[Bumping this guide from July 2014 as-was in anticipation of Smash Bros. week, the holidays, and some new Wii U owners. The only good "Black Friday" deal for the console seems to be $360 from Best Buy with Smash, Donkey Kong Country, Mario 3D World, and Nintendo Land.]
Even if you must play all the Hot New Games, you don't need a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One to do so until 2015. Enough of them are still releasing on PS3 and 360 this fall. The rest, on PC (and, for some of us, handhelds).
With the recent release of Mario Kart 8 and the upcoming release of Super Smash Bros., you might consider buying a Wii U, though.
How do I buy a Wii U?
This part is harder than you might think. First, you need a job, under the table or otherwise -- just some source of income (note: if you are genealogically wealthy, feel free to skip this step!). I know what you're thinking: A job? In this economy? Be prepared to work harder than you should for less than you deserve. Doing so dutifully, without violent outbursts or unionizing, will see you repaid with varicose veins, ulcers, and a meager stipend which can be exchanged for goods and services. One such good is a Wii U, of which there are different types.
Don't buy an 8gb Wii U.
The main option there is this Skylanders bundle. For the same default price ($300), you can get the 32gb "deluxe" Wii U with copies of New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U.
You're not being sneaky paying $250 for the Skylanders bundle from GameStop because you're still stuck with an 8gb system. If you want to be a bit sneaky, get a refurbished "deluxe" Wii U with Nintendo Land for $200. Plus, "deluxe" owners still get cash back on digital purchases. Save money without Craigslist strangers insisting you walk into the shed in their backyards to pick up the console.
NOTE: The $330 Mario Kart 8 bundle isn't the worst idea if you know you want Mario Kart 8, which, like most Nintendo games, probably won't end up on sale soon. You also have until July 31 to register that Mario Kart 8 copy and get a free game. Availability is the problem here. No GameStop within 100 miles of San Francisco has one, for example.
What else do I need?
Well, hopefully you have enough money from your job (after paying medical expenses, if you're American, lol) to afford a living space wired with electricity. You'll need it, along with a screen. You might also want more controllers for multiplayer games and an external hard drive if you're worried about the 32gb "deluxe" storage size.
If you have Wii remotes from the U-less Wii, you can use those as controllers, though some games may require the Wii Motion Plus extension.
You can also pick up a Wii U Pro Controller, which resembles the gamepads of its contemporaries, or try your luck with cheaper third party alternatives. Of course, there's always Craigslist. Just say no to sheds.
Or tell you friends that your super cool get together hangout is BYOC -- Bring Your Own Controller. Wouldn't that be a cute thing to tell them? Your friends, I mean. "And b-t-w, it's going to be BYOC, and we have to keep the noise down because my diabetic cat gets spooked, and I hope you don't mind gluten-free treats, okay, hope to see you Saturday night!"
Good videogames that wouldn't work if put in something besides a Wii U
Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Indeed, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker suffers from some archaic mechanics, its fundamentals not having aged quite so gracefully as its aesthetics. Its unwieldiness and occasional sluggish pace can, in fact, grow temporarily infuriating. However, the streamlined menu system and map access go some way toward making up for any setbacks, while the unmistakable Wind Wakercharisma ensures you won't ever stay mad at it for long.
After all, in a world of greedy cartography fish and cynical French Minesweeper purveyors, how could you not keep smiling? - Jim Sterling
Pikmin 3 isn't everything that Pikmin has ever been before, but it's still the best representation of the concept to date. It feels like a full replacement of Pikmin 1, and a perfect companion to the different-but-equal Pikmin 2. The series' signature creepy, cartoon-like take on real trials of life is there in full force, bolstered by incredibly beautiful graphics, an unexpectedly involving story, tons of secrets, and new ways to play, all while never straying from the spirit of the original game. - Jonathan Holmes
The Wonderful 101
The Wonderful 101 is one of those rare games that keeps getting more and more fun the more that you play it. If you have the dexterity to handle the controls and the patience to deal with a few momentum-killing platforming/puzzle bits, you're in for a heck of a time. - Jonathan Holmes
Those unconvinced about what the Wii U can do would benefit from finding themselves a way of trying out Nintendo Land. It manages to do a lot with the system without, I believe, even scratching the surface of what more focused and dedicated videogames could achieve. It's a game meant to excite you more about the system you just purchased, and that is what it does. Well worth checking out, at any rate. - Jim Sterling
Lego City Undercover
For all its faults, charming is absolutely the word best describing LEGO City Undercover. While more could have been done to exploit the sandbox scenario, and while it sticks a bit too nervously to formula than it could have, Undercover is nonetheless a frequently pleasurable, occasionally hilarious little romp in a new LEGO world full of potential. Should TT Games get another chance to revisit this idea, I hope for -- and expect -- a lot more of an expansion on the concept, and a lot more focus on the fresh elements that provide Undercover's highest points. As for this first try, we have a pretty damn good effort that I'd love to see more of. - Jim Sterling
