History Behind Wii U Purchase
The Wii U is somewhat of a weird system for me. For years, I believed that the original Wii would be the last Nintendo home console that I would buy as I moved onto the next chapter of my life. Furthermore, after the Wii U was officially announced, I definitely cannot say that I was dying to get one.
As we got closer to the Wii U release, I kept telling people that I was unsure if I would get one or not. It was interesting, yet it did not seem to be compelling enough. Nevertheless, after Nintendo announced on September 13, 2012 that you could reserve Wii U at GameStop, I decided to run out that evening and reserve one -- just in case. What Nintendo fanboy had not dreamt of playing Mario and Zelda in HD?
On the afternoon of November 18, 2012, I walked into GameStop and picked up my reserved Wii U Deluxe Set (black) for $349.99. I also purchased New Super Mario Bros. U and ZombiU on launch day. No crazy stories this time.
Unfortunately, as we all know, Nintendo botched the Wii U's release and its formative years. Initially, confusion started when people could not tell if it was an add-on to the original Wii or a brand-new system. Then we found out that this new system was only slightly more powerful than PS3 and Xbox 360, which meant the PS4 and Xbox One would be much more powerful -- just one short year later. Oh, and then there were several draughts between 2012 and 2014 where months went by without first-party Nintendo games. And, of course, the asymmetrical gameplay idea of the GamePad was never realized to its fullest.
So it may come as a surprise that, in retrospect, the Wii U might get too bad of a rap. It probably should get some more love. To start, it laid the groundwork for the immensely popular Nintendo Switch. Wii U also had a unique Miiverse social networking feature, which blossomed into an artistic community, and was the initial home to the Amiibo toys-to-life platform. It gave birth to the much-loved Splatoon and Super Mario Maker games. And, by the end, it had a respectable collection of exclusives and well-received indie games that could be purchased from the Nintendo eShop. Finally, you could even download some previously portable-only games from the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS as part of the Wii U Virtual Console, which worked well on its GamePad.
For me, though, I think my appreciation of the Wii U grew after its demise. I realized that I could have been using the Off-TV Play mode much more by not keeping the console tethered to a specific TV. (Eventually, I purchased a second Wii U AC Adapter Power Supply so that I could move the console around the house more easily in order to keep it near the Wii U GamePad for playing games off-TV.) In time, I appreciated that Wii U was a great console for Zelda games since you could download the retro Zelda games, play the remastered HD versions of The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, and enjoy Breath of the Wild as Wii U's swan song.
Oh, and I would be remiss if I did not mention that I introduced my boys (~6.5 and 3.5) to video games using the Wii U. Originally, I started by purchasing a used copy of LEGO Jurassic World (dinosaurs) in December 2019 for the easy cooperative play across the Wii U's two screens: TV and GamePad. With COVID-19 and quarantine throughout 2020, we had ample opportunity to play together. With the end of Wii U, did I "switch" to being only a Nintendo retro gamer?
What lies below is a listing of my Wii U collection along with some history behind the system's purchase. Please note that all of the games listed below are actual discs or digital downloads. I'm not into pirating the latest games.
All-Time Favorite Wii U Games
Talk about love and heartbreak. Guitar Hero Live tried to evolve music games with its 6-button guitar, first-person presentation style in the on-disc GH Live mode, and streaming music videos in GHTV online. Playing guitar to the backdrop of 500+ music videos was awesome—a ton of fun for 1 or 2 players. Truly, I played it over 100 hours. But the abrupt end, as of December 1, 2018, was a stark reminder about online games, as we lost access to GHTV's music videos. I guess I need a clone (hero).
My young boys and I loved Tank! Tank! Tank! Although it was released in the arcades in 2009 and was ported to the Wii U for its launch in November 2012, I purchased the game in 2020. Yes, you read that correctly. It is a hidden gem, with a lengthy 1-2 player campaign and various 2-4 player battle modes. Due to its simple controls, non-stop action, camera integration, and ability to play on separate screens, Tank! Tank! Tank! offers surprisingly fun value.
