If you look at a list of the best Wii U games, it shows that there’s far more to this console than meets the eye. It’s undeniable that the Wii U was something of a commercial failure for Nintendo, nor was it able to slot into popular culture like the Nintendo Wii that preceded it. But that isn’t to say that there weren’t some fantastic games made for the system.
In fact, our ranking of the best Wii U games highlights the diversity of the available library. The Wii U is home to memorable Nintendo exclusives, some innovative third-party releases, and some remasters of some of the best games of the modern era. There’s something for everybody here. So join us as we explore the 25 best Wii U games of all-time.
For more definitive rankings of Nintendo games throughout the years:
Best Wii U games
25. Lego City: Undercover
Developer: TT Fusion
We’ve heard you joking, saying, “someone should make Lego Grand Theft Auto!” whenever a new Lego game was announced. You never expected anyone to do it, did you? But then, all of a sudden, Traveller’s Tales actually went there, and it turned out to be a great game too. Lego City: Undercover includes a massive city to explore and all the charm Lego games are known for, without the Adults-only rating that open-world crime games usually get. Instead, it’s a fun trip through a blocky city that anyone can enjoy, filled with things to build and people to save.
Exploring the world as Chase McCain is a ton of fun, and being able to change into eight different outfits to take on new jobs adds plenty of gameplay variety. Donning an astronaut costume will let you zoom around in a jetpack (because apparently, astronauts have jetpacks), and dressing as a firefighter allows you to put out fires you find in the open world. Though you’ll likely miss co-op, which was oddly omitted from Lego City, there’s a good chance you’ll be distracted enough by the dozens of hours of content that you’ll barely notice it’s missing.
24. The Wonderful 101
Don’t mistake The Wonderful 101 for some sort of group-management sim like Pikmin – this is a full-on action game wrapped in a Viewtiful Joe disguise. You control a superhero in a wonderfully realized world full of sass and puns (no surprise considering The Wonderful 101 comes from Platinum Games, the team behind Bayonetta). With dozens of followers under your command, you’re tasked with saving the world one GamePad stroke at a time.
See, your superhero can command his followers to form giant weapons – whips, swords, etc – which is achieved by drawing the corresponding shape of said weapon on the GamePad’s touchscreen. While this is a great use of the Wii U’s unique controller, in practice it can be rather difficult to draw certain shapes on the fly while simultaneously dodging attacks onscreen. Still, The Wonderful 101 is packed with charm and humor in equal measure, and even though its gameplay doesn’t always translate into fun, it’s a mostly enjoyable adventure all the same.
Ubi’s surprise launch day hit is still as terrifying as it was back in 2012. London has been hit by the zombie virus and you’re one of the few survivors out there who hasn’t turned into a brain-hungry staggering fiend. It’s not like zombies haven’t been done to death (or undeath), but ZombiU manages to crank up the tension in a number of ways. It’s permadeath for one thing. Send your intrepid survivor out into London town and die and you’ll restart as another person entirely, complete with backstory. All that’s left of your previous character is a shambling corpse and one that you’ll probably have to kill if you want your precious rucksack of stuff back.
ZombiU is brutal and nasty. Survival is difficult, weapons are scarce, but a lot of the fear stems from some terrifyingly inventive uses of the GamePad. While you’re rummaging around in your rucksack for loot, you’re prime zombie munching fodder, so every gaze into your inventory is a serious risk. Looting enemies and sniping is all done through the GamePad too so it all genuinely feels designed for the console instead of shoehorned in. Officially the scariest game on Wii U.
22. Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a rarity: a reboot that’s immensely better than its source material. It takes the granularity of the original PC classic, cuts much of the excess baggage, and streamlines the experience with tightened combat and modern open-world design touches. The result: a game that honors its past while looking forward, all wrapped up in a transhumanist narrative that combines real existential questions and typically schlocky conspiracy narratives to thrilling effect.
The Director’s Cut arrived a few years later on Wii U, fixing the boss fights to allow for non-lethal methods of engagement, enhancing the graphics, lighting, AI, and more, and even integrating the second screen on the GamePad to allow for more intuitive and immediate controls. It may have lost exclusive status like nearly every other non-Nintendo Wii U game, but it’s still a great version of a stellar game.
21. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Developer: Retro Studios
If you’ve ever played the Donkey Kong Country series on Super Nintendo, you know that those games are hard. Yet despite the fact that you will die again, and again, and again, it never seems so bad because the challenge is fair, and even the trickiest platforming section feels conquerable with enough effort. That same spirit of sublime difficulty is alive and well in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, the Wii U sequel to Retro Studios’ excellent 2.5D reboot of DK’s jungle-stomping franchise.
Besides the tough-but-gratifying running and jumping, Tropical Freeze has great presentation and polish. It’s packed with subtle detail and vibrant visuals, and a great soundtrack makes the whole experience all the more enjoyable. Plus, the three different Kongs you can partner up with–Diddy, Daisy, and Cranky–each have a unique ability, providing some variety in the way you approach each challenging obstacle. Sure, Tropical Freeze is tough, but it’s difficult in all the right ways and is a must-own title for any Wii U owner.
20. Axiom Verge
Developer: Thomas Happ Games
Axiom Verge came to Wii U about a year later than every other console, but this means Nintendo got the definitive version of this gorgeous, old-school Metroidvania game. The Wii U version added a leaderboard function for speedrunners – on other consoles, you have to record this info yourself – and you can always see the map on the Wii U GamePad. For a game about exploration, this a revolutionary addition. There are no hints in Axiom Verge – no arrows pointing you where to go – so the incorporation of the Wii U’s second screen is a masterstroke.
This may be a form of heresy, but it’s safe to say Axiom Verge is better than many of the classics that inspired it, and if you’re going to play any version of it, this is the one to pick up.
19. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Imagine a host of your favourite JRPG characters clocking off, unbuckling their swords and kicking back at the weirdest nightclub on the planet, and you’re somewhere close to Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. It’s a concept so absurd it’s almost alienating, combining elements from relatively niche games such as Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, and an aspirational teen J-Pop storyline. But this is precisely what makes it so special.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a fun, incredibly player-friendly romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously – yes, bad things are happening, but everything is bright, cheerful, and tongue is firmly in bubblegum-flavored cheek. If you want a game that’s happy to throw in mid-dungeon song-and-dance routines to fake anime theme songs, this is the only place to come. It’s magnificently weird and proud of it, using a ridiculous concept to craft a solid, surprisingly engrossing JRPG that’s impossible to resist.
18. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
When it comes to Monster Hunter you either get it, or you don’t. If you don’t, then Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate feels like an unintuitive mess of mechanics. If you do, then you’ll find yourself losing hundreds of hours slaying monsters, looting them for parts, crafting new gear, before doing it all over again. Ultimate’s Wii U version is the definitive iteration of the game, with strong visuals, great controls, and online play that’ll keep you grinding for a long time.
And, honestly, if you fall into the “I don’t get it” class, you might as well give Ultimate a go anyway. It has all of the fun of an MMO smashed into a game you can play solo, and if you end up getting hooked, you can pick up the 3DS version as well, transferring your character between the two to keep playing no matter where you are.
17. New Super Mario Bros. U
The Wii Us launch lineup has been one of the strongest in recent memory, thanks in no small part to launching with a brand-new Mario game, which hasn’t happened since 1996. This time around Nintendo created a new entry in the well-loved retro franchise New Super Mario Bros. And believe us when we say it’s the best 2D Mario since the SNES days.
Inviting new players while still being challenging, New Super Mario Bros. U has tons of interesting new enemies, clever stage design, and fresh approaches to classic Mario boss battles. NSMBU also offers a surprising amount of replay value thanks to engrossing minigames and levels packed with secrets. If you only have room in your budget for one game on the Wii U, it should be this one.
16. NES Remix Pack
We dare you to tell us that the NES era wasn’t a pinnacle of gaming culture. Try to pretend that Mario didn’t rock your sox, or that the open-ended depth of the original Legend of Zelda wasn’t a complete game-changer, and you’ll have the world calling your BS in minutes flat. Unfortunately, that time (much like the rest of our childhood) has passed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t dive into the old classics with NES Remix.
