What are the Best Virtual Console Games for Nintendo Wii U?

Shop smartly with this breakdown of ever classic game release available for Wii U Virtual Console. Now with full evaluations of all games from all platforms!

List by Jeremy Parish, .

Nintendo 64

Nintendo has honestly dropped the ball with N64 representation on Wii U. Where Wii Virtual Console featured quite a few 64-bit games, those same works have failed to make their way to the next console in decent numbers. Still, the ones that have appeared have almost entirely been worthwhile, so at least there's that.

Page 1: Intro & NES Essentials
Page 2: NES Worth Playing and Save Your Cash
Page 3: Super NES
Page 4: Nintendo 64
Page 5: Game Boy Advance
Page 6: Nintendo DS

Paper Mario
Nintendo, 2001
The Mario RPG franchise has lived a rather checkered existence of late, with releases like Sticker Star, Paper Jam, and Dream Team eliciting mixed reviews at best. The original Paper Mario, however, still holds up beautifully. Cleverly turning the workings of Mario into a simple RPG, and offering witty dialogue around every corner, this adventure's still a classic.

Sin and Punishment
Treasure/Nintendo, 2000
Treasure's N64 magnum opus never came to the U.S. back in the day, but sometimes cosmic injustices can be righted after the fact. A stunning forward-scrolling shooter in the tradition of 16-bit arcade classics like Devastators, this import is an essential no matter where you live.

Super Mario 64
Nintendo, 1996
Action games from the PlayStation and N64 era tend not to hold up very well thanks to their clunky controls and awful graphics. Super Mario 64, however, breaks that rule. Yeah, the camera's a bit wobbly, but everything else about this breakthrough 3D platformer remains solid 20 years later. Even the graphics look pretty decent!

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Nintendo, 1998
Ignore the "greatest game ever" hyperbole that still clings to this game like the stench of stale cigarette smoke and you have... a really and truly excellent action RPG featuring an engrossing world and brilliant dungeons, bosses, and central play mechanics. The 3DS remake is a little better, but you can't go wrong with this classic.

1080° Snowboarding
Nintendo, 1998
It's simplistic, sure, but what do you want from a game about snowboarding? 1080º did a great job of playing to the N64's strengths with clean graphics and a brisk pace, and it's still fun today.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
HAL/Nintendo, 2000
Any Kirby game is worth playing, but this one falls a bit short of true greatness. It fails to take full advantage of its most unique feature — the ability to combine two enemy powers at once — and the fuzzy visuals of the N64 leave the whole thing feeling just slightly "off." It's fun, but not essential.

Mario Golf
Camelot/Nintendo, 1999
Building on the standard Golf template with a variety of extra modes (including one specifically designated to unlock extra characters), Mario Golf on N64 was a lot of fun... but for our money, not as fun as its Game Boy Color counterpart, which featured an RPG-like story mode.

Mario Tennis
Camelot/Nintendo, 2000
The same rule applies to Mario Tennis as did with Mario Golf: This version is fun, but it strangely enough lacks the depth of its portable companion game.

Donkey Kong 64
Rare/Nintendo, 1999
Rare developed some pretty good Donkey Kong games; this one doesn't make the cut. Its focus on hunting endlessly for collectibles as an essential part of the game structure undermines any good you might find here with sheer, crushing tedium. About the only thing this Kong sequel has going for it is the fact that it contains the original arcade game as a bonus — the only way you can legally play the true version of Donkey Kong without owning a 35-year-old arcade cabinet.

Yoshi's Story
Nintendo, 1997
After the brilliant Yoshi's Island, this saccharine romp through a toothless, world came as a huge letdown. Its crafty art style still looks nice, but the action (such as it is) mostly involves sniffing around for color-coordinated fruit. Simple and boring.

Page 1: Intro & NES Essentials
Page 2: NES Worth Playing and Save Your Cash
Page 3: Super NES
Page 4: Nintendo 64
Page 5: Game Boy Advance
Page 6: Nintendo DS

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Comments 22

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  • Avatar for Roto13 #1 Roto13 2 years ago
    NES games on Wii U. Too dark and blurry. :/ Same with N64 games.
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  • Avatar for Neifirst #2 Neifirst 2 years ago
    The Legend of Zelda is not an NES essential? This must be an oversight..
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  • Avatar for jimgamer #3 jimgamer 2 years ago
    I know you haven't got there yet, but the GBA emulation is a joy. Responsive and bright, with a decent filter for the big screen. Off-screen play is like holding a giant GBA. Metroid Zero mission has never been more fun.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #4 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    @jimgamer Yep, if you click to the GBA page I said as much. M2 rocked the GBA shell's face off. Per usual.
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  • Avatar for Macuelos #5 Macuelos 2 years ago
    Ufouria sounds very interesting! I think I'll check it out next time I'm in the eShop.

    Surprised to see all-American classic StarTropics not on the NES list anywhere. Is it not on the NA VC?

