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New Mario, Zelda games coming to Wii U in 2013

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Wii U (Credit: Nintendo)

The Wii U has taken some heat from critics post-launch. The system is slow, they say. There haven't been any new games. Where's Zelda?

Nintendo met those accusations head-on Wednesday in the company’s latest Nintendo Direct online press conference, unveiling a collection of new games and enhancements that would cheer even the most skeptical fan. Before the year is out, Wii U owners can expect a double dose of Mario, Yoshi's return to the spotlight and a high-definition take on a classic Zelda game.

“The fun of video games is not only just playing games, but also sharing experiences together with people – even though they live far away, their skill levels are different or their experience does not happen at the same time,” said Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. “We want Wii U to be the system that brings everyone together.”

Mario will lead the charge this holiday. Not only is new 3D Mario action game (created by the team behind Super Mario Galaxy) in development, but will be playable at this year's E3. Also on the agenda is a new Mario Kart made specifically for the new console. Both titles are expected to be out before the end of the year.

A Wii U-specific Zelda is on the way as well, but that’s not expected to arrive in 2013. In the meantime, the company plans to release a high-definition version of the 2003 Gamecube hit The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Among the other games under development are Yarn Yoshi -- the dinosaur's first starring title since 1998 -- and a new Super Smash Bros., which appears to be a 2014 release. Monolith Soft, the team behind Xenoblade Chronicles, is also working on a new Wii U title.

Nintendo also had a lot to say about downloadable games, finally unveiling a ‘Virtual Console’ for the Wii U. A system update this spring will add the ability for players to play NES and Super NES games, with Game Boy Advance titles coming later in the year. And to further interest in downloadable content, Nintendo announced plans to offer one classic NES or SNES game per month for just 30 cents though July. First up: Balloon Fight.

In addition to the spring update, another system update is planned for this summer. While that might have some people groaning about the frequent pace of these long updates, Nintendo assures Wii U owners that the pair will shorten the time it takes users to launch games or return to the main menu. Users will also be able to browse the Miiverse from their smartphones starting this spring.

The wealth of news should satiate Wii U owners who might be a bit grumpy after Nintendo pushed back a number of big games initially scheduled to arrive during the console's launch window. To that end, Iwata apologized to gamers for the system’s slow rollout of new titles, specifically the lack of new games in January and February.

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