If you were to ask someone at Nintendo about the Wii U, they’d likely say “Wii U? What Wii U? We make the Switch; that’ll be A$469.25.” If it were up to the company, the world would entirely forget about this flop of a console. After all, the Switch prints money, and the Wii U was a dud, right? Commercially, sure. But in so many other ways, the Wii U remains a remarkable system in Nintendo’s history, and you should buy one.
Listen, the Wii U might not have sold well, and it might not have lived up to many of its initial promises, but it doesn’t deserve to be swept under the rug. The Wii U was Nintendo’s first true plunge into HD, which allowed so many of its beloved characters and brands to shine on modern TVs. The GamePad, love it or hate it, is an impressive piece of tech, able to both mirror what’s on your TV and display a completely unique video feed.
Terrible marketing decisions from Nintendo (way too many people thought the Wii U was simply a Wii accessory), coupled with a lack of steady support from developers, doomed the Wii U. The Switch is five years old at this point, so it might seem like the Wii U is best left as a nice memory.
But not only does this console deserve to be remembered, it deserves to be played. The Wii U ain’t no Virtual Boy; it’s an excellent system with plenty of reasons to exist, even in 2022.
The library is excellent
When all is said and done, a console is defined by its library of games. On this front, the Wii U delivers. This generation gave us gems like Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, HD remakes of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, Super Mario Maker, Pikman 3, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and, while not an exclusive, Breath of the Wild.
While you still can get many of these games virtually, you might want to consider going physical. Not only is it a better option for collecting, but Wii U disks are weirdly cool. Anyone who has picked one up before knows what I’m talking about. The edges of the disk are oddly thick and glossy compared to normal disks.
There are so many great titles to play on Wii U. However, I know what you’re thinking: “These are all available on Switch now!”
There are still exclusives not found on Switch
Sure, Nintendo has moved many of its Wii U classics over to the Switch so most people can play them for the first time. Breath of the Wild launched on both platforms, but there are Switch ports for 3D World, Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, Pikman, etc.
However, not all of these titles have made their way over to Switch. One of the biggest omissions so far is Xenoblade Chronicles X — even though the Switch has a remake of the first game — as well as the two HD Zelda remasters, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. While Zelda fans fume over Nintendo’s lack of progress bringing these titles to Switch, I happily play them on my Wii U (although having them portable would be nice…)
Plenty of other fun titles are still Wii U exclusives, such as Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Wii Sports Club, and, a personal favourite, Nintendo Land (more on this one later). Star Fox Zero, while controversial, is enjoyed by fans that fully embrace its GamePad + TV approach.
Tons of Virtual Console titles
Nintendo’s efforts to bring older games to the Switch have, so far, sucked. Unlike the Wii and Wii U, it offers no Virtual Console. Instead, you can play a limited number of retro titles if you subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online, with some games (like N64 titles) locked behind the more expensive tier.
The Wii U, on the other hand, has 337 games available to purchase through the VC, spanning consoles from the NES, N64, DS, and Wii. No other console is going to let you switch from Breath of the Wild to Earthbound, to Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, to Super Mario 64 DS, all without leaving your couch.
If retro gaming — especially retro Nintendo gaming — is your thing, the Wii U is your system.
It’s the ultimate Zelda machine
If you’re a Zelda fan like me, the Wii U is the GOAT. Why? It’s the only Nintendo system that allows you to play every 3D Zelda game, plus most of the ones released on console. The two NES classics; A Link to the Past; Ocarina of Time; Majora’s Mask; Wind Waker; Twilight Princess; Skyward Sword; and, of course, Breath of the Wild — all are available either via Virtual Console, Wii compatibility, remake, or in the latter’s case, a Wii U original. The only console game missing is the Switch remake of Link’s Awakening.
While it doesn’t feature every handheld Zelda title, you can play the Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks via Virtual Console.
The Gamepad is actually really cool
No lie, I love the Wii U’s GamePad. It’s comfortable for me to hold, especially with its oversized shoulder buttons and triggers. The battery life is…OK, bad, but it’s easy enough to play while plugged into the charger. And for games that properly take advantage of the second display, it’s a joy to use.
Even if you prefer something like the Wii U Pro controller (which is also excellent), the GamePad is simply impressive. It’s a bit like a Switch that can’t leave your house, since you can play any game on the built-in screen, but you can also experience specific gameplay you wouldn’t see on your TV. In that way, it’s almost like the DS or 3DS; you have one screen on top (your TV), and a touch-screen on the bottom (the GamePad).
