Nintendo's Wii U has been out for just over a year, and while it hasn't exactly been a smash-hit success, it's nevertheless garnered a fervent following thanks to its library of truly excellent games. To help you sort out the best from the rest, Team USG has looked at the roster of Wii U titles and chosen the ones they think are the most worth the money. We've linked directly to games we've already reviewed, and provided a mini-review for those we haven't.
There are two categories listed below. The Best is exactly what it says – these are the games we believe are the finest Wii U has to offer. Recommended games are great fun, but are best suited for fans of that particular type of game.
- Wonderful 101
- Pikmin 3
- Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
- Super Mario 3D World
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Director's Cut) – A terrific cinematic first-person sci-fi adventure set in a dystopian future. One of the best adult games for Wii U.
- LEGO City Undercover – A wonderfully accessible take on the open-world genre, coupled with that trademark Lego humor.
- Mutant Mudds Deluxe – Very enjoyable and challenging oldschool platform game that feels like it comes right out of the very early '90s.
- Rayman Legends
- Super Luigi U
- DuckTales Remastered
- Game and Wario
- Mass Effect 3: Special Edition – A terrific sci-fi adventure that lets you choose how to navigate its rich and detailed story.
- Just Dance 2014 – The guilty pleasure of millions of gamers is funky great fun.
- ZombiU – This one is definitely NOT for kids. It’s also not for novice gamers. But if you’re an experienced gaming adult, this offers some entertainingly scary fun.
- Sonic Lost World – It’s no Mario, but it’s getting there. This 3D platform game is perhaps Sonic’s best outing in years.
- LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes - Top-notch action-adventuring is here for the taking. Great voice acting, a huge cast of characters, and a great sense of humor make this one you should definitely check out.
- Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition – There aren’t many fighting games on Wii U, but this is one of the better ones.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara – This is actually a compilation of two mid-90’s D&D games, Tower of Doom and Shadow of Mystara. Great for oldschool RPG’ers.
- Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate – The hugely popular RPG from Japan has you doing exactly what it says on the box. Its multiplayer mode is superb.
- Need for Speed: Most Wanted U – If you’re after a fun, action-packed driving game, this one is Wii U’s best.
- Nintendo Land – A celebration of a selection of old-school Nintendo games -- including a few more obscure titles -- through the medium of surprisingly compelling, addictive minigames. Particularly good if you have friends around.
So those are the games that we believe are the best that Wii U has to offer right now. But which ones are our own personal favorites? Over to Team USG to reveal all:
Super Mario 3D World
I'm trying to think of a generation when one of the very best games on Nintendo's system didn't have Mario on the box. And I'm going to stop thinking, because I can't. This generation is no exception. I played Super Mario 3D World at E3 as a four-up demo, and immediately fell in love with it. It's an absolutely terrific game, packed with all the usual Mario-esque goodies and tricks to keep you entertained, challenged and - most important of all - having an absolute blast. There's nothing else like it. Phenomenally creative, genius, write-the-book games design.
But is it a system seller? Not quite. Few games are to be blunt. But it's most certainly a must-have if you do have a Wii U, and really does give you a damn good reason to buy one when you combine it with some of the other system-best Wii U games.
Sonic Lost World
This is the blue hedgehog's best outing in years.
Lemme tell you right now - this game is flawed, and you might even hate it. Some critics certainly did. But for me, this is the blue hedgehog's best outing in years. What I love - and this is the perspective I'm coming from - is that the game captures the feel and spirit of Sonic's original 2D platforming adventures, but infuses them into 3D Mario-style gameplay. The end result is a really enjoyable game that has some really fun moments, and a modern, yet retro feel. Because of that, I'm prepared to overlook its occasionally ropey level design and sometimes very annoying cheap deaths that harken back to the early 90's games upon which this draws its inspiration.
I'd definitely try it before you buy it, because some of the boss battles are also oldschool annoying - but if you come from a time when games killed you just for walking over the wrong glowing pixel, you'll probably have a lot of fun here.
