Wii U Wonderland

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Whenever I think about the Wii U, it makes me sad. Not because of it being a bad system by any means, but because no one wanted the poor thing! Over a lifespan of approximately five years, the Wii U sold just under 14 million units, the worst of any Nintendo hardware (minus the Virtual Boy, which apparently sold so poorly it’s not even listed on the above linked page).

It’s really a shame too, because over the time I’ve owned it, I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of my Wii U. When they released the bundle that came with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, I HAD to have it. To this date, that’s still my favorite 3D Zelda game, after all.

But that leads to an interesting discussion: software for the system. You know, games. It’s a common criticism of the Wii U that it lacks games to play, especially from third party developers. Heck, the main game I wanted a Wii U for at first was a re-release of a Gamecube game made ten years prior. It took a long time for the Wii U to build up a unique game library of any kind. And with the release of the system’s version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that’s pretty much it for the Wii U. Most of Nintendo’s efforts will no doubt be poured into the Nintendo Switch from this point on.

Overtime, some companies that have released exclusive games for the Wii U have gradually brought said games over to other systems. Heck, even Nintendo themselves have been doing this. Both Yoshi’s Woolly World and Super Mario Maker have gotten handheld versions on the 3DS, and Mario Kart 8 is getting a Deluxe Edition with new content on the Switch come April. But there’s still a little treasure trove of games for the system that most have not discovered. Yes, our topic of discussion today is games that are 100% exclusive (as of this post) to the Wii U! I’m gonna list of a few of them off that I feel were the best of the bunch, and give a quick opinion on them. This isn’t necessarily a top-ten list or anything like that: just a few quick blurbs on great games that a majority of gamers have missed out on.

Though first, I’d like to say that I won’t be talking about a a few games. Specifically, Star Fox Zero, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. But this is mostly because I haven’t had a chance to play them (though the Star Fox Zero demo was a lot of fun). I’m also not gonna talk about Super Smash Bros for Wii U, because it technically does have a (more well put together) sister game on 3DS with the same character roster. But without further ado, let’s get into the games I AM going to talk about!

Nintendo Land (released November 18th, 2012)
This was a Wii U launch title, and originally packed with the system when it was first released (though I got my copy of the game mostly because it came with a Luigi-themed Wii Remote). There isn’t much depth to the game: it’s a series of mini-games designed to show off what the Wii U can do, like how Wii Sports introduced players to the Wii’s capabilities  But it does its job pretty well, featuring a bunch of really fun single-player and multi-player minigames, all wrapped up in the theme of a Nintendo-themed Amusement Park. It’s a lot of fun for challenging yourself and playing with your friends!

Bayonetta 2 (released September 20th, 2014)
Fans of the original Bayonetta were not too happy when they heard the sequel was coming exclusively to Nintendo’s system. Especially when it didn’t originally release on a Nintendo console to begin with! But what some don’t realize is that the game wouldn’t have existed at all without Nintendo’s help, giving us both a sequel and a port of the first game on Wii U. There’s a lot of intense action, crazy fighting, and (of course) the signature sexiness the title character is known for. Plus, all this Bayonetta exclusivity led to the character being in Super Smash Bros! Bayonetta is basically one of the Nintendo girls at this point, and I’m really hoping for Bayonetta 3 on the Switch to be announced at E3 this year.

The Wonderful 101 (released August 23rd, 2013)
This game from Platinum Games (the makers of the above-mentioned Bayonetta) is an interesting title. It’s a beat-em-up style of video game, mixing Super Sentai/Power Rangers with… Pikmin? Yeah, there’s no better way to describe it! You control up to 100 characters as a big group, and unite together to to attack and defend against an alien threat. It’s honestly one of the most unique video games I’ve played in years. The game itself can be a bit frustrating to get the hang of playing, but it is BEGGING to get a sequel on the Switch. It would be a perfect chance to iron out the kinks of the game, and to expand on a really fun concept and story.

