Monday, November 18, 2013

Top Ten Wii U Retail Games of the System's First Year

Today is Monday, November 18. A year ago on this very same day, Nintendo's Wii U launched here in North America. (It's also the 12-year anniversary of the GameCube, as well, but that's for another day.) To celebrate, we are taking a look back at some of the most engaging, entertaining, and enjoyable Wii U retail titles released from the Wii U's launch to now. Will your favorites be listed? It certainly hasn't been an easy first year for the Wii U, but despite its sales problems, the system has entertained us on many occasions with the following list of games.

10) The Wonderful 101

The criminally underrated first project from Platinum Games on the Wii U, The Wonderful 101 featured a rather steep learning curve to get used to the controls. We think it is something that many reviewers did not take the time to do, which is understandable, as they have many games on their proverbial plate to play. Regardless, for those who stuck with the game, they found an increasingly crazier, action-packed, depth-filled mass hero game that did not take itself seriously whatsoever. Taking on huge GEATHJERK enemies with your 100 heroes, using the GamePad's touch screen and right analog stick to transform your group into different forms, and participating in an ever-escalating campaign were all events The Wonderful 101 presented players with. There's a reason many people who have played the game recommend it as one of the Wii U's best.

9) ZombiU

One of the few games to get us legitimately fearful, ZombiU comes across as just another first-person shooter at first, but shooting isn't as commonplace (or as smart) as you might think. Shooting makes noise. Noise brings zombies. Zombies want to kill you. You want to survive. ZombiU was all about surviving the horror that hit England, requiring players to be resourceful like MacGyver during the zombie apocalypse. (Okay, we don't think that was an episode, but we sort of stopped caring after he quit being a cool action hero who ventured the world.) ZombiU is still one of the few games that make sensational use of the Wii U GamePad, one that lends itself well to the gameplay. Fumbling through your backpack in real time, not knowing if a zombie will come and attack during is one seriously scary proposition for one seriously scary game.

8) Need for Speed: Most Wanted U

The Wii U cannot say it has the definitive version of many games. Whether that is due to the hardware's power or the effort of third-parties is a question that we aren't capable of answering ourselves. Regardless, one of the terrific third-party ports for the Wii U (albeit really late and at full price while the other versions were very cheap) was from EA of all publishers. Criterion, the developer, put a lot of love and effort into Need for Speed: Most Wanted U, and it shows. The game runs well, possesses plenty of Wii U-exclusive features, such as switching between cars, time of day, and traffic conditions via the GamePad screen, and the online is well done, too. For speed demons and connoisseurs of cars alike, Need for Speed: Most Wanted U is worth taking a test drive with.

7) Rayman Legends

The former Wii U exclusive was delayed to release at the same time as the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PlayStation Vita ports. The initial news stung for Wii U owners like us who were dying for something new to play. Regardless, the nine month wait was definitely worth it. The level of creativity and imagination exhibited by Michel Ancel and his team knows no bounds in Rayman Legends, whether it be in the enjoyable musical levels, the best-on-Wii-U Murfy segments, or the Invasion levels. The addition of past haunts from Rayman Origins made for a package that was immensely enjoyable.

6) New Super Mario Bros. U

While Rayman Legends showcased a lot of new ideas and great use of the Wii U GamePad, on a purely design level, New Super Mario Bros. U surpasses it in quality. Everything feels tighter, more polished, and better in multiplayer. Including a Challenge mode and Boost mode added some variety to the game, so that beginners and veterans alike could enjoy the game together. We're certain that if New Super Mario Bros. U had incorporated a better art style as opposed to its plastic toy look and better quality music (see: something new), many would have a higher opinion of this game.

5) Nintendo Land

We were very hesitant to get excited for yet another mini-game collection, but after playing Nintendo Land we feel that the term "mini-game collection" does a disservice to Nintendo's creative package showcasing the many talents of the Wii U GamePad. In fact, each of Nintendo Land's twelve games could be called mega-games, as they have a lot of content. From chasing a Mii decked out in Mario's clothing as a brigade of Toads pursue him in Mario Chase, to oh-so-carefully tilting the GamePad in order to not break the egg laying within the cart in Donkey Kong's Crash Course, there was a lot of content to enjoy either alone or with friends/family. The icing on this enticing cake was the various nods to Nintendo's history via prizes and remixed music.

4) Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Similar to The Wonderful 101 in that this game has a steep learning curve that once conquered, players will be given a highly rewarding experience, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was an updated port of the Wii's vanilla Monster Hunter 3, giving hunters around the world more content in the form of new monsters to take down. The improved high-definition visuals might not be the best on the Wii U (nowhere close actually), but they certainly did not hurt the eyes. The single player story mode was interesting enough, but hopping into an online lobby and battling creatures like Lagiacrus and Rathalos with up to three other buddies or total strangers made for an even more exciting time. With Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, the thrill of the hunt was taken into the HD era.

3) LEGO City Undercover

Beneath its meager difficulty and accessible appearance there lies in LEGO City Undercover one of the most entertaining open world sandbox settings in quite a long time. LEGO City was absolutely loaded with activities to do on every street corner, with new character and vehicle tokens to unlock, sections of the city for each of protagonist Chase McCain's various disguises to take advantage of, and cars to... uh... "borrow." Add all of that to the game's charming characters (Frank Honey, yes?) and humorous story, filled with plenty of references to pop culture, and you have a game that came from out of nowhere to be loved by the entire SuperPhillip Central crew.

2) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

We were going to place The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD as number one on our list today, but we figured we'd give a wholly new game that honor rather than a remake. That said, The Wind Waker HD is one heck of a remake, fixing many issues players had with the GameCube original. Such fixes included adding an unlockable Swift Sail to make sailing less tedious and problematic, as well as retooling the infamous Triforce Quest to make it more enjoyable and less of a hassle. Then there's those visuals, which are some of the most impressive on any platform. The characters display a plethora of emotions, the world is richly detailed, and the entire package could easily be misconstrued for a cartoon. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was a phenomenal game, but this Wii U HD remake makes it even better.

1) Pikmin 3

Nintendo fans had been waiting a long time for the third installment in Shigeru Miyamoto's Pikmin franchise. The end result was most certainly worth waiting for. Pikmin 3 introduced the concept of having three different captains, able to be split up and assigned different tasks for maximum efficiency. Proficient players could divvy up the tasks to play through the game in as few game days as possible. The goal of the game was to have your Pikmin army defeat enemies, solve environmental puzzles, proceed through the various areas of the game, and collect fruit as a team. The addition of Mission Mode and Challenge Mode meant more content for Pikmin 3 players to enjoy, and subsequent DLC has done that, too. Pikmin 3 is a modern masterpiece, and showcases just how much talent Nintendo still possesses.

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