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Feature: Wii U Blockbusters - What to Play While You Wait

Posted by Gaz Plant

If in doubt, go retro

The start of a new Nintendo generation is always cause for excitement for many, with the promise of new entries in the company’s greatest franchises often enough to convince many to buy the system on day one. But with Wii U, Nintendo kept very quiet about its big franchises, and when the system arrived we had little idea of what to expect beyond the launch window. That all changed with Wii U Direct, Nintendo’s recent online broadcast, where President Satoru Iwata announced the proverbial megaton of gaming reveals – this wasn’t just one big franchise making a return, this was five.

While we’ll see more from these at E3, many of you are surely counting down the days until you can play one of Nintendo’s new blockbuster games on your new Wii U. Thankfully, Nintendo has continually provided an alternative to waiting in the form of the Virtual Consoles for Wii, 3DS and, soon, Wii U. For under £10, many of Nintendo’s greatest creations are available to download, so while you wait for the next big entry in your favourite franchise, why not get prepared with a selection from the Nintendo vaults?

The Legend of Zelda

Perhaps the biggest announcement of all from Wii U Direct was that of two Zelda games currently in production. While the highly anticipated bespoke Zelda game for Wii U is some way off and promises an evolution of the classic franchise, Nintendo will also be releasing an HD remake of the GameCube’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, one of the most unique and beloved entries in the entire series. Along with the recent release of Hyrule Historia, there has never been a better time to be a Zelda fan, and for those just jumping in there's one title that seems like an ideal place to start.

Considered by many to be the game that transformed 3D adventure games forever, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time took the established formula of A Link to the Past and brought it crashing into the modern era. Filled with innovations and game-changing features, such as Z-targeting and the fully realised 3D overworld, Ocarina of Time truly is a landmark game for the games industry, and a title that every gamer should experience.

That alone is reason enough to spend your hard earned rupees on it, but its position in the wider Zelda timeline makes it the most important of them all. Thanks to its clever time travel mechanics, the story ultimately can resolve itself in three different ways, one of which leads directly into The Wind Waker, and proves to be crucial in the understanding of the plot. With the new title potentially being set after Ocarina of Time, and The Wind Waker being a direct sequel, there really isn’t a better place to enter the Zelda universe.

While Ocarina of Time is a somewhat serious affair, chronicling the battles of Link against the evil Ganondorf, it underplays the eccentricity of the franchise. And with The Wind Waker featuring a talking fish that draws maps, it is important to acquaint yourself with the crazy designs that the collective minds of Aonuma and Miyamoto can come up with. So why not start with the craziest of them all, Link’s Awakening?

Originally released for the Game Boy and then on the Game Boy Color for this DX version, Link’s Awakening sees our titular hero shipwrecked and washed up on Koholint Island, where he is tasked with waking the mystical Wind Fish. While this doesn’t sound too crazy, it’s instantly obvious that this isn’t your typical Zelda game – various Mario enemies appear throughout, including friendly Chain Chomps kept as pets, and classic Nintendo character cameos that we’ll let you find for yourself; you can even steal items from the shop (at your own risk). It’s Nintendo eccentricity at its best, and it’s also one of the most beloved Zelda titles ever made.

Super Mario

Hands up everyone who saw this announcement coming. Everyone? Yes, us too, but the fact remains that a new 3D Super Mario game is massive news, and something to be very excited about. We know that Nintendo’s consoles are designed with Miyamoto’s projects in mind (the N64 controller being an obvious example), and with Super Mario Galaxy arguably perfecting 3D platforming, the next entry in the series is sure to be something special. While we’ve been inundated with 2D Mario platformers recently, the 3D Mario series has only had a few entries, meaning that there is only one game available to prepare with, but really, it couldn’t be much better.

Many said it couldn’t be done, that Super Mario was a 2D franchise and would always remain confined to two dimensions. Others laughed at his nose. But then the Nintendo 64 launched with Super Mario 64, and suddenly the move to 3D made sense. To say Super Mario 64 was a success would be underselling it. Not only did it transform the Mario franchise and pave the way for almost every 3D platformer since, but it also sold N64s well into the following year, with the console only launching with a meagre four games.

