The Wii U era wasn’t the most commercially successful for Nintendo, with the system shipping only 13.5 million units over the course of its life (the Wii sold around 100 million, for a point of reference). Despite the hardware being a commercial failure, the Wii U featured some of the best games ever released on a Nintendo platform.
In this guide to the best Wii U games, we’re going to highlight our favorites. Although there are still a handful of games that you can only play on the Wii U, many of the top games from the console have been ported to Switch (read our best Nintendo Switch games roundup for more on that). Even so, if you have a Wii U gathering dust, these games will breathe new life into it.
The Wonderful 101
The Wonderful 101 is one of the main reasons to buy a Wii U, as the Platinum-developed title was released exclusively for the platform (though a remastered version is releasing on Switch, PC and PS4 later this year). Instead of controlling a single character, you take charge of a group of superheroes, which you can turn into different objects using morphs.
It’s a bit like if Pikmin was an action game, and although it’s an unlikely pairing, it works well. That’s thanks to the signature Platinum flare present in the game. Like all of the Japanese studio’s titles, the animations and effects are over-the-top in the best way, often filling the screen entirely.
Bayonetta 2 has an interesting history. Despite the original game being critically successful, it didn’t sell well upon launch, forcing Sega to drop the series from its publishing lineup. Nintendo, in an attempt to bring more mature content to the Wii U, stepped in with funding for a sequel under the condition that it would be a Wii U exclusive.
It turns out that was a good call on Nintendo’s part. Improving on nearly every aspect of the original release, Bayonetta 2 is more stylish and bombastic than the game that preceded it. Furthermore, Bayonetta 2 paved the way for other mature titles to make their way over to Nintendo, with games like Dark Souls and Diablo III now featured on Switch.
Read our full Bayonetta 2 review
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U released shortly after the 3DS build of the game, with the two often referred to as Super Smash Bro. 4 (this was the period when Nintendo released a console called the New 3DS, after all). Like previous games, Smash 4 is an arena fighter where up to eight players can duke it out with their favorite characters.
Unlike the previous entry, Brawl, Smash 4 leans into the competitive nature of the series, making battles feel faster and more visceral than ever. Additionally, Nintendo rebalanced many of the characters in Smash 4, making the title more viable for competitive play.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Injustice: God Among Us is one of the best fighting games ever made, and seeing it running on a Nintendo console is a treat. As you should expect from any game released on Nintendo’s outdated hardware, it doesn’t look as good as the releases on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. All the content is intact, though.
All of the characters, stages, and combos found in the original release are in the Wii U port. Although the game was initially released without support for DLC fighters, developer NetherRealm patched them in later, allowing you to play with the full roster of characters.
Read our Injustice: Gods Among Us review
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the latest in the long-running Donkey Kong Country series, following the release of Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii back in 2010. Like previous entries, it’s a side-scrolling platformer where you can switch between various characters from the Donkey Kong series.
You mainly play as Donkey Kong, though you can find Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong, and Cranky Kong as you make your way through levels. Each one of these companions has their own abilities, allowing you to make your way across tough platforming sections with ease or access new parts of a stage. Tropical Freeze doesn’t pull a lot of punches with the Donkey Kong Country formula, and thankfully, it doesn’t need to.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a bit of a hidden gem on the Wii U. Despite being some of the best platformers ever made, the Shantae series hasn’t joined the ranks of Mario and Donkey Kong. Like previous games in the series, Pirate’s Curse puts you in the shoes of Shantae, the Half-Genie. However, in this game, Shantae has lost her genie powers, forcing you to use pirate items and Shantae’s signature hair attack to traverse stages.
In the game, you can travel to various islands using Risky Boots’ pirate ship. Each of the islands has one of the pirate items you’ll need to beat the game, as well as a slew of hidden items. Thanks to guided quests, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is more hands-on than other Metroidvanias, though it keeps the spirit of exploration intact.
Yoshi’s Woolly World
Yoshi’s Woolly World was the first mainline Yoshi game released for a home console since 1997 when it came out in 2015 (it’s since been superseded by Yoshi’s Crafted World on Switch). Developed by the same studio behind Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Woolly World features the same cloth and yarn aesthetic as the Kirby game that came before.
The graphics aren’t just eye candy, thankfully. Instead of producing an egg when swallowing an enemy, Yoshi spits out a ball of yarn. Unlike eggs, which were used solely for taking down enemies, Yoshi’s yarn can tie up enemies, fill gaps in the level, and more.
Super Mario 3D World
Fans have been calling for a Super Mario 3D World release on Switch since Nintendo started porting Wii U games over, and it’s easy to see why. Following in the lineage of games like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, 3D World is yet another excellent 3D Mario game. There are some reasons to play it on the Wii U, however.
In addition to Off-TV Play, 3D World uses various other functions of the GamePad for mechanics in-game. You can interact with the touch screen and microphone to reveal hidden blocks, knock enemies over, and more, evoking the same gimmicky charm seen in other 3D Mario games.
Read our Super Mario 3D World review
Shovel Knight was, for many years, the bar for retro-inspired indie platformers. Prior to its release in 2014, there was little in the way of modern games that tried to recreate the feeling of an old-school NES game. Although the initial release is great in its own right, developer Yacht Club Games has continued supporting the game.
