What I Played: 2017 Edition

2017 was a bountiful year for all gamers. There was no shortage of games new or old to play. This year I’ve decided rather than creating a top five, or a top ten list, to compile a list of the games I played this year in 2017 and what I have to say about each.

When compiling this list, I realized how much I really did play this year compared to past year. In a way my love of gaming found a resurgence, not that it ever went away.

A few of these games I finished, most I have not1. Most of these games came out in 2017 however there are few that have been out for a year or two.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I can’t remember the last time a game like this launched with any console. Twilight Princess launched with the Wii2 but it wasn’t nearly this vast in scope, hype, or critical reception. I wrote about how excited I was for Breath of the Wild:

now on the eve of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild  I see the Zelda game I’ve been wanting since I played A Link to the Past: a vast world by today’s gaming standards and a return to exploration and finding out things on your own

Breath of the Wild fulfilled this hype. It surpasses every 3D Zelda game I’ve ever played by leaps and bounds. I played this game for nearly 120 hours straight. I haven’t finished everything yet, because I don’t want to wear it out. I want to return to it like a pair of beloved comfortable jeans. If I had to pick a game of the year3, it would be this game.

NPCs4 in Zelda games are usually pretty boring. But in Breath of the Wild I wanted to talk to every villager and passerby. They all had an interesting thing to say. If it wasn’t something funny, they would tell you an interesting piece of what to find in this version of Hyrule. This is easily one of the most humorous Zelda games outside of Wind Waker.

Prince Sidon is the coolest guy ever. His theme music is also so good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4ZkklcIfTo
Prince Sidon is the coolest guy ever. His theme music is also so good.

Even though I love this game, there are some things I wish they could have incorporated into the game. I miss the unique items that had multiple uses. The runes in the game (magnesis, stasis, & cryonis specifically) are great, but they weren’t nearly as functional as the hookshot or other relics from past games. But they did make the bow indispensable comparatively, so this is obviously a nitpick.

I was hoping that some of shrines would be more labyrinthian and the Devine Beasts puzzles differed in quality by a good margin5.

However, the story in the game really resonated with me. In this world, Link failed 100 years ago. Ganon won. It reminded me of A Link to the Past. In that game, once Link gained the Master Sword he ventured to Hyrule Castle, broke down the barrier of evil, defeated a gauntlet of soldiers, and faced the wizard Agahnim to rescue Zelda. After he defeated Agahnim, the wizard scoffed at Link and banished him to the Dark World only to find a land in despair where evil was about to win. The journey, so to speak, had only just begun. Link’s failure in Breath of the Wild makes the progress in the game that much more meaningful. It’s basically a Rocky montage of building Link’s resolve to face Ganon for the final countdown. This is even more powerful since the player can go fight Ganon at any point in the game. Everyone can appreciate the electric charge of a good montage.

The gameplay of Breath of the Wild is so much more fun than any 3D Zelda before it. Exploration is the foundation of which this game is built and nearly always rewards the player. Combat has strategy and consequences. Hyrule, as expansive as it is, feels hand-crafted and lived in. It feels like a world in ruin.

There is so much more to speak about on this game that has already been said678. It is a modern day masterpiece and one of the reasons I am a diehard Nintendo fan. Breath of the Wild enters into my coveted Top Three Zelda Games of All Time.9

One last note: Breath of the Wild has one of the best trailers for a game ever. It even has its own soaring orchestrated arrangement that’s not found in the game10. Whether you’ve played the game or not, the trailer is always worth a watch.

Specter of Torment (Shovel Knight)

The treasure that is Shovel Knight keeps on giving. Specter of Torment is a prequel campaign telling the more somber story of how Specter Knight came to be. Even though this is just a 2D retro platformer, the story still pulls on some heartstrings.

The player assumes the role of Specter Knight and his quest to gather The Order of No Quarter. This is the Mega Man X of Shovel Knight. The gameplay is so fast and frantic compared to Plague Knight’s campaign, Plague of Shadows. I played through this in a matter of a day or two. The fact that this launched the same day as Breath of the Wild should show you how much I love Shovel Knight. I made time for this.

