The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

Hail, ye Nintendo faithful! Loyal folk that you are, a Wii U now rests beneath your TV. The console's now been around for a couple years, and there are more good games for it than ever. Enough good games, in fact, that we think the Wii U is worth owning.

Check out the list below for the games that make the Wii U shine.

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

The great EAD Tokyo studio behind Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2 and Super Mario 3D Land make their Wii U debut with Super Mario 3D World, a game as attractive and fun as those others. It might just be the best game on the Wii U.

Like 3D Land, 3D World presents an enjoyable hybrid of the more linear, classic side-scrolling Mario games and the go-anywhere 3D Mario games like Super Mario 64. You can wander in EAD Tokyo's new game, but no too far. Unlike 3D Land, you can play as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach or Toad or, with friends in the same room, all four at once.

Some of the game might feel familiar, but this is not one of those safe New Super Mario games. Yes, there are plenty of goombas to hit and fireballs to throw. There's also a lot that feels fresh. The game is a horn of plenty stuffed with novel Mario gameplay: some tweaked (pipes are translucent and loaded with coins), some borrowed (control not one Mario but a crowd of cloned Marios), and some entirely fresh (the great new catsuit power-up). Read our review here.

A Good Match for: People bored of standard Mario fare who want something more experimental than the New Super Mario Bros. games. Also recommended for graphics groupies. This is the best-looking Mario game ever made.

Not a Good Match For: People hungry for a game that makes the most of the Wii U. You can play the game entirely on the controller and sometimes have to blow on the GamePad or tap it from time to time. Nothing to get excited about. ZombiU this isn't.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: The Wii U eShop or Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

Have you ever wondered who would win in a fight between Peach and Luigi? What about between Luigi… and the Wii Fit Trainer? Okay, what about a fight between Peach, Luigi, the Wii Fit Trainer, and the dog from Duck Hunt? Thanks to Super Smash Bros, you can find out. Those sorts of fanfic-like battles make up the heart of Smash, the latest entry in Nintendo's storied fighting series, but there's much more tothe game than just fighting. It contains a seemingly endless supply of bonus modes, alternate gameplay types, and hidden secrets, too. But while there may be a lot of weird, funny side stuff to explore, Super Smash Bros. still thrives in the ring, letting you and a group of friends pick your favorite characters and battle until only one fighter remains standing.

A Good Match For: People who like playing games with friends and roommates, anyone who wants to watch Duck Hunt Dog repeatedly get his ass kicked by Little Mac.

Not A Good Match For: People who don't often have friends over to play games, people who don't own a bunch of controllers for their Wii U, anyone looking for a game with a meaningful story.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

Take one of the prettiest games in the Legend of Zelda franchise. Re-master the graphics in high-definition and add stuff that streamlines and improves the play experience. You'll wind up with a game that will make re-think its place in the canon of Nintendo's action RPG series.

A Good Match for: People who hated the sailing in the original Wind Waker. The HD version introduces a Swift Sail tool, which improves the speed of your boat and frees you up from having to shift the wind on longer voyages.

Not a Good Match For: Players who wanted that too-long final section trimmed down. The infamous quest before Wind Waker's ultimate showdown is still a bloated mission that kills the game's momentum.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: The Wii U eShop or Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

Everything is awesome, you guys. Everything is cool when you're part of the team. The Lego team, that is—true to form, the game developers at TT Games have managed to take The LegoMovie's template and stretch it out to fit into a full-length video game. In the process, they've made things even bigger, weirder, and more subversive than the already big, weird and subversive film.

While the game's relatively brief campaign is a lot of fun, the real joy comes afterward, as dedicated players unlock the most unlikely hidden characters and replay levels in pursuit of more collectables and hidden surprises. Not only is The LEGO Movie Videogame the closest thing to an interactive Director's Cut of the terrific LEGO Movie, it's a wonderfully weird LEGOplayset in its own right.

A Good Match For: Fans of The Lego Movie or fans of LEGO in general. This game has even more LEGO in it than the other LEGO games.

Not a Good Match For: People with dried up prunes where their hearts should be, people who don't really like LEGO games. At this point, you pretty much know what you're getting.

Read our review.

