This is the eighth in my ’30 Best’ series of articles in which I discuss my favourite games ever on a system-by-system basis for the first time in my career. In case you missed them, the full list of other ’30 Best’ articles can be found at the bottom of this page.
’30 Best’ will now be a regular series, thanks to my lovely Patreon followers helping me reach a stretch goal. If you want to contribute and help me reach my next goal (to start a Tired Old Hack podcast), please visit my Patreon page.
There’s a saying in gaming when it comes to Nintendo. Well, there isn’t really but I’m making it up now and I’ve decided it should be one.
When Nintendo does well, it does really well. Look at the Wii, the DS, the SNES, the Game Boy Advance.
But when it does badly – the GameCube, the Virtual Boy – it does really badly, finishing a distant last place against its competitors.
Such was the fate of the Wii U, a console that arrived on the heels of the wildly successful Wii and somehow went on to undo all the fine work Nintendo’s motion-sensitive phenomenon had managed.
There are many theories as to why the Wii U died on its arse. My own personal belief was that it was a combination of two things. The first was poor marketing – Nintendo could never really succinctly explain how the Wii U’s unique two-screen gimmick worked, causing some to believe it was instead a tablet add-on for the original (flatlining) Wii.
The second, and more crucial reason, was that the Wii brand had become toxic among a certain sadly vocal section of the gaming community, the self-appointed so-called hardcore gamers who decided that with the Wii Nintendo had betrayed its loyal customers by daring to release games that were wildly successful and brought gaming to a wider audience.
Of course, these people conveniently ignored the countless excellent core gamer friendly games that were released for the Wii, but the damage was already done: the Wii U’s name was mud among many circles before it even had a chance to make its mark.
The 13 million people who did bother to buy a Wii U found that these self-appointed harbingers of doom were completely wrong. The Wii U’s library may have been sorely lacking when it came to quantity – a Catch-22 situation resulting from poor hardware sales – but there could be no argument that many of its exclusives excelled in terms of quality.
The below list is the answer to the countless sarcastic “the Wii U has no games” smart-arses who plague forums and social media, desperate to see a major competitor in the games industry fail and kill with it an enormous degree of competition and influence.
If you ever encounter any such claims, kindly direct them to this article and tell them to forcibly insert it into their shitepipe.
The annoying notes bit
This list is in alphabetical order. Much like it’s pretty pointless deciding whether a game’s getting a score of 72% or 73%, it doesn’t really matter if Hyrule Warriors is my 23rd or 24th favourite Wii U game. Everything in this list was deemed good enough to make the cut, so I recommend them all with similar enthusiasm.
It’s also my own personal list and not a collaborative effort for a magazine or website, meaning there will be some ‘glaring’ omissions of games I simply didn’t play or didn’t like. So don’t lose your shit because Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE isn’t on here or say I “forgot” Kirby And The Rainbow Curse – I didn’t forget it, it’s just not one of my 30 personal favourites.
If one of your own recommendations isn’t on the list, feel free to give it a shoutout in the comments below (politely though, mind) and tell everyone what it meant to you.
Since I’m from the UK, all games will be listed by their European titles. Everyone outside of America has to deal with Wikipedia and the like deciding US titles are the standard for some reason, so on my turf it’s my rules. Deal with it.
Almost all of the games on this list are available for download on the Wii U eShop.
Alternatively, where possible, I have included links to buy physical copies of the games on Amazon UK if you’re interested in a particular one. I won’t bullshit you: these are affiliate links.
This means if my list has tempted you to buy a game, if you do it through Amazon by clicking my link then I get a few pence (literally) of Amazon’s revenue for referring you to them. It doesn’t cost you any extra, so it’s a win-win situation.
Anyway, on with the list.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
What it is: The fourth game in the Assassin’s Creed series (obviously), putting you in the role of pirate Edward Kenway as he sails the seven seas beating folk up and climbing lots of stuff.
Why it was chosen: I’m not the world’s biggest Assassin’s Creed fan and being a pirate doesn’t really appeal to me either, but something about Black Flag really rubs me the right way (not like that, you deviant).
It may be the fantastic sea-based combat and the ability to seamlessly go from attacking enemy ships with cannons to boarding them and taking them over.
