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”:
5. Mario Kart 8
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Regardless of whether you’re the type to focus more on the series’ introduction of zero-G racing for its Wii U outing — which some would argue was Nintendo’s way to satisfy/silence those crying out for a certain other zero-G racer — or instead rely on the notion Mario Kart 8 retained the successfully vibrant and often hectic delivery of racing, you can’t deny that Mario’s acclaimed racing shenanigans delivered yet another highly-satisfying, highly-polished experience from start to checkered-flag finish alike. Be it the rollercoaster-like race tracks, the colorful environments, the jubilant soundtrack, the customization and eventually, the introduction of additional tracks, racers and the insanely addictive 200cc mode, Mario Kart 8 was as close the series has gotten to being both a complete package and undeniable perfection.
While previous entries in the series had indeed tried new ideas (Double Dash) or merely relied on pre-established forte (Mario Kart 7), it was 8‘s particular balance of old and new mechanics, combined with the increase in hardware specs, that was as much entertaining to take part in as it was critical to come out victorious, both offline and online alike. Indeed, with an online bolstered by Nintendo’s improved infrastructure, whether you were the emotionally-charged competitive type or not — death stares notwithstanding — Mario Kart 8 was a much improved online title as it was an offline festivity through the weird and wonderful racing World of the Mushroom Kingdom.
(Sora Ltd / Bandai Namco Games)
Speaking of improved functionality, many fans and active players alike will not deny that the online performance to Super Smash Bros for Wii U was a much-needed improvement over Brawl‘s questionable delivery. But to put this down purely to online would be to ignore many of this gen’s improvements that Smash Bros brought in 2014. Whether it be the art-style (discarding Brawl’s endeavour for a more realistic aesthetic), the more fluid combat, the expanded modes of play and of course a wider roster of characters — which grew evermore as announcement trailers made “Japan Time” an even more righteous event to simply be a part of — Super Smash Bros. for Wii U provided a treasure trove of content to sink one’s teeth into.
Even when fighting opponents was not your thing, such was the game’s vast array of offerings, it was at times overwhelming to even consider let alone tackle. Trophies to scour, records to beat, events to clear, challenges to complete via Special Orders and of course finally managing to beat the single player on the hardest difficulty, Smash Bros‘ near-endless supply of content was matched only by the realm of possibility users could carve out in its more creative modes. Be it the stage editor or the more-goofy photo mode, Super Smash Bros for Wii U proved once again that while it was primarily indeed a game all about pitting Nintendo (as well as select third party) icons against one another, it was also Nintendo’s delightful epitome of celebrating the diverse and often surreal spectrum of video games as a medium.
(Monolith Soft / Nintendo SPD)
One of the most eagerly-anticipated titles since its original reveal back at E3 2013, Xenoblade Chronicles X certainly lived up to the level of hype and anticipation developers Monolith Soft originally created for themselves with arguably one of the greatest JRPG’s (if not games in general) in existence with Xenoblade Chronicles. But for those worried a Wii U-exclusive open-World RPG would mean it wouldn’t stand up to the triumph of fellow RPG’s not to grace Nintendo’s platform this generation, they needn’t worry as X‘s emergent combat, gradual World-building and moment-to-moment gameplay proved once again Monolith Soft could succeed at ambitiously setting their sights high with a World overflowing with challenge, detail and curiosity.
While X’s narrative and indeed its characters may not have matched Chronicles‘ equivalent previous, in the end it did little to dampen the pure undeniable joy of exploring a hostile and alien planet — be it initially on foot or later on through acquiring a Mech (sorry, “Skell”) to expand exploration. Thus, the World of Mira was a fascinating one to discover with its mysteriously artificial/geological sights and off-the-beaten-track secrets, matched only by the genuine intensity of coming across its wide assortment of interestingly-designed creatures, hostile or otherwise. And that’s not including the vast and expansive assortment of upgrades and cosmetic inclusions that only added to the game’s longevity. In short, Xenoblade Chronicles X was just as ambitious, as bold and as fascinating as its competitors and proved the Wii U could do just as well for those keen to sink hundreds of hours into an RPG of this calibre.