Instead of remixed levels as in Plague of Shadows there are all new levels and music11. The attention to detail and callbacks to the other two campaigns are the icing on this cake. This could be a standalone game and it would be great, but it’s just presented as an add-on to Shovel Knight. There is one more campaign left for Shovel Knight: King of Cards starring King Knight releases in 2018. If we can expect this level of quality in the new campaign this game deserves to be recognized on a whole new tier.

Cuphead

Cuphead is a retro game in both art and style. At its core, it’s a run and gun12gauntlet of challenges. It brings some modern influences to gameplay, but otherwise it’s an old school game.

Cuphead’s charming art is the drive to keep playing. Every level, every character, every background is all hand drawn animation inspired by 1930s cartoons specifically Max Fleischer’s animation works. Hand drawn animation is a dying art, but this game pays homage in the best way. But while the art is top notch, it wouldn’t be fun without solid hardcore arcade level gameplay. This game is hard, but it’s not because of cheap tricks. Once you understand enemy patterns and practice levels several times it’s a blast, and seeing what’s next is the fun.

Sonic Mania

Sonic the Hedgehog and I have a complicated relationship. I’ve never enjoyed Sonic on the same level as Mario games13, but Sonic games were my favorite platformer games on the Sega Genesis. I never found the design of Sonic the Hedgehog levels as elegant as any levels of any game developed by Nintendo. Sonic Mania fixes everything that I didn’t find fun in Sonic. The level design is stellar, the music is JAMMIN’ and this game is my favorite in the Sonic series by far. The fact this was done outside of Sonic Team will hopefully send the message to Sega to make more.

Nex Machina

Nex Machina is an arcade dual stick shooter game from Housemarque, who made the amazing Resogun. Resogun was very much a modern interpretation of the classic arcade game Defender. Nex Machina is in turn a modern interpretation of Robotron 2084 and Smash TV. Robotron 2084 is my favorite old school arcade game. It’s a game of manageable chaos where robots are the enemy and the player is the savior of humanity.

When Housemarque announced they had partnered with Eugene Jarvis, the creator of Defender, Robotron 2084, and Smash TV, my hopes were high. Arcade games14 are a dying breed that were briefly resurrected with the advent of digital distribution. They aren’t for everyone, but sometimes working towards a high score can be really fulfilling as skills are honed and muscle memory forms.

To me, Nex Machina is perfect game. It has solid controls, tons of mechanics, enemies, power ups, secrets, and a killer soundtrack. I love picking up this game and just blasting through robots for 10-15 minutes. I can’t recommend this game enough if you want an old school experience without the old school frustration. Since this game wasn’t published by Sony, there’s a glimmer of hope that this could make it to the Nintendo Switch at some point.

Nier: Automata

I only played Nier: Automata for about 5 hours. I can say this isn’t your normal action game from Platinum Games, but it does have some of that DNA in a game more focused on story. The world and music are really good. I need to finish this game in 2018.

ARMS

ARMS is fun. There was a general dismissal that this game was Wii Boxing for the Switch, but I assure you it’s not. It’s a fighting game that you can play without motion controls. Unlike a button masher with combos, each punch, block, and grab are deliberate and require patience and skill.

The character designs and world are bright and fun. Nintendo has ended its updates at the end of 2017, but over the course of six months it added several new features, characters, and stages which kept the game fresh.

This game is a fun fighting game – at least until Smash arrives on the Switch.

Splatoon 2

We had a Splatoon party when it launched.
We had a Splatoon party when it launched.

Splatoon 215 is Splatoon refined with a little less magic. I love Splatoon, but this really felt like Splatoon 1.5 as opposed to Splatoon 2, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The sad thing is that the online with friends options weren’t much improved from the first one. Nintendo is still trying to figure out how the Internet works.

Snake Pass

Snake Pass is the go to game if you want to know what it’s like to be a snake. It’s a fun game with a bunch of charm but it’s not for everyone. The controls are intuitive but have a steep learning curve. Being a snake is hard. This game is very chill and cute. It has music from David Wise, one of my favorite composers.

There is a lot of love in the level design in how it ramps up difficulty. I recommend this game if you want something different and casual.

Nidhogg 2

Nidhogg is one of those game I find hard to describe to people. It is a 1v1 2D tug of war fencing game. There, I guess I did it.