Or it may be the way its massive world map is packed with tiny islands, large villages and forest areas full of nooks to explore, crannies to investigate and guards to stab in the face.
Whatever it is, it’s worth a go.
Buy it: Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag
Bayonetta & Bayonetta 2
What they are: The eccentric, reference-heavy action game from Devil May Cry and Okami creator PlatinumGames, and its Wii U exclusive sequel.
Why they were chosen: Bayonetta is one of the coolest games ever made, starring one of the coolest protagonists ever created.
Its combat initially seems a little underwhelming but once it all ‘clicks’ and you find yourself stringing together all manner of outlandish combos you end up feeling like the star of the world’s greatest action movie.
Its unique style isn’t for everyone but those who fall for Bayonetta fall for it hard.
Buy them: Bayonetta 1 & 2 Special Edition
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
What it is: An adorable platform puzzler based on the Captain Toad levels from Super Mario 3D World.
Why it was chosen: Given Nintendo’s love of dishing out Mario spin-offs left, right and centre it’s amazing to think it took another 20 years for Toad to get his own game (after Wario’s Woods on the NES).
Still, get one he did, and Treasure Tracker has more charm than a French dating site.
Its slower place adds a tactical element missing from most major Mario titles, and its bonus secondary objectives in each level – designed to separate the Toadsworths from the Baby Toads – will have you busy for ages.
Buy it: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Nintendo Selects edition)
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
What it is: The fifth game in the Donkey Kong Country series, and the second developed by Retro Studios. This time Donkey and Diddy are joined by Dixie and Cranky as they try to drive off a bunch of arctic animals who are threatening to take over their island.
Why it was chosen: When Retro Studios initially took over the Donkey Kong Country franchise there were fears that it wouldn’t quite manage to hit the same heady heights Rare did back in the SNES days.
Those fears were given a swift punt in the balls when Donkey Kong Country Returns proved to be a beautiful, addictive and (most importantly) hard platformer that felt very much like a modern day take on the 16-bit trilogy.
Tropical Freeze effortlessly follows on from this with another set of delightfully difficult stages, each more challenging than the last but crucially never feeling cheap: every time you die it’s all on you.
Buy it: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Nintendo Selects edition)
What it is: The last and best thing to come out of Nintendo’s ‘Year Of Luigi’ promotion, this spin on Dr Mario brings the series to HD for the first time and adds some new gameplay modes with L-shaped capsules.
Why it was chosen: It’s a little-known fact (well, it’s just my opinion but I’m pretending it’s fact) that the Wii version of Dr Mario is one of the finest online multiplayer puzzle games ever made.
Dr Luigi offers the exact same online multiplayer mode (albeit in crisp HD goodness), but also includes some interesting extra single-player features like a mission mode.
Ultimately though, all the new stuff is by the by. It’s the multiplayer that makes Dr Luigi what it is, and the fact my parents spend an hour nearly every single night playing it against each other without getting bored (having previously done the same with the Wii version) is a testament to its longevity.
Buy it: Dr Luigi is a digital-only title which can be bought on the Wii U eShop.
Guitar Hero Live
What it is: The resurrection of the Guitar Hero series, which had been lying dormant for half a decade. Introducing a new guitar with a 2×3 fret layout instead of the standard 1×5 layout, it uses video instead of polygonal graphics in an attempt to freshen up the plastic guitar genre.
Why it was chosen: The whole Rock Band vs Guitar Hero debate is one that Wii U owners don’t have to fret over (pun intended) because Rock Band 4 isn’t available on Nintendo’s system.
Luckily, if you’re more of a single-player gamer this won’t be a problem, because Guitar Hero Live is very much designed with the solo axesmith in mind.
Its main Live mode is a curious blend of Guitar Hero gameplay and live-action FMV segments which are designed to make you feel like a rock star but instead feel more like you’ve teleported into the world’s most terrifying teenage model and hipster convention.
This is more than made up for with the terrific GHTV mode, which will take up the vast majority of your time and allows you to play along to a constantly updating selection of music videos, either on demand or by dropping into one of its two streaming ‘TV channels’.
Buy it: Guitar Hero Live
What it is: A spin-off of Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors series featuring characters from the Zelda series of games.
