The Wii U’s online services are in their final stages. On March 27th, Nintendo is set to shut down the eShop for Wii U systems, removing the ability to purchase games and download demos although your existing purchases will still be accessible… for now. That’s a real shame, because the Wii U is home to some top-notch software, including first-party, boundary-pushing titles that were never ported to Switch or rely heavily on the Wii U’s new controller.
So before it’s too late, we’re highlighting some of the most technically accomplished Wii U titles worth picking up before the shutdown – including some that are significantly cheaper digitally. As well as some big first-party releases, there are some great games from smaller studios that at least deserve to be remembered for what they did with the Wii U hardware.
The obvious place to start here are the two Zelda remasters for Wii U – Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD. These are both essentially GameCube rerun titles, modernizations that add new textures and effects but mostly leave the original visual designs intact. Wind Waker HD is certainly the more successful of these efforts, with new textures, a redesigned UI, gameplay tweaks, and reworked lighting with blooming, real-time shadow maps, and ambient occlusion. Even with the original geometric meshes in place, the game holds up brilliantly at 1080p. There are a few issues too – there can be noticeable aliasing in ambient occlusion and shadow maps, and the cartoon styles of the original models get a bit lost in indirect lighting, but it’s still a nice-looking game.
Twilight Princess HD may be a bit timid in comparison, with the main visual changes mostly limited to texture resolution boosts and UI rework, but there are also tweaks to background scenery, shadows and lighting. We’re at 1080p again here, with decent picture quality, but the more realistic style of the visuals means that the limitations of the original geometry and lighting are more apparent than in Wind Waker.
I’d still say that both HD versions are the best ways to play these games right now – and the Wii U eShop is the best way to get them because they’re significantly cheaper on the eShop than they are in physical form. Twilight Princess HD is particularly expensive, fetching over $100 even for a used copy. Once the eShop is shut down, these games will become prohibitively expensive for many players.
For fans of 2D platform games, Yoshi’s Wooly World and Kirby: Rainbow Curse are two of the best genres on the Wii U. Wooly World is an absolute joy to play, an effortless little platformer that feels amazing to control. It presents a stylized world made of wool from a fixed 2D perspective, and despite relatively basic visual techniques – solid blocks of yarn seem to be represented using fairly basic textures, with fabric fringes handled using alpha textures – the look and feel of the game. really like it Of course, Yoshi’s Crafted World in 2019 takes the concept to the next level, but Wooly World is worth experiencing on its own merits. Image quality here isn’t great, at 720p without AA, but performance is smooth at a near-locked 60fps. This is one of my favorite Wii U titles and is relatively cheap on the eShop as well. There is technically also a 3DS version of this game, but its severe graphical cuts make the Wii U edition superior.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a sequel to 2006’s Kirby: Canvas Curse on DS, albeit with a much more compelling visual style as the entire game mimics the look of modeling clay – with careful material work and intricate shading. The game’s animation has a kind of stop-motion style that seems to have been achieved mostly by swapping models in and out for frequent background animations. The title also takes full advantage of the Wii U hardware, with the stylus-based gameplay taking place entirely on the Wii U GamePad itself. The game runs at 720p 60fps with some form of post-processing anti-aliasing. Rainbow Curse is one of the best looking Wii U exclusive titles, and it’s worth picking up.
We’ve covered games in pairs so far, but Xenoblade Chronicles X stands alone as a massive open-world adventure that really impresses the hardware. The sense of scale is amazing, with large enemies, trees and shadows cast even into the far distance. Under direct lighting conditions the game usually looks great, and cities impress with dense, high-quality artwork and plenty of civilian NPCs. Again, there are limits here – smaller objects can appear close to the player, human characters can have weirdly-exaggerated proportions for their otherwise realistic faces, and the player group can walk through many in-game objects, including NPCs. Still, for a 720p30 title with post-process AA, this is easily one of the Wii U’s best-looking open-world titles.
