The Wii U is an unfairly maligned console. Sure, the controller was unwieldy and difficult to use, and its battery life was weak, too, but the Wii U had one advantage over its competitors: it was, pure and simple, a games console. It wasn’t trying to be some kind of home media centre, nor did it pretend to be anything other than a way for you and your friends to entertain each other of an evening. Luckily, it had a great lineup of games to help you do just that. Here, in no particular order, are the top 25 Wii U games of all time.
1. Super Mario 3D World
3D World represented a change in style for the series; it followed the diorama-style level design of the 3DS’ Super Mario 3D Land, but gave it a beautiful HD makeover. The visuals here are simply stunning; whether it’s the sun glinting off the sand in the desert levels or rainwater running down bricks, the game is consistently gorgeous. It’s also an excellent, accomplished platformer, as you’d expect.
2. New Super Mario Bros. U
Confusing nomenclature aside, New Super Mario Bros. U is an all-new 2D Mario adventure on the Wii U. One player can use the Gamepad to create platforms for others, which can either be incredibly helpful or totally ruinous to gameplay. The expansion pack, New Super Luigi U, was billed as a more challenging add-on to the game, and it certainly fulfilled that remit.
3. Bayonetta 2
Like its predecessor, Bayonetta 2 is suffused with a sense of joyous life and colour. It’s a vibrant, adventurous hack-and-slash with plenty of combos to get to grips with and lots of dastardly enemies on whom to use them. The story is slightly more straightforward this time around, too, although it does take a turn into insanity towards its final quarter. Bayonetta 3 can’t come soon enough.
4. Pikmin 3
Pikmin 3 moves away from series stalwart Olimar, focusing instead on a new cast of his species as they find themselves marooned on a distant planet. They must survive by gathering fruit and turning it into juice, exploring the environment around them and using the skills of the ingenious Pikmin creatures to augment their chances of survival. Strategic and compelling, Pikmin 3 is a worthy sequel.
5. Super Smash Bros. Wii U
This instalment of the Super Smash Bros. franchise added several new characters, including Mega Man, Pac-Man, and the Wii Fit Trainer, as well as a customisable Mii Fighter class. It’s a huge, maximalist triumph, stuffed to the gills with content; no matter what kind of Smash action you like, you’re almost certain to find it represented in some form here.
6. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Tropical Freeze heralds the return of legendary Rare composer David Wise, who scored the game entirely on his own. While it doesn’t have the same instantly iconic feel as the older SNES games, this is still a wonderfully creative and satisfying 2.5D platformer, and one that tones down the difficulty of its predecessor so that people other than hardcore platforming enthusiasts can enjoy it.
7. The Wonderful 101
Hideki Kamiya’s tribute to Power Rangers-style tokusatsu shows crackles with life, even as its controls and general presentation could use a little work. The big gimmick here is the ability to draw weapons on the Wii U gamepad’s screen; you’ll need to switch between a giant fist, a giant sword, a giant gun, and many other weapons to defeat The Wonderful 101’s incredibly varied enemy cast.
8. Super Mario Maker
Have you ever wanted to make your own Mario level? Do you lack the computer skills necessary to get into ROM hacking? In that case, Super Mario Maker is absolutely for you. It’s a fully-featured editing suite akin to Mario Paint, allowing you to make Mario levels across a variety of styles and aesthetics. The community for this game has made some truly fiendish creations.
9. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
The GameCube’s underrated Zelda entry makes its way to the Wii U, and although it doesn’t restore any of the cut content (more’s the pity), it does give the game a gorgeous HD makeover, as well as adding a number of crucial time-saving gameplay elements. Sailing no longer feels arduous, and Link can now take selfies, which is, of course, the most important gameplay feature ever.
10. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
Wind Waker’s more grown-up cousin also got itself an HD re-release on the Wii U, complete with a few extra features designed to make some of its gameplay slightly less arduous. Climbing has been improved, and the Wii U gamepad allows for quick item switching, which is great in a tense combat situation. This is the definitive version of Twilight Princess.
11. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
People often forget that Breath of the Wild was released for the Wii U as well as the Switch. It’s the same incredible masterpiece on Wii U that it is on Nintendo’s newer console, going back to Zelda’s roots and giving Link a huge open world to explore without holding his hand while he does it. Some said this wasn’t Zelda enough, but they’re wrong.
