Critics often use the term “mixed reception” as a euphemism for near-total negativity, but the response to the Wii U games shown so far has been genuinely diverse. The befuddling initial unveiling and the apathy that greeted Nintendo’s E3 2012 conference both generated a potentially dangerous kind of anti-buzz, but hands-on impressions have been much more positive. Nintendo Land was a damp squib of a finale, but at least two of its minigames show why Nintendo is making such a big deal of asymmetric multiplayer. And even with Pikmin 3 to compete with, Ubisoft may have beaten Nintendo at its own game: survival horror ZombiU is a terrific showcase for the new controller, while Rayman Legends has more inventive uses for the GamePad than New Super Mario Bros U, giving us the once unthinkable prospect of Nintendo’s mascot not starring in the console’s best platformer.
The most important task now facing Nintendo's Kyoto HQ is to convince people they need Wii U in a market whose eyes are elsewhere: the expanded audience have all but abandoned Wii for browser, Facebook and mobile gaming (and to a lesser extent Kinect), while the enthusiast crowd is largely, and understandably, unconvinced by the seemingly lacklustre thirdparty support beyond enhanced versions of older games like Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City. It’s much too soon to say that Wii U may struggle to get off the ground, but here are eight games that could help Nintendo get the head start it needs before the arrival of Sony and Microsoft’s next consoles.
Grand Theft Auto V
Thirdparty support is crucial if Nintendo’s stated desire to woo the core audience is not to end up as a hollow promise. NOA marketing mouthpiece Scott Moffit suggests that "Wii U could become the preferred way to play […] for some of the core gamers,” and there would be few more compelling demonstrations of that idea than a Wii U version of Rockstar’s long-awaited return to Los Santos. While a Wii U version of Grand Theft Auto V wouldn't need to use the GamePad screen to fly off shelves, it's worth noting that DS’s Chinatown Wars showed how the series could benefit from an additional display – tellingly, even after iOS and PSP revisions, the DS version remains the best.
It’s unlikely to happen, of course. The Housers didn’t consider Wii a natural fit for GTA, and while the challenge of developing for the biggest-selling handheld console proved impossible to resist, poor sales of Chinatown Wars will have further cemented the idea that M-rated content struggles on Nintendo’s family-friendly devices - even if the R4 card was largely to blame for the game's lukewarm performance at retail. Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick, meanwhile, claims to be “sceptical” about the chances of his company’s slate of mature franchises coming to Wii U. It would take phenomenal launch numbers to provoke a change of heart.
Wii U Sports
Given that the initial video that accompanied Wii U’s unveiling at E3 2011 featured enhanced, high-definition variations of Wii Sports’ golf and baseball minigames, it seems almost perverse that the console should launch without a fresh take on Nintendo’s biggest ever hit. Then again, as confusion reigned in the aftermath of the reveal – with many believing the tablet controller to be a Wii peripheral rather than a brand new machine – perhaps it’s wise that Nintendo should use something as obviously new as Nintendo Land as a way of communicating Wii U’s unique feature set.
Yet while Nintendo Land adequately demonstrates the possibilities of the Wii U’s GamePad, the difficulties Katsuya Eguchi had in explaining the Luigi’s Ghost Mansion minigame succinctly on stage says much about the biggest hurdle Nintendo has to overcome. Simply, the controller isn’t as intuitive to the wider market as the Wii remote, and none of Nintendo Land’s asides is anything like as immediately understandable as Wii Sports tennis. A Wii U Sports title would be a clear way of simultaneously demonstrating the similarities and differences of the two consoles, the golf aside in particular instantly highlighting an enhanced version of a game players are already familiar with, and can even use their old remotes to play. It makes sense from a business perspective, too: the strong sales of Wii Sports in Japan – the only territory where the game wasn’t bundled with the console – and its successor Resort suggest a new entry would be quite the moneyspinner.
The Wii was the first home console since the SNES to not play host to Nintendo’s futuristic racing series, partly because, as Miyamoto explained to us earlier this year, it wasn’t technically capable of producing a worthwhile follow-up to Amusement Vision’s blistering F-Zero GX. “I don't see with current hardware how you could create a similar surprise,” he suggested. He did, however, hint that a Wii U entry was a possibility: “Maybe we could create something that does make sense, either as a smaller game, or a fully fledged title.”
Anyone who has witnessed the GameCube title running at 1080p on the Dolphin emulator will be acutely aware of the benefits of a sharper display, with visuals that shame many current generation titles. Moreover, a Wii U title could – and should – offer a decent workout for Nintendo’s improved online network; though 30 vehicles haring around undulating tracks at impossible speeds might put too much strain on the netcode, it surely wouldn’t be out of the question to see 12-player races, which Mario Kart Wii handled with ease. The appearance of an F-Zero minigame in Nintendo Land suggests the series isn’t too far from Nintendo’s thoughts, though many - ourselves included - will be sorely disappointed if this is the “smaller game” to which Miyamoto refers.