Nintendo's console hasn't had a great year, in the most generous sense of the phrase. Overlooked by third-party developers, suffering from confused marketing and going long periods without quality software, many gamers have written the Wii U off completely.
Which is a shame, because it actually deserves a second look. Exclusively offering some of the best games of 2013 across all platforms, providing local multiplayer shenanigans, boasting a fantastic controller and costing much less than the competition, the Wii U deserves to have a very merry Christmas indeed.
What we need, therefore, is a buyer's guide to lead us through these uncertain times and the cheapest prices. Like this one right here. Note that we'll be covering the basics and essentials, so the full Wii U hardware review is on hand if you want to know more.
Basic vs Premium: The Choice Is Obvious
The Wii U is available in two models: the Basic and Premium Editions.
Or to put it more accurately: the "pointless" and "just about fit for task" editions.
The Basic set contains a woeful 8GB of onboard memory, most of which is quickly gobbled up by a patch you'll need to install to unlock most of the console's features. It is, quite frankly, pathetic. The Premium option's 32GB isn't much better, but it's a start, and also comes with a few extras for a negligibly more expensive price point. Serious gamers will have to look into...
Nintendo are staunch supporters of the traditional high street and postal retail market, which means "discs" in layman's terms. As such, most players won't need an inordinate amount of onboard storage, but the occasional deal, demo and eShop exclusive can all but fill your hard drive to the brim.
You can use most external hard drives for extra storage , but they have to be self-powered. No flash drives either.
If you do buy a Wii U, you'll probably want to get it in a bundle. Bear in mind that any existing WiiMotes you already own will work with your new console (and are cheap as chips to buy used), so you'll primarily be looking for decent games.
For me, there are two bundles that leap out.The Mario & Luigi Premium Pack costs £239.00 at RRP, containing a premium console, New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U. Both are well worth playing and fun for 1-4 players. As far as I know, you can get an extra £10 off at TESCO by creating a new account and using voucher code TDX-FQ7W.
The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker premium pack is also a fine shout, seeing as it contains one of the system's best games. Again, TESCO provide an extra saving with the TDX-FQ7W new customer voucher code.
Mario fanatics should take a look at the Mario Mega Bundle, which costs £299.99 directly from Nintendo. Just look at all the Mario.
Essential Games (Or: Why Wii U Is More Hardcore Than You Think)
Here we go: the reason you'll want to own a Wii U. Don't listen to anyone calling the Wii U 'casual' and 'childish,' because Nintendo still deliver gamer's games that cater to anyone; deep, meticulously-crafted titles boasting both vintage pedigree and reckless innovation. Despite having wide appeal, the Wii U is positioned to become a bit of a connoisseur's console.
Then again, so was the Dreamcast. Ahem.
Regardless, on to the games! We've provided links to our (still somewhat quirky) price comparison engine, the smartest bargains and our reviews where possible. If you've found a cheaper price, let us know!
I haven't tried Super Mario 3D World yet, but the entire internet believes it to be the best game of Christmas 2013.
Indeed, I'm thrilled to be dead wrong. I assumed that this would be a fairly incremental knock-off of Super Mario 3D Land, and by all accounts, it ain't. Instead it's essential.
Costs £34.39 from CD Wow (save roughly £5)
"The Zelda franchise normally serves up games of very high quality and the original Wind Waker was no exception. What the HD remake manages to do is provide solutions to all the bug bears of the original to provide a sublime experience for all. It takes a great game and makes it simply unmissable. Plus for veterans of the series, stick the game in Hero Mode and see your love affair with the series rekindled anew. A perfect example of how to do a remake." - 10/10
Sadly some great deals for this have been and gone. Currently cheapest at The Game Collection, but might be worth picking up in a bundle.
"Pikmin 3 is superb, compelling, deep and more than a little stressful. If you own a Wii U, you should probably be playing this on it." - 9/10
Costs £29.99 at Grainger Games.
"Platinum unleashed their full creative force on The Wonderful 101, holding nothing back, and the lunatic density of its layered gameplay systems sometimes threatens to overwhelm. Thankfully raucous fun factor and Kamiya's trademark tight design conspire to create a modern classic on Wii U, so long as you're willing to master it." - 8/10
Costs £27.99 at Games Centre.
"New Super Mario Bros. U may not be a revolution, but its tight level design, unpredictability, new features and thoughtful MiiVerse implementation make it one of the most enjoyable Mario games in years. A nigh-essential purchase for early Wii U adopters despite not being a perfect ambassador for the new system." - 8/10
Probably best bought as part of the Mario & Luigi premium bundle, alongside New Super Luigi U. Otherwise costs £34.96 from Coolshop.