Read our review of the movie it's based on.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From:Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

It's an interactive fireplace that challenges you to burn various things. And it has an emotional storyline. Ok? Please trust us! It's from the World of Goo people and it's… really best if you go in knowing nothing more than that.

A Good Match for: People who don't want the norm. There's never been an interactive fireplace video game that has an emotional storyline before. There probably won't be one again. You play this, you get your indie cred boosted as a bonus.

Not a Good Match For: Those who want a traditional video game. You've got to like weird stuff and not be bothered that this isn't a shooter, a platformer, a racer, a sports game, a fighting game or anything else. Plus you have to not mind possible criticisms of the gaming medium, because that just might be what Little Inferno is really about.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: The Wii U's eShop. It's download-only.

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

Bright lights, loud music, and a towering dominatrix beating the living hell out of a bunch of monsters: Bayonetta gets the sequel she deserves. Everything the first game did, the second game does just as well, while throwing in a bunch of new weapons and abilities in on top. If you've ever wanted to whip a massive angel into submission using your hair, this is your game. Strike a pose.

A Good Match For: Fans of fast-moving action games like Devil May Cry and, well, the first Bayonetta.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for something relaxed to play, people who prefer games with a more subtle, low-key aesthetic.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

It's a dozen games in one and most of them are good. Nintendo Land is sort of the Wii U's version of Wii Sports, except that its games are more substantial and… not as simply, purely brilliant as the bowling and tennis in that famous Wii launch game. Half of Nintendo Land's diverse games are made to be played solo, three are multiplayer-only and three can be played solo or with friends. All 12 show different, interesting ways the Wii U GamePad can be used to control games. The stars of the bundle are the surprisingly deep co-op Zelda adventure, the graphically-shocking Pikmin missions, the lovely Balloon Trip iPad-like game and the crowd-pleasing party favorites: Mario Chase and Luigi's Ghost Mansion.

A Good Match For: Nintendo buffs, since the game is presented as a Nintendo-themed theme park and reward players with all sort of Nintendo-themed unlockable décor. Nintendo Land also serves as a great instruction manual for the Wii U's features, too.

Not a Good Match For: People who want one focused game (this ain't that) or one game as perfectly tuned for people of any age or type as Wii Sports tennis (Nintendo Land's Mario Chase comes closest).

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

Supposedly conceived while Mario and Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto was thinking about gardening, the Pikmin games let players control an army of up to 100 little colorful creatures who behave like a cross between plants and ants. The game is played more or less from an overhead view. The playing field is a zoomed-in version of Earth where, to our titular characters' view, flowers might as well be trees. Players control any of three diminutive explorers from Alph, Brittany, Charlie, all of whom can pluck the Pikmin out of the ground, marshal them to swarm big bug-like enemies and haul what are, to our explorers, massive, house-sized pieces of fruit. The better you do this stuff, the easier it will be to grow a bigger Pikmin army, which can in turn take on tougher enemies and overcome trickier, puzzling obstacles. This Wii U sequel introduces excellent co-op and competitive modes to supplement a fairly brief nine-hour campaign.

A Good Match for: Strategy-gaming fans who enjoy the likes of StarCraft or Command & Conquer and are therefore looking for a game that involves using wits and reflexes to conceive a complex a multi-unit plan and carry it out.

Not a Good Match For: Those who played Pikmin games on the GameCube or Wii already and are looking for something that feels more like a sequel than like a refinement of something they played before.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: The Wii U eShop or Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

Who needs arms and legs to be the star of a brilliant platformer? Not Rayman. The second game in the resurrected cartoon action franchise still sports an incredibly lush art style but also shows off sharp ideas that make the most of the Wii U GamePad.

A Good Match for: Co-op fanatics. Legends is a very good game for solo play but it's great for folks to team up and take on. And using the GamePad to control helper character Murphy lets players of different skill levels join in on the fun.

Not a Good Match for: Those wanting turn-your-brain-off platforming. Rayman Legends' occasionally challenging difficulty requires quick reflexes. For the most part, there's no coasting here.

Read our review.

Watch it in action here.

Purchase from: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

Ah, the blue shell. There may be no better metaphor for the bleakness of life. One minute you're cruising along, on top of the world, and then… BAM, you're totally hosed. Just when you thought you had it in the bag, life throws a blue shell.