Nidhogg 2 expands on everything the first game had by adding new weapons, rule sets, and several new stages.

The biggest difference in Nidhogg 2 is the change in art style. The first game was more of a minimalist expression in 8 bit pixel art. It was very soothing. Nidhogg 2 goes for more of a grotesque 16-bit vibe reminiscent of Earthworm Jim. Some found this change enough to turn them off of the game. I don’t mind it. It certainly doesn’t take away from the gameplay which is the most important aspect of the game.

This is a fun game to pick up and play with someone else in short bits, or long extended runs. It’s also a great spectator game in my experience.

Colorful and cartoony. It's all you need.
Colorful and cartoony. It’s all you need.

Flinthook

Flinthook is one of my favorite indie games of 2017. It’s a roguelike platformer in which you use a hookshot-like grappling gun to navigate space pirate16 ships17searching for booty and a bounty. I found it fun and very challenging. There is a leveling system that adds modifiers and abilities that keep the gameplay of starting over and over fresh. I love the 16-bit aesthetic and the adventurous soundtrack. If this came to the Nintendo Switch I’d be a happy bounty hunter.18

Injustice 2

Great fighting game and one of the best DC movies you can watch. It’s mind-boggling how a fighting game understands the characters and their history and relationships better than the movies have.

Super Mario Odyssey

I never loved Super Mario 64 the way some people did. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it a lot. I had a dream long before the Nintendo 64 was a reality of a 3D Mario game. The game in my dream was more along the lines of Super Mario 3D World. I guess my imagination was a bit shallow.

But Super Mario 64 did shake up nearly everything that made a Mario game a Mario game. What always bothered me was how different the world and enemies felt from the previous Mario games. Later, 3D Mario games would eventually pull in more elements of the Mushroom Kingdom into the fold but with that came more linearity, and less exploration diversity with more focus on platforming.

BAM! Enter Super Mario Odyssey. It’s everything people wanted but didn’t get with Super Mario 3D World19.
– Freedom: Go where you want, do what you want
– Exploration: YOU GOT IT
– Timers: Gone
– Lives: Gone
– Power-Ups: EVERY ENEMY IS ITS OWN POWERUP
– Diverse Worlds: How about a motherlovin’ DRAGON or NEW DONK CITY
– But Bowser is boring: Now he’s SWAG BOWSER™20
– Plus so much more21

I feel like if there were any stops for a Mario game, they pulled them all out for this one. It’s so much fun. I hope we see more kingdoms either as part of DLC or a sequel. While not everyone loved Sunshine, and Galaxy wasn’t for everyone either, Odyssey2223 takes everything Mario has learned over the past 30 years, and makes it all feel remarkable once again.

Look at me, Mario is the Goomba now.
Look at me, Mario is the Goomba now.
I love lamp.
I love lamp.
The birds are Mario's friends.
The birds are Mario’s friends.
Showdown
Showdown
Indiana Goomba
Indiana Goomba

Fire Emblem Heroes & Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Nintendo’s mobile games are demonstrating to be less than thrilling for me. In the instance of Fire Emblem Heroes it instead inspired me to go back and play Fire Emblem Awakening. While a pick up and play version of Fire Emblem sounds good on paper I was unhappy to see it infused with the mobile game tropes (RNG in game loot boxes, cool downs, etc.) I think it’s a good introduction to the basics of Fire Emblem, but I’d rather play one of the many mainline games even if that means carrying a Nintendo 3DS with me.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp seems even worse. I’ve never been a direct fan of the series, more from a distance. I understand the appeal of the mainline series but Pocket Camp seems like a punch in the face to fans. It suffers even more with the mobile game “standards”. You can pay in game currency to make things happen faster, including making fruit grow on trees faster. While all of this is optional it doesn’t seem as “chill” as the mainline series. Plus, I chose my “chill” game this year with Stardew Valley.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is my zen garden. It is my meditation. It is where I find balance. I haven’t been much of a fan of games like Harvest Moon, or Animal Crossing. But Stardew Valley has those 16-bit graphics I have a weakness for, a very relaxing soundtrack, and a world that’s deeper and more mysterious than it lets on in the beginning.

