Here's a look at the year's 10 most anticipated games for Nintendo's Wii U console, including Mario Party 10, Xenoblade Chronicles X and The Legend of Zelda.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
The latest Kirby platformer rolls Nintendo's cutesy pink blob into a tiny ball, then sends him wheeling through colorful levels, guided by rainbow-like lines players draw on the Wii U GamePad's touchscreen. Nintendo says the game will feature amiibo support for Kirby, as well as series regulars Meta Knight and King Dedede.
Mario Party 10
The first Mario Party game for Wii U (and tenth in the main series) adds two new modes: Bowser Party and amiibo Party. In Bowser Party, four players can square off with a fifth (Bowser), attempting to reach the end of a game board without being caught, while in amiibo Party, up to four players compete on game boards specially tailored for each figurine.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars
Sixth in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, Tipping Stars takes the classic approach--create your own side-scrolling, puzzle-driven levels, then share them with others online--then adds a "tipping" rewards system: stars you earn by beating levels can be cashed in for level parts, or passed along to designers you like, providing them with additional creative resources.
Splatoon was one of the best things I played at E3 2014, both a whimsical sendup of carnage-laced competitive shooters and a clever rethink of the genre's tropes. Imagine a 4 vs. 4 action game that lets you spray ink all over the screen like You Can’t Do That on Television's slime pumped through Super Soakers. The basic idea’s simple enough: whoever’s team covers the most square footage with their color of ink wins.
Want to build your own side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. levels? Skin those levels to look like different Mario games, from the NES's glory 8-bit days to the Wii U's slick, high definition New Super Mario Bros. U? Do all that from the comfort and convenience of the Wii U GamePad? Share your levels with others online?
Nintendo hasn't released videos or stills of its upcoming Star Fox game for Wii U--the brief above is of various putatively related mini-games--but I was one of a few allowed to go hands-on with an experimental version at E3 last summer. Still a spaceship-based shooter, the demo had me use the GamePad’s motion sensors to aim my Arwing’s weapons, simultaneously controlling the craft by thumbing the joysticks to accelerate or turn and pull off signature moves like barrel rolls, loops and the tactically essential Immelman turn. And the Arwing could still morph into a land tank, rocketing down to the surface of a planet, then rattling around the battlefield and laying waste to the landscape.
Yoshi's Woolly World
As yarn to Kirby, so wool to Yoshi: Yoshi's Woolly World takes that notion--inflecting conventional platforming ideas with knitting materials--and wraps it around Nintendo's iconic dinosaur. More than a visual re-skinning of the Yoshi's Island series, Yoshi's Woolly World imbues Yoshi with filament-manipulating abilities, including an entourage of colorific, puzzle-solving yarn balls.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
There's no more anticipated game than Xenoblade Chronicles X in 2015's lineup, across every platform, for me. It may lack Halo 5 or Uncharted 4's star power and broader genre appeal, but I'd nonchalantly throw those games under a bus to play this one. (That is, assuming developer Monolith's crafted something as vast, dynamic and compulsive as Xenoblade Chronicles--we'll see.)
The Legend of Zelda
Tantamount to last year's Wii U-saving Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda is Nintendo's most elevated of games, expectation-wise, this year. Teased at E3 last year and again in December, the first console-based Zelda game since 2011's Skyward Sword for Wii looks to be Nintendo's take on the open world genre, dropping you into a vast fantasy world while at the same time subverting many of the series' tropes.
Wii Games on Wii U
Missed the Wii's halcyon hits? Nintendo just added native Wii support to the Wii U, meaning you can now purchase and play discounted Nintendo eShop versions of games like Super Mario Galaxy 2 (available now), Punch-Out!! (January 22) and Metroid Prime Trilogy (January 29) without the need to clumsily boot into "Wii Mode." And if the game supported the Wii Classic/Pro Controller, you can sub in the Wii U GamePad, too.