In 2016, the official Tech Insider company line has been that the Wii U, Nintendo’s current home console, isn’t so hot. One editor said now is the best time to sell your Wii U, while another called it the worst purchase of his life.
I can’t, in good conscience, say either of them are wrong. The Wii U has been something of a hot mess ever since its launch in 2012, with its bulky tablet controller, underpowered graphics capability and complete lack of huge games like “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto.” In fact, you could be forgiven if you didn’t even know that it’s a new console; I still regularly clarify to non-gaming-minded folks that it isn’t just an add-on to Nintendo’s previous console, the immensely successful Wii.
But the games Nintendo makes for their consoles are still some of the best around. This has been a constant throughout the lifetimes of the Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii, which all had goofy hardware limitations like the Wii U. If you’ve ever had any affection for franchises like “Super Smash Bros.” and “Mario Kart,” the Wii U is the only place to play the latest (and arguably best) games in those series. There are also some genuinely fantastic original games like “Splatoon” that you can’t find anywhere else.
With the console starting as low as $199.99 at GameStop and Nintendo permanently dropping the price on great games like “Super Mario 3D World” to $20, it’s the best option for anyone who wants to play friendly, accessible games with their kids without waiting and springing for the new Xbox One and Playstation 4 updates.
Let’s start with “Splatoon.” It’s the best (ok, second best) online multiplayer shooter in years, and it’s totally kid-friendly. Two teams of cartoon squids square off in gorgeous, varied arenas as each team tries to cover more of the ground in their ink colour than the opposition. While it will occasionally be necessary to “splat” enemy players in your quest for colourful glory, that isn’t the goal. There is also no voice chat, meaning you or your kids will never have to hear vulgar comments from other players over the game’s amazing soundtrack. It’s a delightfully non-violent take on multiplayer shooting.
As an added bonus, your squid is fully customisable, meaning you can dress them up in all kinds of hip snapbacks, flannel shirts and sneakers. It’s pretty great, and it still has an active community more than a year after its release.
If you’d rather foster your child’s creativity than introduce them to competitive mayhem, “Super Mario Maker” is the way to go. As the title implies, you can make your own “Super Mario Bros.” levels using a grid-based creation tool that makes fantastic use of the Wii U GamePad, moreso than any other game. It’s a breeze to whip up a level, upload it to the game’s servers and share it with the world. If you just want to check out some of rad levels people are making, you never have to touch the level creation tools. What could be better than an endless supply of “Super Mario Bros.” levels?
My biggest concern about recommending the Wii U right now is the NX, Nintendo’s mysterious new console. The company hasn’t said a word about price, functionality or whether or not it can play Wii U games. All we know at the moment is that it will be revealed later this year and released in early 2017.
With that in mind, it might be best to at least wait until we know more about the NX. If it can play Wii U games and it’s relatively affordable, there’s no reason to get a Wii U. If not, however, the Wii U is the little console that almost could. Its price will only drop from here on out and it has a host of great games that parents and kids can enjoy together, despite its well-earned status as an industry punch-line.