We love RPG games, and we love our Wii U. Previously this would have been described as a meeting of cults, a lesser known genre living hand in hand with it’s erstwhile console. Yet today RPG games are everywhere, and the Wii U has been resigned to the family attic, destined to gather dust for all eternity.
Well not on our watch! On our previous lists, which you can find here and here, we didn’t really put them in order – yes there are numbers there, but we just wanted to highlight some good RPG games on a oft forgotten console. So today we’re actually putting them in order. Well, the order we’d put them in – let us know if you agree with our ranking!
10. Child of Light
For some reason Child of Light has always been considered a ‘budget’ title. Perhaps this is due to the price or the relatively muted release marketing, but we think it’s entirely unjustified. As an RPG, this game can hold it’s own against some of the best that the genre has to offer. It has a beautiful aesthetic, a simple but satisfying battle system and a story complex enough to keep any avid fans of the genre hooked throughout.
The Wii U version – yes we’re aware it’s hugely multi platform – offers that most valuable of features: Off-TV play on the gamepad alone. It’s helped that Child of Light in particular isn’t a ‘quick’ game, in the sense that it doesn’t require quick reflexes or such, but rather it’s a more sombre, relaxed affair. It’s one of our favourite RPG to settle into the sofa with, and the super comfy Wii U pad lets us do to our hearts content.
- Incredible, unique art style
- Intuitive, simple systems
- Deep and meaningful story
9. Golden Sun
Initially a Gameboy Advance RPG, Golden Sun is one of our favourite gaming experiences of all time, never mind just on the Wii U. It came along at a time when the walls of the gaming world were tumbling: Japan was releasing it’s gaming glory into the wider world, new companies were in the first stages of dipping their toes into the space and the medium was growing in the public consciousness. Golden Sun is one of the great success stories of that time.
It featured both a turn based battling system, itself filled with fancy spells and role customisation, yet also featured novel puzzles outside of those battles, some of which were pseudo physics based. This was such an unusual combination that it immediately drew attention, and inquisitive gamers were happy to discover that a fully fledged RPG was still there to be found. To this day some of it’s ideas have yet to be surpassed, certainly in the 2D space. It’s an excellent little title and having it available on the Wii U Virtual Console is something we’ll forever be thankful for.
- Novel usage of abilities outside of combat
- Brilliant GBA sprite work, especially in battle
- Inspired dungeon and puzzle design
8. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
The Fire Emblem series of RPG games has a unique and storied history stretching all the way back to the NES. It also has more new players than ever, thanks to the success of both the 3DS titles and Three Houses on the Switch. All that being said, how should you go about getting into the vast back catalogue after having sampled the latest and greatest?
Up steps Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. This game forms part of the legendary GBA trio that very much formed the template that the series adheres to today, albeit significantly evolved. It’s a game that encourages experimentation within the formula: Freedom to grind, multiple story paths and a soft difficulty curve make it an ideal on-ramp for those seeking to further their ‘Emblem experiences.
Alone it stands as an excellent RPG game, and whilst it’s not a fully fledged, painfully difficult Fire Emblem experience like a certain other game on this list, it’s certainly enough to keep avid grid based movement fans entertained. It’s also all the more reason to keep that Wii U dusted off – did we mention it has four Fire Emblem games available to play on it?
- Great unit diversity
- Difficulty level is ideal for new Fire Emblem players
- Two story routes encourages replays
7. The Last Story
From one lauded RPG series we move onto a singular, solo experience in the form of The Last Story. Well, single in the sense that it’s not part of a franchise, though it is actually somewhat linked to both Xenoblade Chronicles and Pandora’s Tower through something called Operation Rainfall. This was a fan built campaign that lobbied for all three of these games to be released to a western audience. Nintendo eventually relented and, judging by their success, we’re fairly certain they’re not regretting their decision now.
The Last Story itself is a strange mix of action RPG and MMO elements: The player controls a single character who controls the flow of battle by ‘Gathering’ enemies, which essentially functions like an ‘aggro’ mechanic. All dodging and movement is completed manually, stealth plays an integral part and it even includes issuing tactical instructions to your team mates. All of this makes the game feel like a completely unique experience in the hands.
Were it’s combat the only selling point we might not be so enamoured, but thankfully it features a fast paced and emotionally driven story to push the gamer along. Of course, we’d expect nothing less from a Hironobu Sakaguchi game. You know, he’s the guy that produced or executive produced Kingdom Hearts, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy 9, Lost Odyssey and every Final Fantasy up to Final Fantasy X.
