Hidden Gems for the Nintendo Wii U

The Wii U was meant to do a lot of things for Japanese video game giant Nintendo. The console, which followed the immensely popular Nintendo Wii, would bring beloved Nintendo characters into the world of high definition. A novel new controller, the GamePad, would use a built-in touchscreen and off-TV play to provide completely new gaming experiences to players. And backward compatibility would harness the volume of the Wii's library while the Wii U built up a solid collection of new titles.

That was the hope, anyway. The reality? The Nintendo Wii U was a dud.

The system's branding confused consumers. Nintendo's first-party games were few and far between. Third-party support was almost nonexistent. Virtual console classics trickled out like molasses. And sales were simply dreadful. The original Wii sold like gangbusters, moving over 100 million units during its lifespan. The Nintendo Wii U barely crossed the 13 million mark. To put things into perspective: Nintendo's newest console, the Switch, outsold the Wii U before ever reaching its first birthday. Wii U sales were that bad.

Now, please understand: there's definitely fun to be had on the Wii U. There are a host of outstanding titles for the platform, including your Marios and Zeldas. And there are a bunch of little-known gems that didn't get a whole lot of attention but still made the Wii U worth owning. We've put together a list of these hidden treasures below, and we encourage you to check them out if you get the chance.

Fast Racing Neo

For some reason, Nintendo just flat-out refuses to make a new F-Zero game, even though fans are clamoring for it. Nintendo knows there's still love for the franchise — otherwise it wouldn't be including Captain Falcon in the Super Smash Bros. series. But Nintendo's apparent interest in a new F-Zero title, which would be the first since 2004, is zero. Which is why you should give Fast Racing Neo a serious look.

Fast Racing Neo is a futuristic racer from a relatively unknown developer: Shin'en Multimedia, which is not known at all for titles like Pet Alien: An Intergalactic Puzzlepalooza and Art of Balance. But the studio found success with FRN, aping the style of the F-Zero series to create a racing title with hyper-fast vehicles and tracks that disregard gravity. Critics enjoyed the game, citing its controls, track design, and sense of speed. As a result, a sequel called Fast Racing RMX found its way to the Nintendo Switch at that console's launch in March 2017.

Devil's Third

Nintendo consoles, save for some Rare exceptions (GoldenEye joke!), aren't known for violent titles, which made the launch of Devil's Third especially intriguing. The game itself aimed to combine the hack-and-slash genre with aspects of first person shooters. The developer behind the game, Valhalla Game Studios, was comprised of former Tecmo team members who'd worked on the Ninja Gaiden franchise. And after a lengthy development period that saw a deal with Microsoft fall apart, Devil's Third was slated to become a Wii U exclusive at a time when the console desperately needed one.

So was Devil's Third worth the wait? Was it the guardian angel the Wii U was hoping for? Not quite. Reviewers in the west almost overwhelmingly scored the game poorly, and it's rumored that Devil's Third only sold around 3,000 copies in the first month following its release; a dismal figure. But critics in Japan felt quite differently about the title, and a cult following took hold and began to sing the game's praises. To its haters, Devil's Third is uninspired and boring. To its fans, it's a game full of smooth combat and fun multiplayer experiences. The game may be an acquired taste: one you ultimately have to try for yourself.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Nintendo and Atlus go way back. Atlus made games for the original NES, and every single Nintendo console has enjoyed pretty substantial support from the developer. But as we've already discussed, the Wii U was no ordinary console. Atlus only made two titles for the platform, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, an RPG based on the universes of both Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, was one of them.

What makes Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE worth of a spot on this list, you ask? It's a game that didn't receive a whole lot of attention from the gaming press. It released in mid-2016 amid swirling rumors of Nintendo's next console (the Switch), and deep into the generation for consoles released after the Wii U (the Xbox One and PlayStation 4). And it's too bad: Tokyo was well received across the board, with reviewers enjoying the game's story, its combat systems, and its art style. It just had the unfortunate luck of dropping for a console that didn't have much enthusiasm surrounding it and was already on its way out.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Toad is best known as a side-character in the Mario universe: a mushroom-headed, usually helpless friend who is either providing the hero with power-ups, or is delivering bad news like, "Our princess is in another castle!" However, Toad got to play a slightly different role in 2013's Super Mario 3D World for the Nintendo 3DS. He appeared in several puzzle side missions, and in 2014's Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, the gameplay base was taken from those side missions and expanded into a whole new title starring Toad and his lady friend, Toadette.

The premise of Captain Toad is simple: Toad navigates through a landscape, avoiding obstacles and enemies to reach a gold star and end his mission. What would otherwise be platforming in a traditional Mario title is replaced with puzzle solving: Toad can't jump, so he must use whatever items are at his disposal to progress forward and finish the level. And critics were, for the most part, pleased with the title and felt it offered a fun experience for its $39.99 launch price. Ultimately, the game's release date might have played a factor in why it slipped into obscurity. Captain Toad dropped in early December 2014, following a fall release schedule that included Destiny, next-gen versions of Grand Theft Auto V, and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

Lego City Undercover

Way back in 2010, developer Travellers' Tales Games, which had previously worked on mobile and handheld ports of numerous Lego titles, expressed the desire to make a console Lego game using the Lego City license. As it so happens, Nintendo at the time was hard at work on what would become the Wii U. The two met in 2011 and struck a deal on Lego City Undercover, a game with a completely original Lego story and all the platforming and puzzling you'd expect in a Lego title.

Reviewers fell in love with the game's humor and its more family-friendly take on a Grand Theft Auto-type world, but slow sales of the Wii U meant it wasn't going to get quite the attention it could have on other consoles. This is likely why a remastered version of the game found its way to four other platforms — the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows — in 2017.

