For decades, Nintendo did not sell products at a loss.
It was the way they did things, their MO. While Microsoft and Sony both sold their consoles at losses in hopes of recouping costs, Nintendo adamantly refused to sell a product without profit (not unlike Apple). But when the 3DS’s sales slumped at the system’s initial $249 price point, Nintendo shocked everyone by dropping it down to $169 only seven months after launch. After some backlash, Nintendo apologized by offering free digital game downloads to “Ambassadors,” those who bought the systems at the original price, to make up for it (not unlike Apple).
Nintendo was selling the 3DS at a loss. Everything changed.
The Wii U, now ten months old, has been selling at a loss since its inception. The system released in two versions, the “Basic” and “Deluxe.” The former had less space and no game, but it hit the oh-so-attractive $299 price point. The Deluxe, which was the only one anyone should have got, was $349 and packed in Nintendo Land. But sales have been dour, and with the much more powerful PlayStation 4 on the horizon for only $399, Nintendo was put in an awkward position.
So they cut the price. On Saturday, September 21, Nintendo phased out the Basic version of the Wii U and released a special edition of the Deluxe for $299. Rather than packing in Nintendo Land, the new Zelda-themed bundle contains The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, plus a digital download of The Legend of Zela: Hyrule Historia. Fittingly, the gamepad is decked out in gold Zelda-themed artwork.
It’s nice, and, at that price, now is the best time yet to buy a Wii U. But what else should you get?
Well, keep on reading.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and/or Nintendo Land
Depending on which version of the Wii U you bought, you probably already have one of these games, so go buy the other one. Nintendo Land isn’t quite the Wii Sports successor that Nintendo wanted it to be, but it’s definitely got some fun games in it that work well in groups and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a beautiful remake of a GameCube gem (meaning not nearly enough people played it). And if you were unfortunate enough to have gotten a Wii U Basic version way back when, you should buy both of them (and then never buy a low-end version of a game console again).
Books could (and should, get on that, Press Select) be written about how amazing Little Inferno is. Less game and more fireplace simulator, the gameplay consists almost entirely of purchasing things, waiting for them to arrive, and then putting them into the fireplace and burning them. But the world that has been built up around this fireplace, made real by the shockingly gripping narrative (yeah, there’s a narrative) and brilliant artwork and animations is nothing short of astounding. Saying anything more would be a disservice, but let me be clear: you need to play this thing.
New Super Mario Bros. U
New Super Mario Bros., New Super Mario Bros. Wii, New Super Mario Bros. 2, and New Super Mario Bros. U all came out within a few years of each other, with the latter two being released the same year, and there was some understandable controversy surrounding that, given how infrequently 2D Mario games had been released prior (and the general similarities between the four games). But just because the game isn’t as new as its title might suggest doesn’t mean it’s not well worth playing. You should also get the New Super Luigi U expansion pack, which changes up all of the original game’s levels and adds some much-needed challenge into the mix.
Pikmin 3 was supposed to be a launch game for the Wii U (well, most people expected it to come to the Wii), but as is Nintendo’s way it was delayed time and time again. But then finally it released, and guess what? It’s awesome. And gorgeous. The vibrant art style really pops in HD, and I’m extremely excited to see what future Nintendo-developed games are going to look like on the system. But enough about that: Pikmin 3 is great, and you should buy it. The fact that Pikmin is Nintendo’s most recent franchise (Wii-named projects excepted) is somewhat disheartening, but hopefully they have some new stuff on the horizon. For the moment, though, Pikmin 3 shows that even if the company treads similar ground, they’ve got a whole lot of ground to tread. (Also, throw Pikmin 2 – Nintendo Selects for Wii on this list as well. The Wii U is totally backwards compatible, and the third game is different enough that its predecessor is still well worth playing.)
Originally a Wii U exclusive, Rayman Legends was delayed for months after being completed while the developers worked on releases for other consoles. But it’s finally out, and the Wii U is still the place to play it. A not insignificant portion of the game was made with the Wii U Gamepad in mind as you control things using the touchscreen, something that does not so easily translate to more traditional controllers, so skip the other platforms and go for the one that really is its home. If you only want one platformer on your system, this would be the one to get (although why would you limit yourself like that?). Nintendo should learn a few things from what director Michel Ancel and his team have made.
The Wonderful 101
Ah, Platinum Games. The Wonderful 101 was always destined to fail commercially, because it’s such a strange game. Instead of controlling one primary character, The Wonderful 101 puts you in control of 100 (The Wonderful 100, as it were), which can be manipulated into giant fists, swords, whips, and all kinds of other weapons using the Wii U. Platinum Games may be the best developer of straight-up action games in the industry today, but their games require dedication to really grasp and master. In an interview, game director Hideki Kamiya said that the game doesn’t really start until the second playthrough, once the player has really gotten to know the mechanics. Perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s certainly not something you’ll enjoy without a little practice. Once you’ve gotten that practice and begun to properly utilize the systems, though, you’ll remember why Platinum is so revered.
For both the Wii and the Wii U, Ubisoft has released one interesting experiment that attempts to take Nintendo’s new hardware in a new direction. Red Steel, which released back in 2006, was met with lukewarm reviews but paved the way for better Wii first person shooters down the line, and ZombiU released last year to more-but-not-quite-widespread acclaim but has made little impact on the system so far. Its fascinating use of the Gamepad to keep the horror going in real-time is a model that no one else has attempted to replicate, and it’s a shame that the game didn’t do well enough to warrant a sequel. It’s got its faults, but it’s a unique idea with decent execution. Now that time has knocked some dollars off of its price tag, there’s no reason not to pick it up.