Let's be honest, the Wii U had a terribly rough first year after launching in November 2012. This was, fortunately for holiday 2013, in large part because a majority of the console's launch window releases were all delayed. That means a bunch of big Wii U games have come over over the past three or four months just to make sure the Wii U looked tantalizing for families on Black Friday, but did it work?
It worked. Considering how few families have purchased a Wii U yet, there's a solid handful of games that are absolutely perfect to pick up for the holidays. Featuring big names like Mario, Wario, Zelda, Pikmin and Wii Fit, but with newcomers like The Wonderful 101 as well. All in all, a solid line-up of titles for all ages. If only it had launched with this a year ago!
Since many families seem to be having trouble with this, let's talk a bit about what the Wii U actually is. The Wii U is a completely different console than the Wii, in the same way the PlayStation 4 is a different console than the PlayStation 3. However, the Wii U is backwards compatible with Wii games and also uses the same Wii motion controllers. However, the Wii U also uses a tablet controller that comes with every purchase of the console. Don't get your Wiis and your Wii Us mixed up!
Let's get straight into our holiday guide of must-have games for the Wii U. Where other guides have broken down into genres, since the Wii U's library is rather limited we'll be focusing on just a few main titles -- almost all first-party developed.
Welcome to the Wii U's first blockbuster release. Where Pikmin 3 and Wind Waker HD maybe have been stellar in quality, it takes an original title starring one of Nintendo's big stars to really seal the deal. Super Mario 3D World is, much like many recent Mario games, designed to be played with friends on the couch. Up to four players can traverse the crazy levels in 3D World, but you'll be wishing there could be more.
- Who It's For: Nintendo nerds, platformer lovers, couch co-op fans, all-ages, just don't pick Mario, because I called dibs
- Why You Want It: Some of the most crisp, smooth platforming gameplay ever, excellent level-design, tons of hilarious, fun new power-ups
While not necessarily a whole standalone game, New Super Luigi U still feels like an entirely new experience. Technically it's a downloadable addition to New Super Mario Bros. U starring Luigi with completely remade levels designed for speed and precision. It's still tons of fun for family and friends, and add a ton of new content for fans of the original to play through.
- Who It's For: 2-D Mario fans, speed-runners, owners of New Super Mario Bros. U, all-ages
- Why You Want It: Precise, fast-paced level design starring the brother that never gets enough attention
I wasn't sure to include Mario's latest trip to the Olympics on this list because the series has previously been rather disappointing. I changed my mind after considering the lack of sports games here, as well as this being the series' first foray into true HD. Mario and all of his friends look great in high quality and that alone is worth considering this sports mini-game collection.
- Who It's For: Families, young audiences, party-goers, Mario and Sonic fans
- Why You Want It: Lots of fun mini-games, the first next-gen sports title featuring Mario and the crew, plus how often do Mario and Sonic meet in video games?
While not technically a Mario game, Wario would say he's just as important as the big guy in red. In the vein of the many WarioWorks mini-game collections of the past, Game & Wario mixes in a healthy amount of nostalgic references into this experience. It's still zany, it's still fun, but it may not keep your attention like his handheld games have. Still worth mentioning on this list.
- Who It's For: Those with short attention spans, young adults and up, those with a good sense of humor
- Why You Want It: Tons of zany mini-games that keep players brains working and fingers twitching
Other Outstanding Nintendo Titles
Possibly the most underrated Zelda title in Nintendo's history, back to take its rightful place as the best looking without argument. Cell shading has never looked as good as it does in this cartoony-styled adventure, where Link takes to the sea searching for the Triforce and the return of Hyrule to its natural glory.
- Who It's For: Adventurers, fans of beautiful, stylized graphics, Zelda faithful, all-ages
- Why You Want It: Beyond potentially Super Mario 3D World, this is the best looking game on the Wii U and potentially the most enjoyable too
Pikmin's back and it has some new tricks up its sleeve. Adding several new Pikmin with unique talents, this strategy game has never felt better. It's easier than ever to organize and order your army of Pikmin around, collecting fruit and defeating this new planet's indigenous lifeforms. However, there's a mystery afoot and it's putting the whole mission at risk. Best not waste any time!
- Who It's For: Strategizers, those with strong finger agility, fans of original gameplay, crazy people
- Why You Want It: This is a refined, focused Pikmin experience with new types of Pikmin to play with, but little else beyond a challenge
This may be the Wii U's best game that's been ignored due to the fact that it's not a main Nintendo franchise. Technically, The Wonderful 101 was developed by Platinum Games and published by Nintendo, but it was build from the ground up for the Wii U and deserves its place here. It's fast-paced, action-packed strategy that may be the best use of the Wii U's GamePad yet, plus it looks visually amazing.
- Who It's For: All ages, fans of quirky, original gameplay, Platinum Games fans
- Why You Want It: Fast-paced intense action that challenges players to use the GamePad in unique new ways
Blow the dust off of the Balance Board, because Wii Fit is back and better than ever. The best part? It's free for its first month, and afterwards all you have to do is pick up a Nintendo-brand heart-rate monitor to help better immerse yourself in the experience.
- Who It's For: Fitness buffs, those who hate the gym, lovers of calm exercise programs, kids and soccer moms
- Why You Want It: An iteration on the Wii Fit formula with a more powerful system better designed to help
More Great Games
Here's the game that every teenager wants for the Wii U. It's challenging, it's visually mature, it has online functionality and gamers can play it for hours, finish, and then spend their next hours thinking about strategy and what comes next. It's a fantasy-action game where the player hunts giant monsters and uses the loot they drop to better gear themselves up. It's a great RPG without a lot of plot, but some of the best gameplay available.
- Who It's For: Dedicated gamers, strategists, fans of big monsters, fans of loot and grinding for gear
- Why You Want It: When it comes to big, strategic battles with epic monsters it doesn't get any better than Monster Hunter
Open-world parody of Grand Theft Auto made for audiences of all ages? Count me in! This hilarious and fun LEGO-themed game will have players running all over the city solving mysteries, fixing crime and generally being an absent-minded cop doing his best in the zaniness of the urban sprawl. There's really nothing else like it on the Wii U and that's why it stands out as one of the platform's best games.
- Who It's For: Parents and kids, fans of open worlds, LEGO fans, those with a good sense of humor
- Why You Want It: With LEGO's dedication to humor and a consistently high-quality experience for all-ages, how can you go wrong?
Check out all of Neoseeker's other Holiday Gift Guides for 2013: