By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
Not since the SNES has a Nintendo platform really been a third-party powerhouse. The GameCube came the closest, with versions of some of that generation’s best multi-platform titles–Beyond Good & Evil, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Resident Evil 4 to name a few–but by and large, if you’ve owned a Nintendo platform post-1995, you got the most out of it by playing first-party games. The Wii U in particular struggled in this area, with some of the weakest third-party support in the company’s history.
However, it wasn’t all bad news. In fact, there are some multi-platform games where the Wii U version is actually the best version of the game to have–besides just Lego games and Disney Infinity. So as the focus shifts to the just-unveiled Nintendo Switch and all talk of the Wii U becomes “looking back” at the console, we thought we’d put a spotlight on one of its least-touted contributions to the gaming world: stand-out multi-platform games.
5 – Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition
The Tekken series spent many years struggling to retain its late-90s glory, when it was at its creative and commercial peak with the one-two punch of Tekken 3 and Tekken Tag Tournament. After a few by-the-numbers sequels, not helped by the overall downturn of the 3D fighting game genre, the series came roaring back with the critically-acclaimed Tekken Tag Tournament 2. It was when the game came to Wii U as a launch title, however, that its definitive version was finally available. In addition to following the longtime trend of multi-platform games on Nintendo platforms of adding Nintendo-themed costumes to that version, TTT2: Wii U Edition also brought back the beloved “Tekken Ball” mode from Tekken 3. In addition, there’s also a fun game mode where characters can pick up Mario-inspired power-ups. To top it all off, all of the DLC characters, outfits, and stages that X360 and PS3 owners had to pay extra for are included right on the disc. Nintendo home console owners had to wait a long time to get some Tekken love, but they were well-rewarded for their patience.
4 – Need for Speed: Most Wanted U
After spending years competing with the Need for Speed franchise through their own excellent racing series Burnout, developer Criterion–shortly after an EA buyout–was tasked with taking over development of their former competition. They started out with a great reboot of the Hot Pursuit offshoot of the series before creating a game that felt like the lovechild of Need for Speed and Burnout, the open-world title Need for Speed: Most Wanted. After the well-received title spent a year burning rubber on PS3, X360, PSP, PC, and mobile, an enhanced version was brought to Wii U. Not only does it include all of the content from the Ultimate Speed Pack DLC of other versions, it brings a few interesting new features to the table. Most notable is the unique co-op mode, where one player racers with a Wii remote or other controller, and another player is on the tablet providing real-time navigational assistance via a map on the tablet screen. Most Wanted U also has exclusive shortcuts within the game world that resemble Mario warp pipes, and when located they unlock one of three exclusive vehicles with Mario, Peach, and Yoshi-inspired designs. Perhaps best of all, the Wii U version of Most Wanted is the best-looking of the bunch, even when compared to the PC version–something that can rarely be said of multiplatform Wii U games.
3 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut
Say what you will about Square-Enix’s treatment of its own properties in the last decade or so (especially the ones that contain the words “final” and “fantasy”), but they’ve definitely handled the Eidos properties they acquired quite well. The Tomb Raider reboot was among the best-reviewed games of the generation, they kept the Hitman series rolling along beautifully, and they did a fine job at reviving the long-dormant Deus Ex franchise with Human Revolution. While the Director’s Cut version didn’t stay a Wii U exclusive as originally planned, shoehorning its tablet-focused features into needing to use a smartphone or tablet on the X360 version or a Vita (if you have one) on the PS3 version just didn’t feel as comfortable or intuitive. The many improvements to director’s cut–better boss battles, incorporating the equipment that was previously relegated to the Missing Link DLC into the main game, and adjustments to the visuals, sound, enemy AI, and energy system, and more–are simply best-enjoyed on the Wii U version due to being able to use its native controller for second-screen functionality in an easy, sensible way.
2 – Shovel Knight
One of the most well-loved games ever to be funded through Kickstarter, Shovel Knight is a love-letter to NES action games–especially DuckTales–from Yacht Club games, which is comprised of former members of retro specialists WayForward. While not the first game released in the 2000s that looks, plays, and sounds exactly like a game from 1990, it is by far the best, taking everything that was great about that era of gaming and adding modern polish and design evolution to make a game that feels more like our rose-colored memories of NES games rather than how they actually were (no offense to NES games or anything). While other versions of Shovel Knight have neat exclusives–God of War‘s Kratos shows up in the PlayStation versions and the Xbox One version featuring the legendary Battletoads–the Wii U port is the only one that has the awesome distinction of a couch co-op mode. Sure, you have to buy the Shovel Knight Amiibo in order to unlock this mode, but given how much comparable DLC would cost anyway–and without a cute toy to put on your shelf included in the price–it’s worth it to get to play the game with a friend. In addition, the Wii U version exclusively features the Dark Souls-inspired “Digger’s Diary” that lets players leave messages in the world for other players to find.
1 – Bayonetta
This one is probably cheating a bit, as its technically a bonus disc in special versions of Bayonetta 2 and isn’t available as a standalone game, but oh well. The fact is, Bayonetta was a good PS3 game, a great 360 game, and an utterly fantastic Wii U game. Bayonetta is action game mastermind Hideki Kamiya at his most unrestrained, taking the over-the-top, stylistic action of Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe way past just its inevitable conclusion and into absurdly awesome territory. Not only are the visuals of the Wii U edition markedly improved over the previous versions, featuring a rock-solid framerate and improved textures and character models, but Bayonetta can unlock costumes modeled after Princess Peach, Samus, and Link (no, that’s not a mistake–she dresses as Link, not Zelda, because why not?). To see Bayonetta in all her ridiculously bootylicious, absurdly sexual glory, doing literal stripper moves to dispatch demonic creatures all while wearing a Princess Peach dress, proves that Nintendo isn’t completely above a) having a little fun with its image, and b) not always being as kid-friendly as they are portrayed to be. Unfortunately, the version of Bayonetta 2 that includes the enhanced Bayo 1 is now out of print and is rather difficult–and expensive–to come by, but if you can find it, it’s the best version of one of the best all-out action games of the last two generations.
What did we miss? Any fans of the Wii U versions of Arkham City or Darksiders II want to take us to task for leaving those out? Or maybe you still can’t believe we copped out and included Bayonetta. No matter what you have to say about the subject, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!