to release the sequel to their surprise PS3/Xbox 360 hit on the Wii U, and while the game did go over the 1 million sales mark with a low install base, it still didn’t reach the audience it deserves. The stylish action-adventure (think: Devil May Cry and God of War) pitted powerful combos against devilish foes in one of the most visually impressive titles on the console. If only the game a better narrative with intriguing dialogue, it would appear much higher on this list.
8. New Super Mario Bros. U
The trend of reviving 2D Mario continued in New Super Mario Bros. U. Despite the awful name, this was a return to a day when Nintendo innovated with each successive adventure. In what really felt like two separate games, a traditional story mode and a challenge mode, Nintendo finally figured out how to appeal to both casual and core gamers. Superb level design, interesting takes on boss battles, and a gradually ramping difficulty makes New Super Mario Bros. U a meticulously thought-out, persistently fun romp through the Mushroom Kingdom. Rehashed music and dull colors keep this one from the top half of this list.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
The updated version of the GameCube/Wii classic brought out some glaring visual inconsistencies, most notably the muddying of textures in the dark world. HD editions of games are supposed to make the game look better, but Twilight Princess HD only does this to its benefit about half of the time. Where it does make improvements are in its controls, and that’s enough for it to find a place on this list. It may not be one of the best 3D Zelda games, but it houses many of the best puzzles and dungeon designs in the franchise.
6. Pikmin 3
Pikmin is hands down the best Nintendo developed intellectual property since the turn of the century. Real time strategy infused with a Lemmings style mantra, Pikmin is as charming as it is intelligent. The third entry, released nine years after the second, blended nostalgia with novelistic flavor for good measure. The gamepad controller worked perfectly here, making it one of the few games that truly felt at home on the Wii U. Even with its short length, and minimal replay value, Pikmin 3 was a must-play game. And it still is. Pikmin 3 is Nintendo’s answer to strategy games in the same vein as how they have turned Mario into a sports hero. It strips away the unnecessary clutter to deliver wholeheartedly on its clever premise.
Splatoon was perhaps the best multiplayer game released in 2015 not named Rocket League. It took the longstanding multiplayer variant, capture the flag, and turned it on its heel into something fresh. Covering the terrain and enemies with ink as a way of winning matches sounds like it could be chaotic, and it is, but in its chaos there is a certain order that changes the way we think about what multiplayer games can be. Because Nintendo still lags behind on the online front, Splatoon likely never reached its full potential. Those who participated in the now defunct “Splatfests,” know that the offering was good and plenty. Pure fun in a way that few multiplayer games reach today.
4. Super Smash Bros.
50+ playable characters, 50+ stages, a robust single player, and a deep online mode make Super Smash Bros. the game with the best out of the package value on the Wii U. The ridiculously popular brawler fine-tuned what was done right in Brawl, and modified it for a wider appeal. There will likely always be arguments on whether Melee or Smash 4 is the de facto Smash experience, and that’s fine, but there’s no denying that Smash 4 is one of the most comprehensive fighters. There’s so much to unpack and unlock, and the more you play, the more rewarding it all is; far reaching appeal for both newcomers and veterans alike, Smash 4 is still the best game to play on the couch with friends and family.
3. Super Mario 3D World
No, this wasn’t the 3D successor to Super Mario 64, Sunshine, or the Galaxy duo that most fans would’ve wanted. Yet, like Super Mario 3D Land did on the handheld, Super Mario 3D World mixed old school Mario with 3D elements to create a peculiar hybrid on the console. And it worked. It worked well. The level design represents Nintendo at its very best, though. Creativity brims throughout each stage. With some of the best platforming in the series spread across this lengthy campaign, a great co-op mode, and tough challenge levels, 3D World is persistently great. All of this, throw in the delightful soundtrack, and its charm is contagious.
2. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Wind Waker was the most expansive Zelda game when it came out in 2002, and eleven years later it became the most expansive game on the Wii U. If you don’t care for cel-shaded graphics, Wind Waker has always been a turn off. That’s a shame, though, because the world of Wind Waker is endlessly enchanting, and the HD version made an already damn near perfect game even better. Remastered editions get a lot of flack, and rightly so, considering many are cash-grabs. But Wind Waker HD was entirely reworked, its minor presentational and mechanical flaws were sanded down. A new lighting engine was employed. The result: the best remastered game from the sixth generation of consoles. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD was very close to nabbing the top spot on this list for presenting one of the best narratives of the series in its finest form.
1. Super Mario Maker
Super Mario Maker asks: You’ve been playing these levels since you were a child, do you want to make a few of your own?
Part creation tool, part 2D sidescroller, Super Mario Maker turned the player into the designer, and the designer into the player. And on and on, back and forth, through an endless amount of community created content.
Super Mario Maker has evolved into a powerful tool for making eclectic experiences, all inside the framework of the most iconic game franchise of all time. It’s a game about the limitless possibility to create something worthwhile. For that, it triumphs above the rest of the Wii U roster.