The Wii U eShop will close on March 27, 2023. While the Wii U can be generously described as a “cumbersome” console, it was not without its merits. The 3DS eShop’s closure will lose many titles, but so will Wii U.
It is true that a vast majority of the console’s best games have been ported to the Nintendo Switch and in Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water‘s case; to all platforms. Yet there are still several games on Wii U’s eShop that are worth getting.
Still got a Wii U and don’t know where to begin? Niche Gamer’s team of scientist have once again parsed the hellishly difficult to navigate eShop interface and have curated the best and most interesting titles that have yet to be ported.
The Wii U Exclusives
There is just no way around it; the Wii U was sloppily designed. The gamepad is awkward and is tied to the console in a way that no other console has ever been tied to a controller. The Nintendo Switch is an obvious design that rendered the Wii U pointless.
Despite the Wii U being obsolete, it is the only HD console where you could play Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. This is still unique from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and you could play online for free. Super Mario 3D World got its start on Wii U and even though the Switch version makes it pointless, the original game on Wii U has its own bespoke mechanics that give it a different feel.
Maybe some of these other still-exclusive Wii U hits will get ported to a current Nintendo console, but until then- they are Wii U exclusives. In some cases, these games can also become rare and like any game on a Nintendo console (even bad Nintendo consoles), they become outrageously expensive on the second-hand market.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD
The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD are easily the big ones that are still on Wii U. These are not exclusive to the Wii U eShop, but they may as well be since physical copies of these run well over the $100 range. Both are Gamecube classics with several QOL improvements through out that enhance the experience, as well as visual updates.
The Wind Waker has always been a beloved 3D Zelda game thanks to its graphical style and easy-going sailing. It flawlessly captures the sense of adventure. The HD version’s change in graphics can be divisive among some fans, but the QOL tweaks make up for the quibbles that come with the artistic changes.
Twilight Princess HD managed to improve upon itself in every way possible. Quicker animations, faster load times, improved camera controls and more make this the definitive version over the Wii and Gamecube iterations. Both of these games are juggernaut masterpieces and the only way to play these versions is on a Wii U.
Sonic: Lost World
Some Sonic games get ports or become multi-platform. Wii U managed to snag two exclusive Sonic games, but only one of them is worth playing. Sonic: Lost World is not like most Sonic games; this one has less of emphasize on blinding speed and is more of a traditional 3D platformer that takes cues from Super Mario.
Appealing visuals and fluid 60 frames per second; Sonic: Lost World is one of the more polished 3D games in its franchise. Some stages are 2D and throw back to retro style gameplay with methodical platforming. Let’s face it; speed kills and taking your time and being careful proves to be more satisfying.
Sonic: Lost World did manage to get a PC release, but only on Wii U can players can play bonus free DLC levels themed after Yoshi’s Story and The Legend of Zelda. This isn’t too rare and expensive yet, but given that it is a competent Sonic game that is only on Wii U; gamers might be better off getting it on eShop than hunting down a disc.
Splatoon 3‘s online multiplayer modes effectively make all prior installments redundant, but the single-player modes are still valid and righteous action games. Wii U was the birth of the Splatoon franchise, and while the series has become a full-on trilogy with the second game having a bonus DLC campaign, the Splatoon‘s campaign is still on Wii U only.
The servers for the multiplayer on Splatoon will undoubtedly come to a close sometime soon after the Wii U eShop closes, but the single-player will be immortal. There is quite a bit of story and lore that is established in the first game’s campaign and many people never got to experience it.
Anyone who is a fan of the Splatoon games really shouldn’t be without this game. It is the prodigal son of what lead to one of Nintendo’s new era of creativity and their first foray into the shooter genre.
Stare Fox Guard
Star Fox Zero may have been a dud, but gamers who gave it a chance were also given a bonus game with Star Fox Guard. This unconventional short spinoff in the Star Fox universe is a game that could only be done with the Wii U’s bizarre gamepad and proved to be very effective.
The core gameplay is like a tower-defense, but players will manage the TV display for a broad view of the field and the gamepad for CCTV point-of-view. Players will switch around from various camera feeds and will shoot down oncoming foes at a fast pace with rising difficulty.
This little bonus game was proven to be so effective with its execution, most gamers who felt burned by Star Fox Zero cited Guard as being the real Star Fox game. Given its reliance on a two-display feedback loop, there is no way this could be ported to current platforms effectively. Copies are thankfully cheap on eShop and on disc.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Xenoblade Chronicles got an extensive remaster on Switch, completing a trilogy (and Torna) on a single Nintendo console. However, there was actually a fourth game the world forgot and no, Xenogears does not count. The Wii U was home to Xenoblade Chronicles X; a game that is easily the most ambitious release on the console.