Why it was chosen: It’s funny how a lick of paint can change how accessible a game can be.
For years the Dynasty Warriors games have offered epic battles with many hundreds of on-screen enemies, but their ancient Chinese characters made it difficult for some (including me, admittedly) to get emotionally invested and become hooked.
Then along comes Hyrule Warriors, which is essentially a Dynasty Warriors game that replaces the likes of Lu Bu, Zhou Yu and Ma Dai with Link, Zelda, Midna and chums, and suddenly it all makes sense.
This is a game most Zelda and Dynasty Warriors fans will enjoy, even if devotees of one are concerned it’ll feel too much like the other.
Buy it: Hyrule Warriors
The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
What it is: An HD remaster of Nintendo’s last ever GameCube game and first ever Wii game. Link has to save Hyrule from being engulfed by a corrupted parallel dimension called the Twilight Realm.
Why it was chosen: Over the years Twilight Princess hasn’t really been held to as high a regard as the likes of Ocarina, Wind Waker or even Majora’s Mask for some reason. As one of the darkest Zelda games though, I still love it.
It’s a good thing Nintendo does too, because otherwise we wouldn’t have ended up with this wonderful HD version complete with improved textures, amiibo support and a new Cave of Shadows feature where Wolf Link has to battle waves of enemies.
The GameCube and Wii versions of Twilight Princess were always excellent, but the Wii U remaster is easily the best way to play the game.
Buy it: Standard Edition or Limited Edition with Wolf Link amiibo
The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
What it is: An HD remaster of the first GameCube Zelda game. Link joins a pirate crew and sails the seas to save his sister from the evil Ganon.
Why it was chosen: Wind Waker‘s launch was the complete opposite to that of Twilight Princess.
While Twilight Princess arrived to enormous hype but was met with a resounding “meh”, Wind Waker arrived on the back of a hate campaign from anti cel-shading types and was met with surprised murmurs of “actually, this is bloody brilliant.”
The clean look of the cel-shading meant the GameCube version continues to hold up well visually today, but the Wii U’s beautifully crisp HD version launches it into the sea like a squealing pig (look, it’ll make sense if you’ve played it).
It may be a bit short and a tad easy by other Zelda games’ standards but The Wind Waker is great fun while it lasts and remains one of the finest entries in the series.
Buy it: The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Nintendo Selects edition)
Lego City Undercover
What it is: An open world action-adventure game based on the Lego City series of building sets. It follows undercover cop Chase McCain as he tries to stop a crime wave being led by the evil Rex Fury.
Why it was chosen: As someone who desperately wanted to see the Wii U competing with Sony and Microsoft’s systems (after all, success breeds competition, which breeds quality), I’ve always prepared myself for the inevitable day Lego City Undercover would no longer become a Wii U exclusive.
Bizarrely, that day has never come, leaving the Wii U with that rarest of beasts – a brilliant third-party game that to this day still can’t be played on an Xbox or PlayStation console.
It’s one they’re truly missing out on too because Lego City Undercover has some hilarious dialogue and some brilliant open-world gameplay. It really is the closest we’ve come to a Grand Theft Auto game suitable for children, while adults will get a kick out of all the movie references.
It does take a painfully long time to load at the start, but once you’re in it’ll take a hell of a lot to make you drop out.
Buy it: Lego City Undercover (Nintendo Selects edition)
What it is: The most ambitious crossover game ever, in which characters from 27 different franchises find their universes brought together by the evil Lord Vortech.
Why it was chosen: If you’re ever remotely familiar with Tired Old Hack or my Twitter feed you’ll probably already know the grip Lego Dimensions has had on my free time.
A number of developers have claimed their game is a ‘platform’ they plan to build from, but while the likes of Disney Infinity only partly managed it, Lego Dimensions in my eyes absolutely nails the concept.
Every Level Pack, every Adventure World and every Story Pack adds more fantastic content and, crucially, does so without the need to buy a new game every year.
Now in its ‘Year 2’ phase, Lego Dimensions still uses the original game and portal and continues to add new characters and stages through DLC instead, truly making it feel like a platform that regularly gets new releases.
Oh, and because it’s a Lego game, it’s obviously fun too. Which helps.