Ideally, I'd put Bayonetta 2 right here. Having played a preview version of the game, it's looking utterly brilliant. But since it's not out yet, I'm instead going to go with an equally insane, over-the-top game, Wonderful 101 (which just happens to be from the same developer). Few games offer the kind of relentless, off-the-hook craziness that Wonderful 101 does. From tons of little dudes getting smashed all over the screen to bonkers boss monsters leaping about, it's non-stop insanity. The game's combo-generating drawing mechanic seems to be a love-it-or-leave-it kind of thing, but if you get on with it, prepare for some hilarious action that gets more and more mental the further you get into the game.
Wonderful 101 isn't the most challenging game out there, and it's also not the longest. But it's great while it lasts, and does offer some excellent bonus challenges that hardcore completists will really enjoy trying to get. Great stuff!
Super Mario 3D World
Is this too much of a cliché? Too predictable? Yeah, well... deal with it. Super Mario 3D World really stood out this year (and in several surrounding years) for daring to do the unthinkable: It applied HD power and a full-size development budget to craft a game focused entirely on colorful, whimsical fun. Even BioShock Infinite, which at least had the decency to splash vibrant color around its environments, still amounted to shooting guys or beating them bloody with a wrench. But Mario emphasizes the pure joy of play.
Mario 3D World isn't quite perfect, but don't let its rough patches deter you; with this game, Nintendoes what the rest of the industry don't.
I've said plenty about the game already, but I can't speak highly enough of its willingness to stray from the AAA video game mold. Maybe that amounts to business as usual for Mario, but it's a quality that's become tragically rare these days. And the incredible variety of the game! Every stage offers a new and different visual treat; every level introduces new mechanics; fun, interesting ideas show up once and never again. Yet it all manages to feel cohesive and unified. Were there any games this year that managed to pull off that trick? Everything else I played (even stuff I enjoyed) was either endlessly repetitive or else felt like a hodgepodge of incoherent ideas with no unifying soul. Mario 3D World isn't quite perfect, but don't let its rough patches deter you; with this game, Nintendoes what the rest of the industry don't. It's a rare and precious gift in a sea of conservative big-budget monotony, and I can think of no better reason to own a Wii U.
Take your pick; both Scribblenauts entries on Wii U cover the same basic ground. One has more comic book content than the other. Otherwise, they're largely the same thing. And make no mistake, Scribblenauts has never really lived up its potential; even in the most recent entries, the puzzles tend to be tragically shallow and you can bully your way through them with remarkable gracelessness. Don't let that fact get in the way of recognizing all that makes Scribblenauts so fun, though: Like Minecraft, it's as entertaining as your imagination allows it to be.
Yeah, you can solve most puzzles with the same set of tricks, but why would you want to? The appeal of this series is its free-form sandbox insanity -- describe a few things and go hog wild. Last year I decided to see just what would happen if you tried to solve every puzzle with Cthulhu, and it was one of the most amusing game experiences I've ever enjoyed. I suppose the appeal rest primarily on the user, but if you're looking for a break from games that lead you by the nose, constantly telling you what to do, Scribblenauts is a great antidote: A game that wants to respect the limits of your imagination, or at least your vocabulary.
Maybe this is cheating, but this is a huge advantage Wii U has over its competition right now: It can play your old games. Wii U is backward compatible with the Wii's massive library, meaning you don't have to keep a second system hooked up to catch up on the last-gen games you missed. You can also bring the entirety of your Wii Virtual Console collection (which for me is an absolutely massive library of greats; your mileage may vary) and convert them to Wii U native versions as Nintendo allows. It's not perfect -- Wii U's Virtual Console is creeping at a snail's pace, there's no 3DS cross-buy, and the lack of GameCube compatibility is a bummer -- but it sure beats what's available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Which is "bupkis."