While some of the design choices seem strange now, Super Mario 64 remains a hugely enjoyable entry in the Mario series, and a great lesson in gaming history for anyone who has yet to experience it. From the sprawling Castle grounds to the green grasses of Bob-omb Battlefield to the soaring heights of the Rainbow Ride, Super Mario 64 is an absolute joy to play, and a true example of Nintendo creating something brilliant out of a well-established franchise.

Mario Kart

Another announcement that Nintendo didn’t really need to confirm, Wii U will be unsurprisingly receiving a new entry in the Mario Kart franchise, which will presumably build on the most recent 3DS and Wii releases. While it’s not a huge surprise the game is coming, there’s no doubt that it’s an exciting thought, and with Miiverse potential for racing communities, there is every chance Mario Kart’s HD debut could be the best yet. But before you go out on the track, there are a couple of excellent predecessors to help put you ahead of the pack on day one.

While Mario had appeared in various cameo roles over the years, the 1992 release of Super Mario Kart for the SNES marked the first of what would ultimately be a regular series of games for the plumber; thanks to its use of the SNES’s Mode 7 technology, it instantly became a hit worldwide, becoming the third best-selling SNES releases of all-time. Laying the foundations for the franchise as a whole, Super Mario Kart’s formula of drifting, shells and themed courses has changed very little over the years, and with coins making a return in Mario Kart 7, there really isn’t a better game to practice on.

But while the racing would go on to become the hallmark of the Mario sports spinoffs, it was the Battle Mode in Super Mario Kart that truly captured the hearts of gamers in the 90s, with many still playing it today. Fun, frantic and often brutal, Super Mario Kart remains a great entry in this long running franchise.

While Super Mario Kart offers the genesis of Mario Kart, those looking for a more modern styled karting game may prefer to turn to Mario Kart 64. Taking the concept of Super Mario Kart and applying a 3D finish to it, coupled with entirely new tracks, Mario Kart 64 solidified the franchise as being one of Nintendo’s biggest sellers. While the coins are gone, the on track action is more frantic than ever, and with Nintendo continuing to bring back classic courses, those than can master the originals should have a head-start when they appear again.


When Yoshi first appeared in Super Mario World in 1990, few would have imagined that he would go on to become one of the most popular characters in the entire Mario franchise, and ultimately take the leading role. While we haven’t seen a new home console Yoshi game since 1997, the new stylised Yarn Yoshi has warmed our hearts with its charming woollen approach to platforming. While it borrows heavily from Kirby’s Epic Yarn in style — which we urge you to play — the gameplay shown in stills looks like it could be similar to the previous Yoshi games, so it might be time to brush up on your fruit eating abilities.

Yoshi’s last home console appearance was way back in 1997 on the N64, in the charming side-scroller Yoshi’s Story. Heavily stylised, Yoshi’s Story features a unique blend of Paper Mario-esque cardboard elements, mixed in with stitched and woven backdrops to create an incredibly vibrant and colourful world for the Yoshi characters to inhabit.

Once again, our intrepid band of dinosaurs are out to stop Baby Bowser, who has turned their world into a pop-up book and stolen the Super Happy Tree. Yoshi’s Story is an incredible charming platformer, which while not particularly challenging, can’t help but put a smile on your face.

The SNES follow-up to the phenomenal Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island removed Mario as the lead hero and placed the reins firmly with Yoshi. Tasked with returning Baby Mario to his parents and saving Baby Luigi, Yoshi sets off across the Mushroom Kingdom in this brilliant 2D platformer; the GBA re-make is available for Ambassadors on 3DS.

Heralded at the time as a worthy sequel to Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island remains – in the eyes of some — as one of the best 2D platformers ever made. Stylised with a vibrant hand-drawn style, the game oozes charm and has been the blueprint for Yoshi games ever since; while it’s sometimes overlooked for not being a typical Mario game, this is certainly a platformer that is worthy of your time.

Fire Emblem

While Fire Emblem maintains a core fanbase in the West, the only exposure most Nintendo fans have had is with Marth, Roy and Ike in the Super Smash Bros franchise. Created by the minds behind Paper Mario, Intelligent Systems, Fire Emblem has seen something of a resurgence lately, thanks largely to its new 3DS game, Fire Emblem: Awakening. The new game for Wii U — a crossover with Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series — is shrouded in mystery, but if ever there was a good time to jump into the Fire Emblem series, it’s now.