For a long-time Mario Kart aficionado, the 2014 Wii U version of Mario Kart 8 dazzled. Beautiful HD graphics, solid online play, 4-player local Grand Prix, lots of great new and retro courses, DLC expansion packs with Zelda and Animal Crossing content, and a 200cc mode! The only disappointing part of the game, Battle Mode, was rectified in the Switch "Deluxe" release in 2017. In fact, the Switch version has since made the Wii U release completely irrelevant, but this ranking shows my enjoyment back in the day.
4. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Early adopters of the Wii U were treated to a great port of the best Mario Kart clone ever made: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. With tracks inspired by Super Monkey Ball, Panzer Dragoon, Golden Axe, and After Burner, and up to 5 players among the TV and GamePad, it provided loads of Sega nostalgia and lots of frenetic-yet-balanced fun action with the cars, boats, and planes. The finale of Doug, Scott, and Nate.
5. New Super Mario Bros. U
As a launch game for Wii U in November 2012, New Super Mario Bros. U was rightly criticized for being, well, more of the same, except in HD. In hindsight, I would say that this is a very, very good 2D Mario entry—and surprisingly challenging (unless stockpiling 1-UPs). Throughout the years, I've had multiple playthroughs with different people, and the game is just plain ol' fun. Oh, and for whatever reason, I never got into the Super Luigi U expansion.
Flying Squirrel Mario < Propeller Mario
6. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
One might forget that this was a launch game for the Wii in November 2006. Like most people, I thought it was good, not great, and the Wii became known for many other things. In 2019, I decided to add Wii U's HD version to my collection. Fast forward to 2023, and after re-playing some Breath of the Wild, it seemed fair to retry Twilight Princess HD for a contrast. Guess what? I really enjoyed it. This represents the 3D Zelda that I know and love, and the improved graphics and controls make it even better.
7. Need for Speed: Most Wanted U
Long-time Nintendo fans know that getting a definitive version of a more "realistic" game is rare. Yet Need for Speed: Most Wanted U is that rare gem on Wii U that looks better and runs more smoothly than its PS3 and Xbox 360 competition. The game also represents my first experience with an open-world racer, and it provides a ton of fun and replay value by landing in the sweet spot between semi realistic and arcade.
Clearly, Nintendo Land was built to showcase the capabilities of the Wii U GamePad and the potential for asymmetrical games as well as 5-player games using four (4) Wii Remotes. And, in retrospect, it is a summation of the possibilities, eccentricities, and failures of the system. Nothing else really took advantage of the Wii U like Nintendo Land, yet I never really returned to it. Still, a few of those mini-games were fun, especially Mario Chase.
LEGO Jurassic World will never be seen as a great game, but it holds a special spot on my list. To start, the Wii U version really excels due to the second screen co-op (TV and GamePad). Moreover, the four movies provide faithful, entertaining backdrops with large worlds, perplexing puzzles, and exciting sequences. OK, the movie sound bites are a bit cheesy, but kids love dinosaurs, and this is an easy-to-control entry into video gaming.
10. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Three words: Open World Zelda. And it revolutionized the open world concept by doing it Nintendo's way. That meant you got a vast, breathtaking, boundaryless world that lets you explore and do whatever you want with limited direction and few restrictions. Clearly, this game is beloved and has its place in history in the PS4/Xbox One/
Switch (Wii U) era. That being said, it wasn't for me. I really hated the breaking weapons, I did not enjoy crafting items, and I wish it had dungeons, not shrines.
Honorable Mention: Super Mario Maker,
Hyrule Warriors, Super Mario 3D World,
NES Remix 1 & 2 Pack
Wii U Boxed Game Collection (35 games)
Note: The Wii U can be used and played without the GamePad—that is, unless a game says requires in the Expanded list. If you want to completely turn off the Wii U GamePad while gaming, do the following: 1) Turn on the console, 2) Walk the Wii U GamePad out of range, and 3) Hold down power on the GamePad to turn off the tablet.
- Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW!