2. Bayonetta 2
Style over substance, substance over style. PlatinumGames needn’t worry about such a decision as Bayonetta 2 proved the acclaimed studio (with what is their second title on this list) could triumph on delivering both in unifying succession. The 2014 sequel to one of last-gen’s surprise hits — and arguably one of the games fighting over the crown for best hack-and-slash action title period — Bayonetta 2 may indeed have delivered more of the same highly-paced, highly-calculative gameplay its predecessor offered, but it went one better — at its subtlest putting it mildly, cementing Bayonetta’s position as one of the most beloved and respected video game characters from the video game community’s point-of-view.
And just like the title character’s witty, confident and often teasing persona, the game was more-than-happy to match and even exceed this with grander, bordering-on-choatic set-pieces from the get-go and grander, bordering-on-grotesque enemies that make you go “wait, what?!” countless times over. Accompanied of course with an arsenal of weapons, themselves blurring the line between stylish flair and eye-popping delirium. But the game’s never-ending delivery of high-octane, hack-and-slash engagement — defined only by a player’s own craft and knowledge of the mechanics on show — added to the sense of exhilaration, challenge and inevitable satisfaction one could obtain from turning once holy, gobbledegook-spouting deities (and demons alike) into the next summoned demon’s meal. Its plot might have been as wild and as silly as always, but Bayonetta 2 as a whole was a wild gameplay-led, character-accompanied ride you never truly wanted to see end.
One of Nintendo’s greatest strengths is their historic loft of creativity across a broad spectrum of genres. In some cases, the ability to take pre-established cornerstones (that they themselves hadn’t invented) of and do something entirely new and unique with the basic concepts underpinning them. “New IP!” some would shout (and points intentionally at the naysayers who kept spouting the same old “Nintendo doesn’t make anything new” banter); “a third person shooter?” others would cry with slight startled confusion. Regardless of what your first reaction was when you saw it grace Nintendo’s Digital Direct at E3 2014 — later becoming one of the most talked-about games that year — very few would deny that Splatoon was another principle and charming reminder that even now, Nintendo could still carve out that same level of genius and innovation that has kept them among one of the most respected companies in the industry.
Such is the depth yet intuitive amount of thought put into Splatoon‘s core mechanics — a paint-ball style arena shooter where it’s territory, not kills, that define victory yet appeals to both core and casual players alike — it’s easy to see why Nintendo’s inevitable venturing into arena-style shooter marks itself so highly in many people’s minds. Whether you stop short (but understandably so) at marvelling at the offensive-defensive yin-and-yang of the very ink itself — and how brilliantly it embeds itself into the nature of the gameplay itself — or go further still, basking in just how fleshed out the game’s World is with its 90’s throwback of “hip” this and “cool” that, Splatoon proved an immediately enticing success on release mid-2015, both mechanically and aesthetically. But while its core gameplay kept players coming back for now — especially with each addition of post-release content, proving Nintendo were keen to commit to their newest IP — it was everything around it that quickly earned Splatoon a place among the Mario‘s and the Zelda‘s as a game backed by a passionate community, themselves fascinated with the notion there was some speculative “lore” and greater detail to be found beyond the occasional splatter of ink.
For a debut to generate this much passion and admiration was a testament to Nintendo’s clever marrying of established formulae with their own unique, unrivalled spin on art direction and imaginative World building. Who knows if the World of Splatoon is indeed a post-apocalyptic Earth rebuilt — as much repopulated — by fashion-trendy, shopping mall-avid, 90’s aesthetic-loving Inklings and other sea creature-like humanoids. Will they ever explore such themes and potential tales in a possible sequel? Who knows and to be frank, who cares…Splatoon is another one of those rare titles that doesn’t even need a sense of complexity or narrative depth to underpin its simple and grounded core of arena-shooting to make it feel entirely new and exciting once more — the added intrigue generated instead by a community so enthralled by its visual direction and sense of classic, competitive but wholly entertaining gameplay. In each generation, there has always been a new IP or two tackling genres Nintendo had previously failed to touch, but when it comes to the Wii U, it’s Splatoon that will be remembered as not just the system’s greatest game and not just one of the best reinventions of a genre, but a reminder more so that even now — in the year of our multi-tentacled Lord 2016 — Nintendo can still come out on top with a game that takes us all by unprecedented surprise.