A Parents’ Guide to the Wii U

Wii U Console + Gamepad
The most distinctive feature of the Wii U console is it's touch-screen gamepad. Nintendo

Nintendo’s newest console, the Wii U, has been out a year and yet still lacks the high profile of its previous home console, the Wii. Because of Nintendo’s reputation as a family-friendly game-maker, Wii U knowledge is especially important for parents. Here’s information to help parents learn more.

What is the Wii U?

The Wii U is the successor to the Wii. While the Wii was focused primarily on the wand-like Wii remote and gesture gaming, the Wii U is focused more heavily on a gamepad controller that includes a touch screen.

It does, however, also support the Wii Remote. Also unlike the Wii it has HD graphics. It is backwards compatible with the Wii, meaning it will play any game released for that console. The Wii, on the other hand, will not play games released for the Wii U. More detailed information on the Wii U is here.

Is it a good console for kids?

Nintendo is known for family-friendly games, so any console made by Nintendo will have a bunch of titles good for kids, especially young ones. Because of their appeal to younger gamers, Nintendo has taken pains to make their online community Miiverse very safe, it has very strict, well-enforced rules about what can be posted. Voice chat in online games is, however, a free-for-all even on the Wii U.

Security/Parental Controls

The Wii U’s parental controls allow a lot of control over what kids can play. You can set the Wii U so a password is required to play games rated for various age groups, go on the Internet, or post on the Wii U Miiverse.

Would My Child Want a Wii U?

As always, the best way to find out what kids want is to ask them, but if your child is young, then they will probably be very happy to get a Wii U. As they move into their teens, some kids retain a fondness for Nintendo while others become enamored of more “adult” games.

The Wii U tends to get fewer third party titles  than the other consoles, so kids may not be able to play the games their friends are playing. Children eager to play games like the psychopath simulator Grand Theft Auto V might be disappointed to get a Wii U rather than the latest Xbox or Playstation, although if you’re determined to keep games for adults away from your kids they’ll be missing those games either way.

What are the Advantages of Giving a Wii U as a Gift?

The Wii U easily has the most console exclusives of the big three, and is a must-have for fans of Nintendo IPs like Mario and Donkey Kong.  It's also still the most family-friendly of the consoles. It's a money-saver for online play; unlike the XB1 and PS4 the Wii U doesn’t charge a monthly fee for online play, and it uses far less electricity than either.

What are the Disadvantages of Buying a Wii U as a Gift?

The console has less graphical power and less storage space for downloaded games than the PS4 and XB1. The game has few third-party titles, meaning you can't play hit franchises like Grand Theft Auto or Metal Gear Solid. There are some genres that are more well served on other platforms, like RPGs (although the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles X will improve that balance).

What Extras Do I Need to Buy?

The Wii U box contains the console, a gamepad, the various connectors, and generally a game. Like any console, if people are going to play local multiplayer games, they’ll need additional controllers. Instead of more gamepads, extra players use the Wii remote or the Controller Pro. A more detailed explanation of Wii controller options is here.

If you’re planning to buy many games through Nintendo’s eShop you’ll also need external storage, as the console doesn’t have a lot of internal storage. A list of external USB hard drives that Nintendo has successful tested with the Wii U is here, although others will work as well. You can find a 1 terabyte drive for $70 to $90.  A terabyte holds a lot of games; you can go smaller if you want to save money.

What Games are there for the Wii U?

Your kids probably know what they like and what they’ve already played, so when buying games it helps to just ask them. For the young set, games in the Skylanders or Lego series are generally good. Games that are good for all ages include those with “Mario” or “Zelda” in the title, Rayman Legends, Pikmin 3, and the online paint-shooter Splatoon. There aren't a lot of M-rated games, but notable ones include Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution – The Director’s Cut.

The Wii U will also run Wii games, so if your kid has never had a Wii there are many great games to choose from.

Are there Any Good Games for Parents?

Why should your kids have all the fun? There are a variety of games that should appeal to parents. If you’re a gamer, any of the games previously mentioned might appeal to you. If you’re a non-gamer, or a casual gamer, you might like the exergame Wii Fit U, casual games like Angry Birds Trilogy, or party games like Just Dance 2014 and Wii Party U.

Multiplayer – What Games can Multiple People Play at Once?

Nintendo emphasizes local multiplayer – gamers playing in the same room rather than through the Internet – far more than other game companies. Popular games with a strong emphasis on local multiplayer include Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart 8Super Mario 3D World, Rayman Legends, Super Mario Bros. U, Mario Party, and Wii Party U.

Where Do I Buy Games?

Wii U games can be purchased in stores that carry games, either in-store or online, but most games are also available as downloads on the eShop, although you'll need an external drive (see above) if you're going to download more than a few small games.

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