Now that we're through the console launch madness, there aren't a whole lot of PS4 and Xbone games I'm dying to play. Those systems will be collecting dust until next year when games like Thief and Titanfall start to trickle into stores. But even if Wii U didn't have a library of solid titles from the past year to spend time with, I'd still have Wii greats I missed (sorry, Xenoblade) and timeless classics like Super Metroid and EarthBound to keep me busy until February. I know Sony has made vague rumblings about streaming the sum total of the PlayStation library, but until they start laying down some concrete details I'll consider that a load of fanciful speculative fiction that exists in a sci-fi future where America's online infrastructure is much better than what we're using now, much like Xbox One's theoretical cloud processor upgrades. Great games in hand now sure beat a forgotten claim of nebulous potential.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Yes, I know this is available on other platforms, but something just feels right about playing it on Wii U. Like its predecessor, Wii U is an inherently social console built more for playing with friends in the same room rather than competing online against faceless opponents, and Sonic Transformed is a brilliant example of well-implemented communal play. Additional players can always drop in or out from the menu screen, and many of the "single player" modes can be played with friends in tow. GamePad functionality is minimal, but the fact the extra screen allows for five simultaneous players instead of four (at the expense of a bit of frame rate) is a pleasing nod to those with more than three friends.
This game is basically the Blur sequel we never got.
Plus this game is basically the Blur sequel we never got, having been developed by many ex-Bizarre staffers. That alone is enough to make me look upon it particularly fondly -- I loved Blur, and a lot of the same magic is present here.
LEGO City Undercover
I'll be honest with you, readers, I haven't actually played this at all. I have, however, watched my girlfriend play it for 75 hours and unlock 100% of the content in it, so I feel duty-bound to mention it.
To be fair, it looked like a highly enjoyable game, and for something to be able to maintain the interest of my girlfriend like this is doing something right. She plays games on her 3DS, phone and tablet, but it's rare for her to get invested in a console game she's playing herself, and even rarer for her to commit to something this lengthy. It helps that the game is easy to understand and control, and that it doesn't punish you particularly harshly for "dying," too -- it's difficult to "fail" at the game, with the main challenge coming from the post-game content that sees you exploring the sprawling open world of Lego City in search of a ton of hidden goodies.
It's funny, too. Like, really funny. It's a pleasure to play a game that's so well-written, and which includes some good quality voice talent from UK comedians you probably haven't heard of such as Adam Buxton and Peter Serafinowicz.
I was about to bemoan the fact that no-one ever mentions the fact Wii U is backward-compatible, but Jeremy beat me to it. So I'll reiterate what he said, hopefully in a different way.
Wii U may feature a dearth of good, new games, but what a lot of people forget is that you can play the substantial library of Wii games on it with minimal difficulty. And despite Wii's reputation as being a shovelware machine full of poor-quality casual party games, it actually played host to some truly fantastic games that are, for my money, among the best of the outgoing generation.
Monolithsoft's Xenoblade Chronicles is just one such example. A wonderful, sprawling, open-world adventure, Xenoblade Chronicles is the Final Fantasy XII sequel we never got -- well, until Final Fantasy XIV came along, that is. Combining enjoyable real-time combat with some very endearing characters, a bucketload of sidequests and a genuinely fascinating world to explore, Xenoblade is one of the best JRPGs I've ever had the pleasure of playing, and the prospect of Monolithsoft returning to Wii U with its mysterious "X" is something I'm very excited about. In the meantime, if you own a Wii U and you're yet to experience Xenoblade Chronicles, set aside a hundred hours or so and enjoy the ride; you won't regret it.
Super Mario 3D World
Even at their worst, Mario games are at least mediocre and Super Mario 3D World isn't the series' worst. Is it what I wanted from a Wii U Mario game? No. After New Super Mario Bros U I was hoping for another installment in the Galaxy series. 3D World is pretty damn good, it just wasn't the flavor I wanted; it's like getting the world's best chocolate when you're craving vanilla. On the bright side, Nintendo says they haven't forgotten the Galaxy series so there's hope on the horizon.