Experience the multiplayer revolution that wasn’t
As much as I adore the Wii U, it also makes me sad, because of the wasted potential. Nintendo was in a unique position to turn the Wii U into the ultimate local multiplayer machine, something completely different from all other video game companies in the early aughts. Unfortunately, they all but squandered that potential, leaving us with only a glimpse at what might have been.
That glimpse, however, is amazing. Nintendo Land, the game included on all 32GB Wii U models, was a bit of a demo disk, offering mini-games based on Nintendo’s biggest franchises. While many of these games are fun, and gave us some of our first experiences of Nintendo in HD, it’s the multiplayer games that are next level.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Land, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, Mario Chase, and Metroid Blast are very different games, with one common link: The players on the TV see one thing, while a player on the GamePad sees something completely different.
Let’s take a look at Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. Players on the TV attempt to hunt down an invisible ghost, controlled by the player on the GamePad. The TV players see the full map as well as all players; the GamePad shows a similar screen, but also the location of the ghost they control.
The idea that a group of players could see one thing, while one player on the GamePad sees another, could have been utilised for so many different types of games. The Wii U could’ve been the ultimate party console; instead, it’s the ultimate demo.
It plays Wii games
Backwards compatibility on the Switch is, well, impossible, considering the console is not disk-based. Good luck cramming a Wii U disk into the tiny cartridge slot. Ports are really the next best thing, although you have to buy them, so.
The Wii U, on the other hand, plays both Wii U and Wii games. That means if you have a Wii collection already, those games would be right at home on a Wii U. It also means, by buying a Wii U, you’re also opening yourself up to future Wii games you might like to purchase. Fun fact: While the Wii U comes with a sensor bar, the GamePad also works as one.
Get some (but not all) games for cheap
As we’ll get into below, people aren’t necessarily giving away Wii Us. While they don’t cost as much as when they were new, they still command a decent chunk of change on eBay.
The games, however, are a different story. Factory sealed games aren’t cheap, but you can get used Wii U games for a reasonable price. It helps that many of these titles have been ported to the Switch, so there’s a new (and more expensive) way to play them.
It’s super easy to hack
The Wii U is done. There are no more games coming, nor are there more warranties to void. If you don’t mind a little tinkering, you can easily hack your Wii U to do, well, just about anything. You can run emulators to play any game you want; you can install a mod that lets you use the Wii U as a DVD player; you can even stream titles from your PC directly to your Wii U.
Nintendo cared about the UI back then
Don’t get me wrong: The Switch is a great console. However, there’s no denying the UI is a total afterthought. After nearly five years on the market, we still have the same two basic themes (light or dark), and a bland, boring home screen.
The Wii U, however, was created when Nintendo still cared about the little things. While I still prefer the Wii’s TV channel approach, the Wii U’s home screen has an interesting “bubble” box design, with a subtle, smoothing theme that plays throughout.
When you boot up games, instead of seeing a simple “Wii U” loading icon, you get an awesome splash screen. Breath of the Wild might boot up faster on the Switch, but on Wii U, you get the image at the top of this slide. All of the Wii U’s games have a unique splash screen, and, while not necessary, their omission on the Switch is definitely a shame.
This thing is going to be a collector’s item
The Wii U, as great as it is, was a flop commercially. That means, unlike the Switch or the Wii, Nintendo did not sell many of them. Combine those low sales with the complicated console/GamePad package, and it makes sense that the Wii U isn’t as cheap as you’d expect it to be on the secondhand market. You’ll find the 32GB model on eBay for around $US175 ($243), and more if games are included.
As time goes on, I think the Wii U and its exclusive library will only increase in value. If you’re someone who’s into game collecting, or you think you’d want to snag a big piece of Nintendo history, consider investing in this console now.
There’s still a community that cares about the Wii U
Gaming alone is often fulfilling in and of itself. But the great thing about the internet is you never have to be alone; whatever your gaming habits, you can find a community to share a great game you recently picked up, talk about a system’s pros and cons, and chat about gaming news and gossip.
While the Wii U is technically a “dead” console, there’s still a community that wants to talk about it. Reddit’s r/wiiu has over a million subscribers, and, while many of them are likely now Switch owners who don’t care about the Wii U anymore, plenty of us still want to talk about Nintendo’s previous-gen console.