Compelling narrative, gorgeous visuals and classic characters have carried a strong lineup of family-oriented games offered on the Wii U since its launch in November 2012.
It's been an interesting first year for the new console, which has taken a beating in the market and in some critical circles. In reporting the Wii U's recent price cut, USA Today described "a huge slump in sales" — just 160,000 Wii U consoles sold during Nintendo's first quarter.
The follow-up system to the all-ages appropriate Wii attempted to capture a broader audience by releasing a number of M-rated titles such as "ZombiU" and "Call of Duty: Block Opps II." But in ranking the 25 best games for the Wii U, IGN's top five picks — "Pikmin 3," "Rayman Legends," "New Super Mario Bros. U," "Lego City Undercover" and "Nintendoland" — were all decidedly family-friendly titles. Four of the five (with Rayman as the only exception) are unique to the Wii U platform.
Following is a look at some of the family-friendly titles that are on the market exclusively on the Wii U platform.
Game: "Pikmin 3"
ESRB rating: E 10+ (mild cartoon violence)
Review: Unique, engaging and visually stunning, "Pikmin 3" introduces three explorers on a search for food to save their home planet of Koppai. They crash-land on a distant world, where they encounter curious little plant-like creatures that are loyal followers and ferocious fighters. Alph, Brittany and Charlie shepherd the pikmin, which help break down obstacles, swarm enemies and locate sustenance.
The mechanics of gathering, leading and tossing pikmin during exploration and combat are refreshingly novel. The beautiful nature settings are sharp and rich, and the characters are simply adorable. "Pikmin 3" is wonderfully animated with a good dose of humor. Game sessions are divided into days rather than levels, providing a sense of both freedom and urgency — because when the sun goes down, the pikmin need protection from predators, and the explorers need food.
But beyond the visuals and gameplay, "Pikmin 3" offers a good, fun storyline to follow as the protagonists explore this strange yet familiar world. "Story mode," while limited to one player, can engage the entire family.
Though cutesy and cartoony in almost every aspect, there is a good amount of fighting and violence involved, and the game doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of nature. Very young children might get spooked, but parents should feel at ease with "Pikmin 3."
ESRB rating: E 10+ (animated blood, fantasy violence)
Review: "The Legend of Zelda" likely has a good hold on the hearts of anyone who grew up playing the old-school Nintendo Entertainment System. The game introduced many to the broad new world of the epic video game quest. But for those who haven't kept up with the franchise over the years, "The Wind Waker HD" may be a good time to pick up the sword.
Wind Waker is a remastered version of a game produced for the Nintendo GameCube. Back in 2003, IGN called Wind Waker "a masterful achievement — a shining example, in fact, of how video games should be made and a case study for developers wondering what makes a compelling game." A recent Nintendo press release noted that the original Wind Waker "earned a Metacritic score of 96, ranking it among some of the most elite video games of all time."
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