Nintendo has a long, proud history of providing top-quality video game consoles for adults and kids of all ages, dating back to the 1985 release of its defining Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The device wasn’t just the first such machine to command a millions-strong global following in the post-Atari 2600 world. It also helped save the industry from a crippling 1983 crash, single-handedly proved that video games weren’t a fad (actually a cultural question mark at the time), and came to define home gaming for an entire generation. Dozens of popular franchises established during this era – including Super Mario Bros., Metroid and The Legend of Zelda – are still going strong today. Poised at the launch of its latest console, the Wii U (powered by a tablet PC-like touchscreen controller, fully online-/media-enabled, and the first Nintendo system to support high-definition graphics), the company’s legacy bears remembering.
Case in point: Over the past two decades, the much-beloved Japanese giant has brought players a wealth of technological advancements, proving that both innovation and imagination is in its DNA. Granted, not all have been successful: Anyone remember migraine-inducing semi-portable the Virtual Boy or two-hit wonder R.O.B. the robot (essentially included with the NES to con retailers burned by the ’83 crash into thinking it was more high-tech novelty item than game)? But from the original Game Boy tagalong to the 3D graphics-enabled Nintendo 3DS handheld, seminal 16-bit system the Super Nintendo to groundbreaking motion-controlled outing the Wii, you have to applaud the manufacturer. While it’s been prone to both wildly successful and wildly bizarre experiments, its many phenomenal successes have helped drive the industry forward, and the company has never been shy about its commitment to raising the bar. Say what you will about the house that brought us Mario, Donkey Kong and the rest of the supporting cast of Super Smash Bros.: It’s seldom one to follow in the footsteps of competitors.
All of which, of course, brings us to the dawn of the Wii U – the first of the next round of next-generation consoles to arrive, and among its most promising and original. Aimed at taking gamers beyond what they can currently get from rivals the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, it’s also the first shot fired in what promises to be a long and lasting battle for living room domination. Designed to deliver eye-popping 1080p HD graphics; facilitate digital downloads of music, movies, games and more; and allow for differing play experiences on TV vs. tablet controller, hopes for the system currently run high. As the first new set-top video game system in six years, and the long-awaited sequel to the Wii – the bestselling console of its generation, and first to both offer gesture controls and reach near-ubiquitous mainstream awareness – it’s hard not to be excited. But the sweetest news of all surrounding the system may also be a point that many have missed. As the below games illustrate, despite Nintendo’s storied and proud history to date, for both the manufacturer and fans alike, the best may be very well yet to come.
WII U SYSTEMS
The Wii U is available in two configurations: Basic (includes 8GB internal storage) and Deluxe (offers 32GB internal storage + Nintendo Land video game, console stand and a cradle/stand for your GamePad). Systems are defined by a custom 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen-powered tablet GamePad controller which offers secondary perspectives on on-screen action, and lets you view videos separately from the TV. Features allow for gameplay viewing on both your television and the GamePad, and support for controlling your set using the tablet, with benefits also extending to wireless Internet connectivity, online multiplayer and multimedia downloads, and video chat or second-screen viewing experiences. Needless to say, it crams a lot of performance into one small package.
BEST WII U GAMES
Note that you can click the below links to learn more about all Wii U game options, and for online shopping deals.
Classic arcade fun for all ages: Run, jump and stomp on enemies’ heads while collecting coins, nabbing ability-enhancing power-ups and exploring the Mushroom Kingdom’s candy-colored cartoon world. Featuring favorite characters such as Mario, Toad and Luigi, it offers familiar fast-paced thrills that players of every skill level can enjoy, plus a new twist: The ability for GamePad users to try and assist or antagonize others enjoying simultaneous multiplayer challenges. Besides a raft of sweet features – e.g. bonuses like the Flying Squirrel suit, options to import your Mii virtual avatar into various challenges, and more – it’s also the first must-have title for the system. Blending nostalgia with new high-tech tricks, we’d be amazed if it also wasn’t the first bestseller.
An original adventure pairing Mr. M-O-U-S-E himself with less well-known predecessor Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, this gorgeously-appointed action-adventure sends you wandering through a world of forgotten Disney characters and backdrops. Wielding a magical paint brush and high-powered remote control, players must help the twin heroes solve tricky puzzles, overcome fiendish foes and explore an evolving storyline that changes based on your choices. Support for two-man cooperative (co-op) play lets friends and family get in on the excitement, and Wii U owners benefit especially, with the GamePad offering a second view on the action. As much a love letter to Disney’s creations as first-rate gaming experience, its rich storyline, engaging suite of challenges and atmospheric environs make the title a top draw this holiday season.
