Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful.
And since we've got no place to go,
Let it download, let it download, let it download. (Tsk, must do better, Ed.)
So yeah, we're too much into the festive spirit to really make that opening 'bit' work, but in any case we thought the timing was good for this long overdue list of 'essential' Wii U eShop games. It's not a definitive list, as no list ever is, nor is it a numbered top 30. It's just a list of awesome games that we think you should play, and some are even on generous discounts at the time of writing; you may recall we did a Wii U Retail list not too long ago.
It's part of our celebration of the Wii U's fourth anniversary. With the Nintendo Switch around the corner and the reality of the games industry being what it is, we've also shared some thoughts on what went wrong with the Wii U. Yet at heart we're defenders of the system, and it has many joys that should be experienced and celebrated. Plus, as we write this on Christmas Eve the time for buying disc games has temporarily passed. The weather outside is indeed frightful (at least where this writer lives), and the eShop is never closed or full of panicky and occasionally aggressive last-minute shoppers.
So, here are 30 excellent Wii U eShop games for your consideration. Please note that we've left Bayonetta out as it got a mention in the retail list (it was included with some versions of Bayonetta 2), and because we want to big up 'Nindies' - mostly, there are a few Nintendo games in the list.
WayForward's best-known franchise makes the leap to HD for the first time (outside of re-releases); originally funded on Kickstarter, it's was a long wait for this fourth Shantae game. A chance to introduce Shantae and company to a new audience, this one helps players along a fairly linear path with some limited backtracking, as players get used to hair whipping and transformations brought on by dancing. We were big fans of this in our Shantae: Half-Genie Hero review, and the second and third entries in this franchise are also available on the Wii U eShop.
A title that draws inspiration from numerous classics and that caused a splash on other hardware, Axiom Verge is also on its 'home turf' (in Tom Happ's words) on Wii U. An exploration adventure with some handy usage of the GamePad, it's certainly worth a look, truly oozing with creativity and quality; we considered it to be outstanding in our Axiom Verge review.
A collaboration between KnapNok Games and Nifflas, this Wii U exclusive makes full use of the GamePad for intuitive controls in which you both fly and manage a spaceship's complex systems. Well suited to solo play or co-op for up to three players, this is an immersive and smart experience, with an atmospheric and challenging puzzle adventure on offer. We gave this a strong recommendation in our Affordable Space Adventures review.
A colourful and chaotic action platformer that features cameos of various 'Nindie' characters, this includes varied solo options and multiplayer modes for up to nine players; in addition DLC adds plenty of extra value. Its different styles incorporate frantic platforming and combat, all supported by excellent presentation; we were effusive with praise in our original Runbow review.
Both this and SteamWorld Dig are well worth your time (with the older title currently available extremely cheaply on Wii U and 3DS), so we've opted for the most recent Image & Form release. This delivers a unique 2D skill-based turn-based experience, all with awesome looking steambots and plenty of humour. The Wii U version looks gorgeous and has a wider field of view than on 3DS - we enjoyed this version a lot in our SteamWorld Heist review.
The title takes inspiration from Mitchell Corp's classic bubble-popping title Pang; with Game Boy-style visuals and an excellent chiptune soundtrack, it certainly looks the part. The gameplay involves popping bubbles and blasting enemies, but at certain points the gravity changes, placing you on the sides of the screen or even upside down on the ceiling. We loved this in our Pirate Pop Plus review; also of note it's in the eShop Christmas sales, and one purchase also gets you the New 3DS version for free as part of cross-buy.
A title previously released on Vita, it offers a twist on first-person dungeon crawling with touchscreen-based combat. You swipe at enemy limbs and weakspots with the stylus, and outside of combat there's character customisation to consider. It's another delightful title from Drinkbox Studios, as we explain in our SEVERED review.
A well-regarded title that we were pleased to see make its way to the eShop, it adopts an overhead view as you battle to prove yourself to the Gods. It has eye-catching visuals and is steeped in Norse mythology, and thankfully delivers on its potential; we were full of praise for this in our Jotun: Valhalla Edition review.
This is tough to resist, as it combines two of the finest 3DS eShop titles in one HD package; with tight platforming and shooting, along with greater variety in the second game, there's a lot to like about these titles. We gave this a glowing recommendation in our Gunman Clive HD Collection review.
An action puzzle game that has made a big splash, aiming to reinvent the match-3 genre while including plenty of content; there's a story mode, local and online multiplayer, an Arcade mode and 'quests', as examples. We described this as a 'block party' while giving it a hearty recommendation in our Tumblestone review.
Futuristic sci-fi racing games have become a rare entity on Nintendo hardware, and so the launch hype around this racer was certainly understandable. A follow-up to FAST - Racing League on WiiWare, this makes various changes to the gameplay and has lovely 60fps performance with flashy visuals. We gave this a glowing recommendation in our FAST Racing NEO review, and the NEO Future DLC is also a bit of a treat.
An intense and chaotic multiplayer title, the Wii U version includes an exclusive 5 player mode. This mode, titled "Blastopus", involves players fighting against each other, and adds a fifth player to the action with the assistance of the Wii U GamePad. We found this to be a delight in our STARWHAL review, and it's ideal for some festive couch-based battling.
The announcement that this series sequel was initially a Wii U exclusive (it eventually came to other systems too) certainly surprised those that had played the original on non-Nintendo systems, though Curve Digital has a history of working on Nintendo platforms. This tough platformer combines Metroidvania-style exploration with challenging Test Chambers, with various items and power-ups to control; check out our Stealth Inc 2 review to find out more.
Oh, you didn't think we'd forget this one, did you? Of course not, it's one of the true Indie gems of recent times; Yacht Club Games made a big splash with this retro-styled action platform, and DLC (including some eShop exclusives and amiibo support) makes it extra special on Wii U. With the extras that have been added (with more to come) there's a lot of gorgeous gameplay in one purchase - we rather liked it in our Shovel Knight review.
Guacamelee! STCE not only has a humorous name, but more importantly it's a Metroidvania action-platformer set in a fantastical world inspired by traditional Mexican culture and folklore; it features melee combat, parallel dimensions and same-screen co-op. This new Super Turbo Championship Edition also includes extra abilities, more level content and enhanced graphics compared to the original version. It also has chickens. We loved it in our Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition review.
Click through to page two for another 15 must-play Wii U eShop games.