The game starts with your grandpa leaving you the deed to a farm in the titular Stardew Valley. You’ve had it with your tedious cubicle humdrum life, so you move where life is a bit slower and you have control on your livelihood. It’s a bit cliched, but it suits this game’s intentions perfectly.

Jarbochov heads into town
Jarbochov heads into town

I’ve sunk over 50 hours into Stardew Valley, and every moment has been relaxing. Yeah, you have to farm and water plants, but you can also fish, mine, or adventure. Nothing in Stardew Valley feels random or fluffed. The main actions of chopping trees, planting seed, or mining ore all feel solid and fun even though they are repetitive. They feel like swinging a sword in A Link to the Past or using the shovel in Shovel Knight.

The progress in the game is perfectly suited to playing it for a few minutes or a few hours.

I love the town, the inhabitants, the music, the trees, the subtle sound design. Stardew Valley is the video game world I would want to live in.

Undertale

Undertale is one of those games everyone talked about for an entire year. That year was 2015 to 2016. And Undertale was only a PC game. I didn’t have a PC in 201524. I waited until it came to PS4 last year. I’m about halfway through at the time of this writing.

Undertale is special. It’s a game that is focused on a story and a message. Even though I haven’t finished the game yet, I know that this game will be highly regarded in 10 years. The presentation is timeless.

I really don’t want to spoil anything about this game for those who may not play it for years. I’ll just say it is unconventional.

Undertale, like Stardew Valley25 was made by one person as a labor of love , and it absolutely shows.

This GIF sums up everything great about the game:

What Pulled Me Back In

These games came to the Nintendo Switch and made me play them all over again.

DOOM

This is the most Nintendo-like FPS not made by Nintendo. If you enjoy good single player FPS campaigns, I can’t recommend this enough. The graphics did take a hit compared to other platforms but once the action starts it’s hardly noticeable26.

Rocket League

Having Rocket League available whenever and wherever has allowed for me to play it more than I ever did on any other console. The wireless local play functionality makes it even better to setup some 2v2 sports ball on the go.

Other Assorted Games I Played

  • Hidden Folks
  • Universal Paperclips
  • Snipperclips
  • Puyo Puyo Tetris
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Jamboree
  • Jackbox Party Pack 4
  • Blaster Master Zero

2017 Was A Year To Remember

2017 kicked my butt with how much there was to play. 2018 is already looking to match it.

I intend to write more regularly about what I play in 2018 because writing this was a time consuming affair.


  1. As is tradition. 
  2. And it took it another month to hit Gamecube. At least Wii U owners got to play this one with everyone else. 
  3. If you put a gun to my head, I’ll tell you Super Mario Strikers Charged just for it to end quickly. 
  4. Non Playable Character, basically the people that just stand there waiting for you to speak to them. 
  5. Vah Medoh was so easy. Too easy. 
  6. Amazing level of detail found in the game. 
  7. It has an deceptively nuanced soundtrack.  
  8. There is so much more I want to say. 
  9. 1) A Link to the Past
    2) Breath of the Wild
    3) Wind Waker
    *Subject to change in the future of course.  
  10. Which still upsets me. 
  11. Seriously. The already amazing Shovel Knight soundtrack gets a stellar new take from Jake Kaufman who makes it feel new all over again. The Pridemoor Keep track is all cheery and majestic before King Knight has taken over compared to how it sounds in Shovel Knight where is his reign is complete. 
  12. and FUN! 
  13. The tragic story of being a Nintendo fanboy 
  14. Sadly Housemarque has announced they are moving on from the genre with Resogun being their last arcade game.  
  15. Also it should have been called Spla2n. Missed opportunity. 
  16. No not those ones. 
  17. Made of wood? Somehow it works! 
  18. And it took me so long to publish this article, that it already did. 
  19. Which I still loved. 
  20. Swag Bowser
    Swag Bowser
     
  21. Callbacks to Mario 64 with the Mushroom Kingdom, every costume referencing some past iteration of Mario, those cute little 2D showcases where the music changes to 8bit, everything about New Donk City, & that ENDING! 
  22. If you’re looking for list on this for me, my Mario appreciation defies lists since there is so much variety in the series. 
  23. Fine! Odyssey > Sunshine > Galaxy 2 > Galaxy > 64
    Does not include Super Mario 3D Land or World which are more like 2D Mario games and should be judged on those merits. 
  24. Yes, Shawn, I know. I have one now. 
  25. Valley Forged: How One Man Made the Indie Video Game Sensation Stardew Valley 
  26. Especially in handheld mode. 