Buy it: Lego Dimensions Starter Pack
What it is: An interesting story-based puzzle game from the team behind World Of Goo. You’re given a toy fireplace and have to order different objects from its catalogue to burn them and keep warm. The reason for this is hidden from you, but you find out the bigger story as the game proceeds.
Why it was chosen: Little Inferno is not a difficult game. You could argue it isn’t really a ‘game’ as such, more a weird trial-and-error experience where you burn things in a fire to see if they’ll progress the story.
And yet, something about it really made me fall for it. Maybe it’s its pitch black sense of humour, or its satire on the annoying timers you get in free-to-play games.
Or maybe there’s just something immensely satisfying about the way its myriad of objects all burn in a different way, letting you live out your 12-year-old arsonist fantasies in a much safer environment.
Whatever it is, Little Inferno is something you’ll only play through once but should definitely play regardless. It’s a bit love-it-or-hate-it, but you’ve certainly never played anything like it.
Buy it: Little Inferno is a digital-only title which can be bought on the Wii U eShop.
Mario Kart 8
What it is: Believe it or not, the eighth game in the Mario Kart series (well, technically the eleventh if you want to be pedantic and count the three arcade games. And I do).
Why it was chosen: Ever since the days of the SNES every standalone Nintendo system has had its own sole Mario Kart game (we don’t talk about the Virtual Boy any more), and I firmly believe Mario Kart 8 is the best so far.
It was already the best on day one, thanks to its brilliant zero-gravity addition which made for some fantastically abstract tracks without ruining that classic Mario Kart handling.
It got even better, though, when it became the first Mario Kart game to receive DLC packs, adding no fewer than 16 new courses (including magnificent ones based on Zelda, F-Zero, Excitebike and Animal Crossing) and six new characters including Link.
With all the DLC stuff chucked into the mix Mario Kart 8 isn’t just the best Mario Kart to date, it’s one the inevitable Switch version will have to go some way to beat.
Buy it: Mario Kart 8
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
What it is: The only Wii U instalment of Capcom’s popular Monster Hunter series, in which players team up with their friends to take down enormous beasts in lengthy, epic battles.
Why it was chosen: Monster Hunter is not the sort of game you can get to grips with in 15 minutes and be well into within an hour.
It’s a discipline that has to be learned and mastered over many hours, something that will take an enormous amount of effort to conquer and pays you back with an immense feeling of accomplishment when you do.
Teaming up with friends and taking on its enormous beasts in lengthy, epic battles is an acquired taste, but once you do acquire it all other games’ boss battles will seem unusually simple by comparison.
Buy it: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
NES Remix 1 & 2
What it is: A series of time-based mini-games based on Nintendo’s library of classic Nintendo Entertainment System titles.
Why it was chosen: Like the Wii, the Wii U has an extensive Virtual Console offering a library of retro games from the 8-bit to 64-bit era. Long-time gamers may want a little more than the same games they played 30-odd years ago, though.
This is where the NES Remix games come into play. Each takes a selection of 8-bit NES titles and splits them into a series of missions, tasking you with mastering specific elements of each game on a time trial basis.
It’s a fantastic way of introducing new gamers to the classics in a more bite-sized fashion, while also giving people like me (who already know them inside-out) a brand new way to play them.
Getting rainbow stars on every mission will take you an age, but trust me: it can be done.
Buy it: NES Remix and NES Remix 2 are digital-only titles in Europe which can be bought on the Wii U eShop. In North America, they’re also available together on a physical disc under the title NES Remix Pack.
New Super Mario Bros U & New Super Luigi U
What it is: The fourth New Super Mario Bros game and the eleventh Super Mario side-scrolling platformer overall (and its DLC add-on). Instead of kidnapping Peach and taking her to his castle, this time Bowser takes over Peach’s castle and launches Mario and chums far away into the distance.
Why it was chosen: Edgy bastards will tell you that all the New Super Mario Bros games are exactly the same. Edgy they may be, but educated they be not.
New Super Mario Bros U offers another helping of expertly designed and tuned stages, each of which adds a completely new gameplay mechanic to the table before swiftly ditching it to make way for the next.
