The 18th of November marks the 10th anniversary of the Wii U, which has the unfortunate honour of being one of Nintendo’s worst selling home consoles – and one that almost threatened to finish off the company.
As the name suggests, it was meant to be a successor to the hugely successful Wii. As well as finally ushering the house of Mario into the HD era, its trump card was meant to be the bulky tablet-style gamepad, acting as a second screen that would transform how we’d interact with games. Alas, few developers found innovative ways to make use of this second screen, which just wasn’t as intuitive to use as the DS and 3DS dual-screen handhelds. Being a way to play games when someone else was using the telly was also restricted by the gamepad having to stay in proximity to the console.
Yet despite coming away with just 13.56 million units sold in its short life, it was an important stepping stone to the Nintendo Switch, a hybrid console where you could genuinely take your gaming on the go. And even though third party support quickly dried up, Nintendo’s own first-party Wii U efforts were solid. It saw some of the company’s most inventive new IP, including kid-friendly team-based shooter Splatoon and Super Mario Maker, which both got sequels on the Switch. Like all underdogs, the Wii U is still fondly remembered – despite its shortcomings.
The good news is that you won’t have to rummage through second hand shops to see what you missed out on: many of its best offerings have now been given a second life on Switch. So for its anniversary, here’s a countdown to the 10 best Wii U games you can play on the Nintendo Switch.
10. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
When two of the most hardcore Japanese RPG franchises – Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei – combine, you wouldn’t have expected a colorful high school adventure starring a bunch of teen pop idols. But with few RPGs on the system, Tokyo Mirage Sessions balanced bubblegum visuals with hardcore turn-based battles where everyone looks glamourous fighting alongside the spirits of legendary Fire Emblem heroes.
With JRPGs becoming more popular in the West since then, it’s a good time to discover this hidden gem via this enhanced port, which features new content and DLC costumes from the original game.
9. The Wonderul 101: Remastered
Packed with ideas, but messy in its execution, The Wonderful 101 was PlatinumGames’ exclusive designed to make use of the gamepad’s touchscreen. Simple drawn shapes would transform into the larger-than-life attacks belonging to a global elite of superheroes battling as one unit to thwart an alien invasion.
While its remaster on other platforms saw you drawing shapes with just the right stick, the Switch port can still use the touchscreen in handheld mode. It feels like the definitive way to experience this innovative, if flawed, action game.
8. Pikmin 3 Deluxe
This unusual hybrid of real-time strategy and survival game played out in someone’s massive back garden is less a household name than creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s other beloved creations like Mario and Zelda, but is nonetheless a delight. You command armies of plant-like Pikmin to help you navigate an alien planet to cultivate food, solve puzzles, and fend off giant enemies.
Official confirmation that the long-rumoured Pikmin 4 will debut in 2023 makes now the perfect time to give this Deluxe version a play. It includes all previous DLC missions, as well as new prologue and epilogue missions starring the series’ original astronaut Captain Olimar.
7. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Essentially a Super Mario 3D World mini-game expanded into a standalone title, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a joyous and charming little puzzler. You play as the titular Captain Toad, exploring intricate dioramas packed with smart puzzles and gems to discover.
Its laidback, small-scale vibe made it perfect for playing on the Wii U gamepad, which is perhaps why it was ported to the 3DS as well as the Switch. But the latter is where it really shines with improved visuals, extra levels, as well as a co-op mode where you can play as Toadette.
6. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Compared to other Wii U-to-Switch ports, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has a hard time justifying a £10 higher price than the original, as there’s no extra content bar a glorified new difficulty option. Yet there’s charm to Funky mode, where you play as the laid-back Funky Kong (who not only has more hit points, but can also double-jump or float in the air with his surfboard). It makes the original’s hardcore challenges more approachable.
Even without Funky mode, this remains one of the best 2D platformers around, with gorgeous visuals, ingenious level design, and a fantastic score from original Donkey Kong Country composer David Wise.
5. Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition
One of the only titles on this list that was actually released on other platforms, although it was originally conceived as a Wii U exclusive. But with its creative use of touch and gyro controls, playing Rayman Legends again on Switch in handheld mode is the definitive way to play what is hands down the best modern 2D platformer, surpassing even Nintendo’s best efforts.
While new content in the definitive edition is mainly multiplayer mini-games, it hardly matters when the main game is already packed with so many stunning levels created using the painterly UbiArt Framework engine, including the truly inspired music levels based on real songs.
4. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
It may not reach the stratospheric heights of the Galaxy titles that came before or Odyssey afterwards, but Super Mario 3D World is still nothing less than Nintendo’s best and brightest developers coming up with some of the most inventive levels for Mario and pals to play through. This also includes a new bell item, which transforms you into a cat who can attack enemies and climb walls.
The Switch port also adds Bowser’s Fury, a separate adventure that, while bite-sized, offers an irresistible taster of what to expect from a future open world Mario game.
3. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart is the ultimate system seller, and while it wasn’t enough to sway the Wii U’s fortunes, its ridiculous success on Switch speaks volumes. Virtually everyone has probably already picked up this kart racer with their console. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
This deluxe port already packed in a lot of content, including all previous DLC courses, new characters like the Splatoon inklings, as well as a revamped battle mode. A long overdue season pass that will add a whopping 48 extra courses means there’s still life yet in the greatest racing/party game ever made. Still, those blue shells can do one.
2. Bayonetta 2
A sexy witch punishing her enemies by spanking them, while performing over-the-top finishers that leave her in a state of undress – that hardly seems like the kind of character you’d associate with Nintendo. Yet we’re thankful the company saved PlatinumGames’ sequel from cancellation to become the Wii U’s first true must-play title.
The Switch version is one of the most direct ports here, with not even an increase in resolution so as to ensure no compromise to its silky smooth frame rate – but then you can’t improve on perfection. The long-overdue third instalment may have just released, but Bayonetta 2 is the witch at her Pure Platinum best.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
As third party support all but evaporated and ensured a swift end to the Wii U, it’s unsurprising that this Zelda title would receive a simultaneous cross-gen release, much like Twlight Princess on GameCube and Wii. Yet this open world masterpiece, which not only shakes up the Zelda formula but other formulaic open world games, is undeniably a Wii U title first and foremost. That Sheikah Slate tablet in Link’s hands is practically a stand-in for that console’s gamepad.
As your map for marking your own waypoints, a way for intuitive gyro aiming with Link’s bow, and of course a roster of game-changing abilities like remote controlled bombs, Magnesis and Stasis, this ancient device unlocked the potential that the real gamepad itself didn’t manage.
The Wii U may have been bombed, but when it’s where you can play the greatest game of all time, that’s hardly a failure.