It might seem a little odd to compile a year-end list for a console that was released just over a month ago, but in its short lifespan, Wii U has already amassed a respectable collection of first- and third-party games. With major ports like Assassin’s Creed III and Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition launching alongside the system, not to mention exclusives titles like ZombiU and Nintendo Land demonstrating the GamePad’s unique capabilities, Nintendo’s latest home console burst onto the market with arguably the strongest launch line-up in the company’s history. So, which of these games took our top spot?
BEST WII U GAME
Bet you didn’t see this one coming. Nintendo Land may not be the most graphically impressive game on Wii U (though its hodgepodge of art styles is certainly beautiful nonetheless), nor is it the deepest single-player experience on the console, but in terms of showing off the full range of the GamePad’s abilities, it stands head and shoulders above the rest of the system’s launch offerings. Not that you’d tell from its initial reception. After a rather lackluster unveiling at last year’s E3, many fans were left wondering if the game could possibly live up to the Herculian task that Nintendo set before it– namely propelling Wii U into the public consciousness like Wii Sports did for Wii.
Of course, these doubts were cast aside once early adopters (especially those who came home with the Deluxe bundle) popped the game into their brand new consoles. It’s true Nintendo Land may not have quite the same impact as Wii Sports, but the game is still one of the finest offerings on the platform, exuding a charm few other minigame compilations could muster thanks to its varied art styles and unique Miiverse integration, which populates the main plaza with other players from around the world. And with twelve attractions to visit, ranging from solo games like Yoshi’s Fruit Cart to team-based adventures like The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, the title has something for every Wii U owner to enjoy, whether they go to the park alone or with four of their friends. Easily the highlight of the system’s launch.
- See the Nintendojo Review.
BEST WII U GAME RUNNERS-UP
New Super Mario Bros. U
It’s hard to believe it’s been over 16 years since Nintendo released a brand new Mario game alongside one of its consoles (21 if you limit it to his last side-scrolling adventure), which makes New Super Mario Bros. U a welcome sight for longtime fans of the series. Building on the foundation laid down by New Super Mario Bros. Wii (which itself expanded the scope of the original DS game to allow four players to journey together simultaneously), New Super Mario Bros. U may not reinvent the platformer quite like some of Mario’s earlier titles, but a handful of improvements make it the best 2D Mario game since Super Mario World. Featuring a huge array of levels to clear, which are laid out on a scrolling world map reminiscent of the SNES classic, and the same frenetic action that defined the plumber’s Wii outing, New Super Mario Bros. U offers something for social and solo gamers alike. Throw in Miiverse integration and unique challenge stages for when you complete the adventure proper (with additional ones available soon as DLC), and it’s no wonder why the game took our runner-up spot for best Wii U title of 2012.
- See the Nintendojo Review.
If you’d have told us Ubisoft would deliver one of the defining experiences of the Wii U launch, we’d have looked at you funny. While the studio has put out some truly great content, its ambition often exceeds its ability, and it is just as known for delivering titles that ultimately fail to realize their true potential (hello, Red Steel). Not ZombiU, though. By some arcane sorcery, Ubisoft was able to harness the Wii U hardware in smart and imaginative ways, creating one of the most gripping survival horror experiences on any system. Using the Wii U GamePad to manage your inventory was a logical decision, and it was made all the more affecting thanks to the constant sense of dread lingering around you. Best of all, in true zombie horror fashion, one bite and you were gone; any character that fell to the hordes of undead would be lost permanently, and you’d have to trek back to their (un)resting site with a new avatar to retrieve your items and continue the story. These elements didn’t always coalesce into a seamless experience, but if you’re willing to overlook its occasional hiccups, and if you have a penchant for a truly unnerving experience, then ZombiU is a must-have on Nintendo’s new console.
- See the Nintendojo Review.
Scribblenauts Unlimited may not differ all that much from its DS predecessors, but it has enough improvements to make it the best installment yet. Featuring a robust new object editor, plus the same humor the series has become known for, Unlimited is a veritable sandbox for the creatively inclined to play in. And thanks to the move to a home console, you can now share the laughs with a few friends, making it the perfect game to show off your new Wii U.
Featuring a new storyline set against the backdrop of colonial America, and the series’ characteristic parkour-inspired gameplay, Assassin’s Creed III is the culmination of Ubisoft’s popular stealth-based franchise, and the first to hit a Nintendo console. But what sets the Wii U game apart from other versions of the title is its off-TV play, allowing you to hunt Templars even from the comfort of your bed. If that isn’t an incentive to pick it up, we don’t know what is.
Mario Kart may have missed the Wii U launch, but Sega gave early adopters the next best thing with its own stab at the genre. Boasting an all-star cast of drivers, and vehicles that automatically morph depending on the terrain, Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed is a frenetic arcade racer in the vein of Diddy Kong Racing. Throw in modern flourishes like online play and HD visuals, and you have a party game that every Wii U owner needs in their library.