Wii U, Wii Hardly Knew… U

A better Wii, but not much else

It’s 2017 and the Wii U is no longer in production. As we await the release of the Nintendo Switch, I would like to dedicate this post to my final thoughts as we send it out to pasture.
The Wii U was never going to be a hit. It came out a year before the PS4 and XBone. It was Nintendo’s first foray into HD games, and other consoles already had a generation foothold on that front. Nintendo even admitted they didn’t realize how much effort was needed to develop in HD.

In my opinion though, the Wii U was an improvement over the Wii in every way, and some of my favorite games made by Nintendo (and some third parties) were Wii U games.

I am going to outline my favorites, the biggest disappointments, and the biggest surprises set by the Wii U.

My Favorites

Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D World is probably my third or fourth favorite Mario game ever1. I like it more than Super Mario 64, more than Super Mario Sunshine, and even more than Super Mario Galaxy2. Some fans enjoy the exploration Mario games, but to me Mario is well designed levels from the beginning and with an end. No fetch quests. No dumb minigames3, just focused, fun platforming. The amount of polish on this game is amazing. I hope this game is not lost to time. If you consider yourself a fan of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World, you need to play this game.

This is not fun for anyone. Remember all those other games Mario only had the Fire Flower power for 10 seconds?
This is not fun for anyone. Remember all those other games Mario only had the Fire Flower power for 10 seconds?

Bayonetta 2

Bayonetta (XBOX 360, PS3) was my first introduction to Platinum Games. I liked that game a lot. Bayonetta 2 took everything from the first game and improved on it to near perfection. It can be difficult for any game4 to keep your interest from beginning to end, but Platinum Games knows how to pace a game to a T with over the top action. Not only was Bayonetta 2 a Wii U exclusive, Nintendo published the game5, and the retail release included the original game. Nintendo heavily promoted this game, helping encourage the idea that Nintendo was going to be pursuing more adult rated games for the Wii U. There were several Nintendo themed consumes in the game that were so wonderfully executed down to the littlest details. The cherry on top is a secret level when Bayonetta is wearing the Fox McCloud costume, where she turns into an Arwing from Star Fox. It was almost an audition tape for Platinum Games for a new Star Fox game. I hope this game comes to the Nintendo Switch, because without Nintendo, this game would not exist.

Nintendo endorsed these. They have always been protective of their IP, and then this happened. It was a sign of the new times.
Nintendo endorsed these. They have always been protective of their IP, and then this happened. It was a sign of the new times.

The Wonderful 101

The Wonderful 101 is one of my favorite games of all time. Also developed by Platinum Games, known for their action pedigree, this game combines everything fun about Sentai, Voltron, Sailor Moon, superheroes, clichés, and tongue-in-cheek humor. It made my favorite games of 2013 list and I wrote about it in detail there. 

Mario Kart 8

One of my favorite Mario Kart games ever. Great tracks. It took the land, air, and sea 6 mechanics from Mario Kart 7 and added the insane anti-gravity sections to new and old tracks, which allowed for some fun thrills. Nintendo then announced their plans for DLC, adding 16 ADDITIONAL tracks for only $12.99. Nintendo delivered on their promise of making super high quality DLC which they promised for the Wii U lifecycle. I consider the DLC to be essential for this game. Never forget the Luigi Death Stare™.

Luigi comes back from the dead. I was able to capture this moment thanks to Mario Kart 8's highlight feature.
Luigi comes back from the dead. I was able to capture this moment thanks to Mario Kart 8’s highlight feature.
All Hail Luigi
All Hail Luigi

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Do you remember7 how Super Smash Bros. Brawl had so much hype around it, but ultimately left the fan base pretty sour? Well, it did. I didn’t hate Brawl as much as everyone else, but it’s definitely the worst in the series8. Super Smash Bros. for9 Wii U had me hyped from when Mega Man was announced. It may not live up to the Melee purists, but this version of Smash is my favorite. It has Mega Man, Sonic, Cloud, Bayonetta, and Ryu, and it all makes sense somehow. I hope this gets ported to the Nintendo Switch, because it didn’t live very long otherwise.

Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze

It’s no secret that I love Nintendo platformer games. The original Donkey Kong Country Trilogy for SNES compiled some of my favorite games. I loved how those games mixed scenic outdoorsy backgrounds to scary factories with an atmospheric soundtrack. Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii was a great game, but it was mostly a reintroduction and modernization of the first game. That may be an over simplification, but some of the game felt like a retread. Tropical Freeze innovated on that framework, but made every single level truly unique, fun, and full of adventure10. In this game, Donkey Kong Island is taken over by the Snowmads, a group of cold weather animal foes that transform the island to a winter wonderland 11.

This makes me laugh and smile every time.
This makes me laugh and smile every time.

Donkey and Diddy, along with Dixie and even Cranky 12, have to find their way back to save the island. The premise was fun and the enemies were full of character. Retro Studios finally captured everything special about the original series and improved on it. They were able to bring back David Wise, who composed the music for the first three games, and he crafted a truly atmospheric and magical score for this game. Top notch.

Biggest Disappointments

Even though the Wii U holds some of my favorite games from Nintendo, it wasn’t without its persistent issues.

Launch

The launch of the Wii U was mostly barren. The system was bundled with NintendoLand, a minigame collection full of various Nintendo franchises. Think of this as what Wii Sports was to the Wii. The games did a decent job of showing off some possibilities of the Wii U Gamepad. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion in particular was a favorite among my friends, but the games were mostly hit or miss. It’s a fun tribute to Nintendo, but it didn’t hold the attention of many for long.

The other game at launch was New Super Mario Bros. U. This was the fourth game in the “New” Super Mario Bros. series… and it wasn’t very new. This game is good, I don’t want to discredit it, but the masses weren’t really clamoring for another 2D Mario game. The game also did little to show off the new capabilities of the Wii U. It included the same graphical style as all the other games in the “New” series, only in HD.

Outside of Nintendo’s launch titles, the only original games that weren’t ports that looked enticing were Zombi U and Epic Mickey 2. Both turned out to be pretty average.

The slow trickle of the Wii U drought

Throughout the lifecycle of the Wii U, it seemed like there was always a huge wait between games. This was coupled by very little third party support, leaving the burden of games solely on Nintendo.

Please sir, may we have some more?

In addition to new games, Nintendo also slowed the release of Virtual Console games to a crawl. Not only did the Big N make everyone repurchase Virtual Console games that they may have purchased on the Wii, they were released so… slowly. Some games that were on the Wii Virtual Console weren’t even guaranteed to be released again. The introduction of downloadable Wii titles for those who may have missed them the first time around wasn’t enough to save the Virtual Console.

The Wii U will also be another console without a Metroid title13, and it will not feature a unique Zelda game, as the The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is headed to the Wii U and Nintendo Switch simultaneously. While it will may be a fun final adventure on the Wii U, it’s somewhat depressing that the console will be without its own escapade with Link and Zelda.

The full potential of the Gamepad was never realized

The technology found in the Wii U Gamepad is impressive. It is capable of wirelessly receiving a video signal from the console with almost no latency. The Gamepad itself has no horsepower of its own. I believe this is what led to consumer confusion. Can you take it on the go? No, it has to be in range of the console. It does allow for off-TV-play, which seems like a blessing for some parents wanting to watch TV.

Ultimately, there was no game that truly made the Gamepad a magical experience. It was tacked on for most game experiences. It could show the map or inventory for the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess re-releases, a feature most DS and 3DS owners appreciate. But a TV doesn’t really require extra screen real estate like a portable game console does. There was no true wow factor.

Star Fox Zero

I have to include Star Fox Zero as one of the biggest disappointments for the Wii U. It was Nintendo final charge at pushing the Gamepad as a unique play experience. In this game, you use the left joystick to control the Arwing. Aiming and shooting was deferred to the Gamepad. The Gamepad offered a view from cockpit of the ship while simultaneously flying on the TV. Nintendo touted this mechanic as a new, fun, and unique way to play, transforming controlling the Arwing into an even more powerful experience. But this control scheme, while unique, required a very steep learning curve. Once it was grasped, the game was over. There was no option to play the game without this control scheme.