But while all of our old favorites return for another round, this collection throws a few curveballs into the mix as well. Series mascots can bleed into separate franchises, some levels are completely transformed, and silly challenges like hyperspeed modes or autorunning only give us more ways to play the games we’ve beaten to death. With luck, this could catch on for other generations as well.
15. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
Developer: Tantalus Media / Nintendo
The Wii U may not have played host to its own, unique entry in The Legend of Zelda series like every other Nintendo console before it, but it did get two of the best versions of some of the finest games of the series. Twilight Princess HD arrived late in the Wii U’s life, but its presence is no less welcome, providing a wealth of improvements and a variety of changes to streamline this fan favorite’s more frustrating elements.
Twilight Princess HD enhances the GameCube version (complete with lefty Link and the non-mirrored world) with improved visuals, the mapping of three items to controller buttons (compared to two in the original game), reducing the number of Twilight seeds you have to collect during the sections where you play as Wolf Link, and GamePad functionality to allow easy inventory management and map viewing. It’s the best way to experience this strange, Tim Burton-by-way-of-Japanese-anime take on the Zelda universe, and it features some of the coolest gadgets in the series by far.
14. Affordable Space Adventures
Developer: NapNok Games
The Wii U’s GamePad was the albatross on the system’s back, the promise of innovation that never quite materialized, as most developers simply offloaded their maps or inventory screens onto it. And then a small eShop title from KnapNok Games came along called Affordable Space Adventures, which justified nearly all of the system’s gimmicky features better than even Nintendo could.
As the recipient of an all-inclusive trek to an undiscovered planet from the comically capitalistic UExplore travel company, you’ll pilot your Small Craft across alien terrain, avoid obstacles, and try to make it through increasingly inhospitable environs intact. To do this, you’ll use the GamePad’s screen to access your ship’s various components like a virtual control panel. Turn your thrusters to maximum if you need to get through an area quickly, adjust your gravity well if you need to make yourself lighter, but be careful, as all of these options affect your noise, heat, and electric levels. Turn everything up too high, and you’ll find yourself a smoldering wreck on the side of an uncaring planet. It’s a brilliant game that hasn’t gotten nearly the kind of love it deserves, and it’s absolutely one of the best games the Wii U has to offer.
Splatoon is one of those games that you feel happy just looking at. Whether it’s great globs of color or adorable Inklings, everything about it is a pleasure to behold. It’s the rarest of all things – a competitive shooter that makes you feel amazing whether you win or lose, that’s more about the simple, tactile joy of splurging paint over every imaginable surface than it is about singular heroics or no-scope headshots.
How many times have you stepped away from an FPS unhappier than when you started? That’ll never happen here. In that sense, it’s the most Nintendo thing ever – a simple concept, done brilliantly well, without a hint of shouty unpleasantness. Add in stacks of collectible loot and genius traversal mechanics, which are simple to learn but difficult to master, and you have the beginning of a timeless franchise in the making.
12. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
The delightfully tricky Captain Toad levels in Super Mario 3D World were so good, Nintendo went and spun them out into their own game. The result is Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, an adorable little puzzle game filled with some of Nintendo’s most inventive and clever challenges yet.
As the diminutive Captain Toad, along with his adventure pal Toadette, you’ll explore dozens of bite-sized dioramas, maneuvering each explorer up pathways and past goombas while figuring out how to collect each diamond and make it to the end. You only have a few moves at your disposal (Toad can’t even jump like his bud Mario), but Treasure Tracker wrings every last drop of fun out of its levels. It’s one of the Wii U’s most surprising delights, a game full of boundless joy and charm.
11. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
It’s a thing we’ve said before about the Smash Bros. series, but it’s absolutely worth reiterating here: whether you win or lose, you just want to keep playing. In a very Nintendo-y way, it takes a deeply competitive fighting game and removes the grind and anger that sometimes comes with one-on-one combat. Even after hundreds of matches, you’ll still get that same rush of excitement before a match starts, and this is just as true in the Wii U version.
It’s the sort of wonderful chaos that makes some fighting game fans scratch their heads, but it makes for a wild and brightly entertaining game. The Wii U version improves the familiar gameplay rather than reinventing it, focussing on balanced bouts and technical depth, and it’s a worthy update to an already illustrious and much loved series.