12. Mario Kart 8
Eventually re-released as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch (complete with all of the DLC released for it at that point), Mario Kart 8 originally got its start on the Wii U. It brings the Mario Kart franchise into glorious HD, featuring the same beautiful visual stylings as Super Mario 3D World. The courses are great, the racing feels good, and, well, it’s Mario Kart!
13. Xenoblade Chronicles X
Rather than being a fully-fledged sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles, this Wii U spinoff took things in an altogether more futuristic direction. You are a colonist settling on a new planet, and it’s up to you to survey the wildlife. Classic Xenoblade gameplay combines with exploration to brilliant effect, and you also get to pilot a giant robot, which we think makes this game above all criticism.
14. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Fans were clamouring for Nintendo to make an entire game out of the Super Mario 3D World Captain Toad levels, and when Nintendo produced this, the fans weren’t disappointed. It’s an isometric puzzle game in which perspective is key; you’ll need to rotate and shift your view of each level in order to get everything you can and see Captain Toad safely to his goal.
15. Nintendo Land
Released as a launch title for the Wii U, Nintendo Land is a collection of adorable minigames featuring some of your favourite Nintendo franchises. There are undeniable highlights; the Donkey Kong tilt courses are great fun, and fully-fledged outings like those dedicated to Metroid and Pikmin are clear highlights, but all of the games on offer here are great fun.
Did you know that ZombiU is actually a sort of follow-up to a 1986 Ubisoft game called Zombi? The two aren’t officially related, but they share a lot of similarities, like a first-person perspective, an emphasis on exploration, and the player turning into a zombie when they die (which then can be found wherever they fell). ZombiU is a truly terrifying horror game.
17. Lego City Undercover
t’s since been re-released on modern consoles, but Lego City Undercover was originally a Wii U exclusive. This original story is exactly what many Lego fans had been hoping for at the time; a Lego-style take on Grand Theft Auto, complete with classic missions to complete and a huge amount of stuff to collect. The city itself is also a joy to explore, largely thanks to the sheer variety of things you can do.
18. Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut
Human Revolution may lack the dizzying depth of its PC predecessors, but it’s an accomplished immersive stealth sim nonetheless, and the Wii U port is great. The second gamepad screen allows you to view maps and other information without them cluttering up the screen, arguably creating a more immersive experience than on other platforms.
19. NES Remix
The NES Remix collection included a whole host of old-school NES games, remixed to add a new and fresh challenge in some way. Characters would appear in games they weren’t supposed to be in, timers were added to some games, and unique modes transformed the way these NES games worked, breathing new life into classics we’ve all played a hundred times.
One of Nintendo’s first truly original IPs for many years, Splatoon is a third-person multiplayer arena shooter in which the objective isn’t to get as many kills as possible, but to cover as much of the level as you can in your team’s colour. This change resulted in an endlessly enjoyable shooter that even non-confrontational players could play, as well as a surprisingly solid single-player campaign.
21. Rayman Legends
Nintendo is the undisputed king of platformers, but that doesn’t mean other companies don’t know how to create great platformer experiences as well. Rayman Legends demonstrates that Nintendo doesn’t hold a monopoly over great 2D gameplay; it’s a joyous odyssey through a series of wonderfully-designed levels, with some even featuring twists on licensed music.
22. Shovel Knight
Speaking of incredible platformers…Shovel Knight was one of the Wii U eShop’s biggest and brightest hits. It takes the template set by Castlevania and Mega Man and strips both of those games of their flaws, resulting in a near-perfect retro-style 8-bit throwback. The story on offer is surprisingly deep and touching, and Jake Kaufman’s score is absolutely magnificent.
23. Axiom Verge
Another incredible retro-style platformer created for the Wii U, Axiom Verge takes direct inspiration from Metroid, even going so far as to feature the same alien visual style made up of random block placements. The story here is somewhat incomprehensible, but that doesn’t stop Axiom Verge from being a fluid, fun, and thoroughly enjoyable Metroidvania platformer.
The Wii U really didn’t have a shortage of great 2D platformers, so Guacamelee standing out is all the more impressive in that context. This gorgeous Metroidvania adventure may have had a slightly groan-inducing sense of humour, but its core combat and platforming interspersed with one another incredibly well, creating a balletic sense of flow to every encounter.
25. Resident Evil Revelations
After many years of losing its way, the Resident Evil franchise rallied magnificently with Resident Evil Revelations (okay, so technically the game came out in the same year as the execrable Resident Evil 6, but cut us some slack). The Wii U re-release of the game stuck closely to the 3DS original, giving it a visual makeover but retaining the episodic survival horror that made it such a success in the first place.