Mario, Zelda, and more Mario: The best games for Wii U

Will Nicol
Digital Trends
best wii u games super mario maker
best wii u games super mario maker

Alas, poor Wii U! Nintendo’s ill-fated successor to the Wii must have been conceived under a bad star. It has never been able to grab the same audience its predecessor did, nor has it put a dent in the success of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. With a new Nintendo console — the Nintendo Switch — on the horizon, the Wii U’s days seem to be coming to an end. That’s a shame, because the Wii U’s touchscreen game pad and focus on local multiplayer made it the most ambitious console of this generation. While the Wii U has lacked the third-party support that the other consoles have had, it has its share of impressive and inventive games. Here are some of the best titles you can find on the Wii U.

More: Nintendo’s Switch is one console you can take everywhere — here’s what you need to know

Super Mario Maker

Few games have had as long a shelf life as the original Super Mario Bros. trilogy. Really, the only limit to those games was that they had a finite number of levels, a problem Super Mario Maker eliminates by allowing players to create and share their own levels, using a vast suite of design tools. Players can use the Wii U gamepad to craft their levels, dragging and dropping items, enemies, and environmental hazards. The touchscreen controls feel intuitive, and the level design screen resembles a sheet of grid paper, a small touch that gives players a good sense of the size and orientation of every object. You can also download and play levels made by other players, all of which are sorted into various difficulty tiers. While Super Mario Maker’s search tools and metadata could be more robust, there is no shortage of breezy, tough, and downright weird levels to explore. If you only ever buy one Wii U game, make it this one.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Bayonetta 2

Platinum Games is a studio known for two things: frenzied action, and absurd set pieces. Bayonetta 2 is the purest distillation of Platinum’s formula, with quick combat, tight controls, and some of the most ridiculous scenes and character designs in recent years. Players control the title’s titular character, a witch with magic hair and a lot of guns, fighting through wave after wave of baroque enemies and bosses. There is a plot in Bayonetta 2 — it revolves around angels, demons, and a magic mountain — but the focus is on the action. Combat is difficult, but the game gives players a number of tools and abilities, and when you get into the groove, Bayonetta 2 has an elegance unlike many action games.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Splatoon

Although Nintendo takes a lot of flak (deservedly so) for its over reliance on tentpole franchises like Mario and Zelda, the company does, from time to time, produce something new and interesting. On the Wii U, that game is Splatoon, a team-based shooter that takes a classic genre and filters it through Nintendo’s stylish, whimsical prism. In Splatoon matches, players use ink guns to paint areas of the map and spray opponents, effectively “killing” them in video game terms. There are also various game modes, such as Turf Wars, where the team that has painted more of the map after three minutes wins. Platoon’s visuals are gorgeous, with bright colors and cartoony character designs that contrast sharply with the gritty realism of many third-person shooters.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Mario Kart 8

The Wii U was designed with local multiplayer in mind, and there are few games better for a group of friends crammed onto a couch than Mario Kart 8. The eighth and latest installment in the racing franchise doesn’t radically change the series’ formula, but it does refine it. The game features more than 30 characters and 48 tracks, many of which will be familiar to fans of the series. New characters and maps are great, but what has always been central to Mario Kart is the core gameplay, with tight controls and outlandish weapons that make every race a chaotic marathon. Mario Kart 8 has perhaps the best driving in the series, aided by a pristine frame rate. The game also has online multiplayer and custom tournaments, which can keep it fresh until the next installment of the landmark racing series hits store shelves.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate

The long-running Monster Hunter franchise has never been a mainstream franchise in the west, which is a shame, because it is one of the most unique RPG series around. In Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate, players are cast as a monster slayer who must protect a small fishing village from the numerous monsters that plague it. The monsters in question range in size from small to colossal, and the fights are often both difficult and spectacular. Unlike in most RPGs, in Ultimate, players do not level up or gain better stats and abilities as the game progresses. Instead, players construct better weapons and armor from the body parts of the monster they slay. The title doesn’t have much of a story, but the core gameplay loop of killing monsters and crafting items is compelling enough, with or without a narrative. The game also allows for players to team up and hunt monsters online.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Super Mario 3D World

A follow-up to the popular Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS, Super Mario 3D World lets up to four players adventure through many large and increasingly complicated levels. There are five playable characters, each of whom runs and jumps differently, and many power-ups that can drastically alter what players are capable of; the cat suit, for example, allows players to climb walls and scratch enemies. As expected of a Mario platformer, the stages in 3D World are well-made, and each one presents its own unique challenges, such as a level where players ride a giant inflatable Yoshi, or another where the goal is to climb a tall, intricate tower of machinery. The single player suffers a bit from the level design, however, as the spacious stages are built to accommodate four-player chaos Still, multiplayer platforming doesn’t get much better than this.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