10. Rayman Legends
Few games mix whimsy and challenge as successfully as Rayman Legends, a wholly entertaining platformer that’ll simultaneously put your skills to the test and a smile on your face. It all starts with the hand-drawn aesthetic. The cartoon-like visuals are downright gorgeous, and the characters – Rayman, his pal Globox, and the wizard Teensies – have plenty of quirky animations and personality.
Of course, that wouldn’t mean much if the gameplay wasn’t good, but Legends is one of the best platformers around. Every level is packed with hidden secrets and a slew of obstacles–ranging from deadly pits to equally deadly bad guys–that’ll keep you on your toes. And each of its multiple worlds closes out with an incredible music stage, where every jump and action happens to the beat of a song. Don’t miss out on this excellent game.
9. Nintendo Land
Much like Wii Sports, Nintendo Land was created to be an inviting tech demo for Nintendo’s experimental new console. But that’s pretty much where the comparisons cease because Nintendo Land is made to appeal to both the blue ocean of casual players as well as the millions of Nintendo junkies around the world. And though the 12 core minigames vary in quality, when Nintendo Land gets it right, it makes for great fun for up to five players.
Set in a virtual Nintendo theme park, each minigame is an attraction inspired by a different Nintendo franchise. The standouts of the bunch are intense versus battles like Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, in addition to deeper co-op adventures like Metroid Blast and Pikmin Adventure. Even if some of the single-player challenges are too shallow, Nintendo Land is a great party game perfect for introducing your friends to your new console and will keep you entertained long after they leave.
8. Shovel Knight
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Shovel Knight is an indie title that harkens back to the retro stylings of Mega Man and Duck Tales, so it’s fitting that its only console outing is on Wii U. This is old-school NES fun at its best, sporting a shovel to swing, platforms to hop on, and colorful opponents to overcome.
Shovel Knight features stages based on elements like fire, ice, and poison, each completely different from the last. Leap and slash your way through these, and you’ll cap off each stage in a showdown with the Order of No Quarter – knights with as much personality as the levels they inhabit. If the rush of battling the fire-spitting Mole Knight or the staff-slamming King Knight isn’t enough, then how about different types of armor and weapons, extra bosses, and bonus levels? This retro throwback is fun for players of all ages.
7. Super Mario Maker
Nintendo handing over the keys to 30 years worth of Mario level objects and letting you loose with them is a bit like Alfred giving you the access code to the Batcave. Am I allowed to be in here? But once you’ve got over the sheer volume of stuff that you’re allowed to play with here, it’s kid in a sweet shop territory. Thankfully there’s a slow trickle of new toys, so you’re not suddenly so overwhelmed that you need to open a window, but the offerings from three decades of Mario means that you can build whatever kind of level you can dream up.
It’s all absurdly easy too. You can actually draw out the level on the GamePad before dragging and dropping bricks and blocks galore. Just like LittleBigPlanet, half the joy – or all of it if you find out you’re not the level designer you hoped – is going in and trying other people’s creations. Whether you want surreal levels where creators have broken all the rules or ultra-hard Super Meat Boy-esque side-scrollers from hell, you’ll find it here.
6. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Gaming has come a long way since 2003, but the Zelda series has yet to truly improve upon the brilliance of Wind Waker. The gorgeous, understated art has aged gracefully, as has the action-packed gameplay and mystery-rich dungeons. Wind Waker took all the tropes of the Zelda franchise and reimagined them in a story that’s both reverent of franchise mythology while still taking chances with expectations.
When Nintendo returned to the title for an HD remake, the developers did far more than upscale the visual fidelity. Wind Waker HD fixes the majority of the few real problems the game had, such as the spotty pacing near the end and the sometimes-frustrating stealth. One of the best Zelda games ever made just got better, and is worth turning on your Wii U for, whether you played the original or are dying to know what all the fuss is about.
5. Mario Kart 8
Oh, it’s another Mario Kart game, huh? Just like the ones you’ve played for hundreds of hours on almost every single system Nintendo has ever sold? Don’t be so quick to judge, because Mario Kart 8 brings some huge advancements to the series, starting with the visuals. This game has to be one of the most gorgeous-looking projects in Nintendo history; the company’s overdue arrival into the HD era.
