Screengrab via Nintendo/YouTube

The 14 best games on Wii U

It's not too late to catch up with Wii U's best titles.

Apr 11, 2017, 5:47 pm*

Internet Culture


Grant Pardee


Sarah Weber

As Nintendo enters a new era with its Switch console, it’s time to look back at the years we’ve (mostly) enjoyed with the Wii U.

The console launched in 2012 adding support for HD graphics, improved online capabilities, and a large GamePad controller that functions as a second screen. Wii U wasn’t as successful out of the gate as its Wii predecessor, in part because it debuted with a weak lineup of launch titles. But in the following years, Nintendo and other game developers have created a respectable number of titles worth playing on Wii U.

Here’s a look at the best Wii U games, listed in no particular order, since your favorite will likely have a lot to do with what type of games you enjoy.

1) Super Mario 3D World 

best games wii u

Super Mario 3D World gets a lot of things right, giving you all of the fun and challenge of a traditional 2D platformer with the freedom of movement allowed in 3D space. AD Tokyo studio does a wonderful job building a world filled with familiar Mario graphics, while throwing in enough curveballs to keep things interesting. You’ll enjoy sorting out the puzzles, playing with friends, and generally being immersed in cartoony Mario nostalgia. —Sarah Weber

2) Super Smash Bros. Wii U

best games wii u  A digital embodiment of the “Who would win in a fight?” argument, Super Smash Bros. Wii U gives you all the pummeling action of previous installments with new characters and features. The game has lots of bonus modes and alternate gameplay types, but we all know the best part of Smash is going head-to-head in a button-mashing brawl with your friends. Just be sure to have enough controllers to go around, or have your buddies bring their own. —Sarah Weber

3) Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD &

4) Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

best games wii u One massive hole in the Wii U game lineup for most of its life was a new installment of the beloved Legend of Zelda franchise. Breath of the Wild didn’t arrive until March 2017, when it shared a launch with the Switch. As grumpy as this makes most Zelda fans, Nintendo did release two updated HD versions of earlier Zelda games, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. Both are excellent (as were the originals), with noticeably improved graphics, smoother mechanics, and new features that make another playthrough very worthwhile.  —Sarah Weber

5) Splatoon 

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Competitive shooters don’t usually look like cartoons, but in the hands of Nintendo, Splatoon brings colorful charm to the genre. Don’t be fooled by the kid-friendly looks of Splatoon. The smooth mechanics support a fast-paced and challenging competition as characters morph from paint-ball-gun wielding teens to squids that can swim through the play area with considerable speed. This isn’t your average shooter, and lots of players will find it to be a refreshing change of pace. —Sarah Weber

6) Mario Kart 8 

best games wii u 

There are a few key franchises that every Nintendo fan looks forward to, and Mario Kart is near the top of the list. Since 1992, the racing game Mario Kart has delighted us and tested our relationships. (Who hasn’t had a grudge match between siblings or friends at some point?) In Mario Kart 8, Nintendo upped the ante by adding more mind-bending tracks, more unlockable carts and characters, and anti-gravity wheels that allow for vertical banking. —Sarah Weber

7) Super Mario Maker

best games wii u  

As much as we all love playing the original Super Mario Bros. games, repeating the same levels over and over can get monotonous. Fortunately, Nintendo realized that it might be fun to give its building tools directly to gamers so they can create an endless supply of their own levels. What we get here is like two games in one: You can engineer your own fun (or sadistically challenging) levels, and then enjoy the fruits of your labor by playing them through. Even better, the game has a key sharing component so you can play levels built by your peers and show off your own genius creations. —Sarah Weber

8) Rayman Legends

best games wii u  

Like lots of games on the Wii U, Rayman Legends is as much fun for adults as it is for kids. The Ubisoft-developed 3D platformer is a direct sequel to Rayman Origins, and it tells the story of Rayman, Globox, and the Teensies after they wake from a century-long slumber. Rayman and the gang set out on an adventure to rescue their friends from malicious nightmares. Here you’ll find an entertaining fantasy world, a fun soundtrack, and the clever gameplay fans have come to expect from the franchise. —Sarah Weber