This is an epic RPG with massive environments, online multiplayer co-op, and has gigantic mecha to pilot and customize. It was not perfect, but its ambition dwarfed what most developers dare to do, even by today’s standards.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is not a game that can be easily ported. Its so intensely designed around the gamepad, that it would be impossible to imagine it without it. Fans of the series would easily put it above the second game in the series for good reason. It was an RPG that truly aimed for the stars and hit its head on the way up.
The gaming media did Devil’s Third wrong. While it is definitely far from perfect and is admittedly a bit rough around the edges, you won’t find anything like Devil’s Third anywhere else. This is one of the rare M-rated Nintendo published joints, and it is a doozy with its Sanskrit tatted, Andrew Tate-looking, booze chugging protagonist.
The developer was known for his panache on the first two Ninja Gaiden games– he knows what he’s doing and what he aimed for was an action game that melded melee and first-person shooting. While not everything works, Tomonobu Itagaki must be commended for actually pulling it off. The controls feel fluid and balanced for smooth shooter and melee gameplay.
The online multiplayer component was ported to PC (and then delisted later), and now the only way to go on Itagaki’s wild ride, is to get it on the Wii U eShop. Don’t even try to get a physical disc either- hard copies of Devil’s Third are in the $400 range, making it the rarest and most expensive game on the console.
Retro Gaming Made Cheap
Like the Wii and 3DS, Nintendo Wii U eShop was home to a Virtual Console. Wii U had a distinction by supporting later generation platforms and in some cases; unconventional handhelds too. Ever wanted to play DS games on the big screen? The Wii U can deliver.
With the eShop closing, many of these retro titles will lose their cheap digital alternative. In some cases, many of the games featured here are outrageously overpriced on the second hand market, are nigh impossible to find, or have a better control method.
The N64 games become affordable when shopping on Wii U’s eShop, with every title being only $9.99 and each comes with a save-state feature. Wii games that are usually rare or expensive are now at a fair $19.99. Which ones are worth your time? Continue reading the report from Niche Gamer’s scientists to find out!
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber is a N64 strategy RPG that fetches insane prices in second hand game markets and that is if you’re lucky that the cart isn’t a haggard mess. This was one of the very few N64 RPGs. The console did not have many, but the few they had hit it out of the park.
Quest was a developer known for their deep and stylish looking strategy RPGs, and Ogre Battle 64 was another hit in their “Lodis” canon. Fans of Final Fantasy Tactics should take note of some of the similarities in this game; as it shares some staff members.
On the Wii U, Ogre Battle 64 can save anywhere via save-state, making it painless to stop a session. At the moment, there is no ports or remakes of this forgotten classic. The visuals and music hold up excellently and it still feels modern.
Sin & Punishment
Sin & Punishment may also be available on Nintendo Switch Online, but only on Wii U can gamers play both entries on a single platform. This rail shooter was by far the most impressive action game on the N64. Its only competitor was Star Fox 64 and even then, both games offer distinct experiences.
Each stage had a different character to play as and there were tons of boss and spectacle that you never really saw in games from the fifth console generation. It had full voice acting- a rarity among N64 games; you could count all of them with a single hand. For whatever reason, Sin & Punishment never got released in the west until the Virtual Console version.
On NSO+ or the Wii U eShop version, gamers can remap controls to make it fit modern sensibilities. Sin & Punishment is a game that people should be able to own. Renting it on Nintendo’s subscription service does not cut it. It is too good to borrow.
Metroid Prime Hunters
The Wii U is technically the Nintendo console with the most amount of Metroid games if you count the games in the Virtual Console and backwards compatibility. Metroid Fusion, Zero Mission, Super Metroid, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Metroid Other M and the original Metroid are all here, but so is Metroid Prime Hunters.
Thanks to the Wii U gamepad’s screen, Hunters becomes very playable and highly accurate first-person shooter. While it is no where near as robust or as detailed as the big boy Prime titles, Hunters holds its own as a tightly paced entry that dials back slightly on exploration and doubles down on arena combat that takes cues from Quake‘s multiplayer.
The blocky and chunky graphics accentuate further Quake comparisons, as does the inconsequential story. Getting a real copy of Metroid Prime Hunters on DS/3DS is not hard or costly, but playing it on the big screen with a stylus and gamepad is a thrilling novelty.
Star Fox Command
If you wanted a good Star Fox game on Wii U, you didn’t find it with Star Fox Zero– you had to play download Star Fox Command from the eShop’s Virtual Console. This is a totally unique approach to series’ gameplay by incorporating strategy elements and the tried and true 3D dog-fighting from “all-range” mode.
