Is the Wii U GamePad a Portable Game System?

Wii U competes with Xbox One and PS4, not Nintendo 3DS

Wii U
© Nintendo

Nintendo's 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.

The Wii U GamePad Is a Controller

The Wii U is not a portable gaming system, and unlike the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo 3DS, the controller is not meant to be played outside the house or anywhere 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 touch screen embedded in its 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 is not a freestanding device.

You can take a Nintendo DS or 3DS anywhere, and it works. If you separate the Wii U GamePad controller from the Wii U console, it does not 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 when you are in a room with the console, the controller is not a separate game console, but 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 solely 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 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 a lot of storage room. 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 include you might want to add include a microphone, headset, and racing wheel. 

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