The success of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One seems to have shifted the Wii U out of the conversation in the past two years, but despite struggles in the market, it’s still a great system. We scoured review sites to find the best exclusive games currently available for Nintendo’s premier console. There’s some very good stuff on here, so if you haven’t picked up a Wii U, take a look at these games and see if now might be the time to take the plunge.
14. Yoshi’s Woolly World
- Metacritic Score: 78
Ever since Yoshi’s Island came out on Super Nintendo, everybody’s favorite green dinosaur has been more than just Mario’s sidekick — he’s a capable hero in his own right. Yoshi’s games generally take place in stylized worlds, with expansive levels through which you have to accompany a helpless baby version of Mario (don’t ask).
Woolly World is a little different in that the entire game looks like it’s literally sewn together, which means you can expect to pull zippers to reveal secrets and to unspool coils of yarn to navigate treacherous paths. The game offers a terrific amount of imaginative fun for gamers of all ages. If you’ve been looking for a unique platformer, this is it.
- Metacritic Score: 81
Leave it to Nintendo to turn the typically R-rated shooting genre into something the whole family can enjoy. In Splatoon you don’t shoot bullets at enemies, you shoot ink. And instead of focusing on your kill count, the goal is to coat as much of the environment as possible in your team’s color of ink. Blasting your opponents is optional, and finding the right balance of defense and offense is loads of fun. Finally, a shooter for players of all ages.
12. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
- Metacritic Score: 81
In this endlessly adorable game, the levels are tidy 3-D dioramas with stars and collectibles scattered around them. You play as the diminutive mushroom-capped character Toad, and your job is to collect the stars before the timer runs out. But you can’t jump, so you have to rotate the camera all around, plotting your course through each level, making sure you pick up the goodies along the way. It’s basically a whole lot of laid-back fun.
11. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
- Metacritic Score: 83
Even though he was Nintendo’s first famous creation, Donkey Kong gets a bad rap. Sure, he was a villain in his eponymous arcade game, but he’s also the star of a very good series of ultra-challenging platformers. And yet, for some reason most people don’t think of him next to the leaping Italian plumbers when it comes to Nintendo stars. All of which is to say that Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is an excellently designed game that’s stuffed full of color, creativity, and challenging obstacles. If the standard enemies don’t get you, the bosses will. It’s not easy, but it’s a blast to keep playing the levels until you finally succeed.
10. Xenoblade Chronicles X
- Metacritic Score: 84
The console known for cute (yet amazing) games like Super Mario Maker and Mario Kart 8 now has a fantastic open-world RPG that you might expect to play on PlayStation 4. Xenoblade Chronicles X is a spiritual successor to a 2012 Wii game that features many of the same elements that made the original such a blast. The plot kicks off as an alien war in 2054 makes Earth unlivable, so the surviving humans strike out among the stars to settle on a planet called Mira. The only problem is that the aliens have followed close on their heels. RPG-loving Wii U owners will definitely want to check this one out.
9. New Super Mario Bros. U
- Metacritic Score: 84
Nintendo knows what people want — and apparently, they want to run and jump through a digital world as an overweight plumber. Actually, it’s not all that surprising when that digital world is as bursting with creativity as the Mushroom Kingdom is. This side-scrolling platformer recalls the good old days of early Mario games, while adding tons of new gameplay ideas to the mix. For starters, you can play the game with up to four players onscreen at once, while a fifth player uses the gamepad’s touchscreen to stun enemies and draw platforms on the screen. In case you thought there’s nothing new to add to a classic formula, Nintendo comes back with an enormous dose of creativity and shows you how wrong you were.
8. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
- Metacritic Score: 85
This game, which originally launched on both GameCube and Wii in 2006, is epic in every sense of the word, thanks to its endlessly enjoyable dungeons, epic boss battles, and dark, twisting story line. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s one of the better action adventure games of all time. And because this HD remaster improves both the combat and the graphics, there’s never been a better-looking or better-playing version of the game. Whether you’ve taken this journey before or not, Twilight Princess HD is a game just about every Wii U owner should try.