Rewinding the clock to the Revolutionary War, the latest in the multimillion-selling action-adventure series – wherein discerning adults play a historical hitman – puts you in the shoes of a lethal assassin. From the Battle of Bunker Hill to raging shipboard engagements and the streets of New York, you get a chance to rewrite history by cleverly stalking and eliminating targets, then making daring acrobatic escapes. Set in a living, breathing 3D world of haunting characters and locales, it’s designed to test both your wits and reflexes. The Wii U edition provides added benefits by putting a map of targets’ locations right at-hand, and offers touch commands for easy weapon switching when it’s time to do your patriotic duty.
Among the most original puzzle games of the past decade, Scribblenauts Unlimited provides a clever approach to tackling challenges: With a touch of your finger, you can create objects and summon them on-screen to help hero Maxwell. Literally thousands of combinations are possible as you mix and match parts while moving through a seemingly hand-drawn, open-ended world designed to be traveled at your leisure. Inventions can also be shared online for friends to remix and pass along, making the title among the more creative options out there for kids and adults alike. Anyone who’s ever spent hours idly doodling in a notepad will understand its promise immediately.
EA Sports’ line of popular athletic simulations – other options include FIFA Soccer 13, NHL 13, etc. – has been a longstanding hit with gamers of all ages. But even though, similar to its siblings, Madden NFL 13 is available (and highly recommended) on other systems, you haven’t seen virtual football like this before. Letting you take on the role of player or coach, and play in dazzling HD, the key upside here are touchscreen commands – you can use the GamePad to call plays, make substitutions and more in the most intuitive format yet seen on a gaming console. Backed by online connectivity, authentic game day presentation and commentary, and the same pigskin action millions know and love, it’s clearly among the year’s hottest new MVPs for sporting fans.
Enjoy 3D fighting games? Check out the latest in the long-running martial arts series, which amps up the action with a huge roster of brawlers who can kick, punch and flying uppercut their way through one-on-one, one-on-two, or two-on-two tag team battles. Over 50 bruisers to pick from, extensive multiplayer support (up to four can get in on the action) and loads of extra features – i.e. killer replay videos, numerous game modes, extensive practice options, and an arresting range of international stages to scrap on – add ample replay value. If you’re looking for head-to-head action with a bit of nuance, you’ll find its strategic showdowns demand approaching with a sense of gravity, even as a range of kooky costumes and gonzo characters reflect the title’s unwillingness to take itself too seriously.
Outside of the Resident Evil series, horror-themed games typically aren’t the first thing you’d associate with Nintendo’s traditionally family-friendly systems. But UbiSoft hopes to challenge players’ thinking in this promising new survival horror outing custom-designed for the Wii U that pits you against legions of walking dead. Set in a London overrun by walking cadavers, your goal is simple: Stay alive. But that’s easier said than done when you have to keep glancing between your GamePad controller and the TV, or dealing with competing players in multiplayer modes that let evil-minded pals try and plague friends by becoming an adversarial Zombie Master.
Yes, the critically-acclaimed run-n-gun franchise is available on other systems such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; an obvious choice for first-person shooter fans; and for Mature audiences only. But if you’re a discerning adult looking for a Hollywood-style gun battle experience that’s sure to make the neighbors’ jaws drop, then pop this neo-futuristic firefight in and watch their eyes bug out of their head. Boasting branching storylines, multiplayer standoffs so immersive you’ll enjoy weeks’ worth of excitement from just these modes alone, and support for second-screen play (i.e. touchscreen controls for picking maps or loadouts), rest assured. For pure, white-knuckle thrills, they don’t make ‘em better than this – or more capable of keeping you glued to the screen, whichever (TV or GamePad) you prefer.
Mass Effect 3 (Role-Playing)
SiNG Party (Music)
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (Action-Adventure)
Pikmin 3 (Strategy)
Ben 10: Omniverse (Action)
Sonic & All-Stars Racing (Racing)
007 Legends (Shooter)
Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 (Simulation)
Darksiders II (Action-Adventure)
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