Pikmin 3 (released July 13th, 2013)
Speaking of Pikmin, the third entry in the series was originally meant to be released near the launch of the Wii U, but was delayed until a few months later. It’s a shame, too, because I think it would have really helped the Wii U’s initial sales; this game is a fantastic entry in what has become one of my favorite Nintendo franchises. It has the traditional Pikmin tropes of gathering an army of tiny creatures, using them to gather a bunch of items and help insure your survival on a hostile alien planet. It feels like this game offers a good balance between the gameplay of Pikmin 1 and 2, and adds a bunch of unique and new mechanics and creatures as well. It’s legitimately one of my favorite Wii U games overall. Now if only we could get a bit more info on Pikmin 4 and the 3DS game…

Splatoon (released May 28th, 2015)
I’m relatively new to the Spaltoon scene: I bought the game so I could be ready to play the Switch sequel once it comes out. But even after only playing a short while, I already love it. It’s Nintendo’s take on an online shooter game. But instead of fighting with bullets or lasers, you fight with ink. And instead of being soldiers or mercenaries, you play as squids (or are they kids?) known as Inklings. Matches are quick and intense, and it’s easy to just sit down and play round after round, experimenting with dozens of different weapon and equipment combinations. And if you want to take a break from online madness, there’s a single player campaign and one-on-one multiplayer with friends in front of your TV, too! Here’s hoping the sequel is just as awesome.

New Super Mario Bros U (released November 18th, 2012)
and New Super Luigi U (released as DLC and on disc, 2013)
Now you can’t have a Nintendo system without a Mario game or two, can you? The New Super Mario series has some small complaints surrounding it; that being that all four (or five, if you count the above mentioned DLC) are all basically the same, shoveled out games. But I’d argue against that. Admittedly, each game plays fairly identically, adding 3D Mario game mechanics to a 2D sidescroller setting. Mario U is no different, but the game sports several visuals and power ups with a unique feel to them. I mean, a Flying Squirell power up? Carrying around baby Yoshis that spit bubbles and turn into balloons? Add in the chaos of four player cooperative play, and you’re bound to have a fun time with this game. Plus, there’s New Super Luigi U, which was both made as an add-on to the original game and an individual game of its own. With Luigi in the starring roll, the levels have been turned into 100-second time trials to truly test your Mario skills.

Super Mario 3D World (released Novemeber 21st, 2013) 
Doing the opposite of the New Mario series, this game’s predecessor (Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS) took the play-style of a 2D Mario sidescroller and put it into a 3D environment. Then this game came along and… well, threw everything else Mario related into the mix. It plays like 3D Land, it has the four player Co-op of New Mario, and it has the character selection of Super Mario Bros 2, complete with all of their unique attributes. Plus, it adds new power-ups like the Cat Bell and the Double Cherry, and it has a heavy focus on collecting objects through the levels (similar to 3D Mario games before it), which leads to unlocking one of the hardest end-game bonus levels I’ve ever completed. For real, this game is like a Mario fan’s dream come true, and is another one of my absolute favorites for the system. Oh, and did I mention it included some separate, puzzle-like levels starring a certain treasure-hungry Toad? That level style even got its own spin off game, which would be released as…

Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker (released November 13th, 2014)
As mentioned, Captain Toad started as separate character of sorts in 3D World, with his own unique levels that were more about puzzle solving rather than traditional Mario platforming. In fact, there is no platforming: Captain Toad can’t jump! You needed to use your wits to get through every maze-like level with all the loot they had to offer in tow. And the concept was so intriguing, that he got his own spin-off game full of levels just like them! They’re as charming as they are fun to play, and it’s really rewarding to figure out how to get all the treasure, finish all the challenges in them, and get to the end of the game. It even pays homage to its origins, and has levels lifted right from the main game of 3D World as bonus stages (though they’re modified so Captain Toad can traverse them). I’m really hoping the idea gets used more than twice though: it would be great to see a Treasure Tracker 2 on the Switch!

Paper Mario Color Splash (released October 7th, 2016)
If you would ask me what my favorite RPG was, I would probably answer the original Paper Mario on Nintendo 64. I love that game to death, and it had some really great follow-ups as well. The 3DS game, Paper Mario Sticker Star, however, was one of the most basic, disappointing experiences of any game I’ve ever played. So when I saw the new Wii U Paper Mario was following more in Sticker Star’s footsteps than anything, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. But to my surprise, Paper Mario Color Splash does a great job at bringing the series back to the creative and fun routes of its origins. It still has a lot of Sticker Stars problems, unfortunately, but Color Splash was a legitimately clever and enjoyable experience overall. It definitely has its place among the Wii U library, and doesn’t deserve to be dismissed and overlooked as much as I feel like it has been.

