With just a few days left to go before the arrival of the Nintendo Switch, the Big N has long since put the Wii U on the back burner. The Wii U is a console that was badly misunderstood during its debut and then never really managed to recover, its failure being a large reason why Nintendo has been laser focused on getting the Switch to market as quickly as possible. That said, just because the console itself didn’t live up to expectations doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot to like about its software lineup.
For the true believers who bought in, the Wii U features plenty of great games, many of which still have that classic Nintendo magic and charm. Before we move on to the Nintendo Switch, here’s one last look back at the 25 best games on the Wii U:
25. Star Fox Zero
Star Fox Zero was supposed to be the game that finally unlocked the full potential of the Wii U Gamepad with no less an authority than Shigeru Miyamoto leading the project. Unfortunately, the controls ended up being one of the game’s biggest issues, with the constant switching between the Gamepad and TV leaving many gamers feeling disoriented. That said, we wrote in our review that Star Fox Zero “still manages to propel the legacy of the series into the current generation of games.” Star Fox Zero is indeed a game with many flaws but it’s still worth a playthrough for hardcore fans of the franchise and therefore is just barely good enough to sneak its way onto this list.
There are plenty of other Wii U games on the market today that are better than ZombiU, but on Day 1 of the Wii U’s lifespan, this was one of the best launch games available. It’s held up well enough in the years since to be worthy of inclusion in any discussion about the console’s best games. Developer Ubisoft Montpellier did a great job of making the Gamepad a central part of this survival horror experience, which is something we wish more third-party devs would have found the time to do during the Wii U’s all too short life.
23. Yoshi’s Woolly World
If this was a competition for the Wii U game most likely to make you go “D’AWWWW IT’S SO CUTE,” Yoshi’s Woolly World would take the top spot in a landslide. The title features gameplay familiar to any fan of Yoshi’s Island placed inside an adorable arts and crafts skin. There’s plenty of classic 16-bit era platforming to enjoy here mixed with plenty of collectibles for the hardcore player. Oh, and let’s not forget the greatest Amiibo ever created.
22. Hyrule Warriors
Go to Hyrule Warriors‘ Metacritic page and you’ll soon discover that this title was one of the Wii U’s most polarizing. Some outlets, including Den of Geek, thought it was a near perfect mashup of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors while other sites like Polygon thought the hybrid more closely resembled a train wreck. It’s true that the gameplay can get repetitive after a while, but if you’re the type that just likes to sit back, relax, and cut through hundreds of bad guys over and over again, you’ll find a lot to like here.
21. The Wonderful 101
Say what you want about the Wii U’s many shortcomings, but there’s no denying that one of Nintendo’s strengths this generation has been to come up with some truly unique titles for the system. The Wonderful 101 certainly fits that description. Players take on the role of a variety of super heroes who can morph into everything from guns and swords to boomerangs. The fast-paced chaos found here makes for the best non-stop action title this side of Smash Bros.
20. New Super Mario Bros. U
New Super Mario Bros. U was a day 1 launch title for the Wii U, so it’s understandable if you’ve forgotten about it by now. But while Super Mario 3D World may be the best overall platformer on the console, Bros. U is still the best 2D experience available. We’ll even go as far as to say that New Super Mario Bros. U is the best game in the entire New Super Mario Bros. series. If you missed out, you can likely find a copy for cheap. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up the equally good sequel New Super Luigi U while you’re at it.
19. Axiom Verge
This Metroid-like game originally released on PlayStation 4 and PC in early 2015 before finally hitting the Wii U during the fall of 2016. Given the lack of any kind of new Metroid title on the Wii U, Axiom Verge proved to be a welcome addition to the catalog. Longtime Metroid fans felt right at home while hunting down secret rooms and equipping various augmentations and upgrades to the main character’s weapons. But Axiom Verge becomes all the more impressive once you realize that this game was created by a one-man development team, Tom Happ. If Nintendo isn’t going to develop a proper Metroid anytime soon, maybe they should just hire Happ to do it for them.
18. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
The Toad levels in Super Mario 3D World were so well received that Nintendo thought one of Mario’s most loyal sidekicks should get his own game. The end result is a great mix of platforming with the puzzle solving that the original levels were known for. Most remarkable is the fact that this is a platform game where the main characters literally can’t jump off the ground.
17. Pokken Tournament
Super Smash Bros. will likely always be the fighting game of choice for Nintendo fans, but Pokken Tournament is a worthy runner-up for those who must simply catch em all. This game features some of the best 3D renderings of your favorite Pokemon ever created, but it’s not just about eye candy as the surprisingly complex battle system is also worth the price of admission.
16. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Many of this generation’s big co-op games, like The Division and Destiny, skipped the Wii U entirely, but Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate does a respectable job for those looking to mix it up with some teammates. Like Hyrule Warriors, there’s a lot of rinse and repeat in the core game mechanics, but just about every monster will provide the satisfying challenge that fans of this series are looking for. The ability to craft some kick-ass gear doesn’t hurt either.
15. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
Twilight Princess was the second of two Zelda HD remasters to release on the Wii U following Wind Waker HD. The reborn Gamecube and Wii classic served as a bit of a stop gap for those who were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Breath of the Wild and introduced a new dungeon called the Cave of Shadows and Amiibo support to the title.
14. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
The original Donkey Kong Country on the SNES will likely always remain the fan favorite in this series, but Tropical Freeze does a decent job of providing fan service while also packing in plenty of new innovations, most notably in this game’s amazing boss battles. The secrets and collectibles don’t quite reach the epic level of Donkey Kong 64, but the game will still have you running levels over and over again to make sure you get your money’s worth.
