So here it is, our list of the top 10 best games for the Nintendo Wii U in 2014! If you’ve been good this year, you may want to add a couple of these to your Christmas list!
Disclaimer: Please note that at time of writing we were unable to play Smash Bros, so it will not be included in this list. However, it has received an amazing response, so you may wish to consider getting that also!
10. New Super Mario Bros. U
Mario makes the leap into HD with spectacular results. The mushroom kingdom has never looked better and later levels even see the art team experimenting with impressionist oil paintings for the little plumber to explore (seriously, actual oil paintings!). It may not quite reach the lofty heights of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World, but this is still the best 2D Mario title in years.
9. Zombi U
It’s tragic to see Ubisoft scaling back its support for the Wii U when it’s capable of delivering a game of Zombi U’s quality on the platform. It remains one of the best examples of how to leverage truly unique gameplay from Nintendo’s twin-screen setup. The level of panic Zombi U can trigger when you look up from a locked door’s keypad on your game pad only to see the undead horde charging at you on the TV is something every survival-horror fan will revel in.
8. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Who didn’t play at being a pirate as a child? No-one, that’s who! With the last entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise to appear on Wii U, Ubisoft allows you to live out those fantasies in grand style. Having a massive view of the map visible on the gamepad at all times makes sailing The Jackdaw a much more enjoyable task than on the other consoles and although it lacks the visual bells and whistles of the XBO and PS4 releases, the Caribbean islands of Black Flag on the Wii U are still a thing of beauty.
7. Rayman Legends
It was a real loss to the Wii U when Rayman Legends dropped its plans to launch as a platform exclusive, but at least Wii U owners get to enjoy the definitive version of Michel Ancel’s magnum opus. Many of the cleverest levels are designed specifically around touch-screen controls with the player moving Murfy the green-bottle, via the gamepad, to protect another character that traverses the level automatically. It’s beautiful, crammed with originality and quite possibly the finest 2D platform game ever made.
6. Lego City Undercover
The Lego games have been a tremendous success story since Lego Star Wars first burst onto the scene back in the PS2 days. With Lego City Undercover, TellTale applies the successful format to an open-world template with brilliant results. You will have to endure some shockingly long loading screens but they’re forgivable when Lego City itself is such a fantastic sandbox to explore. It even features some novel uses of the game pad as a detective device alongside some fantastic film references that are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.
5. Pikmin 3
Pikmin 3 makes me want to eat fruit. I hate fruit as a rule, but the depictions of cherries, grapes and oranges in Miyamoto’s latest in this action-strategy series is borderline pornographic. So where Wii Fit may have failed to inspire me towards a healthier lifestyle, Pikmin’s trio of stranded astronauts succeed. Their desperate search for fruit to sustain them on a strange alien world is stunning to behold, wonderfully paced and features just the right difficulty curve to keep you playing. Veterans of the series will love the new types of Pikmin to deploy and you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to control methods. There’s even a free festive level to download making this a perfect Wii U game for Christmas.
4. Bayonetta 2 (and the original)
We’re cheating a bit here by lumping both these titles together, but as you can only get the original packaged in with the sequel, it seems the right way to go. While Bayonetta 1 is the definitive version of 2010’s action tour-de-force, the sequel takes that winning formula and cranks it up another notch. Its world is more colourful, the combat more spectacular and its story somehow manages to be more mental. Some may decry it as being just more Bayonetta, but since when is more of one of the finest action games ever made a bad thing?
3. The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD
Nintendo have proved themselves time and again to be the masters of revisiting past glories. None is more welcome than their return to this divisive title in the stellar Zelda franchise. When it first arrived in 2003, I was bitterly disappointed by the final fetch-quest at the end of the game and the hours spent staring at sparsely populated blue seas. Thankfully, not only has this HD remake seen the amazing cartoon visuals nicely touched up, but the disappointing areas of the game’s structure have also been addressed. With the final Tri-Force search scaled down, the introduction of a new sail that allows you to traverse the seas at double-speed and a map forever visible on the gamepad, Nintendo has turned a flawed gem into one of the finest Zelda titles ever made.
2. Super Mario 3D World
A year on, the claims that 3D World could be a contender to Super Mario World’s crown as the pinnacle of the series might seem a little wide of the mark, but damn if it doesn’t come close! The art design of this game makes a mockery of claims that the Wii U can’t deliver impressive visuals with Mario’s furry cat outfit looking good enough to trigger my allergies. The inventiveness of the design is a joy to behold as well. Brilliantly original ideas are introduced and casually discarded from one level to the next to the point where the game can feel a little exhausting at times. Of course, where Nintendo have been truly devious here, is providing two games in one. Connect up another couple of pads and suddenly the levels become frantic, competitive playgrounds with players bouncing off one another, stealing crowns, pinching power-ups and doing all manner of dastardly things to each other. Or, you know, you could help your fellow players to get further through the game. It’s basically Nintendo’s family gaming ethos distilled into a single game. The difficulty curve is spot on with help given to younger or less experienced players while only the truly hardcore will ever get three stars on every level. Even when you hit the harder levels you’ll probably still be grinning because the game is set to some of the catchiest Mario tunes since Mario 64. The playful, jazzy beats of the opening screen are happily playing through my head as I type this. Super Mario 3D world is, to my mind, the second greatest Mario title ever and offers an amazing family experience this Christmas which is only topped by our number one Wii U title…
1. Mario Kart 8
If you’ve seen our recent DLC review for Mario Kart 8, you’ll already know that I’m more than a little bit fond of this game. While Super Mario 3D World shoots for the stars and falls just shy of being the greatest in the series, Mario Kart 8 is, by some distance, the best ever Mario Kart title and, by extension, the greatest kart game ever made. The graphics are beautiful. The whole thing runs at 60 frames per second so it’s super-smooth and responsive (although as Digital Foundry discovered, it technically runs at 59 FPS). The music is just the right level of catchy to avoid being annoying and has all been recorded by a live band, giving every race a party atmosphere. The tracks are perfectly designed. The online works brilliantly. The local multi-player exists in a time when no other company seems to bother AND it works brilliantly. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of anything that I don’t love about the game. All I can come up with is that I’d like battle mode to be expanded a bit more. So my criticism is that I want even more of an already hefty game. I’m not sure that’s really a criticism…
Basically, Mario Kart 8 is the perfect title to get out for a gaming session with the family this Christmas and hands down our favourite title on Wii U.
So if all that gushing isn’t enough to convince you that you should have Mario Kart 8 at the top of your Christmas list (and a Wii U to play it on if you don’t have one yet), I’ll finish with a haiku about my favourite feature of the game.
Blue shell approaches.
My Super Horn destroys it.
Now win comes through skill.
What Do You Recommend?
Do you agree or disagree with our list? What games make up your top 10 list for the best Wii U games this Christmas? Let us know in the comments below!