The graveyard of any industry is filled with the headstones of companies who decided to keep doing things the same old way. Playing only on the margin, making things just a little bit better. That strategy works….for a while, but ultimately it’s fatal.
Hello, NPCs! Another day, another Console Challenge entry from a gaming savant!
It is on this day that I find myself confronted with a dichotomy of sorts: on the one hand, there’s the Wii U, of which I have a somewhat low opinion, and on the other, there is the Moronic Cheese Mage, also known as that exquisite humorist and textual surrealist Alex Morris from professionalmoron.com, of whom I have a very high opinion! Mr. Wapojif is by all appearances a highly successful writer and I’m positively tantalized to have him on this team regularly contributing content. Plus, I just dig his Britishisms. Ta, charming!
There is, however, the matter of the Wii U. It is the only US Nintendo console I have never owned and from the get go I always thought it was a marketing failure. I didn’t jump on a bandwagon. The Wii barely got me back aboard the Big N train before I jumped ship again, just like I had with the GameCube. Nintendo innovated with the Wii U but they never convinced me or anyone I knew, really, what this thing was for and what its concept was about. I remember seeing a commercial with someone tapping on a tablet screen to make blocks appear for platformers on the screen controlled by other players, and I just thought that looked indescribably boring (compared later to the Switch which has seen a complete turn around in terms of marketing). If Nintendo themselves didn’t know what the Wii U was about, then why should I care?
In fact, it is the Wii U which I’ll cite most frequently as a failure whenever I’m accused of being a blind fanboy. It happens.
That said, the crux of learning is being proved wrong. I’m trying to be open to that. I still don’t own a Wii U but after today’s Console Challenge entry, I feel like I’m warming up to the idea. Considering my previous viciousness toward the device, that metamorphosis is a testament to the ability of the writer before us.
I give you: the Moronic Cheese Mage!
-The Well-Red Mage
Ah, the Wii U. Terrible name, much maligned, a commercial failure, and the source of many jokes amongst gamers. It was rubbish, wasn’t it?! LOL! Well, not quite. Nintendo’s supposed monstrosity dared to be innovative, had the company’s typical emphasis on fun, and delivered many moments of creative genius.
The Wii U simply had some of the best exclusives from this generation of consoles. It wasn’t perfect, but Nintendo’s successor to the 100+ million selling smash hit Wii tried something different. The big problem? It severely lacked third party support.
Nintendo threw an array of brilliant exclusives at it, but the Wii U ended up only shifting under 14 million units worldwide (that’s in a lifespan from 2012-2017). The Switch has already blasted beyond the 18 million mark, and that was in March 2018 – one year after its release.
Yes, the Wii U struggled, and failed, but I’d like to hope it’s considered as an underrated games console in the years to come. A flawed gem that had a lot to offer, including backward compatibility with the Wii, a brilliant indie scene, and ready access to Nintendo’s library of classics.
Of course, its big selling point was that big old GamePad thing. Shigeru Miyamato later admitted this was one of the problems, as Apple stole its march – by the time the Wii U landed, its idea was nothing unique.
For a games console, though, it was still an interesting idea, and the concept has since been adapted more effectively with the Switch. Regardless, there were some incredible games! Here are the exclusives that made the Wii U a bit more than just Nintendo’s dismal failure.
#7. Bayonetta 2
Flamboyant, ridiculous, ultra-violent, and stylish. 2013’s Bayonetta 2 was heralded as a masterpiece by many gamers. I wasn’t quite as enthralled, but it’s not really my type of game.
You can’t ignore those many, many 10/10 reviews, though, and it more than stood out on the Wii U as an exclusive. It has to be included here, as a result. The good news? You can also pick it up on the Switch, where it was re-released in February 2018.
Better yet, the third installment is on the way for the Switch, too.
#6. Xenoblade Chronicles X
An epic JRPG! Monolith Software put in a lot of effort for the follow-up to the acclaimed Xenoblade Chronicles, something of a forgotten classic from the Wii.
The sequel remains enormous and features an interesting combat system, immersive storyline, and some beautiful sights – it’s quirky as anything, too, making it an unusual, but welcome, JRPG for us to enjoy.
#5. Super Mario Maker
A brilliant idea, delivered to near perfection, and the result is one of the most insane video games ever created. Its eccentricities start from the word go and absolutely never end.
The clue is really in the title – you build Super Mario courses, play those created by others, and revel in the utter madness.
If you like your Super Mario, you’re really in for a treat with this one, which also ported over to the 3DS. Some of the levels created are beyond belief, but it’s all delivered with Nintendo’s trademark sense of unrestrained joy.
#4. Pikmin 3
Inspired, charming, brutal, cute, and challenging – Pikmin 3 is a masterpiece from one of Nintendo’s lesser known series. It’s also a game that utilised the Wii U’s underused GamePad to great effect.
The player takes control of up to 100 obedient plant creatures. There are different species and you can utilise them in various ways to overcome obstacles. Your goal? To stay alive on a hazardous planet after your spaceship crash lands. It’s riveting stuff!
#3. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
One of the finest 2D platformers of the last 20 years, Tropical Freeze has since been ported over to the Switch to give it a new lease of life.
Sprawling in its brilliance, challenging, and quite wonderful to play, it also features another masterpiece soundtrack from industry legend David Wise. Retro Studios delivered big time with this gem, making it (in my opinion) the best third party developed exclusive on the system.
#2. Mario Kart 8
The best Mario Kart of the lot, in my humble opinion. Mario Kart 8 is a pretty mesmerising tour de force, a game so bristling with fun and activities even the most jaded gamer should love it.
Some complained the battle mode wasn’t very good (that was fixed for the definitive Switch edition in 2017), but the real core of the title remains the breathtaking online races. Up to 12 of you can compete for the win and, cripes almighty, are they intense. A mass of emotions in a mere few minutes, which can culminate with some proper nerd fist pumping if you win one of the things.
#1. Super Mario 3D World
This remains my favourite Mario game, just edging out Super Mario Bros. 3. The Wii U’s triumph is this irresistibly charming, inspired, imaginative, and joyous romp.
Its genius is, simply, its relentless brilliance – not for a moment does it falter. The epic scope really hits home when the game, seemingly, refuses to end. A whole batch of extra worlds are dumped on you when you believe the fun is over, and it’s just a delight to keep on diving in.
It hit the shelves in late 2013 and, after a torrid year with the Wii U, Nintendo suddenly found a mass of much-needed critical acclaim – Super Mario 3D World even won a batch of Game of the Year awards. If you’re going to pick up a second-hand Wii U, then make sure this is on your list.
Addendum – Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Finally, a brief mention for Breath of the Wild. I’ve not played the Wii U version, having picked up a Switch from day one. I’m sure this is one of the finest moments for the console, of course, so I had to add it in here as an aside. The game is still remarkable and Nintendo did an excellent job launching this on two consoles simultaneously.
It was also a fitting way for the Wii U to essentially sign off from the world. It ceased production in 2017 and is now consigned to gaming history.
The Moronic Cheese Mage is also known as Wapojif. That’s Mr. Wapojif to you. He’s a self-deprecating humorist with his head on straight. For silliness and surreal humour, definitely find your way to his blog at professionalmoron.com.