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 sure looks like a portable game system, but it doesn't work like a Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo DS.

Is the Wii U a Portable Game System?

The Wii U is not a portable gaming system, and unlike the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo 3DS, its 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.

As long as the controller is near the console:

  • The GamePad controller's touch screen can be used to provide second-screen functionality.
  • It can be used to play a game solely on the GamePad without a TV display.
  • It can be used as a television remote control.
  • In can work in conjunction with other compatible Wii controllers. 
  • Facilitate visual chat using the controller's front-facing camera.