Did somebody special give you a new videogame system for the holidays? If so, you might be wondering what exactly you should do with it. Well, I mean, you play games on it. That should be obvious. But what games? What’s the first step you should take into the world of the PlayStation 4, or the first doodad you should doodle on the Wii U’s tablet? Over the next few days Paste will look at what games you should play first on all the latest systems, from last year’s PlayStation Vita and Wii U to the brand new Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Today we start with the Nintendo Wii U, the tablet-sporting, high def follow-up to the Wii. The Wii U might be struggling at the marketplace, but it still boasts a number of great games that can’t be played on any other console. We’ll skip the games that can be played on every system, so that means no Rayman Legends or Mass Effect 3 or Assassin’s Creed IV will make the cut. (Rest assured: If you haven’t played those games, they’re all worth tracking down.) So what we have below are the best Wii U games that can’t be played on any other current console.
Some Mario hardliners give the New Super Mario Bros. series a firm thumb’s down. New Super Mario Bros. U felt a bit underwhelming when it came out last year, just a few months after New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS. Its virtues have blossomed in time—nobody will mistake it for a true first-rate Mario adventure, but the level design is inventive enough and the aesthetic and core mechanics remain delightful. If you like classic side-scrolling Mario games, though, and dig the simultaneous multiplayer action introduced by New Super Mario Bros. Wii, New Super Mario Bros. U is a must-own for the Wii U.—Garrett Martin
This Grand Theft Auto-style open-world adventure takes place in an urban Legoland. It replaces the caustic nihilism of GTA with the sly sense of humor and pop-culture savvy the Lego games are known for, parodying dozens of cop shows and hard-boiled crime movies. It’s probably the first Nintendo game to feature unofficial cameos from Columbo and Starsky and Hutch. The play is a little repetitive, but the writing and voice-acting are superb, and extreme charm compensates for the few rough patches.—Garrett Martin
It seems that with The Wonderful 101, Platinum Games set out to create the perfect eulogy for Clover Studio—a game that would satisfy nostalgic fans, and hopefully shut them up in the process so Platinum could move on. And in that regard, it succeeds spectacularly. The Wonderful 101 plays off of super sentai shows like Ultraman and Power Rangers, featuring a team of 100 superheroes from across the globe who are sworn to protect Earth from the evil GEATHJERK. Glimpses of Viewtiful Joe and God Hand show through in the visual style and tongue in cheek humor, and combat is deceptively complex, and only grows more layers as the game goes on. It’s a love letter to fans who fondly remember Clover Studio, but it also expresses another equally heartfelt sentiment to those fans: a plea for fans to let Platinum Games create new experiences unshackled to the weight of the past.—Scott Nichols
You might not think Little Inferno is a game. You might not like that it makes fun of you for playing games. And since Tomorrow Corporation’s odd metagame was eventually rereleased on PC and mobile devices, you might have played Little Inferno before you ever even owned a Wii U. This small slice of satire packs a surprising emotional wallop that elevates it past mere mockery.—Garrett Martin
Like Wii Sports the goal of Nintendo Land is to introduce players to the new controller at the heart of the Wii U, namely the GamePad tablet. Its twelve minigames don’t all succeed, but the best ones reveal real-world applications for an unusual controller that could easily feel unwieldy.—Garrett Martin
Zombi U is an especially difficult zombie game that integrally incorporates the GamePad into its action. It’s an intense, brutal affair where you will inevitably inhabit a string of different characters. When you die you start over as a new character, and have to hunt down and kill your now-zombified previous character in order to regain whatever possession you had when you died. It’s the most “mature” Wii U exclusive, probably the Wii U game that would most appeal to the so-called “hardcore” audience, and one of the few third-party Wii U games that makes full use of the tablet.—Garrett Martin
I cried the first time a Pikmin died. I can handle the loss, though. I can take the sadness because it happens in such a bright and lovingly realized world, with its lush fields and its colorful creatures and these weird little plant-animals known as Pikmin. Part of knowing these adorable little critters that regularly give their lives to help me out is knowing how to say goodbye to them. Maddy Myers called Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us “Dad simulators”. Pikmin 3 isn’t just a strategy game but a pet simulator, with all the joy and pain that comes with owning a real pet.—Garrett Martin
The legendary RPG hasn’t been legally available in America since its original Super Nintendo release in 1995. This smart satire of Japanese RPGs and American culture is unusually smart for its era and uncommonly playful for its genre, mocking RPG conventions while paying tongue-in-cheek homage to the American image broadcast to the world through popular culture. It might feel archaic to younger players, but if you can handle the outdated mechanics you’ll experience a fantastically clever game. And it’s much cheaper to play it on the Wii U than to scrounge up an SNES and pay the exorbitant eBay prices for an original cartridge.—Garrett Martin
The cat suit might be the most visible addition to Super Mario 3D World, but it’s not the only twist on an old idea. Super Mario 3D World doles out inventive new wrinkles throughout the course of the game, regularly surprising you with familiar but subtly changed mechanics. It isn’t content to aimlessly rehash Mario’s past—it approaches that history with reverence but also inspiration, spinning new threads out of old cloth.—Garrett Martin
The best Zelda is more beautiful than ever in HD. Wind Waker’s timeless art style embellishes a classic combo of open-ended exploration on the high seas and deadly adventures in some of the series’ best designed dungeons. It’s the best version yet of one of the greatest games of all time.—Garrett Martin