Super Mario 3D World
There was a moment where I was taking in the beautiful soundtrack, hovering over a tricky jump as cat Peach, and watching the glistening water below where the game really came together. It was then that I realized that Super Mario 3D World had achieved a level of platforming design that's close to perfection, and there was almost never a moment where I didn't have a smile on my face. This is the unequivocally the best Mario game since Galaxy 2, and it shows up anything the "New" series has ever done, and then some. - Chris Carter
New Super Mario Bros/Super Luigi U
New Super Mario Bros. U is a great little platformer that kicks off the Wii U launch with a bang. Players know exactly what they're getting with this one -- an entertaining and incomplex bit of gaming that provides challenge and smirks in equal measure. While certainly a "safe" game to launch with, it is by no means unremarkable, and the only people who would fail to have fun are those with a fundamental aversion to Mario or platformers in general. Literally everybody else would find it incredibly difficult to dislike this one ... even if some of those latter stages will make them temporarily despise it. - Jim Sterling
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
I didn't think it was possible, but Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has topped Returns. It's an incredibly crafted platformer with an HD sheen and an insane attention to detail, and any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to experience it. With the addition of control options to the already proven formula, Retro Studios' rendition of Donkey Kong is pretty much flawless - Chris Carter
Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 is my favorite series entry since Double Dash, and if it gets arena battle tracks at some point by way of DLC, it will be a near-perfect package. Its vibrant visuals will hold up for years to come, ensuring that the game will withstand the test of time, and it will be a staple in my household for a long, long while. - Chris Carter
ZombiU is awkward, ugly, crawling in its pace, and often nonsensical with its narrative ... and I remember when horror games weren't ashamed of any of that, even actively exploiting it to create alienating, frightening atmospheres that stuck in a players' memories and made them too spooked to want to take another step forward. ZombiU did that to me. It made me afraid to walk into rooms, it made me think twice before tackling two opponents at once, and it frequently reminded me I was weak, piteous, but maybe just careful and lucky enough to get through.
And for as much as it screws up, ZombiU somehow does it well. - Jim Sterling
Good videogames that would work if placed in consoles other than a Wii U (unless you tried to place the Wii U disc of that game in another console, which would not work, obviously)
Rayman Legends is occasionally flustering, and sometimes seems to demand more than a conventional controller is capable of. The surprisingly slapdash jury-rigging of Wii U features on other systems is glaring in its inelegance, too. However, we're still left with an impressively designed platformer that proves itself a worthy followup to Rayman Origins, making a few notable omissions, but adding some excellent new ideas of its own.
Charming, funny, and only sometimes exasperating, Rayman Legends is the kind of game that makes this industry a better place for its existence. - Jim Sterling
Deus Ex: Director's Cut
Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Director's Cut gives you a ton of extra bang for your buck on top of an already stellar game, and if you haven't experienced it yet, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. If you have played it, I'm not sure the $20 Wii U premium is worth it, especially if you don't plan on using the Remote Play option. But somewhere down the line, the lower price of the other versions is a very enticing offer should you get that Human Revolution itch at some point, because this is the clear-cut best version of the game. - Chris Carter
Resident Evil: Revelations
Resident Evil Revelations isn't as good on consoles as it is on the 3DS. It clearly wasn't designed for larger machines, and the somewhat clunky, rudimentary controls indicate that it would need to be rebuilt from the ground up to prove a superior alternative. However, it's still a fine game and still the best Resident Evil game available right now, and if you've not played it already, you truly ought to. If you've already tried it on 3DS, there's not a lot to bring you back, but any other Resident Evilfan would be best served giving it a go. - Jim Sterling
Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U
As long as you're prepared to deal with the decidedly smaller community, the Wii U Edition ofTekken Tag Tournament 2 is the best version of the game. It's essentially the exact same package with a few extras, and a few tiny conveniences that put it slightly over the original. While I wouldn't double-dip if you're already a Tekken adopter, the Wii U Edition is a great place to start. - Chris Carter
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Encountering monsters in Monster Hunter isn't like most other games. Monsters will take your breath away shortly before they take your life away. This is a game that will force you to learn from your mistakes, lest you repeat them and achieve the same failure as before. While the visuals are far from stunning and the online lacks any sort of host migration, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is one of the best and most rewarding experiences in a long time, and will certainly keep you busy for a while. - Patrick Hancock
