Eurogamer's best games lists aim to guide you to the highest quality, most original, most exciting games around today. Each regularly updated list presents between 10 and 20 varied games that we think would make a fine foundation for any game collection.
Update - June 2015
- It's in with the lovely Splatoon for our Wii U roundup
- No games have been removed.
Nintendo's latest home console, the follow-up to its all-conquering Wii, is a strange beast. Its principle gimmick - the second screen embedded in the chunky GamePad controller - hasn't caught the imagination of either game designers or the buying public like its predecessor's motion controller did. Wii U can't match Xbox One or PlayStation 4 for power, it doesn't carry the major hits from other publishers, and its store of download games isn't particularly well-stocked. Put that way, it's not surprising that its sales have been a damp squib.
And yet we would strongly recommend anyone pick one up, because Wii U hosts a gaming experience that you simply can't get anywhere else. If the GamePad doesn't provide that, then it's Nintendo's own exclusive games that do - unmatched for sheer fun factor, peerless in their execution, and with a colourful, playful flavour that's a breath of fresh air in a medium dominated by moody, macho entertainment. The Wii U offers timeless Nintendo joy in eye-popping HD for the first time - and at a very reasonable price, too. Below you'll find our very favourite Wii U titles (in alphabetical order).
Affordable Space Adventures
There are too few Wii U games made outside of Nintendo, even fewer that make use of the console's GamePad and you can count on one hand the ones that really think about what it means to play with a second screen in your hands. What a pleasant surprise, then, that Affordable Space Adventures ticks all three of those boxes. An environmental puzzler with a slight tinge of 70s sci-fi cinema to its world and outlook, this is a smart, charming game that's as fun to play as it is inventive. You can play it solo or share out duties with friends - and either way it's a perfect reminder of what exactly the Wii U can do that other consoles simply can't.
How do you best one of the greatest, maddest action games of all time? Simple. You do it all over again in a fiercer haircut and higher heels. Bayonetta 2 doesn't make great leaps over its predecessor, but that's no bad thing: what it does instead is trim some of the fat, leaving a lean, mean slice of brawling that's simply delicious to play. There are set-pieces that astound, there's colour in absolute abundance, and the fighting is snappy, responsive and boasts seemingly bottomless depths. If that's not enough for you, you can always dress our heroine - a wickedly sexy, powerful witch - up as candy-coloured Nintendo stalwarts Link, Peach and Samus. What more could you want? The original Bayonetta thrown in to a great value special edition? Well, you can have that too.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
It might not be a popular opinion, but Rare's mid-90s Donkey Kong revival, although visually spectacular, resulted in some fairly limp platform games. When Retro Studios took over the series on the Wii in 2010, it retained the prettiness and folded in some brutally hard action, offering the kind of challenge that hadn't been seen for an age in a family-focused mainstream game. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, the Wii U outing, is arguably even better, the visuals polished up to dazzling HD and the challenge a little more forgiving, but no less satisfying.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Time has been kind to The Wind Waker. Once considered something of an outcast by the Zelda faithful - due to its very young hero, its cartoon visuals and its lengthy, lackadaisical sailing sections - the passing years have seen it elevated to a classic of the great adventure series, one of its clear highlights. This beautiful HD remake for Wii U only helps underline that status. The gloriously flat colours and spirited animation pop like never before, while the breezy adventure passes with an effortlessness that's hard to come by in current games. The new Wii U Zelda that's due out towards the end of the year will have its work cut out if it wants to top this.
