The Nintendo Switch is a truly mighty console by now, one of the best-selling pieces of video game hardware ever and home to blockbusters like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Super Mario Odyssey. But it wasn’t so long ago that accusations from a certain group of people (mostly a subset of hardcore Nintendo fans) accused the console of being nothing special – because half of its library was just ports from the underrated gem and poor meow meow of a console Wii U.
It’s an argument that did, even does, hold some water. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is often thought of as the Switch launch title, but it was originally developed for Wii U and came out simultaneously on it. The Switch’s best-selling game is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which is an expanded port of one of the Wii U’s better games. A lot of games filling on the Switch’s release calendar in the earlier years were also ports, like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The accusation even nibbled at the heels of games like Splatoon 2 or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at first for seeming just like expanded ports of Wii U titles, even though anyone paying attention could tell they were seaworthy sequels.
Now, proverbially speaking, the shoe is on the other foot. The Wii U eShop is going to close down sooner rather than later, and while we have a forthcoming guide as to which digital exclusives you’ll want to scoop up before then, there are other games that… well, you’d be able to get them physically, but wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if you could just find them on Switch? Here are some key Wii U games that haven’t made the leap to Switch yet, in spite of everything.
- Kirby and the Rainbow Curse – The Wii U had this funky phenomenon where certain series (like Fire Emblem) had some huge mainline hits on 3DS but only strange spinoffs on Wii U. Kirby was such an example – while Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot were tearing up the handheld, the Wii U got the claymation spinoff and successor to DS cult classic Kirby Canvas Curse. Charmingly presented and with simple but intuitive usage of the GamePad, it involved drawing pathways for Kirby to follow – though that same integration is likely why it hasn’t made the porting leap (though the Switch still has a touchscreen!)
- The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD – Who ports the ports? Of all the Wii U titles to not make it to Switch, these might be the most puzzling – ports of Zelda GameCube classics, ones that add some GamePad bells and whistles but were ultimately designed for one-screen systems. Porting is of course never as simple as copy-pasting code, but with Skyward Sword HD on Switch as well, these two would be sure to be slam dunks. Maybe we can hold out for a Switch GameCube emulator?
- Nintendo Land – Billed as the Wii Sports for a new generation, Nintendo Land was bundled with higher end Wii U consoles as a pack-in title that showed off the capabilities of the Wii U GamePad with a variety of colorful minigames based off of Nintendo properties. Some of the theme picks were quite novel (it’s still the most recent non-Smash Bros. representation for F-Zero from Nintendo’s catalog) and it was a fun way to show off what the GamePad could do. That specificity of design (along with lukewarm reception) is likely why it hasn’t been ported in any capacity, but it’d be nice to take another spin at this theme park.
- Paper Mario: Color Splash – Paper Mario admittedly hasn’t been the same since Sticker Star, with thinner plots and weaker gameplay than the franchise’s stellar origins. Color Splash didn’t return the series to its RPG roots, but it did offer a marked improvement over its predecessor, with more thoughtful combat, fantastic presentation, and some truly hilarious dialogue. While the Switch has gotten followup The Origami King, this one has been left stranded on an older console. Maybe it’ll make a splash elsewhere some day.
- Star Fox Zero – One of the most Love It or Hate It games in Nintendo’s entire catalog (which is really saying something), Star Fox Zero once again retells the story of the Star Fox squadron’s battle against the villainous Andross. The control scheme that made heavy usage of the GamePad as a cockpit view was appreciated by some and reviled by others, not to mention its short length and retreading of familiar narrative ground. While that GamePad-specific control scheme is likely why it hasn’t (and might never) make the porting leap elsewhere, it remains the latest game in the series and a divisive point to this day.
- Xenoblade Chronicles X – This is the big one. The Switch has brought Xenoblade Chronicles from beloved cult series to a bonafide Nintendo heavy-hitter, and while the original Wii masterpiece got an excellent remaster on Switch, the more experimental, open-world, sci-fi themed Xenoblade Chronicles X remains trapped on Wii U. While not as widely beloved as the more narrative-focused numbered entries, X has a devoted fanbase who loves the alien exploration, giant robots, and so much more. Not to mention the GamePad integration isn’t too fancy. If there’s one game here that should make the leap to Switch, it’s this one.
There’s a pretty big throughline in most of these – games that made heavy and involved usage of the Wii U GamePad, and thus are not easily replicable on other platforms. We may not see them on Switch or any other platforms in the near future, but that doesn’t mean we can’t miss them. Let’s hope one day they reach more people’s hands.
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