The 8 Best Nintendo Wii U Games to Buy in 2017

Shop for the top games on Nintendo's best gaming console

After years of market domination with machines like the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 and the trailblazing Nintendo Wii, the international king of family gaming has amassed an impressive library of titles for its latest console, the Nintendo Wii U. If you’ve only recently given into the pull of this incredible experience, you may be overwhelmed by the selection, especially the variety of exclusive titles. So we're here to help you decide which games should be some of your first purchases.

One of the first games that you could buy for the Nintendo Wii U is still one of its finest, as it’s the ideal bridge for old Nintendo players and new ones, bringing together the entire family around a console that is really at its best as a multi-generational machine. Parents will likely remember formative years with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and the gang, but their kids can enjoy this game as a totally new, next-generation experience. Much like Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo DS, this title takes the expectations of a 2D platformer that were defined by Super Mario Bros. and expands them into a 3D world. The plot is standard-issue Mario with everyone’s favorite plumber off to “The Sprixie Kingdom” to rescue a fairy kidnapped by Bowser. The level design, the co-operative gameplay, the incredible sound design, the eye-popping color scheme, and really the infectious joy of the whole experience has made this one of the timeless games of the current generation, including Sony and Microsoft.

With the advent of level creation games like Little Big Planet, it was only a matter of time before Nintendo gave gamers the tools to make their own adventures starring Mario, Luigi and the rest of the gang. Welcome to 2015’s Super Mario Maker, a game that’s really well-summarized by its title. Gamers can create and play custom levels that look like they could have been pulled directly from titles like Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros. 3 and more. The level editing tools are robust and detailed, allowing the creative members of your family to really use this game to express themselves instead of just experiencing something designed by someone else. For generations, gaming was too often a passive experience, but games like Super Mario Maker aren’t just creating new gamers but inspiring new game developers at the same time.

There are not a lot of shooter games or traditional multiplayer titles for the Nintendo Wii U, as most gamers who thrive on combat games like Call of Duty tend to do so on PS4 or Xbox One. Nintendo saw the opportunity for a unique multiplayer game in 2015’s Splatoon, one of the most acclaimed titles of that year. What is Splatoon? First, it’s the rare new Nintendo IP (they kind of live on the ‘80s titles like Mario and Zelda), and that should be lauded, but it’s more the creative approach to multiplayer gaming that makes this a stand-out title. You play Inklings, creatures who can shift between human and squid form, in which they spray the area with a team color. In other words, it’s a game more about bright colors than blood spray. And it takes full advantage of the system’s unique capabilities, including the Wii U GamePad. The multiplayer/shooter genre has arguably grown stale in the next-generation, and every system could use more games like Splatoon that approach it from a fresh angle.

Nintendo has never been a brand known for combat games, which make it somewhat ironic that they have one of the most beloved smash-em-up franchises in the world in Super Smash Bros. The version of this long-running series for the Wii U is one of the console’s best offerings, bringing together characters from generations of Nintendo games into one brightly-colored arena. The latest game even draws characters from other franchises, including Pac-Man, Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog. But, of course, the iconic characters like Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Link, and even Kid Icarus are the real draw. This series has evolved a bit with every new release—adding new characters, moves, arenas, etc.—which makes the version for the Nintendo Wii U the most impressive Nintendo fighting game to date. Ad it’s one of the rare fighting games that you can feel comfortable letting your kids play without worrying about the gore.

There’s really only one racing game for the Nintendo Wii U that’s so definitive that some of the most popular iterations of the console come with it. Again, Mario rules the Nintendo world for a reason, and part of that is the fact that so many of us grew up playing addictive games like Super Mario Kart. As with the Nintendo Wii U versions of classics like Super Mario and Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 8 is really just the biggest, baddest, coolest version of what you already know and love. It’s detailed in its track design, character differentiation and consistently joyous gameplay. It’s a perfect game for all ages and an essential, must-own if you have a Nintendo Wii U. The system isn’t really complete without it. 

Most games for the Nintendo Wii U are designed for the entire family, which is one of the reasons sullen teenagers typically graduate to Sony and Microsoft. That’s why it was kind of surprising that the company chose a groundbreaking game about the undead as one of its early titles. Zombi U plays with the typical foundation of the brain-eating genre (mostly defined by the Resident Evil series) but uses the Wii U Gamepad in inventive, creative ways. For one, when you want to get something out of your backpack/inventory, you have to look down into your Gamepad (and the zombies don’t stop coming at you). No more relative safety of the pause button. Also, when you die, you don’t just come back to life. Your character becomes a zombie, and you spawn as a new character with the chance to go find the old one and reclaim your inventory. A few years after its release, Zombi U is still one of the best games for those who feel like they’ve outgrown characters like Mario and Zelda.

While one may look at a game that’s essentially a remastering of a 2002 GameCube title and ask why revisit an old game, The Wind Waker feels like an entirely new experience on the Nintendo Wii U. Updating the GameCube story with modern graphics and Wii U GamePad functionality, The Wind Waker is the first and still best Zelda game on the latest Nintendo console, which makes it a must-own. It is a gorgeous rendering of Hyrule in 3D with the bright colors that only the Wii U can provide. And it features one of the most engaging narratives in the history of the franchise, enhanced by reducing some of the fetch quest in the end game of the first title. Nintendo is very good at being both nostalgic and forward-thinking at the same time, and the Wii U version of The Wind Waker may be the best example of that duality.

When PlatinumGames announced that the follow-up to their multi-console hit Bayonetta would be a Nintendo Wii U exclusive, most people were stunned. As mentioned, Nintendo is not a console well-known for adult gaming, but Bayonetta 2 is solid proof that more developers should look at it when they’re working on new franchises. The Bayonetta games are high-paced “hack ‘n’ slash” games not unlike Devil May Cry or God of War. You play the title character as she battles her way through demons with a variety of guns, swords, arrows and other things that can kill. With gruesome finishing moves and eye-popping visuals, Bayonetta 2 is a roller coaster of a game, perfectly paced and designed for maximum enjoyment. It’s not just the best action game for the Wii U, it’s one of the best action games of its generation on any console.


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