Its DLC add-on New Super Luigi U is essentially a full game in its own right, completely replacing every level with a brand new one and putting Nintendo’s best character in the starring role.
If it’s solid 2D platforming you’re after, Mario still can’t be beaten.
Buy it: New Super Mario Bros U + New Super Luigi U (Nintendo Selects edition)
What it is: A Wii U launch game designed to show off the different abilities of the Wii U GamePad through a variety of single-player and multiplayer mini-games based on popular Nintendo franchises.
Why it was chosen: Ah, Nintendo Land. The game that sold many on the Wii U’s capabilities while simultaneously confounding others and making the system look more complicated than it actually is.
Nintendo Land was Nintendo’s way of demonstrating ‘asymmetrical gameplay’, a clunky buzzword that essentially meant local multiplayer using two screens to show different viewpoints for different players.
It absolutely nailed the concept first time too. Most of its mini-games – Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Mario Chase – remain hilarious local multiplayer experiences four years after launch.
Sadly, it’s undoubtedly a commentary on the development community both inside and outside of Nintendo’s offices that no other game throughout the Wii U’s lifespan has managed to take the baton from Nintendo Land and offer similarly entertaining asymmetrical multiplayer.
What I’m basically saying is, if you have a Wii U and regularly play with your family or friends offline, you should own Nintendo Land because there’s still nothing really like it.
Buy it: Nintendo Land
What it is: The third entry in the Pikmin series. Three alien explorers called Alph, Brittany and Charlie, are sent to the planet PNF-404 but their ship crashes, meaning they have to use the help of the native Pikmin to fight off any hostile creatures and get back home.
Why it was chosen: Even after all these years there are still fewer things that make you feel worse in gaming than accidentally leading your squad of Pikmin into a dangerous area and seeing a flood of Pikmin ghosts float away into the sky.
This Wii U threequel offers more of what made its predecessors so enjoyable, making the real-time strategy genre accessible to gamers who may otherwise find it too overwhelming.
Its multiple control methods – each as useful and relevant as the others – also ensure you’re more likely to find a system that best meets your own playing style.
If the previous two Pikmin games passed you by, this is a perfect place to start.
Buy it: Pikmin 3 (Nintendo Selects edition)
Resident Evil: Revelations
What it is: A Wii U port of a game originally designed for the 3DS. Taking the Resident Evil series back to its roots, it’s a traditional survival horror game in which Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield team up to stop a bioterrorist organisation infecting the world’s oceans with a virus.
Why it was chosen: Anyone who says the Resident Evil series died when Resi 5 launched has obviously never played Revelations.
A cracking adventure set partly on a mutant-infested boat, Revelations brings back the claustrophobia and tight settings of early games in the series.
If you’re the sort who misses the old puzzle-solving, atmospheric gameplay in the style of Resident Evil 1 and 2, this is the fella for you.
Buy it: Resident Evil Revelations
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
What it is: The second of Sumo Digital’s Sonic themed racing games.
Sega characters from past and present team up with guest stars including Wreck-It Ralph and NASCAR racer Danica Patrick (I don’t know either) to race around tracks based on the likes of Golden Axe, After Burner and Super Monkey Ball.
Why it was chosen: Look, I know the Wii U already has Mario Kart 8, and as such you’d be forgiven for thinking you don’t need another karting game in your life.
If you’re a Sega fan though, you absolutely do. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a fantastic racer with tracks that even outdo Mario Kart‘s when it comes to fan service and winking references to past games.
With a bunch of unlockable characters (the last one is ridiculous) and oodles of brilliant music tracks from Sega’s history, this is a genuinely brilliant Mario Kart alternative for those who grew up with the Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast.
Buy it: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
What it is: An online multiplayer game where teams of four use ink-based weaponry to try to paint the arena with as much of their colour as possible. The twist is that your character can turn into a squid and swim through any of the ink that’s been fired.
Why it was chosen: “Waaah, Nintendo doesn’t have any original IP!” came the cry from the self-appointed hardcore.
“Shove this into your eyeholes and don’t remove it until you realise what a fool you’ve been,” replied Nintendo with gusto.
It was talking about Splatoon, an unhealthily addictive online multiplayer game that’s a weird mix of Team Deathmatch and Capture The Flag while also being suitable for younger gamers.