But MK8 doesn’t just get by on its good looks. It brings a ton of gameplay changes, like greatly expanding the number of races, adding new anti-gravity sections that do a great job of freshening up all the retro courses that return, and finally adding an item that can counter the dreaded Blue Shell. The online gets a major boost too and works smoothly throughout while letting players upload their racing highlight videos to YouTube. Mario Kart 8 is the most current the series has ever felt, all without giving up the pure multiplayer fun at the heart of the action. Oh, and the Animal Crossing DLC pack is worth every ultra-charming penny for those new tracks.
4. Bayonetta 2
Nintendo’s been such a clean-cut, family-friendly company for so long that it still boggles our minds to see Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U. Nevertheless, we were more than happy to see the wild witch find a home in the house that Mario built. It’s that pinch of exotic spice the platform needed; a touch of over-the-top, hyper-sexy silliness that makes us feel better about being adults that still play with the baby system
And that gameplay; fast, slick, stylish, smooth, and every other adjective that can be used to positively describe an action game. Bayonetta 2 has us hooting and hollering as we take down that tough-to-beat boss, then diving back in for another try and the high score. With the original included as an added bonus, we’ll happily take any excuse to fly ourselves to the moon one more time.
3. Pikmin 3
The Wii U’s killer app has arrived, and it’s not a Mario game. Yeah, we were surprised, too. Pikmin 3 is everything we wanted and more and makes a great case for the Wii U hardware. Pikmin has been Nintendo’s smartest franchise since Olimar first stumbled around an alien planet, putting strategy and planning ahead of platforming and brawling, and this game pushes the envelope even further. Patrolling the massive, beautiful world as the crew of the SS Drake is awe-inspiring, and you’ll love collecting fruit and fighting strange animals around the huge world.
Better yet, it takes great advantage of the second screen by allowing for multitasking that would be damn near impossible on any other platform, enhancing the already-impressive gameplay by letting you control all three characters at the same time. It’s everything you want from a next-gen game – it’s pretty, it’s smart, it wouldn’t have been possible on older hardware, and… it’s fun. It’s really, really fun.
2. Super Mario 3D World
No, Super Mario 3D World isn’t the next Mario Galaxy. It’s a much safer bet for Nintendo and one that’s in line with the company’s attempts at appeasing the core while retaining the casual crowd. But don’t let that dissuade you – it’s an incredible success, and while it doesn’t really feel as ambitious as Mario’s space-bound journeys, it might be the closest thing we’ll ever get to a sequel to Mario 64.
With fantastic gameplay and some of the best level designs in the franchise’s history, 3D World is a landmark achievement in platforming. It’s downright ingenious at times, with clever worlds that nod to the franchise’s past without being too obsessed with its own legacy. And while you might come for the core gameplay, you’ll find the multiplayer actually finally works as a complement instead of a detriment. Whereas previous attempts turn the precise platforming of Mario into a chaotic mess of head-bouncing, 3D World’s 3D worlds mean you’re actually able to play together without getting in each other’s way. It’s an evolution, a revolution, and a must-own.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the most exciting game Nintendo’s made in years. It drops decades of baggage and formulaic world-design by embracing the free-form exploratory nature of the very first game in the series, all while layering in dozens of modern, interweaving systems to make sure it never plays the same way twice. It has all the tools available for the kind of improvised mischief you’d find in Far Cry 2 or Metal Gear Solid 5, but still has that immaculate Nintendo touch in its characters, its quests, and its puzzle Shrines. Breath of the Wild is a bold new direction for The Legend of Zelda, one whose vistas and sunsets we’ll be soaking up for years to come.
The Wii U’s swansong is simultaneously the Switch’s killer app, but however you decide to play, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a grand, colorful, and majestic adventure well worth experiencing. If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge and drop $300 just for portable Zelda, or you want to give your Wii U a proper send-off, the Wii U version is more than capable, offering an experience that is virtually comparable to its next-gen successor.
If you’re passionate about retro gaming or just want to learn more about it, then you should check out Retro Gamer. Retro Gamer is the world’s longest-running magazine dedicated to classic games, and you can find out more about it at at Magazines Direct
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