While some of the games we’ve covered so far have appeared on other platforms, other titles simply wouldn’t work elsewhere thanks to their unique use of the Wii U hardware – and some are true Wii U eShop exclusives, which will be impossible. obtain by legitimate means after March 27th. (There are actually over 100 games that are both eShop and Wii U exclusives, though few are particularly high quality.)
One of the most ambitious is Affordable Space Adventures, where you pilot a small spacecraft through alien worlds, solving puzzles and overcoming various obstacles. The touchscreen interface allows players to manipulate the spacecraft’s systems in real time, and also serves as the ship’s control panel, complete with readouts for fuel, heat, electricity, and system status. The GamePad integration here is really impressive – it’s hard to imagine the game without it. However, it’s one of only a few games that really took advantage of the Wii U’s unique functionality and achieved something special.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is another eShop exclusive title that requires heavy use of the GamePad. Gameplay revolves around using the Wii U GamePad as an in-game camera aimed using the controller’s gyroscope. The game has been ported to other platforms since then, though it really feels designed specifically around GamePad use. A number of cross-platform titles have also featured effective GamePad integration – Batman: Arkham City and Deus Ex: Human Revolution both pack stylized GamePad implementations that flash menus and various minigames onto the touchscreen to good effect. These aren’t game-changing additions and the games are easily accessible elsewhere, but they do add an interesting element to the Wii U experience.
Finally, it’s worth a quick mention of the Wii U games produced by Shin’en Multimedia, a highly accomplished Nintendo developer. Two of their Wii U efforts – Nano Assault Neo and Art of Balance – are readily available in similar form on other systems, though both impress here as well.
Fast Racing Neo is the key release here, a high-octane racer that features physically based materials, ambient occlusion and a new temporal upsampling technique that appears to build a 1280×720 image from a 640×720 base resolution. Outside of a handful of frame rate drops, it also holds a smooth 60fps, a must given the lightning-fast running speeds. It’s one of the most technically impressive Wii U titles ever released, despite coming in at just 829MB after installation. The caveat here is that while the game is technically a Wii U exclusive, an expanded version called Fast RMX was released as a launch title for the Switch – with improved lighting, better weather effects, higher quality UI elements and proper 1080p docked / 720p portable presentation with DRS. Content-wise, it includes all of Neo’s tracks and also adds six new courses. I tend to prefer the simpler handling of the Wii U release, but both games are experience.
So those are some of the most technically impressive Wii U titles out there – but how do you actually download them on a Wii U account? If you have a Switch and pair your Switch and Wii U Nintendo accounts, you can add funds on Switch and access them on Wii U. These funds will remain accessible on Switch, so it shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t spend what you do. to add
It’s just a shame that the eShop itself is essentially disabled. The launch of the Wii U was just over 10 years ago and the console feels quite modern, with built-in HDMI and new game streaming capabilities. There are plenty of games on the service that are worth picking up online, especially with the rapidly rising prices of some titles on the secondary market. This is also a problem for the 3DS, which is also closing its eShop on the 27th.
Wii U storage in general has hit some troubling signs in recent weeks, with a number of reports of failed consoles. For now, this appears to be isolated to problems with the built-in eMMC-based system storage in early production units, although it’s hard to say for sure. Conservation is also hampered by the relatively low number of units sold for the system, along with the fragility of some key components such as the GamePad. Keeping Wii U systems in full working order seems like a tougher prospect than other machines of the era, which is worrying as systems start to fade.
While the Wii U didn’t exactly set the world on fire like its predecessor, it did provide a capable HD-ready platform for Nintendo’s development studios and external partners to develop software. Even with a low-wattage GPU and a bizarrely weak CPU, the system was still far more capable than any previous Nintendo platform, and the visual execution and complexity of first-party Wii U titles often impressed. In a way it felt like a test run for the Switch, a system that arrived a few years too early to really make the concept work.
Today, some six years after the Switch’s debut, there are still a large number of impressive games that are stuck on the aging Wii U. My advice would be to grab them while you still can, as the window of opportunity is closing fast.
Manage cookie settings