The Nintendo Wii U and its innovative motion-sensitive, touch-screen GamePad controller is a terrific choice for family- and kid-friendly game play. However, it's been surpassed in power by newer video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft, and the game library is short on titles that will appeal to teens and adults.
Great for family gaming. The original Nintendo Wii (Est. $130) made its mark as the console to get for kid- and family-game play. The newer Wii U is a much more powerful console but it, too, has settled in as the console for families rather than serious gamers, though that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The game library has grown since its launch, but reviews say that it still has a way to go to be compelling. Graphics are gorgeous, and in 1080p resolution -- a step up from the original Wii -- though they are still thoroughly beaten by the newer Sony PlayStation 4 (Est. $400) and Microsoft Xbox One (Est. $500) . There's also a dearth of the type of first-person shooting games preferred by teens and adults. What there is, however, is a decent lineup of casual but fun games. In addition, the Wii U is backward-compatible with the original Wii, so most Wii games and even accessories will work fine with it. Lovers of classic games can download and play titles originally released for the NES, Super NES and, as of April 2014, the Game Boy Advance video game consoles.
The GamePad is the Wii U's big thing, and most -- but not all -- reviewers are generally impressed with its usefulness and utility. The most obvious feature is the 6.2-inch touch screen. One disappointment is that the screen is resistive rather than capacitive. What that means is that multi-touch gestures are pretty much out, and that you'll need a little more pressure than what's typically required with a tablet computer -- though not so much more that it's still not usable even by kids. Like Nintendo's portable gaming systems, a stylus is included.
The screen can duplicate what's shown on the TV, provide a different perspective on game play, or be used to provide additional information and menus, depending on the design of the game and the resourcefulness of the game developer. Some games can be transferred to the controller altogether and played without the need for a connected TV. The GamePad is motion sensitive, like the original Wiimote (Wii Remote), but is decidedly un-Wiimote-like in its array of typical game-controller buttons, joysticks and the like. One oft-cited negative is that the battery life is very short for the GamePad. Others say that the build quality looks a little on the cheap side.
Limited attractions. One of the big complaints regarding the Wii U was how many of its online and media features were missing at launch. That's led lots of early reviewers to give the console lower grades, or ones such as "incomplete." Some of the gaps were filled almost immediately via a day-one firmware upgrade, and others over time, but a couple have yet to be implemented.
Media features are built around Nintendo's TVii, which creates a programming guide based on user preferences. It pulls content from live TV and streaming services, and turns the GamePad controller into an advanced TV remote. Nintendo promised compatibility with TiVo DVRs, but that never came to pass. There is integration with social networks, so you can share and comment on what you are watching via Nintendo's Miiverse as well as Twitter and Facebook.
Smaller, neater … cheaper. Though it is about the same size as the original Wii video game console, the Nintendo Wii U is notably smaller than other current consoles. Connectivity is good, and includes both component and composite video, along with an HDMI port. There's also an SD card slot and four USB ports.
As noted above, some reviewers grouse that the shiny plastic Wii GamePad looks cheap and almost toy-like thanks to its shiny black plastic casing. The console itself is similarly housed, and likewise gives rise to some less-than-complimentary comments. Reviewers also say that both the GamePad and the console attract lots of fingerprints. A few build quality issues are also noted: For example, ArsTechnica.com finds that the face buttons on the controller are a little loose, leading to a rattling sound when the GamePad is shaken.
1. Expert Reviews
ExpertReviews.com updates its report on the Wii U, promising to do so again as the console evolves. Katharine Byrne notes that the hardware inside the Wii U "looks pale in comparison to what's inside the PS4 and Xbox One," but adds that Nintendo's consoles have always been more about fun than "nitty-gritty" numbers. It remains "our go-to console for family-friendly fun," she says, but adds that it needs to see a better library of games before it becomes a "must-buy."
Review: Wii U Review, Katharine Byrne, Feb. 14, 2014
Despite the review date, this is TrustedReviews.com's original 2012 review with a brief 2014 update. Stuart Andrews notes that the Wii U looks underpowered compared to the latest consoles from Sony and Microsoft, but that it has a better lineup of games -- at least if games like Super Mario 3D World will keep you entertained. He adds that if the Wii U were reviewed today the score would be lower, but that "that doesn't mean it's a bad console," and says it offers something different than what's available from Sony or Microsoft.
Review: Wii U Review, Stuart Andrews, March 7, 2014
BestBuy.com sells various Wii U console bundles, which attract hundreds of reviews overall. No bundle earns a rating of less than 4.5 stars. The Wii U Deluxe Set with New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U bundle earns a rating of 4.7 stars following more than 900 reviews, with 97 percent saying that they would recommend it to a friend.
Review: Wii U Consoles, Contributors to BestBuy.com, As of March 2014
Jeff Bakalar sees the potential in the Nintendo Wii U, and appreciates the innovative controller that creates a two-screen gaming experience unlike any other video game console. However, he complains that issues such as poor battery life and an "unpolished user experience" make the Wii U tough to recommend.
Review: Nintendo Wii U Review, Jeff Bakalar, Aug. 30, 2013
PCMag.com's Will Greenwald finds many of the same pluses and minuses as CNET's Jeff Bakalar, but is a touch kinder in his overall assessment, calling the Wii U "an ambitious console that's brimming with potential."
Review: Nintendo Wii U, Will Greenwald, Jan. 4, 2013
TheVerge.com puts the Wii U through its paces, but at the end is still not quite sure what to make of it. David Pierce finds many "moments of brilliance," but those are tempered by the fact that so much of the system is still so clumsy.
Review: Nintendo Wii U Review, David Pierce, Nov. 18, 2012
Kyle Orland's review is a weighty dissection of what's under the hood of the Nintendo Wii U. Graphics capabilities look to be on a par with older-generation gaming consoles (like the Sony PlayStation 3), but not clearly better despite the console's increased power. Issues noted by others, including slow load times, are noted here as well.
Review: Wii U Hardware Review, Kyle Orland, Nov. 18, 2012