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).
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.