Despite our affection for the the console, there’s no denying that Wii U had its share of issues. Chiefly, Nintendo failed to properly communicate the hardware’s unique potential to the game-playing public — a mistake the company was careful avoid repeating with Switch. The name was a point of confusion, too, with some people assuming that it was some sort of add-on peripheral for the original Wii (quite understandably given the strategic focus of pre-release materials on the GamePad while the new console was tucked away out of view).
Throw in some oversized, chunky styling and a lack of Wii Sports-esque launch title to instantly convey the product’s appeal and it comes as little surprise that Wii U was a commercial failure, and one all the more painful following the unprecedented success of its immediate predecessor. However, all fair criticism aside, there’s one area where we won’t hear a word against Wii U: the games.
Say what you like about the hardware or Nintendo’s misguided marketing, but Wii U had a large library of software across a breadth of genres and styles. There’s a very good reason Nintendo and third-parties have been plundering the catalogue and re-releasing Wii U games on Switch — many of them are utterly fantastic.
Below you’ll find a list of the 50 best Wii U games, including both full retail releases and downloadable eShop titles. Similar to many of our other Best Games lists, the ranking is governed entirely by each title’s User Rating in the Nintendo Life Game database and will constantly evolve to reflect those ratings, so you can still participate even as you read this. To do so, simply click on the User Rating star next to each title below and give it a score out of 10. The score will immediately be counted towards the total and potentially alter the ranking.
We’ve assembled these Top 50 rankings for a growing number of Nintendo consoles, so be sure to check out the Best Nintendo DS games, the Best 3DS games, the Best Game Boy games, the Best Nintendo 64 Games, the Best Nintendo Wii Games, the Best SNES Games, and even the 50 best Switch games — each and every one a fluid list that can change over time. Try rating the games in those, too!
Ready, then? Let’s dive in and see why publishers the world over have been plundering this console’s treasure trove for ‘Deluxe’ and ‘Ultimate’ editions on Switch. Here are your picks for the all-time 50 best Wii U games ever…
Publisher: 13AM Games / Developer: 13AM Games
Runbow is a game that is very ‘Nintendo’ in every single aspect, from concept to art and sound direction, to the point that Nintendo itself held a launch party for Runbow at the Nintendo World Store in NYC. It’s an excellent party game with a solid single player campaign and more unlockables than the colours of the rainbow; you won’t regret playing this gem on the Wii U (or Switch).
Aesthetically speaking, Trine 2: Director’s Cut borders on perfection and deserves nothing less than to be framed and mounted. Unfortunately, that quality doesn’t quite permeate the game as a whole and uncomfortable controls and puzzle design issues mar the experience and slow the game down in a significant way. Anyone who enjoys physics-based puzzle platformers (with a hefty dose of hack-and-slash action) will find enough to overlook occasional issues, though, and its lovely environments also help mask its deficiencies in other areas. It’s available on Switch these days, too.
Darksiders II is very, very good. In paying homage to the Zelda series while adding its own unique flavour, the team at Vigil crafted a game to appeal to those looking for a grittier take on an action-RPG dungeon crawler, while also helping Nintendo fans scratch that Hylian itch. ‘Zelda substitute’ would be an unfair label — Darksiders II a stellar game in its own right that is absolutely worth playing, although the Switch Deathinitive Edition is probably the one to go for these days.
Don’t let the cartoony graphics and Disney branding fool you: DuckTales: Remastered is a challenging duck-blur of a platformer that’s absolutely brimming with charm. The campaign of this affectionate remake of the NES classic may be short, but WayForward updated it in a way that makes the experience feel fresh and guarantees you’ll want to revisit it. This is essential gaming for fans of the original DuckTales or the animated series, and even if you’re not in those camps, it’s still worth a look for fans of Disney, platformers, and Disney platformers.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Nintendo Land might not have been the Wii U killer app in the vein of Wii Sports, but it’s still a wonderful celebration of Nintendo’s past and an exciting glimpse of a future that might have been had developers been a little more adventurous with the GamePad (and had audiences responded, of course). When it works, Nintendo Land delivers riotous fun and is one of the best local multiplayer experiences ever crafted. There’s also a surprising amount of depth to the single-player offerings, too, and Miiverse integration meant you were never really on your own.
For nostalgic Nintendo fans, it was simultaneously comforting and exciting (we’ll take any drop of F-Zero-adjacent content we can!), and in its best moments it managed to make you feel like a kid again.
Both love letter to the purist gameplay ideals of yesteryear and free-spirited embrace of the future, RUNNER2 grabs you by the hand and leads you on an earnest yet cheerful adventure. This is a tightly constructed, demanding and addictive title that is chock full of clever ideas and never loses sight of what makes games fun. Presenting a challenge as big as its heart, RUNNER2 was easily one of the best games on the Wii U eShop.
New Super Luigi U is a terrific title for capable platform gamers, with intense and exciting bursts of momentum to put those thumbs to the test. What that does do, however, is make multiplayer even more awkward than it was before in New Super Mario Bros. U, and arguably puts this beyond the reach of less experienced gamers, even using the indestructible Nabbit. The sense of the old you get from revisiting familiar stages here is thankfully tempered by a fresh feel and clever level design, however, and even if Luigi’s adventure doesn’t last long for those without completionist instincts, it’s fun while it does last.
Publisher: Thomas Happ Games / Developer: Thomas Happ Games
Axiom Verge is an excellent Metroidvania that combines creative gameplay, beautiful visuals, and a compelling story to create a fantastic game which pays tribute to classics while doing something wholly new with the established formula. It’s made all the more impressive, too, by the fact that the entire thing is the product of one-man-team Tom Happ’s dedication. If you have even the remotest interest in 2D action games, do yourself a favour and pick this game up pronto. It’s available on Switch, too. You know, if your Wii U is packed away or something.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: indies zero
It would be simple to write off NES Remix as something only die-hard retro gamers would enjoy, but developer Indies Zero was really on to something here. The 200+ challenges are short enough to be interesting and fun to replay, but not long enough to outstay their welcome. The developer has even managed to make challenges based on games like Urban Champion and Baseball fun, which is an achievement in itself. If you’re the type who likes to relentlessly collect stuff, the stars and stamps will also keep you entertained.
Another great addition to the roster of the console with ‘no games’, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 launched alongside Wii U and threw exclusive Nintendo costumes and power-ups into its quality fighting mix, plus DLC content from other platforms, too. This entry in Namco’s franchise had already cemented itself as a quality participant contender in the genre, but add in the Wii U exclusive modes, bells and whistles and you’re left with perhaps the best console version of a fine fighter.