- Angry Birds Trilogy†
- Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II
- Call of Duty: Ghosts
- Captain Toad: Treasure Trackerα
- Ducktales Remastered
- Guitar Hero Live **
- How To Train Your Dragon 2 - no instruction manual
- Hyrule Warriors
- Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wildα (NS)
- Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
- Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HDα
- LEGO Jurassic World
- Madden NFL 13
- Mario Kart 8 (NS)
- Need for Speed: Most Wanted U
- NES Remix Pack
- New Super Mario Bros. U + New Super Luigi U Bundle
- Nintendo Land [MP]
- Planes Fire & Rescue
- Pokkén Tournament
- Rabbids Land
- Shakedown: Hawaii
- Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
- Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric
- Star Fox Guard† α **
- Star Fox Zeroα **
- Super Mario 3D World (NS)
- Super Mario Makerα
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
- Tank! Tank! Tank!
- Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition
- Yoshi's Woolly Worldα
- ZombiU **
** indicates Off-TV Play is NOT supported
[MP] specifies the Wii MotionPlus accessory
α showcases special amiibo compatibility
† designates touchscreen gameplay options
Wii U Virtual Console Breakdown (77 games)
Nintendo (NES) = 25
TurboGrafx-16 (TG-16) = 3
Super Nintendo (SNES) = 15
Nintendo 64 (N64) = 10
Game Boy Advance (GBA) = 17
Nintendo DS (DS) = 6
Wii (Wii) = 1
Wii U Downloads (18 games)
- amiibo tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bitsα
- Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures (NS)
- Art of Balance†
- Cake Ninja 3: The Legend Continues†
- Dolphin Up
- Dr. Luigi†
- Ducktales Remastered (Disc) - not DL'd
- Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
- Games for Toddlers†
- Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition (NS) - not DL'd
- Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challengeα
- My First Songs
- New Super Luigi U (Disc) - not DL'd
- Pikmin 3
- Pumped BMX+ Archived (cannot play) + Pro on (NS)
- Shovel Knightα (NS) - not DL'd
- Star Fox Guard† α ** (Disc) - not DL'd
- Wii Sports Club (Wii) [MP] Bowling & Tennis
** indicates Off-TV Play is NOT supported
[MP] specifies the Wii MotionPlus accessory
α showcases special amiibo compatibility
† designates touchscreen gameplay options
Wii U Virtual Console (77 games)
- 1080° Snowboarding (N64) *
- Adventures of Bayou Billy, The (NES) *
- Axelay (SNES) *
- Balloon Fight (NES) *
- Battle Lode Runner (TG-16) 5 players
- Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA)
- Castlevania: Dracula X (SNES)
- Donkey Kong 64 (N64)
- Donkey Kong Country (SNES) *
- DKC2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES) *
- DKC3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! (SNES)
- DK: Jungle Climber (DS)
- Dr. Mario (NES) *
- Duck Hunt (NES) *
- EarthBound (SNES) *
- EarthBound Beginnings (NES)
- Excitebike 64 (N64)
- F-Zero (SNES) *
- F-Zero X (N64) *
- Game & Watch Gallery 4 (GBA)
- Hogan's Alley (NES) * Wii Remote
- Ice Climber (NES) *
- Konami Krazy Racers (GBA)
- Kuru Kuru Kururin (GBA)
- Legend of Zelda, The (NES) *
- Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) *
- Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64)
- Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) *
- Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA)
- Life Force (NES) *
- Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (DS)
- Mario Pinball Land (GBA)
- Mega Man & Bass (GBA)
- Mega Man Battle Network 3 (GBA)
- Mega Man Zero 3 (GBA)
- Metroid (NES) *
- Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA)
- Metroid Fusion (GBA)
- New Adventure Island (TG-16)
- New Super Mario Bros. (DS) *
- Ninja Gaiden (NES) *
- Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of (NES) *
- Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of (NES) *
- Pilotwings (SNES) *
- Punch-Out!!* feat. Mr. Dream (NES)
- Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii) Wii Remote
- Salamander (TG-16) ARC on (NS)
- Star Fox 64 (N64) *
- StarTropics (NES) *
- Stinger (NES) *
- Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight (NES)
- Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts (SNES) *
- Super Mario Advance:
Super Mario Bros. 2 (GBA)
- Super Mario Advance 2:
Super Mario World (GBA)
- Super Mario Advance 3:
Yoshi's Island (GBA)
- Super Mario Advance 4:
Super Mario Bros. 3 (GBA)
- Super Mario Bros. (NES) *
- Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels (Wii) (NES)
- Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) *
- Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) *
- Super Mario RPG (SNES) *
- Super Mario World (SNES) *
- Super Mario 64 (N64) *
- Super Mario 64 DS (DS)
- Super Metroid (SNES) *
- Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)
- Tecmo Bowl (NES)
- Vs. Excitebike (NES/Famicom Disk) *
- Wario Land 4 (GBA)
- WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! (GBA)
- WarioWare: Touched! (DS)
- Wave Race 64 (N64) *
- Wild Gunman (NES) Wii Remote
- Wild Guns (SNES)
- Yoshi's Island DS (DS)
- Yoshi's Story (N64) *
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES) *
The following bulleted points are some random notes and thoughts about the Wii U. In the list, you will find information about the system and games that I could not place anywhere else.