Did you also know that he’s listed as the Director for the first five Final Fantasy titles and only one further RPG game? Can you guess which one?
The Last Story.
- Incredible art & direction
- Novel battle system
- Feels like a Final Fantasy that has been ‘let off the leash’
6. Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade
The second Fire Emblem on our list – did you really expect any less from us honestly – is The Blazing Blade. It was the first game in the series released to the western world, which probably explains why it’s so fondly remembered, and as such it’s success is somewhat responsible for the series making it this far. In Fire Emblem circles this game is widely considered as the most popular of the three GBA titles, still finding it’s way into Youtube let’s plays and fan mod compilations to this day.
Fans of Three Houses may find some of the details here somewhat familiar: It’s a game centred around the story of three lords, each with their own route through the game, through which the player can experience differing views on the main plot. Being a Gameboy Advance game you’re not going to experience the niceties that the series has developed over the years, but you’ll still find a solid Fire Emblem experience here, replete with tightly balanced maps, countless recruits and that trademark turn based tension.
Available on the Wii U virtual console, it makes for the perfect weekend sofa game, and provides an opportunity to dig into the past of one of the RPG worlds best and most storied game series’.
- Three lords play vastly differently
- Tight, well balanced maps (mostly)
- Diverse difficulty options cater for players of all skill levels
5. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
A JRPG based around Japanese idol culture… Like us, you probably weren’t too enamoured by the idea, the description rather evoking memories of budget visual novels released thrice-daily on the Steam platform, each designed to capture unsuspecting males with a net of unrealistically proportioned girls. Happily we were surprised twice by Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE: Firstly, it features some of our favourite Fire Emblem characters, albeit significantly reduced to cameo roles. And secondly, it immediately captured us in it’s net of experience bars, swift satisfying turn based combat and only mildly exaggerated character proportions! It’s like they knew our weaknesses all along..
The fact that Tokyo Mirage Sessions has, alongside Xenoblade Chronicles, seen a revamped and updated version reach the Switch should tell you exactly what we’ve known for years now: The Wii U had some real bangers. If anything we’d argue that the original is the definitive version due to the novel use of the gamepad as both the in game map, and an SMS system between characters.
All of this aside, the real draw of the game is the battle system, which falls somewhere between a Persona title and SMT Strange Journey Redux. Your characters take turns in battle, as is the genre norm, but should they strike an enemy weakness, and should your team members have the correct abilities equipped, your team will complete ‘follow up’ attacks for free. These can combo together forming what’s known as ‘sessions’, giving each battle an almost compulsively addictive quality. On top of this they’ve put a weapon experience system, some class based choices and a varied cast of characters riding a wave of ridiculous story beats – what’s not to love?
- Alternative evolution of the press turn battle system
- Glimpse into the J-Pop lifestyle
- Cameos from countless recognisable characters from the Fire Emblem series
4. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
Shadow Dragon is an RPG that wants nothing to do with your faint idol story lines, fancy spell effects and anime cut scenes. In fact, all it wants to do is watch you fail, over and over again until you learn.
Yes, it’s another Fire Emblem on our list and yes, we’re aware that our bias towards this series is showing, but it’s our list so there. We love Shadow Dragon, so much so that we would consider it our favourite Fire Emblem game ever, including all of the 3DS entries and even Three Houses. We love it because it’s simple; there’s no fluff, no padding of content at all, it’s just you and your merry band of allies, a group of enemies and a tightly designed map on which to do battle.
Of course, it’s not too different to the other mature entries in the series, but for us Shadow Dragon excels in it’s level design. Every map feels like an expertly balanced tightrope, especially on higher difficulties, and satisfaction is derived simply from overcoming the challenge. Sure, there’s a thin veneer of story papered over the top, and some of the units are much better than others, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the purest form of Fire Emblem for us, and it’s a joy to have it in our hands on the Wii U.
- Pure Fire Emblem experience
- Perfectly balanced difficulty choices
- Categorically the best Fire Emblem. Fight Us.
3. Xenoblade Chronicles
As we write this very list, a new game for the Nintendo Switch is sweeping the world, lapping up plaudits from every corner: Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition. We’re glad that it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves. No matter the platform, this is one of the best RPG games ever made and it deserves to be played by as many people as possible.
