Wii U’s Virtual Console, What A Sorry State You’re In

Nintendo is a company with a long history. Luckily for us, it’s one of making excellent games, and not some sort of kitten smuggling ring or something just shady.

When the Wii came out, Nintendo knew they could take advantage of the nostalgia many gamers had for the older Nintendo systems and the Virtual Console was born.

As a service that eventually offered titles from eight* different consoles (including non-Nintendo consoles like the Sega Genesis and the TurboGrafx-16), Nintendo offered some of the best titles from previous generations.

Now, Nintendo has moved onto a new system with the Wii U. The Virtual Console lives on, but in a state that I feel is in need of help. The library of games is small, only amounting to 66 games in North America. Compare this to the several hundreds of titles available on the Wii’s Virtual Console by the end of its lifetime, and it’s no surprise why it feels like a disappointment.

While your old Virtual Console titles can be played if you transfer your Wii data to your Wii U, they’re only playable in the system’s Wii mode. This keeps them from using two of the Wii U’s best features: the Miiverse, and Off TV Play.

Posting about games on the Miiverse is a big part of my Wii U experience. I like sharing with others, whether it’s when I’m having difficulties as I did in Pikmin 3, or showing off interesting pictographs in The Wind Waker HD. It’s a nice online community that I find isn’t overbearing, and seeing newer gamers posting about classic games is often pretty funny.


Off TV Play is another feature limited to the 66 games currently available on the Wii U’s Virtual Console. While the Wii mode is capable of displaying the older Virtual Console games on the GamePad screen, you can’t use it to control them.

If I need another controller in my hand, why would I bother with the GamePad screen? Off TV Play is awesome because it logically cuts the TV out of the equation, bringing the game to your lap right on the GamePad controller. It emulates the feel of a handheld game, and if I need another controller to play, that feeling is dead and gone.

I just want to play Chrono Trigger on the GamePad, with the GamePad. Is that too much to ask, Nintendo?

Not only is the current selection small, it only covers two consoles: the NES and the SNES. Neither of the offered libraries are close to the size they were on the Wii. It begs the question – why wasn’t Nintendo ready to go?

The libraries from the Wii should have been available on the Wii U on release, even if it was just the NES and SNES games available. What benefit is there to roll the games out slowly?

And that leads to another important question. Where are the Nintendo 64 games? If any games would benefit the Wii U, they would be the ones. I’m sure that Super Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time would be must downloads for any Wii U owner, and that’s just the start. The Wii U would be perfect for playing N64 games, either with the GamePad or with the Wii U Pro Controller.

Whatever the reason, Nintendo has disappointed so far with the Wii U Virtual Console. That isn’t to say that it’s all bad – Earthbound was a surprising and well deserved release. Nintendo made a good move, as the Earthbound fan community is one of the strongest out there and Earthbound is one of the best SNES titles.

Whether it’s an issue with emulating the hardware of older consoles properly, or just a case of laziness and a lack of direction, Nintendo needs to move the Virtual Console along at a faster pace. One other piece of advice: go beyond the N64. Start bringing out some classic Gamecube titles for $15-20, and I can’t imagine a world where people don’t want to buy them.

You’ve got an amazing history, Nintendo. There’s no shame in taking advantage of it.

*Nine titles from the Commodore 64 were featured on the Virtual Console up until August 2013, when they were removed.