10: Yoshi’s Woolly World
Fun fact: Finding all the Wonder Wool in the game’s secret levels unlocks Yoshis themed after Nintendo’s consoles, starting with a Wii U Yoshi and ending with an NES Yoshi.
If you want to play a game to put a smile on your face, just pop Yoshi’s Woolly World into your Wii U and enjoy.
A spiritual sequel to both Yoshi’s Island and Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Woolly World takes the gameplay of the former and merges it with the fabric aesthetics of the latter. It’s a rare case of visuals complimenting the gameplay, as the new cloth motif puts a new spin on the classic Yoshi’s Island formula.
The game is easy enough for beginners, but hunting down all of its hidden collectibles will be a challenge even for platforming veterans. Combine that versatility with some great level design, wonderful music, and visuals that simply couldn’t be more adorable, and you have one of the Wii U’s very best games.
9: Bayonetta 2
Fun fact: Bayonetta 2 became a Wii U exclusive after Nintendo proved to be the only party to show an interest in the title.
Bayonetta 2 is only number nine. It hurts, I know. Most people seem to place this title at the very top of best Wii U games lists, or at least second to one of the Mario titles. It’s a fair statement, since there are few action games as energetic as Bayonetta 2, and none that control better.
Bayonetta 2 showcases incredible action set pieces, massive boss fights, and combines arcade-style gameplay with the intricacy of a fighting game. But in terms of control, Bayonetta is the Mario of her genre, with every action and move feeling precise and fluid. You won’t find many games that feel built so strongly around the main character’s control, but it’s a lesson more developers need to learn.
Why is Bayonetta 2 only number nine? It’s certainly not through any major fault on the game’s part. But when I think “Wii U” it isn’t the first game that comes to mind. As great of a game as it is, I feel there are more definitive titles for the console. Am I just making excuses for the difficulty in numbering this list? Probably. But it’s my list.
In short, Bayonetta 2 is great.
8: Shovel Knight
Fun fact: Shovel Knight will be getting the first official third-party Amiibo.
Shovel Knight is the only multiplatform game to crack the top 10, and it’s because of that that it isn’t ranked even higher (again, “definitive” is one of the key ingredients here). But make no mistake about it, this is a phenomenal game on virtually every front.
Shovel Knight draws heavy inspiration from the 8-bit era of video games, and even adopts their graphics and sound effects. But whereas other indy titles have tried and failed in this same area, Shovel Knight wildly succeeds in creating its own identity through its use of retro aesthetics, instead of relying solely on nostalgia.
Shovel Knight boasts simple but fantastic gameplay that combines elements of Mega Man, Mario and Castlevania, all while feeling like its own distinct adventure. The level design is great, as are the boss fights, visuals, and even the story. And the music…I don’t even know where to begin there.
As an added bonus, anyone who completes Shovel Knight can now play the “Plague of Shadows” campaign, which is akin to being the game’s own sequel. Two additional campaigns are planned, making Shovel Knight a gift that keeps on giving.
Fun fact: Splatoon was originally going to be a shooter game with Mario characters.
Nintendo gets understandable flak for the often lacking online capabilities of their games. But Splatoon is proof that Nintendo can do online as well as anyone when they want to.
It’s the online shooter with a Nintendo spin. Instead of musclebound space-marines, players control creatures called Inklings who can change into kids and squids at the press of a button. Your guns don’t shoot bullets, but colored ink. The goal isn’t to rack up the most kills, but to cover more of the ground in your team’s color.
Simply put, Splatoon is a game that brought life and creativity back into the shooter genre, which for years now has felt at a creative halt. Ironic that Nintendo of all people would be the ones to do just that, seeing as they previously wouldn’t touch the shooter genre.
Splatoon is one of the most fun online gaming experiences around, and seeing as Nintendo keeps updating the game, there always seems to be new content to explore. It’s swimming in originality and made the most tired genre feel new again. That alone is a testament to Splatoon’s genius.
6: Pikmin 3
Fun fact: The wait for Pikmin 3 wasn’t an easy one, as it was released nine years after Pikmin 2.
Pikmin remains one of Nintendo’s most inventive series. And seeing as it took it so long just to reach its third installment, it’s still one of their freshest. Part real-time strategy, part puzzle game, part adventure, Pikmin is a series that’s difficult to place in any one genre.
It’s also a series that somehow manages to combine the adorable with the macabre, without ever feeling misplaced. The Pikmin themselves are among the most adorable video game characters, but watching them get devoured by the droves by a giant monster and seeing their ghosts fly away is effectively horrifying. This contrast gives Pikmin a unique sense of urgency.
Pikmin 3 is the most balanced entry in the series. It finds a good mix of the strategic elements from the first game and the combative elements of the second. The levels are clever and require a good deal of thinking on the players’ part. And the new Rock and Winged Pikmin types, as well as three playable captains, put interesting twists on the gameplay.
Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto has recently stated that a fourth Pikmin game is already well in development. Let’s hope so. Nine years is just far too painful a wait to revisit this wonderful series.