Now that I’ve owned a Wii U for a few months, I’ve started to get a feel for it. This may sound weird, but I believe game consoles all sort of have their own “personalities” that start to show once you’ve owned a system for a while. Some systems are charming (Gameboy), some are quirky (Dreamcast), and some are futuristic (PS Vita), but I got the same vibes from the Wii U that I got from the Nintendo 64. I started to think about it a bit, and I realized that there are many similarities between the two. Here’s what I came up with.
1. The Controllers are Unique
The controllers for both systems may seem inconvenient or unnecessary, but they’re both part of what make these systems unique and special. The Nintendo 64 controller has been called many things including “a controller for three handed aliens,” but once you realize what Nintendo was trying to achieve, it starts to make sense. This was the first main controller for a system that included a thumb analog stick, and Nintendo knew that not everyone may want to use it, and the developers may skip it altogether. So they designed a controller that can be held with the left hand on the arm with the analog stick, or the arm with the D-pad, depending on which one the game was designed for. This means the controller excels at both 2D platforming games with the D-pad (such as Kirby 64), and is great with 3D games as well (such as Super Mario 64). This design hasn’t been attempted since, but I think Nintendo deserves some credit for taking a risk.
Speaking of taking risks, let’s move on to the Wii U gamepad. The gamepad/tablet may seem cumbersome at first, but once you hold it, you realize it does have some ergonomics to it. It feels better than holding an actual tablet, like an iPad in your hands (which I think is what most people expected). This is the first time since Dreamcast that a game console has attempted to put a screen on the controller, but the Wii U’s usage of the screen surpasses any previous attempts before it.
2. Both Systems Succeeded Top Selling Consoles but Failed to Match their Success
Both the Nintendo 64 and the Wii U were follow up consoles to a couple of Nintendo’s biggest successes. However, due to different variables, both systems were unable to match the success of their predecessors. Here are the sales numbers from Wikipedia:
Super Nintendo : 49.1 million
Nintendo 64 : 32.93 million
Wii : 101.44 million
Wii U  9.2 million*
*the Wii U is still being manufactured and sold. The numbers are climbing, but they’re not selling nearly as fast as the Wii did.
There are a few reasons as to why the Nintendo 64 didn’t sell as well as the Super Nintendo. First of all, the Nintendo 64 launched after the competition (Saturn and PlayStation). Also, Nintendo’s decision to go with cartridges over CDs meant games were more expensive in stores, and this forced some developers (like Square) to switch from Nintendo to Sony.
The story for the Wii U is similar. Due to the Wii U using an IBM architecture (instead of x86 like Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PCs), many third party developers have entirely dropped support for Nintendo’s new console. And due to poor marketing, the Wii U attempted to recreate the success of the Wii in a way that wasn’t possible. The casual gamers that bought a Wii aren’t going to buy a Wii U because, in their mind, they already own a game console.
Although the Wii U’s life is far from over, so far it has been Nintendo’s slowest selling console ever. It has the unfortunate statistic of having sales slower than Dreamcast.
3. Both are Home to Some of the Best Games Ever
The Nintendo 64’s library is fantastic, and the Wii U is starting to build an impressive collection itself. Even though both systems are short on third party games, both have become home to some fantastic first party titles that are considered to be not only some of the best Nintendo games ever made, but some of the best games of all time!
The Nintendo 64 had some fantastic games, including Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Star Fox 64, Paper Mario, Banjo Kazooie, Mario Party, Pokemon Stadium, and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time, which is often times considered the greatest game ever made! And those were just a handful of games off the top of my head!
And while the other consoles of this generation seem to be struggling a bit with software, the Wii U has started to make a name for itself as a platform for quality games including Super Mario 3D world, Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Captain Toad, Hyrule Warriors, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. And the Wii U isn’t even near the end of it’s life yet!
Being an owner of a Wii and Wii U, I feel like Nintendo got lazy with the Wii. Sure they made some great games, but the system was selling so well they didn’t necessarily need to create blockbusters. But when the Wii U launched stumbled out the gate, Nintendo got desperate, and the desperate Nintendo knew that the only thing the Wii U has to lean on is quality first party games. This is why after a year or so, the Wii U started to get some of the best games Nintendo has made, and ones that will go down in history as quality classics.
4. People Who Own One Swear by it
Sure the Nintendo 64 isn’t perfect, but I don’t think there’s a single person out there that actually owns one and doesn’t like it. The Nintendo 64 just oozes fun, and it’s hard to not find a game that suits you and sucks you in on the Nintendo 64. Because of this, the console has a very loyal fanbase and has become a “must have” for any gamer. In fact there was a voting bracket on GeekWire where the Nintendo 64 was voted the best console of all time!
Although the Wii U has many haters, the people that own one seem to have really taken to Nintendo’s new console. In what some are calling a “dark age” of gaming, the Wii U offers an experience that can’t be had with the other consoles, or even (I can’t believe I’m saying this) a PC. This is what draws people to the Wii U, first party Nintendo titles, and a controller that lets you do stuff no other console or PC can do. This is one of the Wii U’s biggest selling points. Owning a Wii U really changed my view from seeing the Wii U as a potential failure, to seeing it as a fantastic machine that brings games back to what they’re all about. And they’re all about fun!