As we eagerly anticipate the launch of Nintendo Switch on Friday, it’s time to say farewell to the humble Wii U. The Wii’s successor will ultimately be looked back on as a failure in gaming history, but to do that does it a disservice. Yes, it was poorly marketed, a lot of third-party supporters dropped off early, and the concept of “asymmetrical gaming” never became more than a novelty. However, it boasted some excellent games, and the innovative attitude from Nintendo that lead to its creation has now brought us the Switch, which is probably what the Wii U should have been.
Nintendo America president Reggie Fils-Aime said in a January interview that he expects the Switch to outperform and outsell the Wii U. He explained that Nintendo has spent a lot of time reflecting on what went wrong with the Wii U, especially after the Wii saw astronomical success a decade ago. They believe that the potential of the GamePad was never fully communicated to gamers, and there was never a steady flow of solid games to drive sales. Fils-Aime admits that they had to learn these lessons the hard way, and that this is why the Switch is going to do better.
Nintendo also announced that the highly anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which will be simultaneously released on Friday for both Switch and Wii U, will be the final game for the Wii U. For those who aren’t picking up a Switch at launch and are planning to get the Wii U version, I can’t think of a more impressive swansong for the console.
I picked up my Wii U at launch, and despite some of the early issues with long loading times, I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it and will remember it fondly, with only a sigh when I reflect upon where it messed up. And although the Switch will be occupying my time for who knows how long, it’s not as if I’ll never play my Wii U again.
It may not have had a steady supply of solid games, but it did have plenty of strong titles, so I thought that I would take a moment to reflect upon some of my personal favorite games on the Wii U.
When Nintendo first unveiled Splatoon, I wasn’t sure what to think. They took the concept of a shooting game and turned it into something far beyond what anyone could have imagined. I don’t really play shooters — in fact I tend to tire of them fairly quickly — so the announcement didn’t grab me as a must-buy title. That immediately changed when I actually tried out a demo of the game at E3. The short, fast-paced online battles are where this game shines, and the gameplay is really very addictive and incredibly fun. I’ll be picking up Splatoon 2 for Switch on the day it comes out, and I’m looking forward to seeing how fun local multiplayer could be if several Switches are brought together.
Super Mario Maker
This is the Mario game that Mario fans have been dreaming about their whole lives. How many kids drew their own Mario levels on paper for fun? I know I did, so being able to make my own Mario levels and have others play them was a dream come true. Best of all was seeing all of the innovative ways that players took traditional Mario concepts and created complex puzzles, built machines, and even recreated other games. Whatever you may think of the Wii U’s GamePad, it was the perfect tool for this game. I feel like there’s still a lot of life and potential in the Super Mario Maker concept beyond what has been delivered so far, so I hope that it will continue.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
I’m a bit loathe to include a remake of an older game when discussing a newer-generation console, but The Wind Waker HD was a real surprise packet. Of all the Zelda games that have been remastered so far, The Wind Waker was the somewhat unexpected one, for its cel-shaded graphics had aged far better than the polygons of Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time. And yet, not only did The Wind Waker HD polish its graphics and lighting beautifully, it fixed up some of the major flaws in the original game (which was still an excellent game), making this version far superior to the original. On the other hand, the Twilight Princess HD remake was rather lacklustre in comparison, although it’s still well worth buying.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Super Smash Bros. has been a Nintendo staple since the N64 days, but there was quite a drought before Smash 4 came along. The Wii U version gave us the biggest roster so far, online play that was actually playable (unlike Brawl), and the ability for players to create their own stages. The eight player mode increased its appeal as a party game even more than it already was, and a version was released simultaneously for the 3DS.
Super Mario 3D World
Super Mario 3D World will go down as a rather underrated Mario game, but everything, from the graphics to gameplay to delightful jazz soundtrack is incredibly stylish and polished. It’s a lot of fun as a multiplayer game, despite the inevitable chaos that will arise as players accidentally (or intentionally) interfere with each other. Plus the cat suits are super cute and fun.
Mario Kart 8
The Mario Kart franchise is another classic Nintendo staple, and the Wii U version is incredibly polished. It adds more drivers, more karts, more tracks, and gorgeous visuals, including the hilarious Luigi death stare. It’s a great party game, and its online mode works well.
I’m glad that the Wii U existed, but with the Switch I don’t think I’ve been this excited for a Nintendo console since the Nintendo 64. The ability to hook it up to my TV as well as take it on the go is incredibly appealing to me, and I really hope that the console is a major success.
So farewell, Wii U. It’s been a fun ride, and I’ll be back to visit someday.