Category Archives: Fun
The Wii U ended up being a surprisingly forward thinking platform for Nintendo. Although its central conceit of introducing second screen gameplay hasn’t gone very far, it managed to introduce a few exciting new series to Nintendo’s stable that pushed what we all thought the company was capable of. Games like Splatoon and Mario Maker marked incredibly successful forays into online multiplayer functionality and community building, while established series like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. received a long tail of support and substantial new content post-release.
On the other hand, it’s hard not to look at Wii U as a low point for the company, especially after the obscenely successful Wii. Some of Nintendo’s best series have gone missing or fell flat on the machine. No Metroid, no Animal Crossing, a lackluster Paper Mario game, a Zelda game delayed all the way to the launch of its successor, a Star Fox title that baffled a lot of gamers, sporadic and inconsistent Virtual Console support. The Wii U has definitely had some high-highs, but also some low-lows.
In the end, I enjoyed the Wii U, even if it did sit idle for months at a time. Now with the Switch finally out in the wild, I’ve decided to highlight my favorite 5 games of the Wii U (in no particular order).
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Captain Toad was a smaller Wii U title that doesn’t get as much credit as I think it’s due. This game is a spin-off of the Captain Toad levels from Super Mario 3D World, but I think it actually managed to be something far more interesting and imaginative than the those small bonus stages in its progenitor. Treasure Tracker differentiates itself from 3D World by focusing on puzzle platforming that tasks the player with getting the main characters (Captain Toad and Toadette) across small 3D levels without the ability to jump. The game displays a huge range of imagination across its many tiny but dense levels, similar to the kind of creativity and diversity that you would find in a mainline 3D Mario game.
Super Mario 3D World
Although I think I prefer the Super Mario Galaxy games, Super Mario 3D World (and Land on the 3DS) are undeniably great Mario games. While the sidescrolling New Super Mario Bros. series has gotten stale, 3D World lives up to the imagination and inventiveness of its 3D Mario predecessors. The simple fun and wonderment of this game was a huge source of brightness in my life when I originally played it. I wish I had more thoughtful things to say about it, but it’s just pure, uncompromised Mario goodness, the kind of which is a reminder why this character has been the de facto mascot of gaming for over 30 years running.
Super Mario Maker
I liked the first two New Super Mario Bros. games, especially the Wii one, but like a lot of other gamers, I thought the series quickly started to stagnate, with the 3DS and Wii U games being less than inspiring. I was beginning to think that classic sidescrolling Mario had run its course again, but then came one of the most impressive games I’ve played in many years, Super Mario Maker. For a company as stubborn and old-fashioned as Nintendo, Mario Maker was a huge surprise with its focus on online community and user created content, two things Nintendo rarely exhibits an interest in. I had a ton of fun playing community levels, but also I was surprised at how much my imagination was stoked while creating my own levels in the editor.
Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 may very well be number 1 amongst Mario Kart titles for me. I think in trying to tone down the chaoticness of Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart 7 ended up feeling rather boring and uninspired. Mario Kart 8, on the other hand, managed to find the perfect balance between creatively-designed courses and combat and well-balanced racing challenge. Also, building on what I said about Super Mario Maker, Mario Kart 8 was surprisingly modern and forward-thinking for a Nintendo game and featured a competently designed online mode and DLC packs that actually provided substantial content to the game.
Super Smash Bros. 4
I often drag the Wii U home for the holidays to see family, because we typically plug a lot of time into Mario Kart together (as we did with the Wii before it). All that changed, however, after I introduced Super Smash Bros. 4. At first, my sisters were really unsure about this mess of a fighting game, but it didn’t take long for them to get hooked. Featuring a ton of great characters from across Nintendo’s history, like Bowser Jr., Ike, and Little Mac, but also a few not so great characters, like Villager and Dark Pit, Smash Bros. is an amazing gift to Nintendo fandom, but also just a fundamentally good game for friends and family from one of the few companies that still puts a lot of effort into high-quality local multiplayer games.
Well, after writing this list, I’m suddenly realizing that it’s basically all games featuring Mario or the Mario universe. Of course, there were a few non-Mario games that I came close to adding to the list, namely Splatoon deserves credit. The two Zelda remakes (Wind Waker and Twilight Princess) were also pretty good, but I would rather not count remakes in a list of like this. The releases have been thin over the years, but I’m hoping they’ve been saving up for the Switch. Definitely, I’m excited for Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Splatoon 2, and I’m curious about ARMS. Even though the Wii U had its troubles, I’m cautiously excited for Switch. Nintendo has its ups and downs, but they’ve always managed to maintain consistent quality over an impressively long history.