    That's also a bit of a problem: Europe sometimes has more releases (like Drill Dozer) which don't show up here because they haven't been released Stateside. So sad.
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  • Avatar for jimgamer #6 jimgamer 2 years ago
    @jeremy.parish I still marvel at the dip switch settings screen they put on the DS Konami collection. Do you have any experience with the Japanese WiiU's PC Engine emulation? I recall the Wii had some with a smeared effect and some almost pixel sharp.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #7 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    @jimgamer I haven't played any Japanese Wii U VC titles. TG16 emulation on Wii started out pretty rough, but eventually they started putting games that worked in proper 240p output rather than being upscaled. Since Wii U can't output 240p video, there's some sort of upscaling being applied to PCE titles, but I don't know if it's bad upscaling (e.g. NES on Wii U) or good upscaling (e.g. GBA on Wii U).
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  • Avatar for jimgamer #8 jimgamer 2 years ago
    @jeremy.parish thanks for clarifying. I didn't realize the WiiU had no 240p support. So presumably, if I broke out my CRT and tried to use my WiiU in wii mode with component cables and set the tv type to 480i, then it would look worse than the original Wii? Kinda regret transferring my Wii VC purchases (50+ games) to the WiiU now.
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  • Avatar for jimgamer #9 jimgamer 2 years ago
    For what it's worth, Contra III on the SNES is peak-Konami. They perfected the Contra formula here, and it really needs the big screen and big speakers for that epic orchestral soundtrack - level 3 and level 5 are outstanding. ( Japanese Contra: Hard Corps, Castlevania Bloodlines, and Rocket Knight Adventure show how the little black box that could was able to sing in the right hands). i wish they'd done a Contra conversion for the PC Engine/Duo.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #10 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    @jimgamer Wii U doesn't support component cables — that's the issue. It only has an HDMI port. And yeah, I bought a ridiculous number of Wii VC games, and I have major regrets about doing the one-way transfer.
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  • Avatar for Voncaster #11 Voncaster 2 years ago
    @Roto13 I don't own a Wii U, but this was a big problem for me on the Wii VC.

    I can't believe Nintendo didn't fix it. SMB is almost comically too dark.
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  • Avatar for mganai #12 mganai 2 years ago
    @Neifirst Worth Playing is more apt IMO. I know there are people who prefer the open-endedness, but mechanically speaking it's more simplistic.
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  • Avatar for Macuelos #13 Macuelos 2 years ago
    With Wii and NDS games added to the VC mix, all I can think of is that most NDS games are still found in stores and can be played on 3DS... Same with Wii game discs on Wii U. Why slash your prices with Virtual Console when you can still get some money in from eight-year-old releases. It's the Square-Enix way of life!

    Or maybe I'm overly cynical. Point worth noting: Europe not getting the NDS short end of the stick, with both Zelda games on there, Pokémon Ranger, and Pokémon MD Blue Rescue Team. Now we just need N64 Pokémon Snap.
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  • Avatar for FalcoT #14 FalcoT 2 years ago
    0% chance of ever seeing Elite Beat Agents on Virtual Console, right?
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #15 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    @FalcoT Probably. The game rights are no biggie, I would think, but the music rights would be hell.
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  • Avatar for TheeAP #16 TheeAP 2 years ago
    I played through Golden Sun again recently on Virtual Console (because admittedly it was my favorite GBA game as a junior high schooler when it was released). I was pleasantly surprised that it was not nearly as bad as the DS entry, Dark Dawn, which I played a couple years ago. I still like the Djinn battle mechanics of the original but -- woah! -- the occasional extended dialogue marathons really bogged me down.
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  • Avatar for ammilee1256 #17 ammilee1256 2 years ago
    Deleted May 2016 by ammilee1256
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  • Avatar for Vanderdulpp #18 Vanderdulpp 2 years ago
    Cool, thanks for not making it seem like M&L:SS's sequels were on-par with (or even superior to) the original. The half-baked hub-worlds of the later games don't even compare to the vast, varied world of the GBA entry, and it's crazy how few reviewers seem to realize that
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  • Avatar for soupbones #19 soupbones 2 years ago

    Stumbled in this thread and noticed you said the WiiU doesnt support component.

    It actually does - using the multi AV port located in the back of the console. You'll need a original Wii component cable of course, but it does indeed support component. (I have one hooked up to a component projector at the moment).

    The More You Know!®
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  • Avatar for alexb #20 alexb 2 years ago
    When it comes to Bayou Billy, try to work in a pun regarding its Japanese title and tell folks it's "mad shitty."
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  • Avatar for jimgamer #21 jimgamer 2 years ago
    @soupbones hey there. What Jeremy was referring to is that unlike the Wii, wiiU only outputs at 480i or 480p over component. The Wii on the other hand was capable of a 240p signal over component which matches the output of old school consoles. It means a better picture on CRT TVs and crucially, a better source should you want to upscale the image to 720p with a device like the Framemeister. Admittedly, an obsession for detail that will interest only the most particular gamers.
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  • Avatar for jimgamer #22 jimgamer 2 years ago
    @jeremy.parish I got my framemeister last week. Seriously considering getting a used Wii and getting some essentials for a second (in some cases 3rd or 4th time - 3DS I'm looking at you) time. WiiWare contra/Gradius/Castlevania from our friends at M2, as well as some PC Engine CD stuff so I can sneak in some up scaled virtual console stuff wen I can't be bothered to break out the Genesis/Duo.
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  • Avatar for ramizrazashaikh76 #23 ramizrazashaikh76 2 years ago
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