Mario Kart 8
It felt strange when Nintendo started whacking numbers on the end of its flagship racing series - it'd certainly be mighty odd if Super Mario 3D World was called Super Mario 18 - but despite the many iterations, Mario Kart's never felt fresher than it does today. Taking the twisting, impossible course design of F-Zero GX as inspiration and opening itself up to the wider world of Nintendo, this is a gloriously slick racer that's a revelation to play. Every aspect, from the music to the lattice of boost mechanics and the way the karts bounce and slide across the track, has been engineered to make you smile - and it never fails to do so.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
It's something of a shame that Capcom decided not to give Monster Hunter 4 the same treatment as its predecessor, opting to make the new game exclusive to the 3DS rather than splitting it across both of Nintendo's platforms. It means that a large part of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate's community has moved on to fresher fields, but that doesn't detract from what's still a mighty fine game: an epic collection of quests and hunting that's capable of sucking up whole fistfuls of hours, and what was - until 4 came along - the very best in Capcom's deservedly successful series. Though it can be tough to get into, Monster Hunter offers a totally unique flavour of action-RPG, with tense and sophisticated combat, endless character progression, the most compelling loot in the business and a passionate and friendly online community. There's nothing else like it. If you're looking for a diversion that's very capable of becoming a yearlong obsession, you need look no further.
New Super Mario Bros. U
The New Super Mario Bros. games have always seemed like Mario-by-numbers when compared to the boisterous inventiveness of the 3D titles, but New Super Mario Bros U is a definite high-point of the series nonetheless. Firstly, there's the return of that wonderful over-world map, trailing behind it so many memories of Super Mario World on the SNES. Secondly, Mario's Wii U debut wrings real variety from its 2D worlds, introducing memorable riffs on old challenges and old foes, and bringing the ultra hardcore time-chasing, coin-grabbing side of Mario to the fore. New Super Mario Bros. U is ultimately a game for the Mario purists; often overlooked, it's one of the most interesting windows into the Mushroom Kingdom that we've seen in years.
Nintendo's Wii U was built around a gimmick that never really caught on, and Nintendo Land remains the sole game that really sells the giddy potential of that second screen. What a sales job it does though, its collection of mini-games weaving in Nintendo classics across short, tightly engineered experiences. There's fun to be had playing alone, but Nintendo Land really comes into its own with three or more players getting stuck into the likes of Mario Chase, Animal Crossing Sweet Day and Luigi's Ghost Mansion. They all offer something you can't find on other consoles, and they all contribute to what's surely the ultimate party game.
There had been cries for a third Pikmin game ever since the original and its sequel came out on the GameCube - and it's not hard to see why, since Pikmin offers a novel blend of puzzle and strategy gaming with an endearing and surreal premise, as your tiny spacemen marshal their army of bustling plant-creatures to build bridges and combat bugs in what looks like your own back garden. By the time Shigeru Miyamoto got around to making this third game for Wii U, many fans of the original had become parents (here at Eurogamer, anyway), adding an extra bittersweet edge to the cat-herding and caretaking action. Each Pikmin lost to the jaws of a Bulborb or drowned in a pool offers one of gaming's most emotionally trying moments. There's enough colour and warmth elsewhere to make sure this isn't too melancholic a game, though, and it's surely the finest strategy game available on the Wii U.
One of the finest 2D platformers available, Rayman Legends is a romp through beautiful, hand-drawn worlds and a masterclass in elegant, absorbing level design. Where even Mario has settled into a reliable groove, Legends builds on the fun of predecessor Rayman Origins by introducing countless new gameplay surprises and levels which will leave you exhausted and grinning ear-to-ear - accompanied by a stellar soundtrack, toe-tapping rhythm levels and a throwaway football mini-game so good it is worth the asking price alone. Daily challenges and leaderboards will keep you coming back regularly, while a huge amount of unlockable characters, bonuses and a generous helping of levels from Rayman Origins round out a must-own package. (Originally designed for Wii U, the game's touch-control based levels are still the most fun to play on Nintendo's machine, too.)
Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails
There's nothing else quite like Scram Kitty - and that's something that works both for and against Dakko Dakko's strange little game, available for download from the Wii U eShop. Nominally a shooter, Scram Kitty layers a tricky-to-master jump mechanic into its on-rails levels, making for a game that's initially hard to get your head around. Put in the effort, though, and the reward is sizeable: a smart, expertly crafted action game that folds in inspiration from the likes of the great Japanese shoot-em-up developer Treasure (creators of Bangai-O and Ikaruga), as well as the challenge of classic Nintendo. Thanks to some colourful pixel art, it looks absolutely gorgeous too. There's really nothing quite like Scram Kitty.
