For Nintendo, the Virtual Console makes so much sense. The seminal game and console developer has the richest of back catalogues to make use of, and in the Wii U they have (had?) the perfect console to take advantage of them. That comfortable handheld portion makes perfect sense for portable titles of old, leading to countless weekends of ours being spent on the sofa with our Wii U, something streaming on the TV in the background and the Virtual Console in our hands.
So which Wii U Virtual Console titles are best? There are quite a lot on offer and they’re not all world beaters in there. Today we’ll be listing 5 of our favourites, though again we expect this list to stretch on into a few parts. Fair warning, we’re based in the UK, so this will have influenced the titles available to us.
5. Mario 64
Any virtual console worth it’s salt has a Mario game, multiple even. The Wii U however, unlike the Switch at present, get’s what tends to be considered as the best of them all: Mario 64, the game that defined the 3D platformer. Back in 1996 when it was released, gamers had of course seen 3D worlds and developers attempts at the genre, but nothing quite like the huge sprawling landscapes they would find in these paintings. To this day, it’s hard to think of a 3D platforming game that comes close – in many ways it’s only the plumber himself that ever quite manages it, with Galaxy in particular.
Why do we recommend the virtual console version then? After all, it’s available for the DS platforms in a slightly altered way, with even more content. Well it comes down to that satisfying form factor, and the flexibility of the Wii U – it’s super comfy to play, you can play it on the sofa in handheld mode and should the want arise, you can throw the leaping italian on the big screen to relive those nostaltic days.
Hmmm.. We seem to remember aiming these cannons and making it to that floating island was a lot easier when we were younger..
4. Golden Sun
From one virtual console mainstay we hop over to a more rarefied series of titles, and more specifically the original: Golden Sun, which only makes an appearance on the Wii U VC. It’s a JRPG that dares to think differently, specifically when it comes to it’s spell and ability system: Not only do different combinations of ‘Djinn’ – effectively ability gems – give you vastly different abilities in battle, but they also confer you abilities outside of battle. These are used to solve a large variety of environmental puzzles, from helping townspeople to opening locked doors in dungeons. All of this is tied together by a novel little story that whisks you along from beat to beat as you gradually unlock bigger and better abilities.
It’s a very moreish title that gets its claws into you, refusing to let go until you’ve collected everything the game has to offer. It was a joy to play on the Gameboy Advance, and the same has to be said for the Wii U Virtual Console version.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Truly, it’s hard to know what to say about this Zelda game that hasn’t gone before. It’s widely regarded as one of, if not the best game ever created. Originally released for the N64, whereupon it immediately put everything else available at the time to shame, even overshadowing the very best the Playstation had to offer.
Of course, when compared to some modern day offerings it can begin to pale, but it’s worth bearing in mind that almost all third person action games owe some amount of lineage to Ocarina of Time. Whether it’s the Z-targeting or the perfectly balanced exploration gating, the innovations seen here proliferated out into the gaming world for years to come.
The virtual console on the Wii U is the perfect way to re-live this classic adventure.
2. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Speaking of classic adventures that were well received – this isn’t one of them. Somehow, we’re not exactly sure how to be frank, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance really wasn’t appreciated when it first released. Despite the impressive GBA animations, the tactile grid based battles, untold levels of depth and mammoth amounts of content – for some reason, well one reason, fans revolted. That one reason was well, it wasn’t more Final Fantasy Tactics. Or rather, it wasn’t more of that same tactical RPG formula.
These days it’s appreciated for the compulsive and simple-yet-deep systems. It may not have a story line of any real value, but it’s a wonderful example of the tactical RPG genre wrapped up in the Final Fantasy world of Ivalice. Fans of the series and indeed the genre, owe it to themselves to grab a copy, and where better to do so than the Wii U Virtual Console?
1. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
Virtual Console libraries don’t often contain Fire Emblem games, but we’re sure thankful that this one contains Shadow Dragon. This is, for us, the game that defines the series, and within it’s systems best describes the Fire Emblem formula.
For those unfamiliar with the series, they’re tactical RPG games which revolve around a series of battles taking place on a grid system. Upon these grids you commend a series of units that you must manoeuvre to both outsmart and out-battle your opponent. It’s here that Fire Emblem differs from others within the genre: Each battle is uniquely tuned to make your life progressively more difficult, with unit advantages designed to catch you unawares around every corner. It’s an intoxicating blend of difficulty, planning, party management and more difficulty.
In our opinion, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is the series in it’s most distilled form, and it’s the title we enjoy the most (something you may have noticed given that we’ve written 20+ articles about it). Having it available on the Wii U Virtual Console is a godsend. If you’re a fan of the series, perhaps having hopped on the Three Houses hype train, you’re morally obligated to find a way to play Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon – this just happens to be our favourite way.