The Wonderful 101

Developer PlatinumGames is known for a number of successful action titles, including BayonettaMetal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and more recently, Nier: Automata. A game the studio worked on that isn't as well-known, however, is one no Wii U owner should go without playing: The Wonderful 101, released in fall 2013.

The Wonderful 101 puts a unique spin on the action-adventure genre. Instead of controlling one hero as you progress through the game's story, you instead control 101 heroes, capable of joining together to create a "Unite Morph" mega-weapon. This weapon is drawn, quite literally, on the Wii U GamePad's touchscreen, and can take any number of different forms, including a fist, a whip, and a gun. And that's not the only implementation of the GamePad: gyro controls also make an appearance in certain camera-control situations, giving Wii U owners a game that plays to the console's strengths rather than one that foregoes them entirely.

Reviews of The Wonderful 101 were pretty good across the board. Most critics enjoyed the game's bizarre story and its use of the Wii U GamePad. Others felt the difficulty level asked a bit much from players. One thing is for certain: The Wonderful 101 is one of the best games available for the Wii U and should be treated as such.

Game & Wario

You'll find no shortage of Wario fans on the Internet: those who've loved the hilarious Mario villain ever since his introduction back in 1992's Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. His WarioWare series is incredibly popular, and in the Mario Kart series, Wario has no problem telling you he's "Number One."

Why Game & Wario flew under the radar of so many gamers, then, is anyone's guess. The title looked to capitalize on the following of WarioWare with mini games designed for the Wii U GamePad's touchscreen, and featured 16 different game types in total. Perhaps the game's mixed reception has something to do with the way it's remembered. Some enjoyed every game in the collection, while others knocked the release and found only a few of the experiences entertaining. Or perhaps the game's summer 2013 release date hindered it in some way. Regardless, we still feel this title deserves a spot on our list of hidden Wii U gems.

Affordable Space Adventures

Non-retail games have an uphill battle when it comes to getting in front of both tastemakers and everyday gamers, and this problem is compounded if the game releases digitally for an unpopular console. That's the story behind Affordable Space Adventures, a space-based puzzle adventure title dropped into the Wii U's eShop in April 2015 to rave reviews but little fanfare from Wii U owners.

To be frank, it's amazing Affordable Space Adventures received even a small bit of attention from critics, as it could have just as easily slipped through the cracks. But a "Best of PAX East 2015" award put in on the radar for some, and those who covered the game post-launch enjoyed Affordable's Wii U GamePad integration and its immersive gameplay mechanics. But the unfortunate truth is, due to the Wii U's dire situation at the time of the game's release, as well as the limitations of being a digital-only title, Affordable Space Adventures didn't get the amount of attention it could have otherwise. Perhaps we'll see a Nintendo Switch port of the title in the future, but until then, it remains trapped on Nintendo's previous console.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

When Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed released as a Wii U launch title in November 2012, there was one major knock on it: it wasn't Mario Kart. The Nintendo audience was starved for more Kart fun, having not seen a new Mario Kart game since the Wii's iteration on the franchise in April 2008. For that reason alone, many chose to skip out on Sonic's take. And they missed a darn good racer as a result.

Sonic & All-Stars actually brought a bit more to the table than some of the previous Mario Kart games had. Players could control one of over 20 popular Sega characters while racing with one of three different vehicle types: cars, boats, or planes. In addition, Sonic & All-Stars showed off a bit more imagination in its weapon selection, tossing out everything from rockets to bee swarms to snowballs. And critics ate it up, dishing on the game's original take on the genre as well as its "cherry-picked" features from the best kart racers. In a world where Mario Kart doesn't exist, this game would have hordes of fans.

Nintendo Land

The games bundled with a console at launch are typically afterthoughts, but Nintendo has managed to nail them pretty consistently. Super Mario World, a bona fide classic, came with the purchase of a Super Nintendo. Wii Sports, paired with the Wii at launch, sold motion control gaming to the masses.

Despite the above examples, Nintendo Land on the Wii U didn't get near as much love as it deserved, though it launched with the console and packed quite a bit of fun into its totally free package. Anyone who's tackled a friend in the Mario Chase mini game or frantically gathered candies in Animal Crossing: Sweet Day will tell you the asymmetric gameplay experiences found in Nintendo Land are a blast. And critics agreed, giving the title props for showing off the Wii U's potential.

But Nintendo Land isn't looked on as a pivotal experience to the Wii U — not in the way Wii Sports is to the Wii. The truth is, while Nintendo Land was technically a pack-in game at the Wii U's debut, it only showed up in the console's more expensive Deluxe package, which came in at a price $50 higher than the base model. And even then, Nintendo Land didn't hold that spot very long. In less than a year, it was replaced in the Deluxe edition by both New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U. Not enough gamers got to enjoy this title, and that's a shame.

Elliot Quest

Elliot, the namesake of Elliot Quest, is a talented fellow. He can platform like Mario. He can shoot like Pit from Kid Icarus. And he can obtain new powers and use them to enter new areas like Samus in Metroid. He stars in a game that mixes bits and pieces of all these classics, and somehow, his title still didn't garner the number of eyeballs it probably deserved.

There are a few reasons why this action-adventure-platformer isn't all that well known among gamers. Before it reached a single console, it debuted on Windows in 2014, which is already crowded with plenty of other retro-style games. And then it followed that release with a 2015 launch on the Wii U's eShop, a shovelware-filled storefront on a fading console. Reviewers who managed to find Elliot Quest loved it, praising its story and the way it paid homage to its inspirations. And now even more people will be able to play it: the game has since landed on the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.