We are finally, finally here, at the end of our eShop recommendations. While I still need to get to finishing the Vita/PS3 articles (especially with game transfer tools between PS3-PSV now disabled), I’m at least happy I managed to get all articles on the Nintendo closures done in a timely manner. Credit cards did get disabled in the US, but the eShop cards and saved account balances will still work for a few more months, giving you enough time to check out these great gems!
…The few that there are, that is. See, this was by far the hardest list article I ever had to write, which may seem funny as a Wii U eShop game got me my start, but I can’t include Chubbins here as it was delisted. As was XType+, Pier Solar (not that you should ever support Watermelon these days), Armillo and several other gems from my first years of reviewing. All of those? Completely gone from the Wii U eShop, so what happened?
Well, while never officially confirmed by anyone, some Wii U devs noted in the coming years since their games hit the eShop that their titles were being delisted. Some gave warnings, others didn’t get the chance to do so, and thus a whole bunch of developers had their entire catalogs wiped off the storefront, apparently due to their license expiring with Nintendo, but not being allowed to renew it. Yet other devs like Wayforward are still able to keep their games up, and the 3DS eShop doesn’t seem to suffer from this problem at all, so what gives?
Honestly, I think it comes from a variety of factors. For one, the Wii U had the notoriously terrible Nintendo Web Framework as an option for developers… Basically meaning you can throw together a game in HTML and anyone with passion can be a developer. Seems rad, but most of the time that just led to shovelware flooding the eShop by a weekly basis come 2015, though I argue that the Switch’s eShop has a far, far worse situation with shovelware thanks to untouched asset flips being allowed on the store, something the Wii U at least managed to avoid for a good while.
Thus, when some of those devs had to come to renew their agreements, I would not be shocked if Nintendo shut a lot of them down due to quality concerns and the nature of the tools… Which also set precedent for defunct/inactive companies losing their games due to just not being around anymore. I don’t know if this even applied to PAL regions and I don’t think it applied to Japan at all, so this was a clear NOA deal from the looks of it, and VC games were completely immune in this regard.
So what does that entail for this recommendation article? It basically means a lot of my favorite games in my early days do not exist for legal purchasing anymore, and if they were a Wii U exclusive with no Steam release, that means they flat out are gone from the internet forever, unless you enter the shadow realm to acquire these titles that way. That meant finding five games that are still live on the eShop, still buyable in NA, and not easily available elsewhere was really, really tough.
So if this list seems rocky, that is why, otherwise XType+ would without a doubt top the list, since it did use that awful web framework, and made an addictive as hell scorechaser with online leaderboards in the process, only to never get ported anywhere and quickly forgotten by the masses. Of all eShop exclusives on Wii U, that’d be the one I’d insist you spend money on… If only it was available. Maybe a port could happen, one day…
Oh well, without further ado, here are five games I did find worth discussing!
Sportsball- A crazy fun multiplayer sports game with birds, this was a pretty great time way back in my early days! It still doesn’t include much content, and is heavily multiplayer focused in a way that’s pretty disposable, but it wasn’t ported elsewhere as far as I’m concerned, and I remember having a lot of fun with it, so the fact it still is up amazes me. The funky theme song is still partially stuck in my brain, all these years later…
Dr. Luigi- An Nintendo game! While I’d say NES Remix 1 and 2 are their best eShop gems, those are already on physical media so getting those is a non-issue, but Dr. Luigi was the last breath of a horrid Year of Luigi where nothing went right for the company and things went down the hole for them. Luigi ended up in random games for seemingly no reason, and this was one of them, a remixed take on Dr Mario, from… Arika.
Oh god. Oh no. That’s not usually a sign of quality at all in these games, and unfortunately, it applies here, partially. The good news is that scorechasing mayhem is still alive and kicking, and the new L-shaped capsules are shockingly fun to mess around with, so I had a fun time playing this in my cabin’s loft as a teenager. It’s barely above Dr. Mario on Wiiware in terms of complexity, but the core modes are decent fun, even if the game is a tad pricey. However, the online multiplayer was an absolute unbalanced mess at launch, and they never patched it to my knowledge.
Basically, this had rankings by points, akin to many other competitive games, but the game does not filter your point total at all when matching with other foes, even during the era when this game was way more active than it is today. Thus, many times I’d be paired with a player with hundreds more rank points than I and would be obliterated Exodia-style with no way to really counter. Same deal as in Online RX, and just as un-fun. Still, the core loop and this still being on Wii U with no modern Dr. Mario game on Switch makes it worth checking out, even if online multiplayer is absolutely not advised.
Somehow, Arika did not screw up Tetris 99 and learned the word “Balancing”. Maybe their work on The Grand Master series gave them the knowledge they needed to at least pick up the paces. Could a Dr. Mario 99 be actual fun online? Perhaps…
Pushmo World- I have not played this one! It’s here anyway because I can do what I want with the list and it’s on my go-to pickups anyhow. This is a pretty fun remix of the 3DS Pushmo, allowing you to import custom stages from the 3DS version and share them with the world via Miiverse!
…Which is dead. Nevertheless, QR codes are alive and well and should get you a ton of awesome replay value, even in the modern era! I’d have absolutely bought this day one if it had Crashmo mechanics, but with the sequel to this getting canned, sadly that wasn’t meant to be. Will Pushmo return? I sure hope so, as this was a glimmer of just how much fun it can be on a home console.
Chasing Aurora- Another Wii U exclusive with birds, how about that? And a launch title too? Oh, bless you guys! Sadly, it didn’t sell that well, but the developers behind this lovely game did put out some other quality work, and I honestly will defend this game hard despite the critical reception at the time.
Being that this was one of the first HD Nintendo eShop games ever, I can see why critics expected more, especially since this game was next to useless as a solo adventure. But man, bringing this up to my vacation cabin and giving the fellow cabin goers the chance to play this together? It was honestly a brilliant multiplayer experience, with mayhem I hadn’t been able to replicate outside of Heavy Burger, and this is just such a pretty game to look at, too.
Flying is so much fun, and I just had a blast with this, and would absolutely buy a port on Switch in a heartbeat, especially a physical one! This game is celebrating a 10th anniversary this year, and while I may be the only one celebrating it… I’m happy to be the lone wolf in this case, and maybe give others the nudge to finally take flight.
Spin the Bottle: Bumpie’s Party- Another multiplayer focused game, but this one is very weird, yet uses the gamepad in clever ways. Was a mini hit back in the day, and I can sorta see why. A take on spin the bottle type games, with a variety of requests the game throws at you and your partners, but this game definitely can edge the weird side often, so much to the point I wish it was a lot more laid-back.
Still, while my least favorite of the multiplayer-centric games on the list, it is a Wii U exclusive heavily using the gamepad you can still buy today.
And there you have it! While I had a paper-thin pool of games to put on this list, I think I made some decent picks. If you somehow know of other NA available Wii U gems I missed though, feel free to let me know! That about wraps up my coverage of the Nintendo eShop recommendations. While I don’t know if anyone really reads these, I at least hope I managed to provide some glimmer of fun by suggesting some obscure hidden gems for you guys to pick up before the eShop closes forever in a year.