It’s no longer just Shovel Knight, but a collection of games based in the Shovel Knight universe. Treasure Trove, as the collection is called, features four full single-player campaigns, as well as a Smash Bros.-esque battle mode. Be careful when picking up Shovel Knight, though, as the physical Wii U release doesn’t feature all of the additional content of Treasure Trove.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the best games ever made, releasing on the Wii U and Switch simultaneously. Although the Switch version is more visually impressive, the Wii U release is the exact same game, perfectly sending off Nintendo’s beloved, but commercially unsuccessful, console and ushering in a new one.
Breath of the Wild breaks every Zelda tradition, with a fully open world to explore, nonlinear gameplay, voice acting, and full cutscenes. It’s not a Zelda game in the traditional sense, but rather an evolution of the series that better meets the demands of a modern market.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Tokyo Mirage Session #FE might be one of the best JRPGs ever released, which is saying something. It’s a crossover between Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, following an Idol talent agency as it fights off mysterious creatures known as Mirages. Gameplay-wise, Tokyo Mirage Sessions plays a lot like the Persona series, with you exploring various dungeons and leveling your party. It doesn’t have the life simulator element, though, so be warned.
If you’re looking for a concise JRPG that focuses more on gameplay and less on story, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is for you.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was criticized when it launched on the GameCube in 2002 for its cartoonish art style. Since then, however, it’s joined the pantheon as one of the best Zelda games ever. The Wii U version is mostly the same outside of the updated visuals, though Nintendo automated some of the more tedious aspects of the original release.
Additionally, The Wind Waker HD uses the GamePad to show your map and inventory, as well as features “Hero Mode.” This higher difficulty level was first introduced in Skyward Sword, making enemies deal twice as much damage.
Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch is a more expansive version of the title, though that doesn’t make the base game any less impressive. For the most part, Mario Kart 8 is just another Mario Kart game, though it has some returning features from previous entries and some new mechanics of its own.
Returning from Mario Kart Wii is 12-player racing, as well as motorbikes and hang gliders. New to the series is anti-gravity racing, though, which allows you to drive on ceilings and walls in some track portions.
Read our Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
A lot of Wii U titles have been ported to Switch, with Nintendo’s latest hybrid offering a better experience. However, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is one of the few games that feels more at home on the Wii U. Based on mini-games featured in Super Mario 3D World, Treasure Tracker features small, 3D levels littered with secrets.
The core of the game is rotating the level to reveal new paths and areas, all while Toad struggles to make his way through. Mechanically, the game works wonderfully with the Wii U GamePad, allowing you to easily rotate levels while playing on a TV.
ZombiU released alongside the Wii U in November 2012, showing Nintendo’s dedication to bringing third-party content to its, at the time, flagship platform. Frankly, it’s a marvel that ZombiU isn’t a terrible game. Although there are some negative points — long load times and overuse of the GamePad are among them — ZombiU is still a solid survival horror game.
In the game, you play as a survivor trying to make his way through an outbreak of zombies in London. Although a typical setup, ZombiU’s use of the GamePad brings a new level of anxiety to the experience. Instead of just blowing your way through zombies Left 4 Dead style, ZombiU constantly makes you look down at the GamePad, forcing you to consider encounters before you become a part of them.
Read our ZombiU review
Nowadays, it’s rare to not only see a new IP from Nintendo, but also a successful one. Splatoon is a third-person shooter where two teams of four face off as Inklings. Each team has an ink color, and your goal is to cover everything in your path with your team’s ink. You can transition between a squid and human form on your team’s color, diving underground with increased speed.
The enemy color hinders you, however. On an enemy color, you can’t dive underground and your movement is slowed, leaving you open to be “splatted.” Nintendo could have easily thrown its roster of characters into Splatoon and it would’ve been a successful game. The fact that it’s totally original shows that Nintendo is still dedicated to innovating.
Read our Splatoon review
Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut
The Wii U era was an awkward time for Nintendo and third-party developers, with multiple failed attempts to bring AAA Xbox and PlayStation titles over to Nintendo’s console. Deus Ex: Human Revolution isn’t among them, thankfully. Although the game is much more visually impressive on the PS3 and Xbox 360, the Wii U GamePad offers a unique way to experience the title.
It’s just Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where you play as Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT member littered with cybernetic enhancements. With the GamePad, though, you can get hands-on with puzzles, track dialogue choices, and view the ever-important map as you’re making your way through levels.
Super Mario Maker
Super Mario Maker is a defining game for the Wii U, and upon release, one of the main reasons to own the console. It’s an answer to a question Nintendo fans have been asking since the NES days: “What if I could build my own Mario levels?”
Although Super Mario Maker 2 improves on the original game in a number of ways, the Wii U release sits alongside Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It’s not a bad experience on Switch, but something about Super Mario Maker feels natural on the Wii U GamePad.
Read our Super Mario Maker review
Pikmin has always been a spotty IP for Nintendo, with the first two games releasing within a few years of each other, and the third entry taking nine years to see the light of store shelves. Despite being seven years old, Pikmin 3 is still the most recent mainline title in the series, making it a must-own for any Wii U fan.
If you’ve never played a Pikmin game, the premise is simple. You play as a captain who can control up to 100 Pikmin at once. Although all Pikmin look similar, they have different abilities. Yellow Pikmin, for example, are immune to electricity and can be thrown further than other Pikmin. The third release adds some new types, too. In the game you can control Rock Pikmin and Wing Pikmin, which destroy large structures and attack flying enemies, respectively.
Read our Pikmin 3 review