And lo, the self-appointed hardcore saw that it was good. And they ignored it and continued to moan anyway. Because fools will always be fools.
Buy it: Splatoon
Star Fox Zero
What it is: The sixth Star Fox game, finally bringing back a series fans spent years begging for, only so they could complain about it when it arrived because it wasn’t on rails like it was still the ‘90s.
Why it was chosen: In an odd way Nintendo dug Star Fox Zero‘s grave itself by making most of its other games in the preceding years approachable and easy to learn.
When Star Fox Zero launched and it quickly became clear that its control system actually required you to get used to it and learn how to master it, this led to many assuming that it simply didn’t work well because it was so unlike Nintendo.
In reality, Star Fox Zero just takes some time to get to grips with. It’s going to take you a while to become an expert Arwing pilot, and when you do finally adapt it slowly becomes one of the best games in the series.
Buy it: Star Fox Zero
Super Mario 3D World
What it is: The sixth 3D Mario platformer sends Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad on an adventure to rescue little fairy creatures called Sprixies from Bowser. Offering simultaneous four-player gameplay, it also introduces the new Cat Suit and brings back the Super Leaf which turns our heroes into a raccoon.
Why it was chosen: The Wii U’s 3D take on Mario doesn’t get enough credit for the way it manages to make free-roaming gameplay more approachable for less experienced players who may have struggled with Super Mario 64, Sunshine or Galaxy in the past.
By limiting the analogue sticks to just eight directions of movement and making many of the levels more linear it becomes an interesting halfway point between the freedom of a ‘true’ 3D Mario game and the tight, restricted 2D gameplay of a Super Mario Bros title.
This, along with the inclusion of a four-player multiplayer mode that’s actually playable unlike the messy New Super Mario Bros ones, makes it a great game for Mario fans new and old alike.
Buy it: Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo Selects edition)
Super Mario Maker
What it is: Released to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Maker is a level design tool that lets players make their own 2D Mario stages and share them online for others to play.
Why it was chosen: If you’ve ever reckoned you could make a Mario level as good as the ones made by Nintendo, Super Mario Maker is the perfect way to realise you can’t.
In its typical style, Nintendo has taken something – the level editor – which has often been complicated and fiddly in the past and introduced it in such a user-friendly way that even small children will have fun making their own Mario stages.
The ability to switch between Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros graphical styles and gameplay engines at the press of a button is an absolute touch of genius too.
Ultimately, just having an endless supply of Mario levels to download and try out makes this the perfect game for when you have 10 minutes to kill.
Buy it: Standard Edition or Special Edition with 8-bit Mario amiibo
Super Smash Bros For Wii U
What it is: The fifth Smash Bros game (Nintendo counts the 3DS version as the fourth). As in the previous instalments, a host of characters from Nintendo’s various franchises – plus some special guests – come together to beat the ever-loving piss out of each other.
Why it was chosen: The People Who Take Smash Bros Too Seriously™ tend to argue that Super Smash Bros Melee on the GameCube is still the best in the series.
To those people, I say “pfffffft”. I (and 99.9% of the gaming world) don’t care about wavedashing, jump cancelling and all that other advanced pro gamer pish.
We want a fighting game with loads of characters, loads of levels, lashings of fan service and an incredible soundtrack.
In that respect, the latest Smash Bros is easily the best of the bunch with a massive roster of 58 characters including guest appearances from series like Bayonetta, Street Fighter, Sonic The Hedgehog, Pac-Man and Final Fantasy.
It’s just the ultimate love letter to all things Nintendo and beyond, and has one of the most diverse rosters you’ll ever find in a fighting game.
Buy it: Super Smash Bros For Wii U
Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition
What it is: The eighth game in Bandai Namco’s fighting series, featuring nearly 60 playable characters and a bunch of Wii U exclusive features.
Why it was chosen: I’ve always been a fan of the Tekken series. It lies somewhere in between Street Fighter’s hardcore ‘master this or die’ gameplay and Dead Or Alive’s ‘a hamster could probably win a couple of matches by running over the controller’ level of accessibility.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is your typical Tekken game, then: a user-friendly but deep fighter that has no problems whatsoever with taking the piss out of itself.
