With 2017 close on the horizon and Nintendo switching its focus towards new endeavors — leaving the Wii U not too far from hardware death; placing it in the figurative old folks home, telling its beloved machine it will “definitely” come and visit, though isn’t quite sure when — perhaps it’s time to look back on four years of trials, tribulations, troubles…but above all…occasional triumphs that Nintendo’s eighth-generation console did manage to stir up amidst the woe of sales figures, less-than-clear marketing and general lack of support.
There’s no denying the Wii U will go down as an underperforming console and while the internet joking and console wars will still wriggle their way into discussion — like maggots feasting on a rotting corpse — it’s perhaps more enticing (and a bit more productive) to celebrate some of the console’s greater moments. The games that still made the Wii U an enticing system to own. So without further ado, here are Hardcore Gamer’s official Top 15 games the Wii U can boast made it, still, a “well-good console m8”:
It takes a special kind of game to break the mold of the now-established 2D side-scrolling platformers and/or local/online co-op brawlers. You’d think 13AM Games’ attempt to fuse the two sub-genres would offer little by way of temporary distraction — distraction from what might have been yet another run-of-the-mill indie project with brief albeit minuscule spark. But that proved not to be the case with Runbow and it wasn’t purely down to its enjoyably tense color-shifting mechanic that paved many moments of delightful frustration on not getting that one pivotal moment of timing spot-on.
Runbow‘s more impressive acclaim lay in how it made its player-versus-player competitiveness — in all its silliness and downright chaotic flair — feel even more a delightful thing to take part in, if not claim victory over. Be it punching each other off platforms, snatching a win from out another’s hands or generally trying to avoid the eight-player madness that unfolded, Runbow was a delightful multi-player festivity as it was a thoroughly enjoyable single-player experience that offered an abundance of short, snappy challenges that made great use of the mechanics on show.
While most indie developers simply made the Wii U another viable platform to host their new titles on, KnapNok Games decided instead to go that extra, pivotal step further in making the Gamepad feel more than just a portable extension of the console’s output. Affordable Space Adventures may not have been the first — or indeed last — explorative puzzle game on the market, but its ship-management mechanics made interesting use of the second-screen experience many critics, to this day, often sneer at. Translating a once questionable peripheral into the very tourist ship’s control you frequently had to experiment with in order to get past the game’s multitude of natural and/or deadly obstructions.
Though a lot of the game’s appreciation can indeed be flung towards its gameplay — and the trial-and-error methodology with your ship’s components and allotted outputs — Affordable Space Adventures‘ subtle leanings on corporate parodying and tentative horror can not go ignored. At times anxious, at times intriguing…and sometimes just downright surreal, KnapNok seemed to do the near-impossible in releasing a third party title that not only gave the Gamepad reason to be, but did enough to make the shift in focus — between reading the environment and pushing your ship past its very limits — feel tentative but far from irritable. A thoughtful balance between gameplay and all-rounded design meant Affordable Space Adventures was one trip you certainly wouldn’t forget.
It’s become almost second fiddle for a Nintendo console to launch with a Mario-related title and Nintendo certainly tried to appease fans with New Super Mario Bros U back in 2012, to mixed reception from fans, if not critics. Super Mario 3D World — following on from the 3DS ventures that Super Mario 3D Land offered up — was, if not a flawless execution of the company’s mascot foray of platforming goodness, an undeniable step up from the “New” line of 2.5D adventures previous. A step-up that brought challenge, frustration but above all, an entertaining scurry from start-point to end flag-pole.
What’s more, be it in his mix-up of environments (if still following that most traditional of grass/desert/ice/fire formulas) or cast of enemies and foes from Mario games of past, 3D World felt much more like a celebration of the series’ enticement from all corners of the community, as it did a title that harkened back to that same former period of classic platforming prowess and skill. Naturally this would be a game Nintendo would make considerable leaps with graphically; the crisp visuals and vibrant use of colour and textures certainly allowing the Wii U’s power, at the very least, attractive (if not dominant) in today’s market.
Though initially revealed almost like a near-forgotten side-note after Nintendo’s (soon-to-be-realized last) E3 conference in 2012, The Wonderful 101 was another pillar in the altar of style-and-substance creativity, as much hilarity, that PlatinumGames have carved out in recent years. An over-the-top, Saturday morning cartoon-esque fusion of strategic decision-making a la Pikmin with Viewtful Joe’s aesthetical and narrative swagger. Of powered-up heroes, outer-space villains and a theme tune that in itself is so undeniably silly, it’s genius.
But like most (most being the operative word here, given their last couple outings) of Platinum’s back-catalog, it was the gameplay — and the way it used the GamePad both fluidly and tactically — that made the greatest strides, even with its splendidly focused visual style cropping up at plentiful spots. The Wonderful 101 was just that — a wonderfully treated homage to kids’ 90’s TV spiel on looking/acting “cool” that was neither forced nor overplayed to death.
There were a fair few people crying out for a particular racing IP starting with the letter F as the Wii U rolled on by and while the Big N may have inevitably confined Captain Falcon and co to mere DLC for another one of their racing titles, Shin’en were more than happy to satisfy avid speed-freaks and arcade racer addicts alike with a release starting with that exact same letter, in Fast Racing Neo. A hybrid of F-Zero‘s pace and similarly futuristic racer Wipeout‘s arcade-style moreishness, the futuristic indie racer quickly brushed all former player antagonism at Nintendo to the side with a game that was both mechanically and, more surprisingly, graphically on point.
Making the most of the Wii U’s capabilities, Shin’en Multimedia in one swoop made a solitary indie release stand up to even the visual dominance Xbox One & PS4 could claim — carving out a 60FPS performance that was as much a joy to look at as it was to play. And alongside its varied environments, challenging courses and polarity-switching mechanic to help spice up each race, the upbeat, head-bobbing, electronic soundtrack only cemented Fast Racing Neo as one of the best all-round experiences from not just an indie stand-point, but a Wii U stand-point altogether. F-Zero? Nah I’m fine, thanks.