You might find yourself stifling a yawn when presented with another 80s-inspired side-scrolling action game - they've almost become as tiresome as thick-necked third-person shooters were a few years ago - but Shovel Knight, another eShop download, injects fresh life into the genre. Shovel Knight's period trappings aren't just for show; developer Yacht Club Games injects its chunky pixel art with the kind of full-hearted character it's impossible not to fall in love with. It's a smart game, too, taking the challenge of the greats of yesteryear such as Mega Man, and augmenting it with modern design twists from more contemporary classics. You might think you've had your fill of pseudo-8-bit adventures, but Shovel Knight's here to persuade you otherwise.
It's been 14 long years since an all-new, character-led IP emerged from within Nintendo's walls (yes, we've counted all the way back to 2001's excellent Pikmin), but it's been well worth the wait. Splatoon is an absolute delight, seeing Nintendo chart new territory as it explores the world of third person shooting, and seeing a colourful, fresh reinvention of multiplayer that stakes claim to being the very best the Wii U has to offer. What makes it great is the details - the splash of ink against walls, the feeling of swimming through it when you transform into a squid - and the firm emphasis on that most important, oft-forgotten factor in games: fun (and an awful lot of it).
Super Mario 3D World
If you only buy one Mario platformer for your Wii U, it's not an easy choice between New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Mario 3D World; both offer riotous platforming action for up to four players, and both are superb. But if you really have to choose, 3D World would be our pick. Coming from Nintendo's Tokyo studio, which created the head-spinning Super Mario Galaxy games on Wii and the 3DS' excellent Super Mario 3D Land, it is more consistently inventive and surprising than any game we've played in the last five years. Every level is stuffed with ideas, secrets, jokes and opportunities for slapstick mayhem, and the power-ups - including the adorable cat suit and the finger-twisting Double Cherry - are some of the best in the series' history.
Super Smash Bros.
This is another worthy sequel in Nintendo's all-star fighting series, featuring a canny selection of returning and new characters with all the usual fan-service and fun extra modes you'd expect. You can now play as over 50 Nintendo faces, and either take the whole thing very seriously indeed - as many eSports players do - or alternatively use the game's myriad options to create pure mayhem. Eight players fighting at once? Why not? It's not all good news, to be fair: there's another limp attempt at a single-player mode, which this time features a confusing Mario Party-style board game. But there are so many lavish bells and whistles to be found elsewhere that it's difficult to get too upset. Improved online play, 3DS compatibility, Amiibo support and hundreds of shiny HD trophies round out this very generous package.
Wii Sports Club
OK, we probably shouldn't be recommending you a game on the strength of its business model, but Wii Sports Club is particularly smart in this regard. Essentially you can hire the game for a night, making it perfect for those nights when friends are round and you're looking for a quick, easy and entertaining diversion. You can buy it outright too, which is also recommended. And the game itself? It's Wii Sports - the never-beaten classic of motion-controlled party games - broken down into its separate disciplines, given an HD makeover and adorned with online leaderboards. You've played it before, back when it was part and parcel of the Wii phenomenon. It's more than likely you'll want to play it again.
Third-party support might be beyond slim for the Wii U, but one of the few games to come from outside of Nintendo is a real hidden gem. ZombiU is a revival of Ubisoft's first ever game, though you wouldn't know it; this takes the bloated, stumbling undead premise and injects new life into it, making smart design choices at every step as it mashes a little of Dark Souls into its murky, threatening exploration. It makes great use of its London setting, as well as being one of the few Wii U games to make the most of the GamePad screen. All this combines to create one of the finest, smartest horror games in years - on any platform.
Compiled by the Eurogamer editorial team and written by Oli Welsh, Tom Phillips, Martin Robinson and John Bedford. For more on our best games lists and how they are curated, read our editor's blog.
If you're looking for more inspiration, check out our index of recommended Wii U games.
Will you support Eurogamer?