The Wii U GamePad: a Portable Game System?

How does the Wii U GamePad differ from other systems and controllers?

The Nintendo Wii U is a home video game console and the successor to the Wii. It competes with the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4. The Wii U GamePad is the standard controller for the Wii U game console. It looks like a portable game system, but it doesn't work like a Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo DS.

Wii U
Nintendo

The Wii U GamePad Is a Controller

The Wii U isn't a portable gaming system, and unlike the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo 3DS, the controller isn't meant to be played outside the house or away from the Wii U console. Like the Wii, the Wii U console is meant to be played indoors.

Its most prominent feature is the 6-inch touchscreen embedded in the controller, which makes it easy to see why it might be mistaken for a portable game system. The GamePad controller has controls that look familiar to anyone who has ever used a DS or 3DS. However, it's not a freestanding device.

You can take a Nintendo DS or 3DS anywhere, and it will work. If you separate the Wii U GamePad controller from the Wii U console, it won't work.

How the Wii U Controller Works

The Wii U controller wirelessly beams information to and from the Wii U console using a proprietary transfer protocol and software. The console is an essential part of the Wii U system. Without it, the controller is useless. Even though you can opt to play Wii U games on the controller's embedded screen instead of on a television, the controller is not a separate game console. That said, it has a lot of cool features. When the Wii U GamePad is near the Wii U console, it can:

  • Provide second-screen functionality.
  • Be used to play a game on the GamePad without a TV display.
  • Be used as a television remote control.
  • Work in conjunction with other compatible Wii controllers.
  • Facilitate visual chat using the controller's front-facing camera.

About the Wii U Console and GamePad

When you buy a Wii U, the console, a GamePad, and necessary connectors come included in the box. If more than one person is going to play, you'll need to buy an additional controller, but it won't be a GamePad because the Wii U doesn't support more than one.

If you own or plan to buy a lot of games, you may need an external drive because the Wii U console doesn't have much storage space. The Wii U supports external drives that are plugged into one of four USB ports on the console. Nintendo maintains a list of compatible external drives.

The Wii U console is backward compatible with earlier Wii games, and there are plenty of great games available. Other accessories you may want to add include a microphone, headset, and racing wheel.