The Sega Dreamcast is often touted as the most underrated video game console of all time. Sega’s string of poor business decisions in the 90s and the dominance of Sony meant that the Dreamcast was short-lived, and Sega ceased making home consoles altogether as the Dreamcast came to an abrupt end. In the few years it was on the market, the Dreamcast built an impressive library and housed a number of technical innovations that other consoles are only now catching up with. Despite its greatness, it never had the chance to shine.
Well, the Dreamcast may now only be the second most underrated video game console ever, as Nintendo’s Wii U has grown into one of the more impressive modern consoles with an increasingly deep library, yet it is still in the shadow of its less-inventive competitors and is still often the butt of jokes on the internet.
Granted, when the Wii U launched in November 2012, it didn’t have the best lineup ever, and it took it a number of months before the console finally found its groove with Pikmin 3 in 2013. But since that time, its rarely let up. Nintendo has been releasing quality first-party titles for the Wii U at a consistency they haven’t done for their home consoles in a very long time.
It is also true that the Wii U continues Nintendo’s trend of having minimal third-party support. But this particular gripe may not be quite as big of a deal as it was a few short years ago, at least where quality is concerned, anyway.
Although gamers seem to live under the idea that more third-party games automatically equates to better games, I think it’s safe to say that the increasingly common trend of AAA third-party titles falling considerably short of their hype is proof to the contrary. That isn’t saying that third-party games are bad and that Nintendo’s lack of them is good, of course. That would be silly. But I do think it’s safe to say that the quality of the Wii U’s library hasn’t suffered from their absence in the way the internet would have you believe.
Destiny and Titanfall were both supposed to be two defining gaming experiences after all, and both fell flat in the eyes of most. Meanwhile, Super Mario 3D World’s name is still frequently thrown around discussions of today’s most fun gaming experiences.
Nintendo could definitely do with better third-party support, and I do hope one day they manage to work out better relationships with other developers. But at this point I find it baffling that so many people suggest the Wii U is inferior to its competitors because of the lack of third-parties. Video game consoles should be primarily judged by the quality of their titles, and as it stands, the Wii U is dancing around the PS4 and Xbox One, third-parties or not.
A great annoyance comes when you hear gamers use the tired “argument” of “Zelda and Mario are great, but they aren’t enough for me.” Yes, Mario and Zelda are mainstays (just as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Halo are), but they hardly make up the entirety of the Wii U’s library. Bayonetta 2, Pikmin 3, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, even The Wonderful 101 (a game I didn’t care for but others seem to enjoy) are all just a few of the quality Wii U titles where Mario and Link are nowhere to be found. Upcoming games like Splatoon and Star Fox also represent different series than Nintendo’s two powerhouses. The way these games go so conveniently ignored by so many gamers is eye-rolling.
But that’s not the worst part. The biggest crime gamers commit against the Wii U are the excuses. The blatant, unfounded stances they have against the console are becoming something of a self-indulged ignorance. A fine example is the aforementioned Bayonetta 2, a Wii U exclusive sequel to a multiplatform game. As soon as the game was announced, gamers – true to their nature – had nothing but petty complaints at the fact that the game was exclusive for the Wii U. They would claim they were going to boycott the game, or rant about how unfortunate its home console is. Even after it was revealed that this Bayonetta sequel basically exists because of the deal with Nintendo, gamers still refused to accept Bayonetta’s new platform. Instead of potentially rethinking their stance about the Wii U because it had a game they wanted, they dismissed Bayonetta because it was now found on a console that they simply don’t want to like.
There are also those who complain about the Wii U’s GamePad controller. Although it is clear that the GamePad has not reached its full creative potential, it still works perfectly fine as a gaming controller. Its size is a non-issue, as it is no heavier than your standard controller, the button placements work just fine, and the touchscreen has greatly benefitted some titles. But when it comes to things that are different, gamers have a tendency to dismiss them on the sole grounds that they are different. There are still gamers out there who act as though the Wii Remote is some dumbfounding piece of alien technology, unlearnable to humankind, despite that the Wii Remote is probably the single most accessible and comfortable controller for any console. But when things are different, gamers tend to react to them like Frankenstein’s monster to fire. No matter how effective the GamePad could be, it never stood a chance.
It would be a lie to say that the Wii U is a perfect console. It had to hit a lot of bumps to get where it is now, and there are still areas that could use a good deal of improvement. But it would be just as much of a lie to say that the Wii U isn’t the best gaming console currently on the market. Certainly not the most powerful, or the biggest “entertainment machine,” but most assuredly the best pure gaming console right now.
Its library of exclusives is already impressive, and looks to only get better with the likes of Splatoon, Mario Maker, Zelda, and whatever else Nintendo has in store. It’s also the only current console with proper backwards compatibility, being able to play any Wii game plus the increasing list of classic and retro titles on the Virtual Console. There simply isn’t another home console out right now that screams “play” nearly as loud.
The good far outweighs the bad when it comes to the Wii U, but because it doesn’t fit into the stereotypical mold of what a console “should” be, it’s relegated to an obscure corner in the gaming community. The Wii U continues to have inconsistent sales numbers, and it is still treated like a disease or a joke by many gamers. It’s their loss, as they’re missing out on one of the more fun gaming machines of the last decade.
Dreamcast be damned, the Wii U is quickly becoming gaming’s most underrated console.