Despite being a commercial failure, the Wii U was home to a number of excellent games. Luckily, many of the best games that the ill-fated successor to the Wii had to offer have since been ported to other systems, and while these are often not the ideal ways of playing these games, it at the very least makes them available for a wider audience. However, not all Wii U games have gotten ported, with a number still trapped on the console. For some games, this is not that big a deal due to their lack of quality (I doubt that many are clamoring for a port of Rabbids Land). In other cases, ports are seen as unnecessary due to the existence of sequels that effectively act as replacements for the originals such as Super Mario Maker 2, and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. But in other cases, some genuinely great games have never seen the light of day after appearing on the Wii U, and in this list, we will be looking at our 10 favorites.
10. Star Fox Zero/ Gaurd
This is a controversial pick to be sure, but Star Fox Zero deserves more credit than it gets. Once one gets past its steep learning curve and figures out that by switching views using the Select button it is possible to avoid having to look back and forth between the different screens it becomes possible to appreciate this game and see that, beyond its rough exterior, is a fairly solid core. Admittedly, doing all of this is a big ask for most players and even then it doesn’t guarantee that they will enjoy the game, but it is nonetheless worth a try. It is also worth trying its companion game, Star Fox Gaurd, which provides a fairly novel take on the tower defense genre. Neither game is for everyone, but for those that can gel with them, the Star Fox games for Wii U can be a great experience.
Splatoon came very close to being excluded from this list due to the fact that its sequel Splatoon 2 is in many ways intended to act as a replacement for the original. However, that would be doing this original entry a disservice, especially in regard to its excellent single-player campaign. While other entries in the series had solid single-player campaigns of their own the original still deserves to be played. Featuring a mixture of third-person shooting and 3D platforming across a variety of stages, Splatoon’s single-player is still a blast to play and its a shame that the only way to play it is on the Wii U. There are also a few other minor differences between this game and its later sequels that make it stand out including the addicting Squid Jump mini-game. Overall, this is a fun game that is worth revisiting even if you have played Splatoon 2 and 3.
8. Nintendo Land
Nintendo Land was originally positioned to be the Wii U’s Wii Sports; a game that would prove the utility of its unique controller and convince players that asymmetrical gameplay was the way of the future. In that respect, the game was largely a failure, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t a blast to play. The game presented players with a wide variety of mini-games all wrapped up in a slick theme park aesthetic. Each of these mini-games made use of the Wii U gamepad in unique ways. Some of these games were definitely better than others, but all were at least decent. By far the best of the bunch were those that made use of asymmetric multiplayer such as Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. The game remains a fantastic party game that provides an experience, unlike almost anything that has come before or since. Unfortunately, due to being specifically built around the Wii U hardware, it is highly unlikely that Nintendo Land will ever be ported to other consoles. A few of its mini-games might be able to be played on systems with a touch-screen like the Switch with minor modifications, but most would have to be completely reworked from the ground up.
7. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
The sequel to the DS classic Kirby: Canvas Curse, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse turned heads at the time of its release due to its eye-catching claymation art style. Graphics aside, this was an excellent game that maintains the Kirby series’ high standards while still managing to stand out as a unique entry. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is controlled almost entirely using the Wii U touch screen; in the game, Kirby is a ball that is constantly rolling along with the player drawing lines to guide his movement and tapping him to make him speed up. The game is able to derive a great deal of depth from this relatively simple core idea with each level making use of these mechanics in clever and unique ways. Overall it’s a lot of fun and it would be great to see it ported to the Switch.
6. Paper Mario: Color Splash
While somewhat maligned by fans due to its failure to address many of the problems of the previous Paper Mario game, as well as being unable to recapture the magic of earlier games in the series, Paper Mario: Color Splash is still a great time that fans of comedic writing should enjoy. First, it should be stated that the Paper Mario series definitely benefited from the move to HD visuals. This is an absolutely gorgeous game with colors and textures that pop off the screen and truly bring the series’ papercraft aesthetic to life like never before. This game’s strongest suit is its writing, Color Splash is often hilarious with plenty of clever meta-humor. In spite of some fairly mediocre battle mechanics, the game’s overall design is also much better than one might think. While it might not have been what fans wanted, what they ended up getting was still really good.
5. Pushmo World
The third game in the Pushmo series, Pushmo World finally brought the addicting puzzle series to the console. Pushmo is simple in premise; move differently shaped blocks along 3 different layers in an attempt to climb to the top of a structure. Despite its simplicity, Pushmo World possesses plenty of depth across its staggering 250 levels. The game can be incredibly challenging at times and will no doubt have many players pulling their hair out as they wrack their brains for the solutions to many of these mind-melters. Nonetheless, the game is incredibly addicting and it never stops feeling rewarding to triumph over its various challenges. Unfortunately due to the closure of the Wii U e-shop, it is no longer possible to purchase this game through normal means. Even if you already downloaded it, the lack of online support means that sharing custom levels through Miiverse is no longer possible.
4. Affordable Space Adventures
One of the most inspired uses of the Wii U Gamepad, Affordable Space Adventures stood out as a shining gem in the Wii U e-shop. The game had players control a spacecraft navigating through a variety of 2D levels. The Wii U gamepad is used to monitor and control the various systems on the ship. Where this game really shone was in co-op which allowed up to 3 players to work together with each taking on a different role. The player with the gamepad played as the engineer, while two others took on the roles of pilot and science officer. Communication and teamwork are crucial for success. Unlike other games in this list this game was never released physically and thus with the closure of the Wii U e-shop it is no longer possible to legally acquire this game short of buying a console with it preinstalled. A sad fate to befall such an ambitious title.
3. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Easily the best version of an absolute classic, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is an absolute must-have for any Wii U owner and a game that needs to be ported sooner rather than later. More than just a graphical enhancement, Wind Waker HD made a number of smart changes to the Gamecube original. These include the addition of the swift sail, allowing players to zoom across the Great Sea at double speed without needing to constantly change the direction of the wind. The triforce shard quest was also altered to make it less tedious, not to mention the ability to fully control Link while in first-person. One new feature that is sadly no longer operable is the game’s Miiverse functionality which allowed players to send each other messages in bottles. Still, this is a great version of an already great game, if you only get one way to play this classic game make sure that it is the Wii U version.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
Another fantastic Zelda game to get the HD remaster treatment, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD may not have made as many changes as Wind Waker HD, but when the core game is this good, it’s hard to complain. Aside from the graphical enhancements, Twilight Princess HD also benefited from the use of the Wii U gamepad for displaying the game’s map as well as allowing for easier inventory management. The game also saw the addition of a new difficulty mode as well as amiibo support. Most notably the use of the Wolf Link amiibo allowed players to partake in a new enemy challenge dungeon called the Cave of Shadows. At the end of the day, this remaster allows players to experience the definitive version of one of the best games that the Zelda series has to offer, it’s just a shame that so few have been able to do so.
1. Xenoblade Chronicles X
Though generally seen as something of a black sheep in the Xenoblade series, Xenoblade Chronicles X is still a great game with a massive and beautiful world to explore. Unlike previous entries Chronicles X places less of an emphasis on story and characters and more so on exploring the world. What a world it is, full of vast landscapes, massive creatures, and varied biomes. Set in the distant future where Earth has been destroyed after being caught in the crossfire of an intergalactic war between alien empires. The game tasks players with helping human survivors settle on the planet of Mira. While not exactly what players wanted in a successor to the first Xenoblade Chronicles, this game is fantastic in its own right.