Previously we saw a few criticisms levelled at the title. Of course it’s a fantastic action RPG game, replete with great battle system, sweeping story and incredible locales, but on the Wii it looked terrible! The 3DS version, whilst an incredible achievement in itself, also looked squished and ugly! These issues seemed to be enough to push away prospective gaming fans upon their release.
Now, we may not agree with those complaints but we could at least understand them. Happily the Wii U offered a middle ground in the form of the Gamepad. It’s just the right size to display the original Xenoblade Chronicles: Not so large that it stretches jagged pixels, not too small to see anything but them – just right, in the middle, and comfortably sitting in your hands.
Of course, this is all rather a moot point now. We’d recommend you go and buy the upgraded version on the Switch, especially given the extra content they’ve included, but that doesn’t stop it from being an incredible RPG experience available on the Wii U.
- Hugely expansive and varied world
- Varied and relatable cast of characters
- Fantastic action based combat system
2. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Of all the RPG games mentioned on this list, filled as it is with many of our favourite games ever created, none can approach the sheer amount of hours that we’ve spent with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. We still have our silver SP, and during our annual cupboard clear out’s we’ll always pick it up and check: Yep, FFTA is still slotted in there. This is often followed by a moment of nostalgia, as we dreamily remember the weekends we lost to this game.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a turn based, tactical RPG game based in the world of Ivalice, which follows the adventures of a boy called Marche and his friends as they grow up in a foreign land. That’s really about as much story as you’re likely to remember if we’re honest, but luckily it’s not the reason why you’ll continue playing for days at a time – that’s down to the gameplay. It’s a grid based tactical RPG game stretched over the mould of Tactics Ogre. You’ll assign jobs to your recruits and, through both random and story based battles, level them up. Learning new abilities requires new equipment, itself requiring battle and mission rewards, and thus the core game play loop is revealed. It’s quick, addictive and filled with opportunities for customisation.
We could write countless paragraphs extolling the virtues of FFTA if we’re honest, so we’ll try to sum it up: There are dozens of job classes, hundreds of missions and countless ways to craft your perfect group of units. It’s a game that kept us glued to our Gameboy Advance SP many years ago, and it’s one that keeps us returning to our Wii U to this day.
- Huge amount of content
- Compulsive, quick combat for the sub-genre
- Perfect for short bursts of TRPG goodness
1. Xenoblade Chronicles X
If there could be only one RPG for the Wii U, this would be it. Xenoblade Chronicles was, unlike many on this list, built from the ground up for the console, and it shows. It’s an action RPG that focuses on the very unusual plot of humans having relocated to an alien land. As they and indeed you as the player get used to your surroundings you’ll meet various survivors, friends, enemies and newly discovered alien races, each seemingly looking to make their mark on the planet.
Where other games may focus on their varied cast and the drama that they create, Xenoblade Chronicles X rather lets the location itself take centre stage: Almost all of the players focus is on the world, learning it’s ins and outs, shaping it in advantageous ways and exploring its many varied and hostile locations. Punctuating this is a familiar action based combat system that returns from the original, albeit with new takes on character classes and abilities, like targeting large enemies limbs.
Of course there is a story line of sorts, and it’s certainly interesting enough to propel the player forward, but the real star is the world itself. It’s positively huge, likely the largest ever created in an open world video game, and it’s packed with things to do. This is especially true when you eventually unlock the ability to pilot your own flying robot, broadening your horizons even further.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is truly the jewel in the crown of the Wii U. It’s a phenomenally large, wildly stylish, beautiful and achingly moreish game to play. Expect to lose multiple hundreds of hours to this title, especially if you want to sample everything it has to offer. It’s a game that makes full use of the Wii U and it’s capabilities to genuinely transport the player to a new, harsh and unforgiving world and let them loose in it.
- Massive, expansive world
- Human and Mech battle systems based on an evolved version of Xenoblade Chronicles’ already excellent system
- Fully fleshed out side stories
- Packed with a truly incredible amount of content
- Did we mention flying mechs?
Ten Wii U RPG game well and truly ranked. What do you think of our list? Let us know if we’ve missed any of your favourites out. At the very least we’ll respond, if only to dissect exactly why you’re wrong and we’re right. In truth, this is probably the last time we’ll write about the RPG genre on the Wii U, which is quite sad. Then again, that’s hardly going to stop us playing them.