9) Shovel Knight 

best games wii u  

This little indie game might be an unexpected addition to this list, but we think it deserves to be here. The 2D side-scroller from Yacht Club Games is a love letter to pixelated old-school gaming that avoids falling into the trap of being a poor copy of the originals. Instead, you can expect quality mechanics, a terrific soundtrack, and gameplay that you’ll find challenging without wanting to tear your hair out. If you’re a fan of retro games, Shovel Knight is a can’t-miss. —Sarah Weber

10) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

best games wii u

Breath of the Wild looks like it’s already cruising toward a 2017 Game of the Year award. The game has received universal acclaim from critics and players alike and for good reason: Breath of the Wild is a mesmerizing, sprawling adventure that beautifully delivers the feeling of adventure and exploration in a way that few other games ever have, including even previous high-water mark Ocarina of Time.

It’s bittersweet that one of the best Wii U games would come so late. In a way, it’s also perfectly fitting. Just like the original Wii began with a new Zelda adventure originally built for the preceding GameCube, the Wii U ended its cycle with a Zelda that will likely be remembered more as a Switch game. But who cares about legacy? No matter how you play this game, you’ll love it. —Grant Pardee

11) Bayonetta 2

best games wii u
A sequel to the under-appreciated cult classic, Bayonetta’s sequel delivered on the frenetic hack ‘n’ slash gameplay that fans loved the first time around. This time, the madness is escalated with better levels, crazier visuals, and a greater variety of attacks, including darkly comic Torture Attacks that are as gruesome as they are satisfying. The game might not be right for everyone, but for those who enjoy a touch of insanity with their arcade-style gaming experiences, there’s nothing like whipping a gigantic angel to death with dominatrix hair. —Grant Pardee

12) Pikmin 3

best wii u games
Like a more accessible version of Starcraft, the Pikmin series has been a thoughtful and engaging game experience. But in some ways, Pikmin 3 is representative of Wii U’s troubles writ small: Who is it for? The ideal audience for Pikmin 3 is someone who has some familiarity and affection for Pikmin but has never really committed to playing one of the previous entries. That’s because Pikmin 3 is more of a refinement than a full step forward for the series. Fans of the series might be a bit let down that the game is more of the same, even though it is superior in basically every way to the previous GameCube entries. Newer players, meanwhile, might balk at starting a series at its third entry, although were they to give it a shot (because it comes so highly recommended), they would find a charming and beautifully designed strategy game. —Grant Pardee 

13) Xenoblade Chronicles X

best wii u games
Before Breath of the Wild, Xenoblade held the top spot among open world action RPGs for the Wii U. After its initial release in 2015, critics were quick to hail it as a masterpiece with gorgeous design and a massive world, and it’s easy to agree with that assessment. A player could get lost for days exploring the vast spaces and find plenty of side-quests and missions with which to busy themselves. At the same time, the game’s massive scope and nuanced upgrade system can be as exhausting as it is freeing, sometimes creating a sense of being overwhelmed by the game. But there’s nothing quite as fun as clomping through the countryside in a giant humanoid robot so, in that respect at least, Breath of the Wild can take a seat. —Grant Pardee

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*First Published: Dec 4, 2016, 5:55 pm

Grant Pardee

Grant Pardee is a writer and producer specializing in digital video, social media, and web culture reporting. He has produced videos for Fullscreen, SourceFed, and Funny or Die, and his work has been published by Vice, McSweeney's, and Rooster Teeth.

Sarah Weber

Sarah Weber is the former editor of Daily Dot’s Parsec section, where she wrote about geek culture. She previously worked as a reporter and editor at community newspapers in the Midwest and was recognized by the Ohio Associated Press for news reporting.