For most people this holiday season, Super Mario 3D World will be the right game to pick up. Classic characters, local multiplayer, great level design add up to a great title for the whole family. And you won't want to murder each other like you do in New Super Mario Bros U or one of the Mario Party games. That's a win for everyone.
LEGO Marvel Superheroes
Do yourself a favor and give a loved one a wonderful gateway into the Marvel Universe.
LEGO City Undercover? Feh. If you're going LEGO, go with the superior LEGO game. LEGO Marvel has all the humor, collectibles, and open world of LEGO City, but does LEGO City have Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men? I think not. And who can forget the magical Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool? If I were a child again, I'd definitely agree that more characters equal more awesomeness.
I've reviewed it twice and it was worth playing both times. I called it the best kids game on PlayStation 4, and while the market is more crowded on the Wii U, LEGO Marvel still stands as one of the best. Do yourself a favor and give a loved one a wonderful gateway into the Marvel Universe.
Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
I was going to do Scribblenauts, which is one of the titles that works really well with the Wii U GamePad, but Jeremy already hit that one so I'm going with Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. I know you're thinking I'm crazy for choosing a download-only title, but if Pete and Jeremy get to point to Wii and Virtual Console games, then I can at least stay on the same hardware platform.
Yes, you can pick it up on Steam, Xbox Live, and PSN, but that doesn't mean it's not great on the Wii U. You get a 3D take on the original Bit.Trip Runner, some great music, new characters, and it's cheap! Instead of the $50 most of these other games will cost you - picking up Xenoblade will set you back $70 at GameStop - Runner 2 is a cool $15. It's worth every penny or whatever your local version of the penny is.
Super Mario 3D World
Jeremy's review of Super Mario 3D has me hyped. Not just because Jeremy's a bit of an expert on all things Mario but because it looks like a stunning way to revisit old friends and favorites. The music, the graphics, the myriad of variety each level is apparently informed with? Glorious. It also features a Cat Suit on top of everything else. Which, well, is bloody grand.
Have I mentioned the Cat Suit? Because cats.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Director's Cut)
I keep meaning to do a few editorials about this game but I keep getting sidetracked by other things. Gosh darn other things. Still, Deus Ex is awesome. While I've never had any experience with the Wii U version, I'll happily vouch for the game in general terms. Slick and stylish even after all these years, Deus Ex isn't perfect but it's a lavish tribute to the spirit of cyberpunk. This isn't just a game pivoting around cool mechanical augmentation. Deus Ex examines the issues tied around access to certain benefits - what people will do to get to them, what people do without them. There are situations that quietly parallel things that happen in our day and ages, stuff about smilingly offered prejudice and casual cruelty that left me squirming in discomfort. Which, weirdly, was a wonderful experience.
Slick and stylish even after all these years, Deus Ex isn't perfect but it's a lavish tribute to the spirit of cyberpunk.
Deus Ex is one of those games that rewards experimentation and allows for personal style. My playthroughs have always been, barring unfortunate circumstances, stealth-centric but it's also entirely possible to muscle into enemy territory like the Hulk gone Iron Man. If you're willing to forgive the slightly dated visuals and the occasional glitches, it's an amazing way to spend a few hours.
ZombiU is one of the few Wii U games I've been able to get my hands on and it scared me silly, in spite of the fact I was messing around with it in the middle of a crowded convention. The core ideas behind it are simple and probably familiar to anyone who has spent any amount of time watching horror movies. London is overrun with zombies and you, good sir, must bloody well get out. Of course, the issue here is that your persona in the game is, much like the real you, allocated only one life. Get mauled by a zombie and, well, you'll get to be a zombie yourself. The twist here is that whatever you've collected will remain with your former self. If you want that hard-won armament back, you're going to have to go get it. (And possibly risk getting killed by yourself again. Quite meta.)
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