I hate to say it because I’m a huge Nintendo fan, but the Wii U has been one of the worst purchases of my life.
I bought the Wii U on Thanksgiving Day 2014. It was the first and only time I’ve ever partaken in the madness known as Black Friday, even though it was still technically Thursday night.
I felt ashamed standing in line at Best Buy at 23rd Street knowing full well that dozens of Best Buy employees were forced to work that night during the most terrible conditions — cold and snowy weather and mobs of price-crazy people. But dang it, I really wanted to buy a Wii U.
A couple of months prior Nintendo had released “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U,” and I’ve been a major fan of every “Smash Bros.” game since the original one for the Nintendo 64, so I finally made the decision to buy a Wii U bundle with the Black Friday sale.
That night, I brought home a Wii U, “Super Mario 3D World,” “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze,” and “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.” I couldn’t wait to start playing these new games that reminded me of my childhood.
I’d owned every Nintendo console prior to the Wii U, including most of the handheld systems, so I knew the decision of buying a Wii U wasn’t a major question in my mind, just a matter of time. But it’s a decision I unfortunately regret making.
Not even two years later, the Wii U is sitting in a box. I just moved apartments this week, and I don’t really want to unpack my Wii U. It hardly got any play in my old apartment, and I can’t see myself playing it in this new one.
The Wii U’s problem was never the games, but the console itself. Nintendo has never had all the AAA games you’d find on PlayStation and Xbox, but its own original IP, to me, is much more fun and valuable. Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Samus… any time there’s a new game out starring one of these characters, it’s a must-buy because you know Nintendo has spent a ton of money, time, and effort to make the experience novel and unforgettable.
Unfortunately, the Wii U just couldn’t deliver like prior Nintendo consoles.
One of the biggest issues is simply turning on the console (there are actually six different ways to turn on the Wii U). You can’t just jump into any of the games you already own; you need to load a home screen that puts style over utility. Navigating this interface was always annoying, even though it’s relatively straightforward.
The more annoying part of turning on the console is that it automatically turns on the GamePad, the prime controller for the Wii U. You could turn on a separate controller and the GamePad’s bright screen would suddenly wake up, even though you didn’t ask it to. You could turn off the GamePad’s screen but you’d have to futz with the controls on that imprecise touchscreen display. Also, the controller stays on even when the display’s off, which is super annoying because I always preferred using one of the better controller alternatives like the Wii U Pro controller.
One more thing about the GamePad: I absolutely hate it. I think it’s the worst controller Nintendo has ever built. It’s super bulky and never that comfortable to hold. I never liked the idea of having a second screen in my hands except for when it shows me some useful information about the game I’m playing, but that rarely ever happened. Most times it just got in the way, and its bright display would glare up at me while I was trying to focus on the TV screen.
The games themselves were fine, but they felt limited by the console’s gimmicks, between the GamePad’s touch display and the imprecise motion controls brought over by the Wii. Nothing felt as easy or intuitive as the PlayStation 4, for instance, where you can pick up the controller, press one button, and pick up where you left off in your last game.
Since I bought the Wii U, I haven’t purchased any new games. I’ve hardly touched the ones I purchased the night I bought the console. I got through several levels of “Donkey Kong Country” and “Super Mario 3D World,” but their novelty quickly wore off and it felt like more of a chore to just turn on the console, which discouraged me from playing these games. It was easier and more fun to play PlayStation 4 games, so I did that.
And now, Nintendo is sunsetting the Wii U. The company will release its next console, codenamed “NX,” next March. Sure, a few more Wii U games are coming out this year, but nothing really notable. No first-party titles like “Mario” or “Zelda” until next year, and those games will be on the NX as well as the Wii U.
My colleague Ben Gilbert says now is the best time to sell your Wii U, and I believe him. The value of the console will only depreciate from here on out. So, in many ways, this console was a major disappointment. It brought me none of the joy that other Nintendo consoles gave me, and the brief nostalgia trips could hardly justify the price of entry.
I really hope Nintendo makes the NX more approachable than the Wii U — I don’t need any more gimmicks like motion controls or a touchscreen display. I just want fun, creative games to play starring some of my favourite characters of all-time. I’m very interested in the Nintendo NX, and I look forward to learning more about the new console later this year, but I’m not going to rush into another Nintendo purchase. I feel too burned by the last one.
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