The Wii U’s killer feature

Can't choose between the Xbox One and PS4? It's worth considering Nintendo's Wii U as well...

The Wii U is often woefully overlooked when discussing the latest generation of gaming consoles. It seems that the most common decision is whether to opt for the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, but any serious gamer that ignores the Wii U is doing so at their own cost.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. The Wii U is nowhere near as powerful as the Xbox One or PS4 – if you’re looking for cutting edge graphics on your high definition TV, Microsoft and Sony have you covered.

And with that in mind, it’s safe to say that the majority of cross-platform titles will look significantly better on the PS4 or Xbox One, but has anyone ever bought a Nintendo console because of cross-platform games?

Nintendo consoles have never been about the hardware inside them, but rather about the exclusive games that you can play on them. Having owned every Nintendo console since the days of Game & Watch, I can honestly say that each and every one of them opened the door to some truly ground-breaking games.

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Nintendo’s in-house properties are hard to match – if the only games you ever play on a Nintendo console are Mario and Zelda titles, it’s still worth the price of purchase. But the chances are that there will be several other gems, and often some genuine surprises – remember when Resident Evil 4 was a GameCube exclusive?

While sales of the Wii U have been disappointing to say the least, three of the best games of recent times were Wii U exclusives. Super Mario 3D World hit the streets around the same time as the Xbox One and PS4 arrived, and it highlighted the complete dearth of decent games on those platforms. While Microsoft and Sony were struggling with launch titles that would sell their new consoles, Super Mario World 3D showed what a next-gen console game should really be.

A few months later Mario Kart 8 arrived and proved once again that it’s software and not hardware that matters – creating a game that’s utterly addictive for adults and children in equal measures is no mean feat, but it’s something that Nintendo has managed to do time and time again.

And then came Bayonetta 2, a simply outstanding example of just how good a third party Wii U game can be. There was massive uproar from Xbox and PlayStation gamers when Platinum Games announced that Bayonetta 2 would be a Wii U exclusive, and given just how fabulous the end product is, the uproar was understandable.

So, it’s clear that the Wii U makes a very strong case for itself through its exclusive AAA games, and with the latest Zelda instalment due this year, that case will just become stronger.

It can be argued that the games on the Wii U outweigh the console hardware itself, but one shouldn’t overlook that hardware. While the Wii U isn’t as powerful as its rivals, Nintendo has created a very compelling user experience.

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It’s very easy to write off the Wii U controller as a gimmick, but once you start using it, you’ll soon realise that it’s far more than that.

While Microsoft tried to implement a companion screen platform in the shape of SmartGlass, with the Wii U that functionality is baked into the hardware. And if you do need to interact with a companion screen, it’s far easier to do so when that screen is part of your controller, rather than a tablet sitting next to you.

But the real beauty of the Wii U controller comes when you want to play a game and don’t have access to your TV. Who cares if your other half is watching telly, or your kids are singing along to Frozen, you can simply grab the Wii U controller, plug in some headphones and play some Mario Kart 8.

Of course the PS4 offers similar functionality with Remote Play using a PlayStation Vita, but that does mean that you’ll need to buy a Vita in the first place, and then you’ll need to adjust to the different control layout whenever you’re using it.

With the Wii U, playing a game using the controller screen is completely seamless, since you’re using exactly the same controller. There’s no button mapping to worry about, no re-learning involved, you simply pick up and play. For anyone who doesn’t have a dedicated TV for their gaming consoles, playing on the Wii U controller screen will be nothing short of liberating.

Both the quality of exclusive games and the seamless integration of a remote screen controller are very compelling features, and definitely reason enough to consider buying a Wii U, but neither of those are the true killer feature.

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For me, the Wii U’s killer feature is that it doesn’t directly compete with either the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. So while gamers wrestle with the question of whether to go with Microsoft or Sony, whichever they choose should sit happily next to a Nintendo Wii U.

The Wii U offers a completely different gaming experience to the Xbox One and PS4, so it makes an ideal companion for either. After all, why would any gamer pass up the opportunity to play Mario Kart 8 or Bayonetta 2?

The Wii U’s place as a companion console is further amplified by its price – you can pick up a Wii U with a decent game bundled for around £150 these days, placing it well within impulse purchase territory.

Low price, great games, innovative hardware – it’s hard to fathom why Nintendo has struggled to sell the Wii U given what it has to offer. The good news is that whether you opt for a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One, you can complement your choice with a Wii U without breaking the bank and open up another world of gaming.

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