The release of Smash Bros. may have caused it to feel like a distant memory, but just a few weeks ago Mario Kart 8 received a pretty amazing DLC upgrade. Although it included some additions to the character and kart roster that I felt were kind of lackluster, it did introduce 8 awesome new courses (and the tracks, of course, are the true stars of the Mario Kart series). There is one final DLC pack announced for May (which seems like an oddly long time table to me) with little known about the next round of tracks that will be introduced, though the three new racers have been announced. It’s a somewhat reasonable guess that at least one track will be Animal Crossing-themed, as Villager and Isabelle are announced crossover characters. Since thinking about the future of Mario Kart always gets me excited, I’ve compiled a short list of things I’d think would be cool for the next round of tracks.
1) Wave Race
The first round of DLC had F-Zero (Mute City) and Excitebike themed tracks, so it doesn’t seem far-fetched to me that Nintendo might prepare appearances of their other racing franchises. I’ve always had a heavy fondness for Wave Race ever since the N64, but I also feel like it might not be the most appreciated of Nintendo’s series. Even when compared to F-Zero, a series which hasn’t seen a proper release in a long while, it just doesn’t receive nearly the same level of attention. I would like to see Nintendo give the series at least a respectful nod, as they did with the Mute City track. Unfortunately, I think this is somewhat unlikely for a few reasons. First, it’s a little challenging to create a Wave Race-based track in MK8, because you don’t really race on the water in MK8, rather you race under it. Maybe they can set up the track so the hover wheels are triggered over water (sort of Jet Moto-style), but that leaves me to wonder then if the Mario Kart 8 engine is set up to handle the wave-physics that Wave Race is based around. Also, the style of Wave Race is more grounded in reality than the fantastical and whimsical settings of MK8 and F-Zero. Therefore, despite my enthusiasm for Wave Race, I’m conflicted as to whether the two series would really mesh well together.
Pilotwings, although not a racing series, I think could actually work a little bit better with MK8 than Wave Race. I’ve no experience with the SNES game, but I thought the N64 game has always been a bit underappreciated. I also really like the breezy, high-flying, flat-shaded aesthetic of Pilotwings Resort and the Pilotwings-stage in Smash Bros, which I think could make for a visually stunning MK course, similar to what they did with Excitebike. I’ve always felt the Mario Kart 7-inherited parachute mechanic is lacking in substance and really just serves to extend the scale of the courses. Perhaps a track with multiple parachute segments that utilize PIlotwings elements could prove fun? I’m thinking things like boost rings and bullseye targets in the landing areas that provide some sort of benefit if hit.
3) Mushroom City
One of the most interesting tracks from Double Dash, I’m a bit surprised Mushroom City hasn’t already made a reappearance in Mario Kart. In addition to the heavy traffic, Mushroom City’s main draw is its convoluted layout, allowing players access to diverging paths and junctions as they race through the city. Actually, a new city-themed track made from the ground up for Mario Kart 8 might be more interesting. The improved hardware could allow for an even more sophisticated and maze-like city, and randomized traffic patterns could provide impetus for players to switch up the paths they take through the thoroughfares.
4) World 4 – Giant Land
I’ve always thought World 4 from Super Mario Bros. 3 could make for an interesting track. I’m imagining a track where players have to focus on avoiding the giant-sized versions of common Mario enemies such as koopas, goombas, piranha plants, Sledge Bros., etc. Also, perhaps there could be some sort of mechanic where racers could go through some sort of doorway/gateway (kind of like in the original World 4) and become big themselves. The giant-sized racers would have an advantage in that they could trample smaller racers, but the smaller racers would have an advantage in that they could access certain shortcuts that the giant racers wouldn’t be able to fit through. A cool idea I think, although maybe a little gimmicky.
5) Kirby’s Air Ride
Oh goodness no….just kidding…….just kidding….
5) Wario Colosseum
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one. I include it purely out of how much I enjoy it. The XXL-sized Double Dash track was a favorite of mine, and I’d like to see it make a comeback.
All in all, regardless of what we see appear in the final content package, this first round of DLC gives me faith that Nintendo will deliver quality. The only track I think I distinctly dislike is Excitebike. The simplistic oval Excitebike track seems like a low hanging fruit for the development team that Nintendo dressed up in nostalgia to avoid complaints. I seem to be against the grain of popular opinion, though, since it always seems to get a lot of votes online.