Now that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have taken the world by storm, Nintendo has a lot of catching up to do. Of course, Nintendo already had plenty of catching up to do when it failed to promote its console or even explain to potentially willing consumers exactly what the Wii U was going to be, but now that the market is being dominated by faster, sleeker hardware, Nintendo needs to prove to gamers that it has something to offer than Sony and Microsoft don’t.
If history is any indication, Nintendo is going to have to strike back with games. The Wii U is never going to be as powerful or as capable of a media device as its competition, but with Sony aiming for the hardcore gaming crowd and Microsoft attempting to market its console to a different kind of customer every other day, the families that bought a Wii for Wii Sports are still prime targets.
If Nintendo can push enough software on to store shelves to make an impact while simultaneously getting the word out about the Wii U in a big way, the flailing console maker may stand a chance. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long generation for the fallen king.
We’ve rounded up five of our most anticipated games for the Wii U below for your viewing pleasure — the five games that could help put Nintendo and the Wii U back on track in 2014. Check out our lists for the PS4 and the Xbox One while you’re at it.
Mashups are always hit-or-miss, but in all of gaming history no other mashup has developed a fanbase quite like Super Smash Bros. The breakout hit from the Nintendo 64 has seen subsequent releases on the Gamecube and the Wii, and it was only a matter of time until the brawler showed up on the Wii U. Nintendo has been relatively quiet about the new features that will be coming to the next-gen Smash Bros., but we do know some of the new characters, most notably Mega Man and the terrifyingly expressionless Wii Fit Trainer.
The sooner Nintendo releases Smash Bros., the better. The game might not be a system-seller on its own, but a Smash Bros. title, much like a standalone Zelda or Mario, might be enough to attract the audience that has been dormant over the past two years, waiting in the wings for any reason to buy a Wii U. What the Wii U needs is a library, and no modern Nintendo library is complete without Super Smash Bros.
Mario Kart has become a staple of Nintendo’s platforms over the past 22 years. The enormously popular Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo spawned a series that has rarely, if ever, faltered in the eyes of Nintendo fans. From the blissful music of Rainbow Road to the chaotic action of Double Dash multiplayer, countless gamers have fond memories of the decades-old kart racer, and it’s no surprise that Mario Kart won’t be missing out on the latest console generation.
Unlike Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart has appeared on almost every single Nintendo console since the Super Nintendo, including the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS. Unsurprisingly, the latest iteration doesn’t seem to be taking the series in any bold new directions, but the addition of some fresh faces and new modes of transportation should be plenty to make Mario Kart 8 a worthwhile purchase for Wii U owners.
The third game on this list featuring Donkey Kong (it was unintentional, I swear) is also the latest entry in the Donkey Kong Country franchise: Tropical Freeze. Donkey Kong Country is another fan favorite from the Super Nintendo era, a platformer that put Rare on the map in 1994. After two sequels, the series began to fade away, but Retro Studios took the reins and revived DKC for the Wii back in 2010. After a few unfortunate delays last year, the sequel is finally coming to the Wii U next month.
Donkey Kong will be joined by Diddy Kong once again in Tropical Freeze, as well as (revival series) newcomers Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong. Each playable character has a unique method of traversing the environment and dispatching the frosty foes spread out across the game’s six islands. Other than the spectacular Super Mario 3D World, the platformer genre is surprisingly underrepresented on the Wii U so far. Tropical Freeze couldn’t come at a better time.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will be available for the Wii U on February 21st.
As traditional as Nintendo is, it’s always a bit of a shock when the company tries something new. This time Nintendo is taking a mature, violent property and bringing it exclusively to the Wii U. The first title in the series, Bayonetta, released to rave reviews on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, owing the high score to its deep combat, gorgeous visuals and off-the-wall plot. Although the creator of the game said that there would likely never be a sequel, Nintendo refused to let the property die, and thus development of Bayonetta 2 began.
Bayonetta is a hack-and-slash title from Platinum Games, the same group that brought The Wonderful 101 to the Wii U last year. All we have to go on so far is the trailer above, but if Platinum can recapture the magic from the first game, Wii U owners are in for a treat later this year.
Here’s what I know about X (working title) so far: I know it’s set in a vast open-world. I know it’s developed by the same team that created Xenoblade, a stand-out Wii JRPG that inspired an international movement to bring the game to the West. I know it features a stellar score and gigantic flying mecha. I also know I desperately want to play it.
Nintendo is sorely lacking in third-party support, but an expansive open-world RPG from a developer that is still feeling the effects from one of the most lauded titles in its history is more than a drop in the ocean. With the endless supply of shooters and slashers heading to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Nintendo and Monolith Soft have an incredible opportunity to strike first if they can release an RPG as anticipated as X in 2014.