Stranded on Wii U: The games worth keeping before the eShop shuts down

The Wii U’s online services are on their last legs. On March 27, Nintendo will close the eShop for Wii U consoles, making it impossible to purchase games and download demos, although your existing purchases will still be accessible…for now. That’s a real shame, because the Wii U is home to top-shelf software, including first-party, groundbreaking titles that never made it to Switch or rely heavily on the Wii U’s new controller.

So before it’s too late, we’re highlighting some of the most technically advanced Wii U titles worth picking up before closing – including some that are significantly cheaper digitally. In addition to some major first-party releases, there are some great games from smaller studios that at least deserve to be remembered for what they did with the Wii U hardware.

The obvious place to start here is the two Zelda remasters for Wii U – Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD. These are both essentially replayed GameCube titles, modernizations that add new textures and effects but leave the original visual designs largely intact. Wind Waker HD is definitely the most successful of these efforts, with new textures, a redesigned UI, gameplay tweaks, and reworked lighting with blooms, real-time shadow maps, and environmental occlusion. Even with the original geometric meshes in place, the game holds up brilliantly at 1080p. There are also some issues – there can be noticeable aliasing in ambient occlusion and shadow maps, and the cartoon styles of the original models are somewhat lost in indirect lighting, but it’s still a great looking game.

While words can paint a picture, the video review gives a better impression of these Wii U games in action.

Twilight Princess HD might be a little shy in comparison, with the main visual changes largely limited to texture resolution increases and a UI rework, but there are tweaks to the background scenery, shadows, and lighting too. We’re back at 1080p here, with usable image quality, but the more realistic style of the visuals means the limitations of the original geometry and lighting are more apparent than in Wind Waker.

I’d still say that both HD versions are the best way to play these games right now – and the Wii U eShop is the best way to buy them, as they’re significantly cheaper on the eShop than they are in physical form. Twilight Princess HD is extremely pricey, costing over $100 even for a used one. Once the eShop is closed, these games will become unaffordable for many players.

For fans of 2D platformers, Yoshi’s Wooly World and Kirby: Rainbow Curse are two of the genre’s top picks on Wii U. Wooly World is an absolute joy to play, an effortless little platformer that feels fantastic to control. It presents a stylized world made of wool from a fixed 2D perspective, and despite relatively basic visual techniques – solid blocks of yarn seem to be rendered with fairly simple textures, with fabric fringes treated with alpha textures – the look and feel of the game is really nice. Sure, Yoshi’s Crafted World in 2019 takes the concept to the next level, but Wooly World is worth experiencing in its own right. Picture quality here isn’t great, at 720p without AA, but the action is smooth at an almost locked-in 60fps. This is one of my favorite Wii U titles and is also relatively cheap on the eShop. There’s technically a 3DS version of this game too, but the severe graphical cuts make the Wii U release superior.



Yoshi’s Wooly World and Kirby: Rainbow Curse are two beautiful, colorful games with unique art styles.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a sequel to Kirby: Canvas Curse on the DS from 2006, but with a much more immersive visual style as the whole game mimics the look of modeling clay – with careful material work and intricate shadows. The game’s animation has a sort of stop-motion style, which seems to have been achieved largely by swapping models in and out for general background animation. The title also takes full advantage of the Wii U hardware, with stylus-based gameplay taking place entirely on the Wii U GamePad itself. The game runs at 720p 60fps with some form of post-process anti-aliasing. Rainbow Curse is one of the best looking Wii U exclusive titles, and one worth picking up.

We’ve covered games in pairs so far, but Xenoblade Chronicles X stands alone as a massive open-world adventure that really packs a punch on the hardware. The sense of scale is stunning, with large enemies, trees and shadows even appearing in the distance. Under directly lit conditions, the game usually looks excellent, and cities impress with dense, high-quality artwork and plenty of civilian NPCs. Again, there are limitations here: smaller objects can appear close to the player, human characters can have weirdly exaggerated proportions for their otherwise realistic faces, and the player party can walk through many in-game objects, including NPCs. Still, for a 720p30 title with post-process AA, this is easily one of the best looking Wii U titles in the open world.

