With the impending demise of the WiiU, I decided that it made no sense to wait any longer to write this post. I do so with a heavy heart.
Always a Bridesmaid: Splatoon, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Bayonetta 2, Pikmin 3, Mario Maker, Pokken Tournament, Yoshi’s Wooly World
8. (tie) Hyrule Warriors
No, this isn’t a Zelda game proper, but it is still quite a bit of fun. Modeled after the Dynasty Warriors series, this title weaves together lands from different Zelda games along with characters from each into a surprisingly strong narrative. The gameplay can be redundant for those that aren’t fans of the hack’n slash genre, but I found it to be a joy. It also helps matters that the multiple characters you can play as each attack differently, and are just unique enough to make playing as them feel like a different experience. Not the deepest gaming experience ever, but still a strong game that has enough to seek quite a few hours into. (Full Review)
8. (tie) Smash Brothers
Right off, I am not a fan of fighting games. Most people would rank this game much higher, but as well made as it is, I just couldn’t put it over the other games on that list. And, even with my reservations, this is a very fun game. It is well balanced, features stages from past entries, and has enough characters that it would take dozens of hours to master each of them. The biggest negative for me was the lack of a story mode after what I felt was a standout feature of the previous entry (the Subspace Emissary). Had this entry featured a story mode even close to that, it may have been enough to catapult it up a couple of spots.
7. Lego City Undercover
I like the Lego games anyway, but this WiiU exclusive may have been the best one I’ve played yet. Featuring an original story set in Lego City, you’ll find yourself in an open world with a main story to play through, while also hunting collectibles, completing side-quests, and exploring the large map. Undercover also utilizes the WiiU Gamepad to give you reports and direction from your dispatch at the police station. The only knock against this game is the rather long loading times when you start the game up. I understand this is done so that you can travel seamlessly throughout the city, but it does get a bit repetitive when it happens after cut-scenes and story events. Still, even with that one bother, this is an extremely fun game that I would highly recommend for any WiiU owner.
6. Super Mario 3D World
While I would have preferred an entry more in the mold of the Galaxy games, Mario 3D World is still a very strong game, though I think others like it a bit more than I do. 3D World is almost like an expansion of the 3DS title 3D Land, except with sharper graphics. This isn’t a bad thing, as 3D Land was a very fun game. Plus, the leaf. 3D World also introduces the Bell powerup, letting you don a cat costume and pounce enemies and climb up walls. There is also a new Cherry power-up that gives you a clone. The design of 3D World is superb, and the new power-ups, along with the standards (fire flower, giant mushroom) are utilized in puzzles in very intriguing ways. 3D World suffers a bit, in my opinion, from over-expectations after the amazing Galaxy 2 entry on the Wii. Judged on its own merits, this is an extremely good game, and continues the tradition of of great Mario platforming titles. (Full Review)
5. Mario Kart 8
At this point, it’s hard to say very much about the newest Mario Kart entry. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from the series. Brilliant track design, a multitude of characters and karts to pick from, and rehashed tracks from past Mario Kart titles. Sometimes, being predictable can be a bad thing, but that is not the case for Mario Kart. The 8th entry is tons of fun, and offers no negatives that I could see. Nintendo also published DLC for the title, adding both new and old tracks, as well as Zelda and Animal Crossing themed tracks (along with a playable Link and Villager). This helped keep the game fresh, and meant that you could play it again and again and never have to race the same track twice. Usually, an 8th entry would be bad for any series (Mega Man anyone?), but Mario Kart most definitely does not fall into that trap. (Full Review)
4. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
I was a little disappointed when it was revealed that Retro Studios was working on another Donkey Kong entry instead of Metroid or another IP, but, as with everything Retro touches, the result was pure gold. Tropical Freeze brings back the top notch platforming design of Donkey Kong Country Returns while letting you play as Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong (a first for the series), as well as Donkey and Diddy Kong, taking on a gang of pirates that have overtaken Donkey Kong Isle, freezing it in the process. Each character has their own advantages (Dixie’s floating ability, Cranky’s pogo cane/Scrooge McDuck impression), and some levels are made much easier by using one character over another. And, by much easier, I mean slightly less hard. This game, like its predecessor, is tough. Still, while being difficult, it never feels unfair. Every mistake I made felt like my own mistake, not something the game was doing to me. This is a fine line to toe, and Tropical Freeze nails it. (Full Review)
3. New Super Mario Brothers U
I’m one of the very, very few people that will put this title above 3-D World, but I have always preferred Mario’s side-scrolling adventures, and this entry is top-notch. NSMBU uses the contiguous world map first introduced in Super Mario World, and has you trying to return to Princess Peach’s castle after Bowser attacks it and kicks Mario and company out. NSMBU allows 4 players at a time, just like the Wii entry, meaning hours of frantic play with friends. It also introduces the Acorn power-up, which allows you to float/fly, and is my personal favorite power-up since the Leaf or Feather, while retaining the more classic power-ups (you can also get a couple of power-ups after completing the game that are otherwise unavailable). Also, as with virtually all Mario games, the level design is amazing, and the boss battles with the Kooplings each feature a unique twist that differentiates them from past games. Some people may find this an overstatement, but I felt this was the strongest side-scrolling Mario entry since Mario World. It is truly that good.
2. The Wonderful 101
Few games defy categorization the way that The Wonderful 101 does. It is, essentially, an action game. You control a group of super heroes, the Wonderful Ones, that move and attack en masse. Utilizing the gamepad, you can draw certain shapes and the heroes will form a weapon out of their bodies and attack (sword, whip, bomb, etc…). This makes no sense when put into words, but it works beautifully. As you progress through the game, you will add new heroes, some of which will add new weapon abilities. Also, at certain points in the game, you will have to take on different styles of gameplay (such as a SCHMUP section). This variety simply makes the game more appealing. The story behind the game, that the Earth is being attacked by aliens (GEATHJERK), is also very intriguing, at times, sad, dramatic, and humorous. Also, this game is tough. It looks very “kiddy,” but don’t let that you fool you. It pulls no punches, and if you don’t master the combat, you’re in for a rough ride. That said, once you do get the controls down, this is an amazingly rewarding experience. (Full Review)
1. Xenoblade Chronicles X
Ending exactly like my Wii list, Xenoblade is my personal top WiiU game. This is such a strong game that I would have purchased a WiiU just to play it alone. The game plays much like the original Wii title, your party (up to 4) explores the world, though this game features an open world limited only by your current abilities. Attacking is initiated by approaching enemies. Your characters will attack automatically, while you can supplement attacks via the use of Arts. Where this game differentiates itself is through the use of Skells, giant mechs that, once you’ve put a few hours into the game, you’ll be able to board and control in battle. You can supplement them by purchasing new weapons, or purchase entirely new skells, both for yourself or for your team. This sounds like a simple gimmick, but it changes how you approach the game, and offers a risk/reward situation as your skell can be destroyed. I feel that the only aspect of this game that is weaker than its predecessor is the narrative. Xenoblade Chronicles had a driving narrative which I found very powerful. This title sacrifices that a bit, possibly to allow for the open world environment. Still, that is only a minor quibble. Xenoblade Chronicles X is a stellar title, and, I believe, the best game available on the WiiU.
Brandon Nicholson is a blogger for TMRzoo.com and the founder of Just Another Video Game Blog and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3 and PS4, Microsoft XBOX One and XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Brandon provides his readers with reviews, previews, release dates and up to date gaming industry news, trailers and rumors.