7. Pikmin 3
- Metacritic Score: 87
The least known Nintendo franchise on this list, Pikmin is a weird, adorable real-time strategy game. You play as three minuscule explorers who crash land on an alien planet called Pikmin and try to use the local plant people to help gather fruit and parts of the ship. Critics loved the game, praising its smart, interlocking gameplay mechanics and overall whimsy. The gamers who have played it enjoy it just as much. If you’re looking for something a little different on Wii U — something that will make you think and smile at the same time – Pikmin 3 is it.
6. Super Mario Maker
- Metacritic Score: 88
Of all the games on this list, the one that makes the best use of the Wii U’s quirky hardware is Super Mario Marker. Not only does this game come with dozens of Nintendo-made levels for you to enjoy and use for inspiration, but its online servers are home to an ever-expanding collection of player-made levels, many of which are incredibly fun.
These levels offer a much wider variety of designs than you’d get from a standard Nintendo game, including homages to other video games and insanely challenging levels. Oh, and you can spend untold hours crafting your own levels and racking up stars as other players download and play them. Super Mario Maker is a game, but it’s also a platform for endless fun.
5. Mario Kart 8
- Metacritic Score: 88
Mario Kart games have always been about cartoonishly impossible courses, a wide cast of characters, and shell projectiles you can blast at your friends just as they’re about to cross the finish line. The latest installment remains true to everything fans love about the series, while bringing it into the high-def world of 1080p graphics. The graphics really are incredible, filled with enough bright colors and minute details that it’s a shame Nintendo didn’t make the jump to HD a console generation ago, like Sony and Microsoft did. Nintendo is all caught up now, and just in time: Mario Kart 8 is one of the best games in this highly acclaimed series.
4. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
- Metacritic Score: 90
Like Mario, the Zelda series dates back 30 years — and this game is an HD remake of the 2003 original for Game Cube. In it, you once again play as Link, a boy clad in green who sails from island to island, conquering dungeons full of enemies, giant bosses, and environmental puzzles. This remake gives the game better lighting effects and a widescreen view, but keeps everything that made the original so special. The most important thing it does, however, is introduce one of the best titles in the series to a whole new generation of gamers. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a terrific, lengthy adventure.
3. Bayonetta 2
- Metacritic Score: 91
Bayonetta 2 is a hyper-violent action game that has you perform fluid sword-and-gun combos to slice your enemies to ribbons. Unlike most Wii U exclusives, the hero is no kid-friendly cartoon character. She’s a butt-kicking female who goes around in skin-tight, shiny leather. Since Nintendo is publishing the game, the developer has also thrown in some unique additions, like the ability to dress as Link from Zelda, Samus from Metroid, and Princess Peach from Mario. In case you never played the original, don’t worry: Bayonetta 2 comes with a port of that game as well.
2. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
- Metacritic Score: 92
In case you’re unfamiliar with this series of off-the-wall brawlers, it’s the only place you can have Mario, Link, Pikachu, and Kirby pound the snot out of each other using special attacks from their own individual games. New modes this time around accommodate players of any experience level, from total newbies to hardened pros. The graphics are better than ever, and the roster spans four decades of Nintendo history. If you want a fighting game for Wii U, look no further. Check out our review for more information.
1. Super Mario 3D World
- Metacritic Score: 93
Of course Mario is number one. The original Super Mario Bros. was so good that it basically jump-started the struggling video game industry in the 1980s, and the big N has yet to take its foot off the accelerator. Even now, some 30 years after the original game’s debut, Nintendo has released a brand new game that’s bursting with fun, clever ideas.
Set in the brightly colored Mushroom Kingdom, this game has you navigate three-dimensional levels, hopping on enemies, leaping over pits, collecting coins, and engaging in all manner of joyful physical activity. You can play it alone or with up to three friends to participate in some madcap cooperative-meets-competitive play. In case you thought all Mario games were a cinch to beat, this one offers some of the most challenging levels yet.