This is best proven in its Wii U only features, including the return of the Tekken Ball beach volleyball mode and the new Mushroom Mode, where you can eat Mario mushrooms to grow or shrink your fighter.
Buy it: Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition
The Wonderful 101
What it is: Another offering from Bayonetta man Hideki Kamiya and PlatinumGames. You take control of an army of unique superheroes, using their morphing abilities to form massive weapons.
Why it was chosen: Sadly, The Wonderful 101 is not only a reference to the group of superheroes featured in the game, it’s also the nickname I like to give to the 101 people who actually bought it.
One of the most shamefully poor-selling Wii U games, The Wonderful 101 is easily one of the best third-party exclusives on the system.
Like Bayonetta and some other Platinum titles, there’s a slight learning curve and at first you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. Then it all clicks and you realise you’re actually playing something pretty special.
Buy it: The Wonderful 101
Xenoblade Chronicles X
What it is: The latest game in the Xeno series and the spiritual successor to cult Wii game Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s about protecting the human race as they seek to coexist with the natives on an alien planet.
Why it was chosen: To be blunt, Xenoblade Chronicles X’s Wii predecessor is a slightly better game in my opinion, but that doesn’t mean X isn’t still a magnificent RPG adventure.
Like the Wii game, it has a quick and seamless battle system that makes grinding an enjoyable pursuit rather than the dull task it is in many other RPGs.
It’s also got an absolutely enormous open world populated by all sorts of weird, wonderful and often massive creatures.
You’re talking well over 100 hours before you completely see and do everything in this one.
Buy it: Xenoblade Chronicles X
Yoshi’s Woolly World
What it is: A brightly coloured platformer from Good-Feel, the same studio behind the similarly fabric-focused Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
Why it was chosen: Nintendo continues to have the stigma attached to it that it mainly makes games for children. After playing Yoshi’s Woolly World, my response is “if it does, so what?”
There are few games this generation that have been so charming. The wool-based graphical style is fantastic (and looks much more effective than Epic Yarn did thanks to its HD resolution).
It’s also got one of the loveliest soundtracks you’ll hear, giving both your eyes and ears a pleasant break from all the shooty-fighty stuff you’re probably used to this gen.
It may be a wee bit easy to get through, but this is a game where the challenge lies more in exploring its stages to find all the hidden collectibles, and you’ll have a great time doing so.
Buy it: Standard Edition or Special Edition with Woolly Yoshi amiibo
What it is: Arguably the best Wii U launch title, Ubisoft’s first-person horror has you trying to survive in a zombie-infested London.
Why it was chosen: There were some who didn’t like ZombiU when it launched, but one of the reasons for this is that a lot of players were treating it like a traditional FPS like Call Of Duty.
In reality, ZombiU was a first-person survival horror game, and as such resources are low and combat is deliberately clunky and difficult.
It’s designed to make you come to the conclusion that fighting the zombies head-on is a last resort, not your primary objective.
Get used to ignoring what its viewpoint suggests and playing it more like a Resident Evil game and ZombiU will absorb you into its creepy, geographically inaccurate version of London.
Buy it: ZombiU
“Is that all? The Wii U only has 30 good games?” I hear you sneer with a grin like an insufferable Dreamworks hero.
No, that isn’t all. Here are another 15 of the sods if you want to grow your Wii U library even further. Although these ones didn’t make my final cut, they’re all still great.
Batman: Arkham City & Arkham Origins
The second and third games in the Batman: Arkham series offer plenty of baddy-punching action and detective shenanigans.
Bit.Trip Presents Runner2
An infuriatingly one-more-go rhythm platformer from the studio behind the Bit.Trip games on WiiWare.
Child Of Light
A beautiful game from Ubisoft that’s part turn-based RPG, part platformer. Created using the same UbiArt graphics engine as the recent Rayman games.
Brilliantly moody adventuring in which you play as Death himself. Imagine a Zelda game where you play as the bad guy.
FAST Racing Neo
The Wii U may never have had an F-Zero game but this futuristic effort is pretty bloody close and it runs at a gloriously smooth 60fps to boot. If Nintendo had any sense it’d hand the keys to F-Zero over to developer Shin’en and get it to make a Switch instalment.