Furthermore, Star Fox has not had a great game in the franchise since Star Fox 64. When Star Fox Zero was announced the fanbase was excited, and with Platinum Games (creators of Bayonetta as mentioned above) co-developing the game, it attained some high expectations. As more information about the game was released it was discovered this was another retelling of Star Fox 64, which was a retelling of the original Star Fox. Fans did not want to seem the same basic story told again14.

Star Fox Zero was the last big release from Nintendo, and it left a sour taste in the mouths of many fans. It wasn’t a horrible game, but it was very flawed. And it will be a penultimate low note before the Wii U exits with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Biggest Surprises

Even with the disappointments of the Wii U, it did have a handful of generally welcome surprises. There are some games in this section that I do consider some of my favorites for the Wii U, but I feel they are better described as surprises because I would never have prophesied their awesomeness.

Hyrule Warriors is the best celebration of The Legend of Zelda

Hyrule Warriors was shown off early in the Wii U lifecycle. It’s a mix up of Zelda and hack and slash games based off of the popular Dynasty Warrior series. Nintendo was overseeing the project with a third party developer, and it appeared at first as an odd combination that wouldn’t work. This game ended up being a ton of fun, and incorporated almost everything from the series’ long history into its gameplay, characters, settings, and story. I enjoyed it much more than any Dynasty Warriors game. It is stuffed full of content and playable characters. It is a true tribute for any Zelda fan. The game was supported for months after release with a mix of free and purchased DLC, and all of it added to a fantastic game.

The answer to Toad’s enormous wealth

The Toad minigames in Super Mario 3D World were so good that Nintendo turned them into their own full game, called Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Nintendo knows cute, and this game is full of charm. It’s a puzzle game where Captain Toad must find his way to a star at the end of each level. Captain Toad isn’t as resourceful or athletic as Mario (he can’t even jump), so he has to find his own way through each puzzle. It also made good use of the Gamepad, unlike many other games. It’s not the biggest game, but it’s dense with secrets and references, and adds depth to Captain Toad as an independent character. We finally know how Toad can afford a factory, a harbor, and a highway15. It was nice to see a game that started off as an experiment blossom into something new and different.

Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker is something I would have never imagined from Nintendo. Various hacks and programs available on the Internet have allowed people to make their own Mario levels for years, but Nintendo releasing their own game with a quality editor, and options not possible in the original games, was unfathomable a decade ago. Nintendo has always been protective of their IP, so the idea that people could create super shitty Mario levels and publish them online via a Nintendo supported method seems contrary to their image. This game was not just a simple editor; it had so many secrets, options, packed-in levels, and references to Mario Paint, and all with a Nintendo polish. It turned out being the best experience that only the Wii U could produce, and a common answer to the question, “What’s your favorite Wii U game?”16

Cuteness Overdose: Yoshi’s Wooly World

Yoshi’s Wooly World only ends up here as a surprise because it’s the best Yoshi game since Yoshi’s Island. After numerous releases, I never thought Nintendo would be able to recapture that magic, but they did. Also the graphic style and presentation for the game is the cutest thing ever.

The smooching spiders. So creepy, yet so cute!

Nintendo Listens? The little things

There were many small things that came as a surprise over the course of the Wii U lifespan. It seemed that Nintendo was listening to criticisms of the Wii U and the video game market at large. The changes were minor, but they nonetheless expressed an evolving Nintendo.

The Wii U had a few improvements overall in the way that most Nintendo published games had multiple controller options. Between Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Mario Kart 8, and beyond, most games let you use existing Wiimotes, classic controllers, pro controllers, and the Gamepad. Star Fox Zero  was the only game where Nintendo completely restricted the Gamepad to the point where it was a determent.

Nintendo has always been reluctant to add DLC to their games. Nintendo has a high standard when they release games, and try to ensure games don’t need a day one patch and are full of content. But as I stated with Mario Kart 8, the DLC was high value, and it was in addition to the already existing 32 tracks. For Super Mario Maker, they released more content for free on a pretty rapid basis. So although their games can stand alone without it, Nintendo’s track record with DLC is very, very good compared to nearly all other video games.

