It’s so frustrating when a game you want to play doesn’t release on a system you own. While everybody and their mom are off playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, some of us are still stuck with outdated, crusty Wii U consoles. Never fear, there is still an abundance of fun to be had from the decrepit system. We’ve gathered a list of the 10 best Wii U-exclusive games so you can dry your jealous tears.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
If you’re really feeling the sting of Tears of the Kingdom and haven’t yet played Breath of the Wild, this is the place to start. It allows players to dip their toes into the Kingdom of Hyrule and provides near-limitless playtime with its massive open world, hundreds of shrines, and chaotic enemy encounters. The sheer scale of this intricately thought-out world is reason enough to pick it up, and you’ll quickly find yourself losing focus on the main missions so you can focus on the simple pleasure of discovering every nook and cranny of the gorgeous world.
Combat is enjoyable — even if weapons do break over time — and enemies are intelligent and varied in their attacks and approaches to stopping the Hero of Time. The story is strong, and the side characters definitely leave an impression, but BotW doesn’t force you to care about anything (other than eventually beating the bad guy, of course) and lets you approach any problem on your own time. A digital copy can be grabbed online for $50.99, but if you’re willing to make the trek, it can be grabbed used from brick-and-mortar stores for a fraction of the cost.
Mario Kart 8
If you’ve played one Mario Kart, you’re already familiar with the concept. Players race around zany tracks hurling various attacks at one another in a bid to cross the finish line first. It’s one of those games that anyone can play (not necessarily well) but only the very best can master. It handles much how you expect, but Mario Kart 8 moves the franchise into the future by cutting down on frustratingly slow animations and just making everything snappier.
It’s a great game to play with friends for some good old-fashioned couch co-op. The racetracks are fun and have such a wide variety of difficulties, offering something for every skill level. With tons of unlockable characters and a plethora of customizable vehicles, Mario Kart 8 is an excellent addition to any collection and will have you venturing back to the perilous roads of the Mushroom Kingdom again and again. You can get Mario Kart 8 from the Nintendo eShop for $59.99, but brick-and-mortar stores will certainly have this title for less.
If you are looking for a game with a serious tone, Bayonetta II is not the game for you. This zany, high-octane action game never takes itself too seriously, but somehow manages to carry its story despite the often-ludicrous premise. But that isn’t a bad thing; the over-the-top nature of the story meshes seamlessly with the frenzied action sequences, and the game has some of the best set pieces. Seriously, you get to battle a dragon in a skyscraper, and it’s awesome.
Multiple combat challenges will test your skills differently, and the whole experience is just a joy to go through. While the world isn’t exactly open, you can explore the linear levels, and the beautiful level design is well worth looking at. With plenty of unlockable content, over-the-top action, and a decent storyline, Bayonetta II is worth picking up. Plus, if you get it from the eShop, you’ll receive a copy of Bayonetta 1 and all for $58.98.
Shovel Knight is an ode to classic titles like The Legend of Zelda and Mega Man. This 8-bit-inspired side-scroller never holds your hand, rather it sets you up to learn as you go. The level design is intuitive, and the controls are so fine-tuned that Shovel Knight bypasses the tedium sometimes associated with platformers. Combine that with a lush world map populated by foes and villages filled with a variety of citizens, and you have a believable little world with tons of hidden areas to explore.
Beyond stellar level design, Shovel Knight will surprise you with the depth of its story. Bosses have varied move sets and call back to the thematic villains from Mega Man, with some coming across as nightmarish foes and others leaving you feeling a bit like a schoolyard bully. Shovel Knight has so many goofy, little moments from groan-inducing puns to over-the-top boss finishes, it’s well worth the experience. And did I forget to mention the oh-so-forgiving checkpoint system? While there were other versions of Shovel Knight released, the Wii U came with many special perks. While Nintendo’s eShop no longer carries this title, you can find it on Amazon for $49.99 or from a brick-and-mortar retailer for around half the price.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Xenoblade Chronicles X is an absolutely massive, sprawling, seamless open-world game. From the moment you complete the tutorial, you are free to go wherever and do whatever your heart desires. That’s really the name of the game in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and while some missions require you to stick to a predefined path, they are few and far between. The game truly rewards taking the time to explore the world, fleshing out your understanding of the lore and tightening your affinity with your party members.
