It’s been two months since Nintendo launched their new home console, the Switch, which has been met with a waterfall of positive reception and almost instant sellouts whenever a store gets it in stock. It’s helped Mario Kart 8 Deluxe become bigger than it ever was on the Wii U, and social media feeds are still packed with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild commentary. And in the ominous shadow of all this success a new trend echoes across the internet: “This makes up for the failure of Wii U.”
The Wii U has made its home in the negative light. The launch titles for the Wii U weren’t as groundbreaking as Breath of the Wild, but launching a console with any Legend of Zelda title blasts any numbers off the charts and up into space. Not hitting with a big Zelda or Mario game didn’t make the Wii U a failure, and the system had a number of amazing titles. The hardware was a welcome upgrade from its predecessors. And we all survived the Wii and its eventually shoddy motion controls, so give the Wii U a break.
Like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I’m here to remind you of all the good things we got out of the Wii U, starting with one major change.
When the Wii U was released on November 18, 2012, it was the first Nintendo console to support HD graphics. Sony and Microsoft had already made the leap into HD gaming when the Wii was released in 2006, which made the Wii’s immediately look old. The Wii U was the first time we got to see Mario, Link and friends in HD, and while late in the game, that’s worth noting.
At a time when Dance Dance Revolution still ruled arcades, it made sense that Nintendo would want to get its players moving when designing the Wii. The concept behind the motion controls looked great on paper-and one of the few games that made it work well, Wii Sports, created a legitimate mainstream phenomenon—but the controls were clunky at best. They worked okay for some minigame collections, including the fine sequel Wii Sports Resort, but when it came to games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link attacked by baton-spinning his sword into opponents. Mario Kart Wii would ram Yoshi off the Rainbow Road. The motion controls were a barrier between the player and the game, and thankfully Nintendo threw all of this out the window for the Wii U.
Motion controls were replaced with a gamepad which included a touch screen and a stylus. The Wii U had become a giant DS. This allowed for some innovative in-game opportunities such as creating blocks to help players get over large gaps in New Super Mario Bros. Wii U by tapping the touch screen. It also made local multiplayer easier on the eyes, splitting two views between the TV and the gamepad. (Those Goldeneye days are long in the past). Most importantly, if a TV was unavailable, the player could turn on the Wii U and play it via the Gamepad.
Long overdue, Nintendo finally suited up in their best armor and ventured out into the world of DLC by bringing it to the Wii U. Remember how the world nearly collapsed in on itself, screaming with excitement when Bayonetta, Ryu and Cloud Strife were announced as a playable DLC characters for Super Smash Bros. Wii U? We also got 16 additional DLC tracks for Mario Kart 8, including a stage paved right through Hyrule, accompanied by Link on a motorcycle (I’m still bummed they didn’t name the bike “Epona”). DLC was a welcome change for our Nintendo consoles.
There was nothing more painstaking than entering a number as long as a credit card’s into the Wii and the 3DS to link up with your friends. The Wii U did away with all of this and allowed players to use multiple profiles that they could use to create different Miis and remember themselves in a variety of ways.
Nintendo brought their Miis to the next level by integrating their own in-game social networking service which allowed players to communicate with other players in-game. This was great when stuck on a level—other players Miis saved you the time from having to strenuously pick up your phone and use Google for the solution by leaving you notes and doodles on the game itself, hinting on tips for the level. This sure was a great function when it came down to beating the physic bending levels other players created in Mario Maker that made you want to tear out every hair on your head.
Nintendo gave us some of their best games in over a decade on the Wii U. Super Smash Bros. Wii U saved the franchise from the broken game that was Brawl. Mario Maker gave us the tools to create our own Mario videogames. Splatoon reigned over online multiplayer with a massive game of paintball. Super Mario 3D Land reunited Mario, Luigi, Toad and Peach as a playable team since the NES. Mario Kart 8 took us to gravity defying tracks. Hyrule Warriors transported us into the battlefield and we could finally play as Zelda herself. And those titles are just scratching the surface.
The Wii U did not have a strong launch of game titles, but Nintendo always takes its time perfecting its games and hardware before a release. What we always get for our patience is a line-up of solid games. The Wii U did good by us, and we shouldn’t forget that in the shadow of the Switch.
Ryan Pagella is a freelance writer, photographer and videographer living in New England. He specializes in all things retro and mutant related. To see more of his work, follow him on Twitter @ryanpagella.