Shantae and the Pirate's Curse was a triumph for WayForward and a treat for gamers. Very minor issues aside, this is one of the strongest titles on Nintendo's eShop — Wii U, 3DS, or Switch — although we're partial to the home console versions thanks to the larger canvas of the TV and increased definition for the 2D sprite work (not to mention the incredible character art).
A Pirate's Curse? More like a blessing if you ask us.
At the time, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker seemed like a rare case of a game that felt truly designed — from the ground up — with the Wii U in mind. An expansion of the Toad puzzle stages in Super Mario 3D World, the GamePad was utilised just enough to be worthwhile without being a nuisance, and the only mis-step was that the difficulty later in the game can't be eased by assistance from a friend, parent or game-savvy son or daughter.
Of course, the game got an unlikely 3DS port and Nintendo eventually added full co-op to the game with an update to the Switch version which first released in 2018. Ultimately, Captain Toad's relentless charm and precious nature lost little in its transition to other systems, but the original is still a delightful nugget of 3D puzzle platforming, and the only version of the game that comes on a disc with deliciously curved edges, too. That's gotta count for something!
There are technical cracks in its brickwork, but in combining the familiar constructs of the LEGO video games with an original story — plus huge amounts of humour and a ridiculous number of things to collect or discover — LEGO City: Undercover proves that LEGO titles can be blockbusters without a big licence. This one eventually came to Switch, although we've got a soft spot for the Wii U original version and its GamePad integration.
Coming to a Nintendo system for the first time following the platform holder's involvement funding and publishing the sequel, Platinum Games' Bayonetta was a must-have for action fans and almost required reading for anyone intending to dig into the then-exclusive Wii U follow-up.
In its own right, the first instalment (originally published by Sega) is a cocky, self-assured and bombastic video game which maintains a sense of irreverence and fantastical fun, a great antidote to the legions of self-serious action games around at the time. Wii U owners a taste of the character's fancy, frenetic action (and attitude), and a chance to catch up on lore and backstory before diving into the even-better Bayonetta 2.
The original Wii U Super Mario Maker, with its multiple updates, additions, and tweaks over time, was a game which arguably justified the Wii U GamePad on its own. Enabling you to craft levels in the style of the original game, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and the New series, the elegant user interface and overall polish made this an exceptional Mario experience, one that was tailored perfectly to the second screen of the Wii U GamePad. It was the system's true 'killer app', but it simply arrived too late in the lifecycle to make a difference.
Super Mario Maker 2 might have added slopes and other fun doohickeys on Switch, but the sequel stands on the shoulders of the original, and base course creation experience is arguably still at its most intuitive on the Wii U GamePad. Bafflingly backward, Nintendo-like solutions for online sharing aside, if you've ever enjoyed a 2D Mario game and have a creative, playful spirit, then the original Mario Maker deserves your attention, even if you can't share your creations online anymore.
Yoshi's Woolly World took Mario's noble steed and threw him into the material world of Kirby's Epic Yarn. Developer Good-Feel kept the charm dialled up to eleven and Nintendo released some Yarn Yoahi amiibo to further pluck at your heart (and wallet) strings. Even the most jaded of veteran gamers can't fail to have their cockles warmed by its woolly allure and it still stands as one of the Wii U's elite releases: perfect for snuggled-in gaming time.
Boasting perhaps the most colourful box art ever created, Super Mario 3D World is bursting at the seams with cuteness, creativity and catsuits. While it might lack the unbridled freedom of Mario's other 3D adventures (and it may take quite some time to get comfortable with if you go in expecting that sort of experience), it provides a terrifically enjoyable, tight and impeccably structured adventure. With a focus on bringing fans of the 2D games into the realm of 3D Marios, it recalls the mascot’s 3D heritage while providing the perfect starting point for novices. It's also the only 3D Mario to offer four-player co-op in the vein of the madcap multiplayer of the New Super Mario Bros. series on Wii and Wii U.
Super Mario 3D World is unmissable and prior to its reappearance on Switch, we'd have said it was worth hunting down a Wii U to play. The additional Bowser's Fury content of the newer version — plus various gameplay tweaks and the addition of online and local wireless play — arguably gives the Switch edition the edge in a head-to-head battle. Still, the original Wii U experience remains one of the console's highlights, so why not grab yourself a copy and just sit with it on your lap as you admire the box art and run your forefinger around the curved edge of the disc? The Switch cart doesn't have that, does it? Meow!
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition may not be the definitive version of the game but, aside from some frame rate issues, the incorporation of GamePad controls felt totally natural, and the opportunity to don the Dark Knight's cowl and cape in one of the best Batman games ever was a considerable boon for Wii U owners.
With a relatively lengthy campaign, loads of extra content, and the opportunity to give Batman's gallery of rogues a sound thrashing, this was the Batman game to play on Wii U — a console which boasts no fewer than five flavours of the Caped Crusader (counting the LEGO ones, Arkham Origins, and Blackgate - Deluxe Edition).
Yacht Club Games scored a hit with Shovel Knight across all platforms, Nintendo or not. With brilliant game design, charming presentation that tapped into everyone's 8-bit nostalgia before it was done to death, and a ton of post-release content which added a bewildering amount of new stuff to the base game, this was a wonderful first title from the fledgling developer and proved that Kickstarter successes were indeed possible, if done right.
Rayman Legends is close to 2D platforming perfection and its minor missteps, while noticeable, are easily forgiven. The main story levels clock in at well under 10 hours, but the developers made those hours utterly glorious, and then threw in enough extra content, challenges, remixes and collectibles to conceivably more than double that play time. And the fact is that playing levels again, hunting out those hidden Teensies or chasing gold cups, is not only essential, but completely worthwhile. It's also worthwhile playing extensively in both single and multiplayer, as each option feels distinctly different, shaking up the experience in pleasing ways. The Definitive Edition on Switch is equally lovely.