The launch of the Wii U is upon us, and if you're one of the early adopters who either pre-ordered a system or braved the crowds to pick one up Sunday, you've probably got some ideas for which games to grab as well.
So do we. We've already spent some time with the majority of the Wii U launch lineup, and, like all launch lineups, it's a little hit or miss. Some games do a terrific job of showing off the system's unique features, while others will likely be forgotten in a few short months.
Which are the keepers? Start with these five:
New Super Mario Bros. U
The first Mario game to launch alongside brand new Nintendo hardware in over 15 years, New Super Mario Bros. U is likely the first game to catch the eye of Wii U owners. That's a good call, because it's a great game.
Hearkening back to legendary 2D Mario classics like Super Mario World, it's an old-fashioned, Goomba-stomping side-scroller hiding all kinds of fantastic secrets and a few clever new modes. A new co-op component lets one person jump through a level while the other helps (or hinders) by dropping blocks using the GamePad, making it a wonderful pastime for parents and kids. And with loads of familiar but fresh gameplay, it's a good fit for just about everyone else, too.
Despite its kid-friendly rep, Nintendo's provided a home for some of the best survival-horror games ever (Eternal Darkness and Resident Evil 4 were both Gamecube titles). While it remains to be seen if Zombi U is one of the best of its breed, it easily makes the cut for the Wii U launch.
The game offers multiple flavors for zombie aficionados. The solo campaign has you navigating the streets of London during an undead apocalypse, shooting down the hordes while using the GamePad as an all-in-one survival device. Should you die — and you will — you'll come back as a new survivor and can track down your former self (now a zombie) to reclaim equipment. Sound awesome? It is, as is the game's multiplayer. One person plays King of the Zombies, dropping undead beasties all over the map, while the other plays survivor and tries to fight them off.
If you're buying a Wii U Deluxe Set ($350), this is the game that come packed in, so congrats -- you've already got one of the five you'll want. If you opt for a Basic Set, we heartily advise grabbing a copy.
While it won't knock out your friends and family as quickly as Wii Sports (remember the astonished look on your grandma's face when she bowled her first strike?), Nintendo Land is a terrific showpiece for the many features of the Wii U GamePad. You'll use its bright screen to hunt down other players as a ghost, play hide and seek as Mario, fling ninja stars at enemies, and much, much more. The 12 mini-games offer a wide variety of experiences for both solo players and groups, and while they're not all hits — an Octopus-themed dance game is a dud — there are more than enough good times here to warrant a Day One buy.
Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition
Nintendo fans were rightly bummed that the best superhero game ever made wasn't released for the Wii, but they make up for it in a big way with this revamped version for the Wii U. It's the same core experience -- Batman must contend with hordes of villains in a gorgeous open-world Gotham -- but the Armored Edition is more than just a late port of a great game.
The GamePad plays a major role this time, acting as a min-map, inventory hub, detective tool, and even playing environmental audio (such as helpful messages from Alfred) through the controller itself. And if the fam is fighting over the TV, Batman is one of the few Wii U Launch games that lets you play the entire experience directly on the GamePad itself.
Mass Effect 3: Special Edition
One of the year's best role-playing games is unsurprisingly one of the best launch games for the Wii U. And while mass Effect 3 already hit the Xbox 360 and PS3 back in March, the Wii U version has been tailored to take advantage of the GamePad in ways that makes the experience feel right at home. You'll use the touchscreen to manage your character's inventory, keep track of your environment with a handy map, and even draw paths for your AI companions to follow.
It's not perfect -- the fact that you can't carry over a save from prior Mass Effect titles hurts, and the simplistic 'Genesis' comic book that lets you play catchup is a letdown -- but this is still a wonderful role-playing game with more than enough depth to keep you glued to your Wii U for hours on end. That's exactly what a good launch game is all about.