Nintendo also courted indie developers to the console and repaired their relationship with other developers they had dismissed for conservative views. This paved the way for games like Shovel Knight, which debuted on the Wii U before other consoles. Shovel Knight is one of the best games to come out in the past decade, and I consider it the most “Nintendo” game made by another developer. Another indie game made possible by the Wii U is Runbow, a massively fun NINE player game. What other console has nine player games?

You’re a kid now, you’re a squid now

The biggest surprise for the Wii U by far was Splatoon. Nintendo made one of the best online multiplayer shooters, and they did it while being completely Nintendo. Splatoon focuses on 4 on 4 team gameplay. The objective is simple; cover the map with ink. Shooting other players will not win games. Teamwork is encouraged, and each player can play how they want. One person with a lot of experience can run interference for the other team, while a newcomer can run around a map with a giant ink roller. The game has a fantastic single player campaign as well. It’s optional, but it isn’t just tacked on. The single player game establishes the lore behind the world of the Inklings, and you progress through every game mechanic in a fun manner, culminating in an amazing and hilarious final boss. Nintendo supported this game for over a year with in-game events and free content, effectively expanding the game. It’s no surprise that Splatoon 2 is coming to the Nintendo Switch within the first few months after launch. Splatoon is one of the best new things from Nintendo, and it’s already a classic that everyone should know about.

Wii Will See U Later

The Wii U only lived for four years, and the writing has been on the wall for a while. Although the games trickled out, overall they were of a higher quality and ended up being some of my favorite games in years. It may have not been a console for everyone, and definitely didn’t feature the AAA games everyone was talking about as they were saving up money for a PS4 or XBone, but I think Nintendo carved out a fun niche and offered truly unique games unlike anything else out there. The true potential of the Gamepad was never realized, and it’s sad the Nintendo Switch will abandon the concept completely. Nintendo has said that the Wii U was a stepping stone to get to the Nintendo Switch, and I believe that. I often tell people that Nintendo doesn’t compete directly with other consoles, and that’s true. The don’t compete for graphical parity, triple AAA game exclusives, or cutting edge tech. The Wii U was a unique console, and even though it did not sell well, it’s already becoming a collector’s item based on its uniqueness. So if you picked one up, you’re now a collector!

I like the Wii U more than the Wii. It may have a small library, but it’s a good one. As everyone spreads doom and gloom for Nintendo, as they always do for any new Nintendo console, remember that the Wii U and its slow march into the future led to the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo is once again doing something no one else is attempting to do, and they will be just fine.


  1. Favorite Mario games at the time of writing this:
 1st:Super Mario Bros. 3,2nd :Super Mario World 3rd&4th:Super Mario 3D Land & World 5th:Super Mario Galaxy 2 
  2. 1 AND 2 Combined! 
  3. I know there are mini games present, but the Toad treasure levels were fun, and they warranted their own full game. 
  4. ,movie, book, or blog posts like this one 
  5. Platinum Games could not find a publisher for a sequel, but Nintendo made this game possible. 
  6. The original Mario games were developed with land, air, sea concept.  
  7. “Member Smash Bros.?” 
 “Yeah I member Smash Bros. Member Master Hand?” 
  8. Except for Solid Snake, that was the best. 
  9. Sakurai’s very clever way of calling this Smash 4. 
  10. There’s a level where Donkey Kong races through a tornado on a rhino. What other game allows me to do that? 
  11. The main antagonists of Donkey Kong Country Returns were evil drums. That’s not an over simplification. 
  12. In the original DKC it was Donkey and Diddy. In DKC2 it was Diddy and Dixie to save Donkey. In DKC3 it was Dixie and Kiddy to save Donkey and Diddy. For a series named Donkey Kong Country he was only playable in one of the games. I always thought it would have been cool for Donkey and Dixie to team up to save Diddy. I finally got to see that team up in Tropical Freeze so it was a dream come true. 
  13. The N64 being the first. 
  14. Something I call the “Spider-man Fatigue” 
  15. Nintendo says that Captain Toad isn’t THE Toad but I think he’s at the very least in the employ of Toad. 
  16. Thanks to the people who answered me on Twitter.