New Super Mario Bros. U

If the 3D level design of Super Mario 3D World just doesn’t seem right to you, New Super Mario Bros. U offers classic side-scrolling levels, which up to five players can traverse at once. Players can interact with each other as well as enemies, and while the level design is perfectly competent for single player, the game is at its best when multiple people are screwing with each other as they try to stumble through to the exit. Only four players can play through a level, however a fifth can use the Wii U gamepad to create objects and stun enemies, helping the other players advance. New Super Mario Bros. U, despite its name, does not push the franchise in a new direction, but its multiplayer platforming makes great use of the Wii U’s hardware.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Xenoblade Chronicles X

JRPGs, as a genre, are often criticized for being stuck in the ’90s, while western franchises like Elder Scrolls and The Witcher have garnered acclaim for pushing the boundaries of narrative and environmental storytelling. Xenoblade Chronicles X aims to shatter this stigma, and offers an open world for players to explore, one that’s full of characters and quests rather than the typical grinding present in older JRPGs. In X, players control a cast of characters working for BLADE, a military organization protecting human settlements on the planet Mira. In addition to traveling and fighting on foot, players can also acquire giant robot suits, allowing for flight and new combat abilities. The world of Mira is vast, full of enemies to fight and goals to accomplish, and Xenoblade Chronicles X is a great guidepost for JRPGs going forward.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD

Granted, this was originally a Gamecube game, but Wind Waker is a game that has held up very well since it came out, and this HD remaster makes its lush visual style look even better. Set long after a flood has submerged most of Hyrule, Wind Waker follows one of the many incarnations of Link as he sails around, explores dungeons, solves puzzles, and fights bosses. Exploration is a huge part of the game, as players navigate a rich open world, teeming with oddball characters and elaborate dungeons. Combat, while simple, has a fluidity that makes it enjoyable even if the challenge isn’t there. Those who missed out on the title during its heyday, or who simply want to relive the magic, would do well to pick up this remaster.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

The Super Smash Bros. series is one of the most distinctive fighting game franchises in existence, allowing four players to battle one another on varied stages, each with their own unique mechanics. The latest installment for Wii U doesn’t rock the boat, but it does make some neat adjustments to keep the series alive. As in previous games, players can choose from a wide and shockingly deep roster of Nintendo characters, including mainstays such as Mario and Link, as well as weirder picks like the trainer from Wii Fit. Although Super Smash Bros. is more accessible than the average fighting game, there is still plenty of depth to its systems. I’s great for fans of hardcore fighting games and casual game enthusiasts alike.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Severed

Developer Drinkbox’s surreal, slash-happy title Severed is one of those titles that reminds you what makes touch screens interesting. A light role-playing game, Severed is mostly about slicing the limbs of various monsters, Fruit Ninja-style, and adventuring through a strange and twisted nightmare world. What makes Severed cool is its focus on touch screen timing and quick actions, requiring a combination of speed and accuracy. You need to hack away at enemies to defeat them, but also need to constantly be redirecting your attention to different bad guys in order to knock them off their game before they can attack you. It makes for a frantic slashing experience, and Severed‘s strange, colorful world is fun to explore as well.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

It’s all about perspective in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, a mix of Mario Bros.-style gameplay and carefully crafted puzzles. Each Captain Toad level is an intricate maze that requires players to rotate and shift the game’s camera in order to discover all of its nooks and crannies. Figuring out every secret and navigating through every inch of each level is what makes Captain Toad so fun, and each is challenging without being overwhelming. It also does a great job of mixing old-school gameplay with a twist that gives Captain Toad a fresh feel.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Skylanders: Imaginators

The latest edition of Activision’s “toys-to-life” game takes the series’ core formula — buying toys that give players new characters within the game — and adds a huge amount of new customization that allows players to create their own characters. While the Skylanders concept has always been a cool one, Imaginators’ new approach allows players to earn the abilities to create their own individual Skylanders, bringing them into the game world in a way the series hasn’t done before. Plus, the Skylanders formula of using specific characters for its various levels creates an interesting series of gameplay mechanics that are pretty unlike anything out there, even if you do need to buy some extra toys to get the full experience.

 Buy it now from:

Amazon

Yoshi’s Woolly World

If cuteness counts, Yoshi’s Woolly World blows out the Wii U grading curve. Its unique graphical style renders the whole game to look like it’s made of wool, giving it a visual feel that’s unlike just about anything else out there. More than that, though, it’s a fun platformer in the vein of Nintendo’s best games, feeling like a throwback that updates the formula. Yoshi’s Woolly World is brimming with interesting asides and secrets that will have players combing through its levels to find them all. Playing the game straight might be a bit on the easy side, but Nintendo’s cleverly hidden secrets are the real draw here.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

A flashy role-playing game out of Japan, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE will scratch your itch for 60 hours of deep gameplay and goofy zaniness. At the heart is a fun combat system that riffs on Nintendo’s Fire Emblem games, while infusing everything with an over-the-top pop music flavor. It’s kinda weird, but often extremely entertaining, and full of funny, silly moments. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a bright, fun RPG experience to round out your Wii U library.

Buy it now from:

Amazon