13. Rayman Legends
Rayman has always been the third wheel to Mario and Sonic when it comes to platforming but Rayman Legends is proof that there are still some unique ideas to be found in the 2D genre. The game is gorgeous and fast-paced, and like most Ubisoft titles on the Wii U, it doesn’t just treat the Gamepad as an afterthought, coming up with some interesting ways to tackle multiplayer.
12. Xenoblade Chronicles X
X is the spiritual successor to Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii and is one of the best values that you’ll find on the Wii U with just the main story of this epic RPG taking 50 hours or more to complete. A sequel to the game is scheduled to come to Switch before the end of this year, so if you want to be up to date on the story, you should probably start playing this one now as it’s likely going to take you a while.
Minecraft certainly needs no introduction, but the Wii U version is something quite special for longtime Nintendo fans. The game features 40 Super Mario-themed skins with everyone from Mario, Luigi, and Peach to Bowser and Wario making an appearance. Fans will find easter eggs sprinkled throughout the game like Warp Pipes, and Nintendo even partnered with professional Minecraft builders to recreate entire sections of Super Mario World within the game.
10. Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight is a love letter to retro gaming that still manages to craft its own original story and mechanics. It’s a throwback that never gets too caught up on the nostalgia for its own good. The game controls beautifully and nails the old school vibe in both the graphics and sound departments but not in a way that makes it feel dated.
9. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
It’s amazing how far Wind Waker has come in the minds of Zelda fans since the game was first announced for the GameCube back in the day. The cel-shaded graphics that were once mocked are now a large part of the reason why this game feels like one of the most unique adventures in the series. The Wii U’s HD release is the definitive version of the title, as Nintendo made multiple quality of life changes to everything from the game’s sailing mechanic to the oft-criticized Triforce chart section. A new Hero mode is also playable from the start, giving veterans of the game a much more difficult experience to enjoy.
8. Pikmin 3
The franchise that got its start on the GameCube because Shigeru Miyamoto likes to garden made a triumphant return on the Wii U with three new protagonists. You’ll once again use your Pikmin to solve puzzles as you take on various wildlife. The experience was a bit too short for some, but still maintained that classic Nintendo charm that keeps fans coming back for more.
7. Bayonetta 2
When you think of Nintendo games, you normally don’t think of a sexy wicked witch who can make every other sentence a double entendre. But that’s what you get with Bayonetta 2, and the result is a welcome change of pace in more ways than one. Bayonetta 2 is the kind of fast-paced action game you’d expect to see on PlayStation or Xbox, and it’s true that those are exactly the consoles that the original Bayonetta released on. This time though, Nintendo went out of its way to bankroll the sequel for the Wii U, even bringing along a Wii U port of the first title at no additional cost for early adopters.
6. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
There are some hardcore fans in the Smash Bros. community who will likely never let Melee go, but for everyone else Smash Bros. for Wii U is the best game in the long-running series. The game does a great job of maintaining the gameplay that has hooked competitive gamers for years while also still being friendly enough for the casual player to join in the fun. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention the impact this one game has had on Nintendo’s Amiibo line-up, with the game’s large roster leading to an equally large number of Amiibo for collectors to chase down.
Reactions were a bit mixed when this game first debuted during one of Nintendo’s patented E3 video presentations, but once gamers actually got their hands on it, Splatoon became an instant hit and a fresh new franchise for a company that is more known for sticking with its mascots from yesterday. It’s kind of weird to call Splatoon a shooter if only because the look and feel of the game is so different than, say, Call of Duty or Halo, but that’s what Nintendo’s managed to pull off here while still maintaining a family-friendly vibe that is a core part of the company’s identity.
4. Super Mario Maker
It took Nintendo a while to create a game that truly made the Wii U’s Gamepad feel like a necessity, but Super Mario Maker was worth the wait. It’s a nostalgia-wrapped game that seamlessly blends three decades worth of Super Mario titles together while giving fans the power to literally create the franchise’s future via the game’s powerful course creation tools. The title nails that Minecraft vibe of making you feel like you’re playing a game when you’re actually building one instead.
3. Super Mario 3D World
As good as Mario Maker is, it can also get a bit rough around the edges once you start going down the rabbit hole of absurd levels. The same can’t be said about 3D World, as it’s one of the most highly polished experiences Nintendo has ever put together. The game also introduces some wrinkles to the franchise that are welcome additions, like the amazing co-op play and fun new power-ups like the cat suit. Mario Maker can turn anyone into a game developer, but 3D World shows why it’s a task that is best left in the hands of Nintendo’s experts.
2. Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 is the best racing game Nintendo has ever made. It’s better than any Mario Kart to come before it, although it certainly takes inspiration from its past. The tracks are amazing to look at, provided you can find a free moment when you’re not trying to dodge a Koopa shell. The game absolutely shines in multiplayer and is also the best online title Nintendo has ever released, finally giving us some hope for what the company can achieve in this area in the future. If you are one of the people that skipped the Wii U but is planning on getting the Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe can’t come highly recommended enough.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It’s true that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was heavily marketed as a launch title for the Switch, while the Wii U version was something of an afterthought. All of that said, we still feel pretty confident giving this game the top spot. Breath of the Wild captures the open-world splendor of fantasy games like Skyrim, all while adding survival elements and a lot of exploration. Plenty of dungeons and a map that’s four times the size of Twilight Princess will keep players invested in Link’s latest adventure.