Game & Wario (released March 28th, 2013)
Like Nintendo Land, Game & Wario is less one big game and more a collection of mini-games, built to show off the Wii U and its controller in different ways. Combine that with the quirkiness and colorful cast of the WarioWare series, and you’re bound to have a fun time. There are a lot of multiplayer options, too: a favorite among my family is the game called Sketch, which uses the Wii U Gamepad to draw pictures in a Pictionary-like competition. But there’s also skiing, bowling, designing robots, pirates, photography, puzzles, and (of course) some classic WarioWare Mircrogames. It’s just a big grab bag of all kinds of goofy games, and I love it a ton.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (released February 14th, 2014)
Do you love 2D platformers that just kick your ass forever? Well, if you do, then you should play Tropical Freeze. The Donkey Kong Country series is known for this sort of thing, and the Wii U entry certainly doesn’t disappoint. Though unlike Donkey Kong Country 2, I actually managed to beat this one. That’s mostly because this game absolutely LOVES giving you extra lives, bananas that give you extra lives, and coins which you use to buy extra lives. So it’s a difficult game, but… not really? It’s essentially built to keep you playing. Though that’s not saying anything against the game: it has a ton of creative energy and cool ideas put into its level design. Where something like New Super Mario Bros can be fairly standard and similar all the way through, Tropical Freeze keeps throwing new stuff at you to keep you interested. So even though the game keeps you playing, you WANT to keep playing it to see what it does next. It’s pretty awesome!

Mario Party 10 (released March 12th, 2015)
Mario Party 10 is one of the latest in the long running series, spanning four generations of Nintendo home consoles and handhelds. It adopts the majority of its gameplay from Mario Party 9, which changed up the formula most had become accustomed to. All the characters move together in a vehicle, speeding up gameplay and forcing players to adjust their play styles. Understandably, not everyone likes it as well as the classic gameplay. But Mario Party 10 also amiibo party, which used Mario-series amiibo figures to play a more simplified, original-style Mario Party game. Plus, there’s Bowser Party, which is a five player game mode where one player takes the role of the King of Koopas himself, in order to thwart four heroes from reaching the goal and winning. And I’m not gonna lie, Bowser Party is almost worth getting the game alone. Can I say the game as a whole is as good as the Nintendo 64 classics? Probably not. But it’s definitely worth playing if you’re a fan of the series.

Animal Crossing amiibo Festival (released November 15th, 2015)
Not everyone is into this game. In fact, I’d go as far to say it’s almost universally despised among Animal Crossing fans. But amiibo Festival fits pretty well into the franchise. Animal Crossing is a very casual experience: it’s all about you moving to a new town and just… living your life! It’s all very calm and very relaxing, and amiibo Festival reflects that kind of tone. It’s like a game of Mario Party, minus the minigames. You just sit back, make your way around the game board, and observe the events that take place as you try to finish with the most money and Happy Points. That being said, there IS strategy to playing: the options available to you as you go around the board really can make or break your victory. Though there is a lot left to chance, and it might not be eventful enough for some to enjoy it. I totally get why you might not want to play it, but that doesn’t mean it deserves to be hated, you know?

And with that, that about wraps up my thoughts on the exclusives I’ve managed to play. And this is only talking about the games released on disc: there are plenty of exclusive virtual games to find on the eShop as well. The Wii U didn’t seem to have much to play on it on the surface, but you really just needed to look a little closer. It’s my opinion that a lot of fans missed out on some really good games over the past few years. And that’s including the non-exclusives, too; games like Pokken Tournament, NES Remix, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Sonic Lost World, and the HD Zelda titles have all made the Wii U well worth its asking price. It’s just unfortunate that not everyone thought the same way.

If you can some day, I would recommend at least picking up a used Wii U to experience some of these titles. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna continue to improve my Splatoon game. Sparky is signing off for now!