Combat consists of switching between your gun and your absurdly huge sword. You can chain your party’s attacks and use many abilities to strategically plan out your next few moves. If freedom and limitless combat aren’t enough to catch your interest, Xenoblade Chronicles X offers some very sleek mechs for player use somewhere around 50 hours into the game, so just when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or bored, Xenoblade flips the paradigm. Add in the ability to work with friends online, and there is so much to see and do, you’ll come back to the world of Mira again and again. Xenoblade is a bit difficult to get your hands on, but if you do manage to find the game, it’s well worth the purchase!
Splatoon is Nintendo at its very best. It’s zany, fast-paced, colorful, and oh-so-fun. This squad shooter features a slew of Inklings, human/squid hybrids with their own unique sets of guns and abilities who team up to paint the town. The game is easy to play, and the multiplayer is oodles of fun, even if Nintendo has discontinued the servers. There is local multiplayer, but there aren’t any AI foes to enhance the fun, so if you’re looking for multiplayer shenanigans, Splatoon isn’t the game for you.
Splatoon’s single-player campaign is packed with good fun. Surprisingly narrative-driven, the single-player aspect of the title focuses on strategy and platforming and features some epic Nintendo-style big bosses. Enemies are varied and require different strategies to overcome, so gameplay remains lively throughout its duration. If you can find this oldie on sale at your local game store, it’s worth a purchase, but with the discontinuation of its online services, definitely don’t grab Splatoon for anything over $20.
Super Smash Bros. Wii U
When it comes to Nintendo, it’s really hard to find something better than the classic IPs. Super Smash Bros. Wii U is no exception to this, with the title improving on its predecessors to deliver one of the best fighting games ever released for the system. It’s got tons of unlockable and collectible items, memorable characters, and gorgeously realized levels.
It’s incredibly well-executed with multiple game types, eight-player Smash, and multiple levels of AI difficulty, making Super Smash Bros. Wii U a massively replayable experience. There really is nothing quite like eight people crowded in a room screaming death threats at one another. You can get a copy for about $60.
Super Mario Maker
If you like to build things, love Mario, and relish hurting people’s pride, then Super Mario Maker is an excellent choice. Decked out with four different iconic Mario styles from the original Super Mario Bros. to New Super Mario Bros., the game gives you an inside look into how Mario levels are made, then gives you the freedom to create your own masterpieces — or monstrosities. The sheer scope of creating a level can be intimidating, but the game handles it well — and building is incredibly intuitive.
And you don’t have to make levels. The easy-to-use system allows for complex Rube Goldberg devices or even simple decorative messages. With limitless possibilities for level creation and a plethora of other user-created levels to play online, Super Mario Maker is chock-full of fun and all, but promises to always have new levels to run through. You can grab a copy for $49.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
This underappreciated title was blasted by fans when it first appeared back in 2003, but time has proven that Wind Waker was always up to Zelda’s illustrious standards. The story is fun, bosses and levels varied, and with Tears of the Kingdom and Breath of the Wild using a similar art style, Wind Waker no longer seems so far out of left field. The HD remake had to do very little lifting to get this one ready for a new batch of adventures, but as usual, Nintendo did more than add a little bit of shine.
The Wii U’s second screen is put to excellent use for Wind Waker, making weapon swaps easier and giving better access to those pesky sea charts. And if you feel the struggle isn’t real enough, it even comes with “Hero Mode,” an amped-up setting that doubles enemy damage and only allows health recovery through potions. This one is worth picking up for any fans of the Zelda franchise even if you’ve already played through it on the GameCube. You can grab a copy for $110.
Super Mario 3D World
Super Mario 3D World is a delightful romp. Whether you’re playing alone or with friends, it never fails to be a good time. The worlds are vibrant and filled with a joy that is hard to understand until you’re in them. The whimsical elements all add up to a fabulous Mario experience that other games just cannot seem to match. Platforming varies from level to level with some coming across as breezy sprints to the finish and others taking a level of precision that will have even experienced gamers scrambling.
What the game lacks in story it more than makes up for in gameplay, and that experience is only enhanced when you bring a buddy along for the ride. Rather than cooperating, the game fosters mild competition between players, but does allow you to help out a struggling friend if you are so inclined. With unique player abilities and oh-so-many adorable little costumes to enhance your chosen player, Super Mario 3D World still stands out as one of the best Mario games available for the Wii U. You can grab a copy for $40.