Mario Kart 8 isn't really all that philosophical, of course. It's the same Mario Kart formula re-tuned and polished to an absurd degree, easily one of the most fun party games you can play and one of the best games for the Wii U.

A Good Match For: People who like moving really fast, people who like seeing Luigi look really mean.

Not a Good Match For: Those who loved Battle Mode in past Mario Kart games. For some inexplicable reason, MK8's battle mode takes place on normal racetracks, which significantly dilutes the appeal.

Read our review.

Watch a huge tournament that we staged at Gawker HQ.

Purchase From: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

Being a superhero is fun enough on its own—being 100 superheroes at once is just ridiculous. As the eponymous Wonderful 100 (the extra 1 is YOU), your job in this game is to, naturally, save the earth from marauding aliens. You do this by morphing your gang of caped crusaders into guns and swords and boomerangs in what turns into a challenging, satisfying chaos. Combine frenetic action with some spectacular fights across giant robots and incredible landscapes, and you've got one of the most original games on Wii U to date. (Read our review here.)

A Good Match For: People who love fast-paced action games that challenge both minds and thumbs. This is a game that takes commitment, and if you stick with it, you'll be rewarded.

Not a Good Match for: Folks wanting a game that's easy to pick up and enjoy. This one takes some learning.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: The Wii U eShop or Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

The best third-party game on the Wii U takes a hackneyed scenario and puts it in a locale where it feels a bit more unexpected. While ZombiU's undead apocalypse does feel fresher because of its London setting, it's really the chain-link single-player campaign and asymmetrical multiplayer that make it shine. There's something morbidly apropos about having to find and loot the walking corpse of the character you previously controlled—to keep use of the best gear after you die—while playing solo. And facing off against others in the game's asymmetrical multiplayer battles makes controlling the bad guys more fun than being the hero.

A Good Match for: Passive-aggressive survival horror fans. The atmosphere is dark and desperate in ZombiU and every bullet counts. Holding the Wii U gamepad up to use as a scanner isn't just a new-hardware gimmick. It's a crucial mechanic that reveals zombie placements and where weapons and items might be. And if you're stuck on a particular sequence, a hint from another player might be your salvation. Or a trick to doom you to yet another death.

Not a Good Match For: Those who want meaningful relationships with playable characters. Other than "Zombies! Holy crap! Don't die!", the avatars you'll control in ZombiU single-player don't get much in the way of backstory and motivation.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Update 11/25/2014: Two games enter, two games leave: Bayonetta 2 and Super Smash Bros. Wii U make it on the list, while Bit. Trip Runner 2 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution say adios.

6/25/2014 Update: Surprising no one, Mario Kart 8 breezes its way onto this list, knocking off Need for Speed: Most Wanted U.

5/2/2014 Update: One LEGO game enters, another leaves - the terrific LEGO Movie Videogame finally unseats Lego City Undercover for a spot on the list.

12/11/13 Update: With a new design comes an opportunity to add some overlooked games and remove a couple of others. Both Mass Effect 3 and Scribblenauts Unlimited leave to make room for Deus Ex: Human Revolution: The Director's Cut and Need for Speed: Most Wanted U.

11/22/13: Super Mario 3D World won our hearts and attention just in time for the end of the year. It's edged off New Super Mario Bros. U for a spot on this list.

09/20/13: The moment you've waited for is here. At last, Nintendo's latest home console has gotten a price drop. Lucky for you, the Wii U's library has swelled with more great games since the machine's launch. So, in celebration of affordability and quality, we're updating the list of what we think are the best games on the platform. Pikmin 3 bumps Assassin's Creed III, Rayman Legends replaces Trine 2: Director's Cut, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD take the spot once held by Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition and The Wonderful 101 muscles out Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

04/18/13: Slowly but surely, the Wii U's software library is getting stronger. Games like Lego City Undercover and Runner 2—both new additions to this Bests list—offer up fun and clever experiences for Nintendo's newest home console. Give 'em a warm welcome, won't you?

The 12 Best Games for the Wii U

Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

The Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods

Note: While some games on this list are download-only, most if not all of them can be purchased through the Wii U's online store. If you buy any of these games through the retail links in this post, our parent company may get a small share of the sale through the retailers' affiliates program.