Fire Emblem’s success in the West has largely been attributed to the Super Smash Bros. series, and as such very few legacy games have been translated into English; even fewer have been made available on the Virtual Console. So much so that the only way to experience Fire Emblem via download currently is to be the owner of a 3DS Ambassador console, and to download The Sacred Stones for free.

And it’s a download worth making the most of. One of the finest entries in this long-running tactical RPG franchise, The Sacred Stones sees you trying to preserve the peace on the continent of Magvel. Fire Emblem is a series famed for its deep gameplay, and while this may put some off, the effort does pay off. Playing along the same lines as the Advance Wars series, The Sacred Stones sees you moving units around a map, attempting to defeat the opposition; it’s a methodical style of gameplay, but one that once mastered is greatly rewarded.

While this may be the only download at present, Satoru Iwata also revealed that Wii U will be getting GBA Virtual Console support in the near future, which may mean that The Sacred Stones, and the preceding Fire Emblem, could be available in the near future.

There’s every reason to be excited about the next generation of Nintendo titles, but until E3 or the next Nintendo Direct all we can do is imagine what they will be like. With the Virtual Console, however, we can still experience the games that helped to shape these brilliant franchises; with the choice greater than ever, there really is no reason not to play some of Nintendo’s finest ever creations.

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User Comments (41)



cornishlee said:

I'm looking forward to Yarn Yoshi, or whatever it ends up being called, but that's entirely because of Good Feel. They could announce any 2D platformer right now and I'd snap it up. As a Sega player in the nineties I've never played any Yoshi games before (and to be honest, he's just irritated me in the games I have where he appears).



Codyshelby said:

Just picked up Twilight princess yesterday for 12 bucks!

It's been long enough for me to forget how to do everything.

That's one thing I absolutely love about Zelda games. Time heals replayability.

I'm dying to play the new Windwaker. And it's been at least 9 years since I played that, so it's going to be like it's a fresh new experience....especially with the game changing HD.

I think with the revamped graphics, it's going to make it even harder to remember the game....I LOVE IT!



Tasuki said:

Just a reminder that if you are one of those who do not have MK 64 yet on the VC one of the Club Nintendo NA offers this month is MK 64 for only 200 coins. But that deal only lasts till the 10th.



tertium_quid said:

My friend is currently working on playing all of the Zelda games in chronological order. He hopes to time it so that when he reaches Wind Waker, the HD version will be available. (He's currently on OoT. He wants to do one timeline at a time, replaying the ending of OoT each time.)



Jellitoe said:

Scribblenauts, Monster Hunter, Rayman and Blackops till someting Ninty is released. I'll pass on Pikmin



Mahe said:

Lots of bad advice. Half of these "blockbusters" are outdated snorefests, and one is only available to early adopters who've probably downloaded it ages ago. There are a lot of more interesting games that could be recommended, including from the same series - how is Link's Awakening the "craziest" Zelda when Majora's Mask is out there?



Lalivero said:

@Mahe Obviously a matter of personal opinion.

Granted, I would have a different list as well(including some of these, you get the point though), but I'd hardly call these 'outdated snorefests' even then. I'd say that a lot of these are just over-exposed. When brought up on something (retro) that's great to play in the mean time, it's usually the same lot of games over and over again.



SecondServing said:

I'm actually playing Bayonetta 1 on my Xbox while I wait for Bayonetta 2 for Wii U. I recommend to everyone who reads this comment and has a xbox/ps3 plays Bayonetta 1. Make sure your at least 17 though, not for kids.



FullbringIchigo said:

well i have all of those on the various virtual consoles apart from the legend of zelda ocarina of time but i could just play the N64 original or the GameCube version i got with the limited edition of wind waker or the one i got in the zelda collectors disc or the 3DS version (yeah i love Zelda games)



Mahe said:

@Chriiis There are so many other games, that not only mentioning but featuring and highly promoting these games is doing a disservice to the available game selection.



ThomasBW84 said:

I'd just highlight that good reasons are given for choosing OoT and Link's Awakening that tie them, thematically or chronologically, to Wind Waker. Majora's Mask is well loved, of course, but wasn't the best fit for this feature. It's all about context!



hYdeks said:

question: can you use your wii gamepad to play the old virtual console titles or do you need a pro controller, interested in knowing



Rafie said:

@hydeks I think that's why we're waiting for the Wii U VC. So it can be implemented with the gamepad. I could be mistaken though.