Visually, Command is a chunkier game than Star Fox 64 ever was. It has an undeniable quaint charm with its simplistic visuals and low bit-rate sound font. The Wii U gamepad’s controls manage to outclass the convoluted mess from Star Fox Zero too.
It is ironic that the B-team Star Fox spin-off managed to pull off effective controls with the gamepad when the game was never designed or intended to be played with it. Like Metroid Prime Hunters, Star Fox Command is reasonable to acquire, but playing it on Wii U has a cheeky novelty to it that makes it so interesting.
Super Mario 64 DS
There is no shortage of ways to play Super Mario 64. Nintendo Switch Online and Super Mario 3D All-Stars have a version of it that is easily accessible. Yet, there is no other means to play the DS remake other than having an original cart. Why bother getting another port of Super Mario 64 when you can try this weird and unique remake?
Most gamers consider this an inferior version of the immortal 3D platformer. They are wrong to dismiss it entirely, because it should be considered an alternative take that has more to offer. Super Mario 64 DS is like a Master Quest remix. It changes things that you know and at the same time feels familiar.
From the visuals to the new content; there are plenty of differences that make this version interesting enough that it is worthy of any gamer’s time. The controls and playability do take some getting used to, but after a while it does become second nature and like other DS games from the Wii U eShop, playing it on the big screen adds a new layer of enjoyment.
New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is a Gamecube game that is often confused as a rhythm game. This is unfair because it is actually a very good and underrated 2D platformer. Before Donkey Kong Country Returns on Wii, Jungle Beat already had a highly detailed and fuzzy DK jumping and bopping around on foes with 2.5D visuals.
New Play Control! was a series of Wii games that took Gamecube hits and added improved Wii-mote controls on top of some refinements. Jungle Beat was one of these titles and it was an upgrade in every way imaginable. You didn’t need the bongo peripheral anymore and the game played more like a platformer than ever.
The Wii-mote was very finely tuned and is the definitive way to play this beleaguered classic. Getting a copy of Jungle Beat can be a bit pricey, but in the Wii U eShop, it is only $19.99. Along with Returns and the SNES Country trilogy, the Wii U is home to a high density of high quality monkey-business.
New Play Control! Pikmin and Pikmin 2
On Wii U, the only numbered Pikmin game you can’t play is Pikmin 4. While most gamer will play Pikmin 3 on Switch, the best way to play the first and second games is the New Play Control! versions on Wii U. The Wii-mote pointer controls are still the best input method when playing these games for the accuracy and efficency.
Either Pikmin game offers something unique to the player. The first entry is lean and has a ticking clock mechanic that pressures the player into playing efficiently and to plan accordingly. Captain Olimar only has 30 days to rebuild his ship and the New Play Control! inputs make it feel so much more responsive and intuitive.
Pikmin 2 mixes things up with randomly generated sub areas that are more puzzle-focused and players have to consider what pikmin they will take with them. The ticking clock is no longer a factor and the game is more leisurely paced. Both titles are great options but getting the physical discs have each game passing the $100 range. On Wii U eShop, they are fairly priced at $19.99 each.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
After Retro Studios made a trilogy of Metroid Prime games, they developed Donkey Kong Country Returns. In most ways it was one of the better entries in the Country series, but most would agree it was definitely the most challenging.
You could get the 3DS port which has a mode that makes the game easier and cuts the waggle controls, but then you would also experience the game at half the frame rate (30fps). If you want the real Donkey Kong Country Returns experience, you must play the Wii version and thankfully it is only $19.99 on Wii U eShop.
This is one of the most challenging 2D platformers released by Nintendo. While the tiki masks are lame and don’t live up the the Kremlins or Snowmads, there is only one animal buddy, there is no swimming, but the stages, music and gimmicks in Returns more than make up for everything else.
Lost in Shadow
Before the surge of avant garde 2D adventure platformers, Sunsoft managed to out do Team Ico at making an Ico spiritual successor. The Last Guardian wouldn’t come out for several more years, but along comes Lost in Shadow to deliver a surreal fantasy epic that is steeped in intrigue.
As a shadow, players can only interact with shadows. Regular objects that you could probably walk over cast long shadows that become impassable barriers. At its core, Lost in Shadow is a puzzle platformer and it is a much longer one than one would expect.
Lost in Shadow is not terribly rare or expensive, but you’ll still find a better price on the eShop. Regardless of which means it will be acquired; it is totally worth a play and has solid puzzle design all the way through. Gamers who enjoy games like Ico must not miss this one.