Last Updated: April 6, 2023
- Just like with Wii, my most played Wii U game was a music game: Guitar Hero Live. Unlike Rock Band, however, I played it mostly solo and online (GHTV). To this day, I regret no longer being able to play GHTV's online game mode with its streaming music videos. That experience has left me more cautious about gaming tied to online services, including iOS games.
- Super Mario 3D World, the Wii U's other big Mario game, was a fresh take on the Mario franchise with its fixed 3/4 overhead perspective, more cooperative pacing, fun power-ups (Cat Mario, cherries), and rather clever levels. I did not love it, though, because you do not get enough time, the levels seem too short, and jumping feels imprecise at times. The multiplayer "leash" also seems more restrictive compared to the New Super Mario Bros. series. I wanted to love this game, but I just...cannot love it. Fun, but not an all-time great.
- Anyone remember Nintendo's Wii U Virtual Console Trial Campaign, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Famicom with $0.30 games in 2013? Yes, for 30-cents, you could download Balloon Fight (NES), F-Zero (SNES), Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream (NES), Kirby's Adventure (NES), Super Metroid (SNES), Yoshi (NES), and Donkey Kong (NES) during their month-long windows. Ultimately, I do not count Donkey Kong, Kirby, and Yoshi as part of my collection, as I deleted them to make space for other VC games.
- Also, I decided to download and purchase (again) the classic Mario, Zelda, and Metroid games for the Wii U because of the Off-TV Play compatibility and because the Wii U has a more convenient HDMI connection to the TV.
- Hindsight and 2020: For all the odd, crazy, and bad things that happened in the Year 2020, I also marked this strange year by playing a bunch of Wii U, including LEGO Jurassic World and Tank! Tank! Tank! with my young kids, and by purchasing a brand-new physical release: Shakedown: Hawaii (Standard Edition).
- amiibo (α) compatibility that showcases special unlocks (i.e., more than receiving items) on these games for Wii U:
- amiibo tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits (All) - Unlock one randomly selected demo scene from 32 NES and Super NES games
- Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Toad) - Unlock Pixel Toad hide-and-seek challenges
- Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, The (Wolf Link) - Bring Wolf Link into the game as a partner character & (Link) - Bring Epona into the game as a rideable horse
- Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wolf Link) - Unlock the Cave of Shadows, and save hearts to the amiibo
- Mini-Mario & Friends (Bowser/Donkey Kong/Luigi/Mario/Peach/Toad/Yoshi) - Play stages as a Mini version of this character, with a unique special ability, and unlock character-specific stages
- Shovel Knight (Shovel Knight) - Unlock co-op mode, challenge stages, & customizable gear, and summon a Fairy of Shovelry
- Star Fox Guard (Fox) - Wipe out all enemies on the current stage
- Star Fox Zero (Fox) - Play as an SNES-styled Arwing
- Super Mario Maker (Mario 30th Annv.) - Add a Big Mushroom power-up to your course
- Yoshi's Woolly World (Yoshi) - Play with two Yoshis at the same time in 1p mode
- In retrospect, Wii U's Off-TV Play mode was cooler than we originally thought.
Copyright © Scott McCall. All Rights Reserved. ™ and © for all products, characters, and indicia related thereto which are contained herein are owned by the companies who market or license those products.