5 Reasons to Buy Nintendo’s Wii U Right Now

4 minute read

To be clear, if you’re looking for a video game system that plays stuff like Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3 or Batman: Arkham Knight, the Wii U isn’t for you. For one reason or another, Nintendo’s quirky, quasi-portable, dual-screen, trend-bucking system failed to clinch crucial third-party support, and thus lacks many of the current generation’s third-party blockbusters.

But likewise, if you want a system that plays games made by Nintendo, including those starring icons like Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby or Zelda’s Link, the Wii U is pretty much a slam dunk, sluggish sales or no.

Here’s a roundup of reasons to consider the Wii U, mid-2015 edition.

The games it already plays

The Wii U harbors some of the most acclaimed first-party games of any system, bar none. It’s a formidable list that includes Super Mario 3D World (a clever hybrid 2D/3D platformer in the mold of Super Mario 64), Super Smash Bros. (a mammoth fighting game starring Nintendo’s beloved characters), Bayonetta 2 (a sublime, totally gonzo action game), The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (a remastered version of director Eiji Aonuma’s nautical masterpiece), Mario Kart 8 (the apotheosis of the Mario Kart racing series), Pikmin 3 (an ingenious exploration-driven puzzler), New Super Mario Bros. U (old-school Super Mario Bros. sidescrolling with contemporary twists), Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (evolutionary Donkey Kong Country gameplay by Metroid Prime-maker Retro Studios), Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (an intricate monster-hunting, slaying and capturing simulation) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (rotate 3D micro-levels to find collectibles and solve progression puzzles) and Splatoon (think high octane paintball, only with squids).

The games coming this year

We lost The Legend of Zelda—originally due this year—to 2016, but the Wii U’s fall and holiday lineup still has its share of titans, including Super Mario Maker (a toolset that lets you create and share 2D Super Mario Bros. levels in retro 8-bit or contemporary 3D styles), Yoshi’s Woolly World (a sidescrolling platformer staged in levels made entirely of yarn and cloth), Star Fox Zero (the sixth installment in Nintendo’s sci-fi shooter series, and the first in nine years), Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash (the most cathartic tennis series on the planet) and Xenoblade Chronicles X (a sci-fi roleplaying game and spiritual sequel to the superlative Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii that could more than make up for Zelda‘s absence).

See The 15 Best Video Game Graphics of 2014

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Activision's futuristic first-person shooter in which players take on a rogue private military company uses a brand new engine built specifically for PCs and new-gen consoles to handle its cutting-edge lighting, animation and physics. Sledgehammer Games/Activision
Far Cry 4
Far Cry 4. This pulled back shot of fictional Himalayan region Kyrat is in-game, believe it or not, rendered with an overhauled version of the engine Ubisoft used to design Far Cry 3. Ubisoft
The Last of Us Remastered
The Last of Us: Remastered. Naughty Dog's meditation on the worst (and best) of humanity is built on technology that reaches back through the studio's pulp-adventure Uncharted series. The graphics are so impressive, TIME recently assigned a conflict photographer to photograph inside the game.Ashley Gilbertson for TIME
Alien: Isolation
Alien: Isolation Built from scratch, the Alien: Isolation engine's outstanding deep space visuals all but replicate the set design of Alien film concept artists H.R. Giger and Ron Cobb's work. The Creative Assembly
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity. Ubisoft says it "basically remade the whole rendering engine" in its AnvilNext design tool to handle the studio's meticulous recreation of Paris during the French Revolution. Ubisoft
Child of Light
Child of Light Inspired by filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki and artist Yoshitaka Amano, Child of Light's hand-drawn artwork puts the lie to presumptions that graphical richness depends on shader support or polygon counts. Ubisoft
Destiny Built from scratch by ex-Halo studio Bungie, Destiny's game engine was designed to scale across the next decade, says the studio. Bungie
Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 Nintendo's kart-racer for Wii U reminds us that raw horsepower is just a facet of crafting a beautiful game world. Nintendo
Infamous Second Son
Infamous Second Son Sucker Punch's freeform Seattle-based superhero adventure models all sorts of minutia, from the intricate wrinkling of an aged character's face to the way eyelids stick, slightly, before separating when characters blink. Sucker Punch Productions
Monument Valley
Monument Valley Escher-like at first glance, Ustwo's mind-bending puzzler was also inspired by posters, bonsai plants, arabic calligraphy and filmmaker Tarsem Singh's The Fall. Ustwo
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V Rockstar's remastered crime spree opus was crafted from an in-house engine first employed in a game that simulated table tennis. Rockstar
TitanfallRespawn Entertainment
Forza Horizon 2
Forza Horizon 2 Turn 10's Euro-racer actually models light refracted through drops of moisture, the render tech plausibly simulating something as intangible but essential as the earth’s atmosphere. Microsoft Studios/Turn 10 Studios
80 Days
80 Days Inkle's anti-colonialist vamp on Jules Verne's famous novel uses crisp art deco imagery inspired by travel posters to unfurl 80 Days' tale of intrepid globetrotters Monsieur Fogg and his valet Passepartout. Inkle
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
Tomb Raider Crystal Dynamics' radical reboot of its popular series about an athletic archaeologist uses a modified version of the engine that powered Tomb Raider: Legend in 2006. Square Enix

It has Amiibo, the Virtual Console and Wii backward-compatibility

The Wii U plays Wii U games, but also the entire Wii library (over 1,000 and counting), as well as NES and Super NES classics via the Virtual Console, from Super Metroid to F-Zero and Earthbound to Super Mario Bros. 3. And it shares Nintendo’s programmable Amiibo figurines with the Nintendo 3DS and uses them in ways no other toy-game vendor does, with uniquely tailored inbuilt support across multiple Nintendo titles instead of a single franchise.

You have children old enough to play games

Sony and Microsoft’s systems aren’t totally bereft of games both thematically and creatively aimed at younger players, but they’re pretty wanting. The Wii U is basically the inverse of that, though one of Nintendo’s hallmarks is crafting experiences that transcend demographic boundaries, meaning the system’s age-related floor is much lower, but its ceiling no less high.

It’s still less expensive than Sony or Microsoft’s systems

And it may wind up cheaper still if we see a late 2015 price drop (I’d argue it’s long overdue). But even without one, the Wii U remains the cheapest current-gen console on the block. You can grab a 32 GB model with various bundle options for $300$50 less than Microsoft’s Xbox One and $100 less than Sony’s PlayStation 4.

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Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com