ThreeD33 said:

ZELDA. I love it so much it's the best game ever. I've beaten OoT 6 times TP 3 times WW 4 times and so on. I have the collectors edition for GC so that helps. Also whoever said time heals the replayability of Zelda games that is so true. Every time I pick up where I left on any Zelda game and it's been more than three days I have no idea what the hell im doing.



Captain_Balko said:

I think you're misunderstanding the purpose of this entire feature. The games are to whet your appetite for the new Wii U games coming out, and they are all downloadable on Wii or 3DS virtual console. First of all, I certainly wouldn't call any of these games "snore-fests". Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is considered by many to be the greatest game ever made. Link's Awakening GX is fantastic as well, and, as Thomas stated in his comment, it's theme compliments Wind Waker, and lot's of people are looking forward to Wind Waker HD. Although Majora's Mask is an exceptional game, Nintendo Life's Zelda choices were more than adequate. Furthermore, Mario 64 is the game that truly began 3D platforming. Although the graphics haven't aged well, it is a historically signifigant Mario game and is still a lot of fun. I know tons of people who still play Super Mario 64 today, including members of the younger generation who never played it originally. As for the Mario Kart games, while the SNES Mario Kart is a little outdated, it's still worth playing for curiosity sake. And Mario 64 still holds up pretty well, and contains some exceptional course design. As for the Yoshi games, Yoshi's story is both adorable and entertaining, and perfectly fits with the theme of Yarn Yoshi. Yoshi's Island has spectacular style that still holds up very well today, and the platforming is still very good. Last but not least, Fire Emblem: the Sacred Stones is a spectacular game. It is actually the game that got me into the Fire Emblem series, and although I'm still a newbie (I've only beat two Fire Emblem games and am currently going through Awakening) I can safely rank Fire Emblem with some of my favourite Nintendo franchises. The animation in Sacred Stones is superb, and the graphics were shockingly good for GBA, not to mention the excellent story and timeless gameplay.



indienapolis said:

So, with the GBA Fire Emblem (and a handful of other ambassador GBA titles) quasi available for the 3DS, the promise of GBA on the WiiU, and the merger of the handheld and home teams at Nintendo corporate, are we going to finally get cross-platform purchasing? I've been willing to go along with Nintendo's pricing and upgrade plans for the Virtual Console, but c'mon, doesn't this make sense?



MetalKingShield said:

Link's Awakening DX is probably the best thing on the 3DS eShop. I hope they get Oracle of Ages/Seasons on there one day.



Captain_Balko said:

First of all, you completely ignored Fire Emblem. Secondly, Legend of Zelda, Mario, Mario Kart (which is wholly different from Mario platformers), Yoshi, and Fire Emblem were the main NINTENDO series ANNOUNCED AT THIS SPECIFIC NINTENDO DIRECT. There were a whole bunch of other games announced as well. And I'm not sure if you realize that your complaints are pretty unwarranted anyways. 3D Mario platformers and Legend of Zelda games are the most sought after Nintendo games. What else could you possibly want that's so superior to 3D Mario platformers and TWO Legend of Zelda games? (plus a whole bunch of other games from assorted franchises)



ueI said:

I think Ocarina of Time is a poor recommendation because there is a superior version readily available. Then again, not everyone has a 3DS.



itsanandito said:

Nintendo's Miiverse has certainly been making the wait for new AAA titles more bearable. Absolutely love the community and artwork presented.



erv said:

Nintendoland with friends, the occasional demo, black ops online, trine2 co-op, and soon the tri ultimate demo is released and tri ultimate on my wii U after. Only to be followed by titles such as pikmin, wonderful 101, lego city as possible great games.

Nah, I'm good. Keep your retro.



bluecat said:

"If in doubt, go retro"
Well honestly this should be the answer to everything...



biglittlejake said:

There are so many games that are retro. My favorite Ocarina of Time, Majoras Mask, Paper Mario 64, Link to the Past, Super Mario 3, and 2. I think when I had my WIi I played the classic games more than Wii games. I have a Wii U now lets see how long before I go classic again. I wonder how GC games will work or GBA on Eshop. I might have to buy an SD card for my Wii U.

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