We have chronicled the sad tale of the Wii U ever since it launched last year. Nintendo failed to get the word out, and in turn the public failed to show any interest. Some consumers didn’t even understand what the Wii U was, and it’s hard to blame them. Things still aren’t looking any better for the king of the last generation, especially now that Microsoft and Sony have both re-entered the market with hardware that blows away anything the Wii U has to offer. The one thing the Wii U does have over the PS4 and Xbox One this holiday season is a year long head start, which means a much wider — and better — selection of games to purchase.
In this feature, BGR has done its best to comb through the lineup to find the crown jewels of Nintendo’s newest console, the games you should pick up over the holidays for your Wii U. Here are the best Wii U games money can buy so far. We’ve included a couple of our favorite 3DS games as well.
Super Mario 3D World
This is it. The best next-gen game so far. Putting Nintendo’s business woes aside for the moment, they still employ a stable of some of the most talented, creatives developers in the industry, and Super Mario 3D World shines as a result. Nintendo took a break from the 3D branch of Mario games to focus on flatter titles for the past few years, which make 3D World all the more welcome.
In our review of 3D World, we made an audacious claim: “Come November 22nd, the best game on any next-gen console will be Super Mario 3D World, and Nintendo might finally stand a chance to compete.” A month after the game’s release, there’s no doubt in my mind that Mario has stolen the spotlight for the holiday season. Not only is 3D World a great game, it could work wonders with the holiday crowd. Pile the kids in front of the television with some Wiimotes and they’ll be entertained for hours. And don’t be ashamed to jump in yourself.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
My favorite game in the Zelda series has a fresh coat of paint on the Wii U, and if you’ve never worked your way through Wind Waker, this should be your top priority when you have downtime over the holidays. Wind Waker was a worrisome concept when it first appeared. Rather than maturing Link, Nintendo had turned him into a full-on cartoon, and fans of the series did not respond positively. Ten years later, it is fondly remembered as the revitalization of the character.
It’s worth noting that Wind Waker HD is not a new game, simply a high-definition upgrade of a Gamecube game, but the few additions that Nintendo did make are welcome ones. Sailing across the Great Sea from island to island was joyous in the original game, but became tedious as Link was forced to backtrack to locations he’d already visited. Easing the pain a bit, Wind Waker HD introduces a method of upgrading your ship’s speed. Other changes include messages from other players washing up on the shore, the inventory screen being relegated to the GamePad and off-TV play.
Wind Waker is a fascinating adventure, one that shouldn’t be missed. The Wii U first-party lineup is almost as stark as the lineups of the PS4 and Xbox One, but gems like these make the Wii U a console worth owning.
Not long ago, before first-person shooters claimed the throne, platformers were all the rage. Nintendo had Mario, Sony had Jak, Ratchet and Sly, Sega had Sonic and Ubisoft had Rayman. Sadly, Rayman was never given the same attention as his competition. He was even slowly pushed out of the Raving Rabbids series after the titular rabbits began to overshadow the limbless hero. That all changed in 2011 with the release of Rayman Origins, one of the best reviewed platformers in recent memory.
Two years later, we finally have our sequel, and it’s everything a follow-up to Origins should be. Rayman Legends picks up right where its predecessor left off, dumping Rayman and his odd companions in some of the most skillfully crafted, gorgeously animated worlds on any console. In terms of visuals, Legends even trumps Super Mario 3D World. Multiplayer is also a ton of fun, if you can stand the chaos.
Rayman Legends is not a Nintendo exclusive, despite Ubisoft’s original intentions. The game is available for the PS3 and the Xbox 360 as well, but the Wii U is home to the definitive Legends experience. Legends is also coming to the PS4 and Xbox One next year, but if you’re looking to get your hands on another great family game for the holidays, take a chance and pick up Legends for the Wii U.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Two games from the same series on a list of five might seem like overkill, but this is Zelda we’re talking about, one of the staple franchises of Nintendo’s storied history. In some ways, much like Wind Waker HD, A Link Between Worlds in also an HD update. Link is placed in the same world featured in A Link to the Past with most of the same tools at his disposal, but the dungeons are all new, item acquisition has been streamlined, and the power to morph into a painting adds far more to the experience than you would expect.
One thing we failed to cover in our review is just how useful the 3D feature is in A Link Between Worlds. The top-down view of the increasingly dangerous worlds of Hyrule and Lorule is aided greatly by an added dimension, and it helps distract from the mildly unattractive graphical redesign of the character models. Many of you are bound to be traveling over the holidays — pop Zelda into your 3DS and you’ll be home in no time.
There are so many secrets to discover and locations to explore, you’ll find yourself coming back to A Link Between Worlds ever after you’ve finished the main story. After the credits rolled, I realized that a fourth of my inventory was still empty. I haven’t filled it quite yet, but I plan to cap it off before the end of the year. A Link Between Worlds is the best 3DS game yet, and a must-have for anyone who owns the portable console.
Pokemon X & Y
The Pokemon series has been due for an overhaul for years, and the latest release is everything fans have been waiting for and more. As an adult, I figured that Pokemon would have lost its charm, and although it doesn’t have its claws in me quite like it did fifteen years ago, there is something enigmatic about catching hundreds of these ridiculous little creatures.
Pokemon X and Y are the first games of the series to feature polygonal 3D graphics, livening up the world a bit from previous entries. Characters and the Pokemon that they battle with actually look substantial for the very first time. Fans of the franchise would likely be content with the visual upgrade alone, but Mega evolutions, Sky Battles and Horde Encounters spice up the action even further.
At the end of the day, it’s another Pokemon game, but what else would a Pokemon fan want from Game Freak and Nintendo?