Sin & Punishment 2: Star Successor
As mentioned earlier, the Wii U eShop is the best way to have both Sin & Punishment games on a single console. The first game is an N64 action masterpiece from the greatest shoot ’em-up developer of all time. Sin & Punishment 2: Star Successor improves on the concept in every way imaginable.
Stages are longer and there is so much more variety in gimmicks. Bosses are so much more complex and the game is more than twice as long as the first. The Wii-mote’s pointer is a revelation for shooting games and its fluidity and pin-point accuracy is unmatched in Star Successor.
This is a very fast-paced shooter and only the Wii-mote can deliver the level of control that it demands. There is no way Sin & Punishment 2 can be ported to other consoles that don’t have a similar input method without it being compromised.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
When Super Mario 3D All-Stars came out on Switch, gamers lamented that it was missing Super Mario Galaxy 2. Everyone was right to be disappointed because it was one of the better 3D Mario games. In terms of sheer variety and challenge, Galaxy 2 manages to trump the first game.
Thankfully, the Wii U eShop has everyone covered. It may not have the enhanced image quality or the standard controller options, but you will be playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 as the designers intended.
3D Mario games always age well and maintain excellent playability. Galaxy 2 is no exception and gamers who completed 3D All-Stars who are still itching for more would be doing themselves a disservice by not dusting off their Wii U and giving it a run.
Wario Land: Shake It!
Wario Land: Shake It! seems like something you’d never see made. While it is a 2D action platformer, (which is standard Nintendo M.O.) it is also entirely hand drawn an animated by artists from Production I.G. That’s right, Wario has a Ghost in the Shell connection.
Shake It! has unbelievably fluid and striking animation quality to its 2D characters. From some angles, it doesn’t even look like a video game and could almost pass for a real cartoon. This kind of approach is something that would be expected from a virtuoso indie dev, not Nintendo.
Wario Land: Shake It! is more than just awesome art; it is an exceptional 2D action game with a lot of collectibles and chaotic chases. The Wii-mote gimmicks give it a lot of personality and while it could be ported without the motion elements; as of the publishing of this feature, it hasn’t been ported.
Metroid Prime Trilogy
There has been a lot of speculating when Metroid Prime Trilogy will get an HD port to Switch. The day hasn’t come as of this feature’s publishing. The demand for this incredible compilation of Nintendo’s best first-person shooter is high for a good reason.
The first two Prime games in the collection have been given a New Play Control! treatment. Their aspect ratios have been expanded to 16:9 and the Wii-mote aiming proved to be a natural fit to aiming in first-person. It is so effective that it is on par with aiming with a mouse, like on a PC game.
This is the ultimate in first-person “metroidvania” gameplay. All three of the Prime games are masterworks, and you can’t go wrong and for only $19.99, this is the most generous Nintendo has ever been.
Metroid: Other M
Other M was given the raw deal by unrealistic expectations and philistine game reviewers who didn’t understand what it was going for. While it is undeniably a flawed game with some questionable design choices, Other M‘s reputation for being a “bad game” is grossly exaggerated.
Other M might be the most impressive looking game released on the Wii. The models were dense with round edges and the frame rate was a smooth 60 fps. Above all else; there is nothing else like Other M. The gameplay still is “search and find”, but combat is streamlined and has impressive spectacle. The wrestling moves, POV switching, and puzzle-box level design is all fresh material for the series.
The focus on using a Wii-mote sideways was an attempt to simplify the input method which is admirable, if a bit misguided for not having options. While the story borders on being unwatchable, it is hard to fault Other M‘s technical aspects and its unconventional gameplay, which tends to be an effective filter.
Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure
Capcom had a few Wii games produced but only a few of them made it to the Wii U eShop. The usual suspects like Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition and the Darkside Chronicles can be found, but the one that should get your attention is Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure.
Gameplay in Zack and Wiki is a mix of point-and-click adventure and Wario Ware-style micro-games for basic actions. Zack and his monkey are on a quest for treasure and they’ll have to endure a gauntlet of stages that demand players figure out puzzles and do some absurd gestures with a Wii-mote to succeed.
The visuals are very pleasing and are full of character. Zack is especially highly animated and the overall presentation has aged well for a very early Wii game. It isn’t a hard title to get, but eShop makes it convenient, affordable and hassle-free.
The Wii U eShop is home to many other quality games that go beyond the scope of this feature. There are several excellent shootem-ups for the TurboGrafx 16 that used to be Japanese exclusive that are in the Virtual Console section. The DS section also has Spirt Tracks and Phantom Hourglass for Zelda fans who want more.
What Wii U eShop games did we miss? Are there any that you would recommend? Please share and discuss recommendations in the comments below!