While some of the games we’ve covered so far have appeared on other platforms, other titles just wouldn’t work anywhere else thanks to their unique use of the Wii U hardware – and some are true Wii U eShop exclusives that are impossible to get. are. acquire legitimately after March 27. (There are actually over 100 games that are exclusive to both the eShop and Wii U, though few are of particularly high quality.)



Xenoblade Cronicles X is a surprisingly epic game for Wii U, with a mix of wide open areas and detailed city environments.

One of the most ambitious is Affordable Space Adventures, where you pilot a small spacecraft through alien worlds, solving puzzles and overcoming various obstacles. The touchscreen interface allows players to manipulate the spacecraft’s systems in real time and also serves as the ship’s control panel, complete with readouts for fuel, heat, electricity, and system status. The GamePad integration here is really impressive – it’s hard to imagine the game without it. Still, it’s one of the few games that has really taken advantage of the Wii U’s unique functionality and achieved something special.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is another eShop exclusive title that requires heavy use of the GamePad. Gameplay revolves around using the Wii U GamePad as an in-game camera aimed using the controller’s gyroscope. The game has since been ported to other platforms, though it really feels like it was designed specifically for using the GamePad. Some multiplatform titles also had effective GamePad integration – Batman: Arkham City and Deus Ex: Human Revolution both featured stylized GamePad implementations that move menus and various minigames to the touchscreen to good effect. These aren’t game-changing additions and the games are easily accessible elsewhere, but they do add an interesting element to the experience on Wii U.

Finally, it is worth quickly mentioning the Wii U games produced by Shin’en Multimedia, a highly skilled Nintendo-focused developer. Two of their Wii U efforts – Nano Assault Neo and Art of Balance – are readily available in similar form on other systems, though both impress here too.

Fast Racing Neo is the main release here, a high-octane racer with physically based materials, environmental occlusion, and a new temporal upsampling technique that appears to build a 1280 x 720 image from a base 640 x 720 resolution. handful of framerate drops, it also holds a smooth 60fps, a must-have given the blistering racing speeds. It is one of the technically impressive Wii U titles ever published, despite being only 829MB after installation. The caveat here is that while the game is technically a Wii U exclusive, an extended version called Fast RMX has been released as a launch title for the Switch – with improved lighting, better weather effects, higher quality UI elements and a good 1080p docked / 720p portable presentation with DRS. Content-wise, it includes all of Neo’s tracks and also adds six new courses. I tend to prefer the simpler controls of the Wii U release, but both games are definitely worth experiencing.

Fast Racing Neo is technically a Wii U eShop exclusive, but the Switch title Fast RMX brings much of the same content to the next generation.

So these are some of the most technically impressive Wii U titles out there – but how do you actually download them onto a Wii U account? If you own a Switch and link your Switch and Wii U Nintendo accounts, you can add money on Switch and access it on Wii U. This money will remain available on Switch, so it shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t spend what you bought. add.

It’s just a shame that the eShop itself is essentially shutting down. The launch of the Wii U was barely over 10 years ago and the console feels fairly modern, with built-in HDMI and new game streaming capabilities. There are tons of games on the service that are worth picking up online, especially with the rapidly rising prices of some titles in the secondary market. This is also a problem for the 3DS, whose eShop will also close on the 27th.

The preservation of the Wii U in general has hit some troubling marks in recent weeks, with a number of reports of consoles failing. At the moment, this appears to be isolated by problems with the built-in eMMC-based system storage in early production units, although it’s hard to say for sure. Preservation is also hampered by the relatively low number of units sold for the system, along with the fragility of some key components such as GamePad. Keeping Wii U systems fully functional feels like a more difficult prospect than other machines of the era, which is concerning as systems begin to fade.

While the Wii U didn’t exactly set the world on fire like its predecessor, it provided a capable HD-ready platform for Nintendo’s development studios and third-party partners to develop software for. Even with a low-wattage GPU and a freakishly weak CPU, the system was still much more capable than any previous Nintendo platform, and the visual performance and complexity of first-party Wii U titles often impressed. In some ways it felt like a test run for the Switch, a system that arrived a few years too early for the concept to really work.

Today, some six years after the Switch debuted, there are still a significant number of impressive games that have been stranded on the aging Wii U. My advice would be to grab them while you still can, because the opportunity is quickly smaller.

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