We often see the Wii U as primarily a disappointment and wasted opportunity. And sure, in many ways, it didn’t live up to either its predecessor or its successor for Nintendo. Nonetheless, when we heard that Nintendo is closing its eShop next March, we couldn’t help but reminisce about all the great Wii U RPGs many of us played on the Wii successor.
So, we brought a ton of our staff together to talk about the absolute best RPGs for the system, along with some of the best games available on its Virtual Console. Check out our recommendations below!
Intro by Zach Wilkerson
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
by Peter Triezenberg
I’ve spoken at length about how Twilight Princess was both my first Zelda game as well as my favorite Zelda game, so of course I was ecstatic with the eventual HD release. Twilight Princess HD is a handsome-looking port, bringing the game’s slightly darker vision of Hyrule into high definition with aplomb. The small quality-of-life fixes are welcome, as is the ability to manage your inventory using the Wii U gamepad, and even a Hero Mode difficulty that flips Link’s orientation to match that of the Wii port. Sure, the new content (Miiverse stamps and the anemic Cave of Shadows) isn’t much to write home about, but at least it got us the Wolf Link amiibo, right? If this ever does get ported to the Switch, hopefully there will be something more interesting to replace the Miiverse stamps.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
by Nick Mangiaracina
I wasn’t a big fan of the 3D Legend of Zelda games when The Wind Waker was released in 2002. I was always interested in it because I loved the idea of sailing around and exploring islands in the Legend of Zelda universe. The Wii U’s small library compelled me to purchase this title and I’m glad I did. The cel-shaded art style aged very well, and being brought to a modern platform with a modern resolution makes The Wind Waker HD look great to this day. Likewise, some modern niceties in the HD release make the gameplay more enjoyable. Between faster sailing and the shortening of some longer quest beats, The Wind Waker HD takes an already great Legend of Zelda title and makes it better.
The Wii U itself is also an additional quality-of-life improvement. Like many of its contemporaries, The Wind Waker HD could be played entirely on the Wii U’s tablet. Of course, playing on the TV had the added feature of being able to use the tablet for item switching, your current button layout, and the ability to save. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD would be an excellent addition to the Switch library and does not deserve to be locked on Wii U island.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
by Adam Arter
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the Wii U was one of the pivotal stepping stones in Monster Hunter’s gradual rise in popularity in the West. Whilst not quite as refined or user-friendly as its successors, MH3U does represent a huge step forward for the series as whole, offering the most focused and complete experience of Monster Hunter’s ‘third generation’ of kaiju-slaying action.
It’s a game that’s easy to sink hundreds of hours into for those it manages to ensnare, with a deeply satisfying gameplay loop that carries across a lengthy single player mode in addition to one of the Wii U’s most well-realized multiplayer suites. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate also delivers a pretty compelling lineup of monsters and associated armor and weapon sets to collect, even for the series at large. If you’re looking to see the origin point of modern Monster Hunter, 3 Ultimate is the perfect place to spend a few hours or a few hundred hours.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
by Tyler Trosper and Stephanie Sybydlo
Xenoblade Chronicles X is one of the few but definitive RPG experiences to grace the Wii U, made even more of a rare and shiny gem for its console exclusivity. XCX took the core experience of the first game — exploring a beautiful environment — and evolved it into a planet-sized adventure! Humanity escapes the destruction of Earth to a mysterious planet named Mira. From the get-go, you can explore the whole planet on foot, though at your own peril. The long journey to earn your own giant robot is incredibly satisfying, especially when you finally get the chance to soar through the skies.
The game features a robust online component that, while obtuse in some ways, allows players to complete missions together. Furthermore, each player has their own created character, and you can recruit other players into your party for a limited time. While Xenoblade Chronicles X isn’t perfect, you’d be remiss not to experience the sheer scope of the game. Please, Nintendo and Monolith Soft, please revisit this game, either in a port or a sequel!
PSA: Don’t forget to download the data packs before the Wii U eShop closes for a smoother experience! And if you have the Japanese version of the game, download the DLC characters and mech before they are gone forever! HB alone is worth the price.
Also on Nintendo Switch
Many of Nintendo’s own Wii U titles also came to Switch, either as ports, or, in most cases, upgraded re-releases. While we’re thankful they each live on thanks to their Switch releases, they are notable for debuting on the Wii U.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
by Sam–James Gordon
When a crossover game based on the popular Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem series was announced, I don’t think anyone really expected what we got. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is based around the pop culture of Japan, with the “Sessions” part of its title referring to “studio sessions” of music producers. Indeed, the cast are literally popstars, a divisive move that no doubt alienated fans who were expecting a darker tone.
Although TMS’ less subtle themes may not appeal to everyone, it’s important to remember the game’s country of origin and that cultural differences are not a point for criticism. Personally, I loved the theme, and from a gameplay perspective, it works very well as a Persona-lite. Featuring Mirages (definitely not Personae), Carnages (technobabble for weapons), and a combat system similar to Push Turn mechanics, TMS’s influences from the SMT series are quite clear. The Fire Emblem side is rather more obscure though, appearing mostly with the Weapon Triangle of strengths and weaknesses and a few character cameos.
The Switch port of Tokyo Mirage Sessions is definitely ‘complete,’ but one aspect it can’t replicate from the Wii U original is its implementation of the gamepad. TMS has a “group chat” system, in which the characters frequently communicate, and it feels much more natural on the Wii U gamepad. It’s an unobtrusive way to relay these messages to the player, whereas the Switch loses that efficiency.
Alongside this chat feature, TMS also utilised the gamepad for maps and fast travel, which almost made the second screen feel like an unnecessarily bulky smartphone. Perhaps a novelty feature to lose on the Switch, yet definitely something worth bearing in mind when the Wii U’s eShop closes down and TMS loses its digital availability on that console.
by Wes Iliff
Hyrule Warriors has seen a few iterations, and each one has added more: more characters, more weapons, more maps, and more features. But the original on Wii U is no slouch, and that’s specifically because of what made the Wii U special: the GamePad. See, multiplayer is a given in Warriors games, but Hyrule Warriors did it a bit differently. It offered an asymmetrical co-op experience, allowing one player to play on the TV and a second to play on the gamepad. This means each player gets a full view of the game, as opposed to the usual Warriors split screen. While the framerate struggled at times and the visual fidelity took a hit in this mode, the joy of couch co-op with your own screen is a unique treat that still feels novel today. By most measures, the Switch version of Hyrule Warriors is the most complete package. But playing co-op on the Wii U is still an experience worth having.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
by Peter Triezenberg
It’s easy to forget that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was initially slated to be solely a Wii U title, long before the Nintendo Switch was a known quantity among the gaming public. That’s funny, considering how synonymous the game is with the Switch’s launch! However, Breath of the Wild‘s Wii U version is no less worthy. The game remains a monumental achievement for Nintendo and the Zelda series. It’s the series’ first foray into a truly open world, drawing cues from the design ethos of the original Famicom/NES title and giving Link free reign to explore Hyrule as the player sees fit. Uncovering shrines, solving environmental puzzles, climbing mountains and dodging menacing Guardians remains as compelling as ever on the Wii U. This version makes minimal use of the tablet controller that had been the system’s selling point, but still, it’s a fun novelty that makes this version of Breath of the Wild stand out.