Game & Wario
A selection of comedy mini-games designed to make use of the Wii U GamePad’s unique features. It’s a bit light on content but if you find it cheap it’s a great laugh.
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition
A Metroidvania style platformer with a sense of humour, this has you playing as a Mexican luchador tasked with rescuing El Presidente’s daughter.
Lego series (Batman 2, Batman 3, The Hobbit, Jurassic World, Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel’s Avengers, Lego Movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
A whole host of licensed Lego goodness. Each game feels similar but considering how perfectly tuned its ‘all ages friendly’, drop-in drop-out co-op is that’s no bad thing.
Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition
A puzzle platformer which has you making blocks appear and disappear by pressing a ‘switch’ button. Deceptively simple to get used to but gets fiendishly difficult.
A Pokemon fighting game developed by the team behind the Tekken series. This makes it a surprisingly adept fighter.
Known as Pushmo World in the US, this is the third game in the Pullblox series (which is usually on 3DS) and is another clever little bock-based puzzle platformer.
A beautifully designed platformer and the first game to use the UbiArts engine, which allows for hand-drawn cartoon-quality sprites.
The ultimate ode to 8-bit platformers, with more nostalgic nods than you can shake a heavily pixellated stick at.
A steampunk indie game that shows what Mr Driller could be if it was turned into a proper adventure game. Short but compelling.
Thomas Was Alone
A puzzle platformer with minimalist graphics, lovely music and a witty storyline narrated by Danny Wallace. You’ll either love it or hate it: I fall into the former camp.
The ’30 Best’ series to date:
The 30 best SNES games
The 30 best Amiga games
The 30 best Dreamcast games
The 30 best GameCube games
The 30 best Nintendo DS games
The 30 best Wii games
The 30 best PlayStation Vita games
If you enjoyed this, please consider contributing to my Patreon account. ’30 Best’ is now a monthly series because of my lovely Patreon friends helping me hit a stretch goal, and hitting the next will mean a regular Tired Old Hack podcast.
Pretty much sums up my thoughts on the Wii U too – it sucks that it failed because it does have a decent library of games as shown here. I don’t regret getting one if it meant playing the likes of Smash Bros, Mario Kart, Bayonetta 2, Lego City Undercover and so on (still need to properly get into Xenoblade Chronicles X but Christ there’s so many menus).
Scribblenauts Unlimited gets an almost honorable mention for me because while it was an interesting way to get people thinking in “different ways” we totally got screwed out of that DC Comics crossover Scribblenauts.
Just curious, do you recommend the multi-platform games on the list as someone who’s played them specifically on Wii U and can recommend those versions? still ain’t got ass creed 4 and it’s cheaper on Wii U wherever I look
Since you’ve been counting download games as well as disc-based ones, I’d like to add a few of my own recommendations…
Zen Pinball 2 – I know a lot of people were miffed that the free core game only gave you some demos, making you pay for the full individual tables from the start (personally, I tried to read between the lines on that trailer and came into it prepared for this sort of thing) and that buying the tables isn’t simple, but once you’re in, it’s a damn good pinball game. I mostly have the original tables, and there are some great designs and quirky personalities to them.
Trine 2 (Only just started playing the first Trine, so I’m keeping my opinion on that on hold for now and just recommending this one) – A gorgeous puzzle-platformer that feels like a more casual take on The Lost Vikings. The protagonists and combat sections might be a bit basic, but I really enjoy the puzzles and the whole fairytale presentation.
Freedom Planet – If Shovel Knight is a love letter to 8-bit platformers, then Freedom Planet is the 16-bit equivalent. A very slick 2D platformer where you can choose between three individual characters (as in, they play completely differently from one another) and play through some nifty slightly Chinese-culture-inspired, but mainly sci-fi stages. Highly recommended for platform fans.
Xenoblade Chronicles X… Jesus Christ that is one massive game.
Honorable mentions I would have added Affordable Space Adventures, Deus Ex Human Revolution and StarFox Command. I always have an urge to (re)play Star Fox Zero even though it didn’t click with me that much. Something about that game.
Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101 and Xenoblade Chronicles X are my top 3 of this system.
Fatal Frame 5 ? ? ?