Hahaha these videogames don't even have discs
Shovel Knight is one of the best platformers I've ever played, period. As I sit here with the theme song stuck in my head, I'm realizing that Yacht Club Games has created something truly special, and it was absolutely worth the risk to start their own studio. In addition to a potential Shovel Knight 2, I can't wait to see what they have in store for us down the road. - Chris Carter
All told, The Cave is a morbid, humorous romp filled with life lessons which should be apparent already to all but the total sociopath. While there are some niggling issues with overall polish, it's a fun time for fans of adventure games that should set you to giggling and, hopefully, feeling just a little bit guilty about that glee. - Conrad Zimmerman
Bit.Trip Runner 2
Runner2 feels like a very natural progression for the series. The team at Gaijin Games has crafted a more nuanced and impressive follow-up to what was great title in its own right. Avant-garde but with a healthy respect for the past, Runner2 is a marvelous rhythmic platformer that just about anyone should be able to enjoy. - Kyle MacGregor
Some may complain that the game is too short or is overpriced. They'd be missing the point, which is arguably part of the Little Inferno concept. As for me, I feel that the game is a bargain at $15. It's the only game of its type on the market today. I can't think of the last time that a game has made me think, feel, and laugh at such a consistent pace. It's mix of high-concept messages and simple, more-fun-than-it-should be "gameplay" make it a must buy for anyone who likes thinking about videogames and/or burning things. - Jonathan Holmes
Right from the start, Guacamelee! offers up a sugar skull-covered playground to delight in and devour with mucho gusto. It's a game I'll be playing and replaying again for some time to come. - Jonathan Holmes
Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition
In fact, I still to this day can't beat par on every single stage in either version. WayForward really pulled out the stops on this one to make it truly challenging, should you decide to try and conquer every single score. Right now, there are no plans to bring the hyper stages to the 3DS version. - Chris Carter
NES Remix 1 and 2
NES Remix 2 is a solid follow-up with more "must have" games and a few extras to sweeten the deal. If you passed due to the ho-hum nature of some of the titles in the original offering, think about checking it out this time around. - Chris Carter
As much as I love the originals on the 3DS, this is pretty much the definitive version of Pushmo, especially when you consider the fact that the Wii U GamePad makes it semi-portable. So long as you haven't tired from the core formula yet you won't be disappointed, and genre-fans who haven't played the series in general should pick it up. - Chris Carter
Aban Hawkins and the 1001 Spikes
Like Dr. Wily or Jigsaw from the Saw films, the temple designers of 1001 Spikes put a lot of thought and care into all the ways they've planned to kill you. They want you to feel smarter, braver, more patient, more skilled, and closer to them as artists as you unravel the puzzling deathtraps that they've created. You must truly get inside their minds in order to fully deconstruct the monstrosities that they have built for your desperate pleasure, and ideally, you'll know yourself and the developers of the game better for the experience.
This is a game that will have you thinking about how intense, perplexing, and perfect it was for days. Like a tiny mouse says early in the game -- "the harder the victory, the greater the joy of success" - Jonathan Holmes
Good videogames you may or may not have played while Boyz 2 Men and Ace of Base were winning American music awards and Darryl Strawberry was being suspended for 50 days and cut from the Giants' roster
Super Mario World
It's still not on 3DS god damn it.
I was too busy listening to Ace of Base to play Earthbound, I'll get to that eventually.
Fire Emblem: Awakening introduced a lot of people to Intelligent Systems, but the strategy developers have another delightful series, Advanced Wars, that seems doomed to never get a sequel while four Fire Emblem characters end up in Smash.
Videogames that are not out yet but by the grace of our lord and savior Luigi will be soon barring acts of Luigi, amen
Super Smash Bros.
If you have a Wii U, you should probably get this game. Yes, it's on 3DS, but is that how you want to play the next Smash Bros.? Dust off your rolodex, get the gang back together, or find people on Craigslist to play with you.
'I feel that it's important to let your creativity flow and Nintendo has been able to provide us with the freedom to do what we had originally envisioned,' director Yusuke Hashimoto said. 'We were able to have a lot of back-and-forth between Platinum Games and Nintendo and they were able to provide objective feedback; 'Maybe that's a little too much', or, 'maybe you should try this'. I feel that was really good and helped push Bayonetta 2 to even higher quality.'
Fatal Frame: The Black Haired Shrine Maiden
The Wii has yet to bring us a new a new Pokemon Snap, but at least there's Fatal Frame. Hopefully this isn't just for Japan. I am now saying "Crimson Butterfly" in my head over and over.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Bad name? Well, uh, better chance that it's a good JRPG.
Its shooter by way of Tony Hawk graffiti mode is a novel concept that has, in early impressions, worked surprisingly well. It's a shooter that does things differently. We could use some of that. Used to be some pleasant variety in the genre.