Wii U Menu
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've been chewing over. Today, as the Wii U approaches its tenth anniversary next month, Jim is trying to make amends for missing out on a misunderstood Nintendo console, with your help and ours...

Let me begin with an apology to Nintendo fans everywhere. The title is correct, I never owned a Wii U and for that I am sorry. But, really, can you blame me? [Thin ice, Jim. Thin! Ice! - Ed.]

I wish that I could say that I have always been the type to endlessly support the big N in everything that it does, possessed of an unwavering eye which is able to look past mere aesthetics or technical decisions and see the positives regardless. The fact is, in 2012, that was not me.

Seeing the Wii U wasn't a matter of 'woah, look at all of these cool games', and 'you don't need the TV to play this thing?!' Instead, my thoughts were as follows: 'Hey, that looks like an iPad; wait, it chunky; chunky = bad; I hate it'.

Honestly, I don't feel great about making such an assumption ten years ago, but hey, it was the hazy days of 2012, we live and learn. Except I did not learn. To be clear, I have played some Wii U in the ensuing years. There was a little Wii Sports Club here, a small amount of Super Mario Bros. U there, and there are all the Wii U Switch ports, of course, but to say that I have ever really experienced the console would be a bit of a leap.

Seeing the Wii U...my thoughts were: 'Hey, that looks like an iPad; wait, it chunky; chunky = bad; I hate it'

This year, I am changing that. I have recently got my hands on a Wii U and I am determined to catch up with everything that I have missed over the past decade. Ok, everything might be a stretch; let's settle on some of the things that I have missed out on. This is going to be a range of experiences, covering everything from exploring the home page and making a Mii to playing smash-hit titles for the first time.

My plan is to get to grips with the console and then share my thoughts over the anniversary in some kind of strange retrospective. The problem is, I don't really know where to start. Sure, I could google it and I would probably find some fun things, but what I really want is some advice from people in the know.

Below, a handful of our wonderful writers have shared their Wii U starting tips, covering everything from first-time mechanics to first-time games. If there is any advice that you think is missing from the following list, drop it in the comments below and I will try my best to put it into action!

Alana Hagues, staff writer

Wii U Games
Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

I am admittedly not the biggest pioneer of the Wii U at all, but there are so many things to celebrate about it – and you’re getting one at just the right time!

My obligatory recommendation has to be Xenoblade Chronicles X. Even with Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and 3 on Switch, X still boasts the best open world in any game I’ve ever played. I have to apologise because I’m casually recommending a game that’s 100+ hours, and stuffed full of systems, but it’s pure otherworldly escapism with an incredibly detailed and rewarding world to get lost in and explore.

If you haven’t played it already, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition is a really great way to play one of the best superhero games ever. Putting the map on the GamePad is genius – Zelda: Wind Waker does that too! More games should’ve used the GamePad, so seek out those ones that do! On the flip side, Yoshi’s Woolly World is more of a pure platformer, but it’s also the cutest, softest video game ever. If you can get some cheap amiibo, please do – Yoshi knitted in Samus suit colours is something you have to witness. And you can play it co-op too!

Lastly, I have to send you over to the eShop – not only because it’s shutting down in March 2023, but because there are so many amazing exclusives on there, including a pretty fantastic Virtual Console line-up with Game Boy Advance and DS games, and there are still a lot of games on the service that don’t have rereleases like Mario Golf: Advance Tour and Kuru Kuru Kururin. It’s a retro fan’s dream, and until the NSO gets GBA games, this is a great way to play them.

Ollie Reynolds, staff writer

Wii U
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Interestingly, my memory of the Wii U has become somewhat hazy in recent years. Maybe the console just didn’t leave much of a lasting impression on me, or maybe I’m just getting old; both options are equally viable at this point.

What I will say, though, is that if you’ve not got an original Wii, then you absolutely need to download the Metroid Prime Trilogy from the Wii U eShop. It’s frankly mandatory for any self-respecting Nintendo fan. They’re three of the finest video games ever created — particularly the original — and stand as fine alternatives to the standard 2D Metroid adventures many of us are familiar with. Heck, there’s a reason folks went so nuts when Nintendo announced the existence of Metroid Prime 4!

Aside from that, I’d probably recommend a game that has largely been forgotten about in the Nintendo community: ZombiU. It was released as a launch game for the system, and as such, it made remarkable use of the gamepad controller, requiring you to select key items from the gamepad’s screen while your character remains vulnerable to zombie attacks on the TV. It’s nothing groundbreaking, by any means, but the Wii U functionality combined with the surprisingly unique setting of London and Buckingham Palace makes ZombiU a pretty solid title if you’re after a splash of horror in your gaming collection.

Gavin Lane, editor

Mario Chase
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

I would start off as most Wii U owners did and get exploring Nintendo Land.

It’s an intriguing pick-‘n’-mix of assorted Nintendo treats which was looked down upon largely because it wasn’t Wii Sports and failed to demonstrate the Gamepad’s potential with a simple, succinct pitch. For a piece of launch software, that was a huge mistake on Nintendo's part, but the real shame was how the game itself got lost in the general confusion and apathy that followed. Its patchwork of novelty experiences included plenty of nostalgic nods and glimpses of genuine innovation. Ultimately, local asymmetric gameplay probably requires just a little too much from all the players in attendance unless each and every one is 100% engaged and enthused, but Nintendo Land is filled with unique ideas and moments. Don’t go in expecting Wii Sports, whatever you do, but enlist a willing Player 2 and explore. I remember particularly enjoying the Zelda, DK, and Balloon Fight 'attractions', but there’s all sorts of magic mixed in there.

The other obvious thing to do is get on the eShop and download Affordable Space Adventures pronto. There are a handful of other Wii U exclusives but, for my money, ASA ranks among the best games on the system.

Also, just take a long moment to caress one of those smooth-edged discs. Oof.

Wii U Disc Drive
SmoooooooooooothImage: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Is there anything that we have missed? Head on down to the comments and let us know! Imagine that you are making suggestions to someone that has never touched a Wii U before (this isn't quite the case but it's not a million miles away), what would you tell them to do first? The more specific, the better.

Leave a comment with your first-time Wii U advice and stay tuned to see if we can take it for a spin!