Wii’s massive success and the Nintendo Switch‘s record-breaking sales have made Nintendo a serious console contender alongside the PlayStation and the Xbox. They’ve been so successful and overshadowed the The Wii U console that came between Nintendo’s 2006. Met with equal parts criticism and praise, Nintendo’s 2012 console has been all but forgotten by many.
Despite its short-lived history and its mixed reception, Wii U did revolutionize the real time strategy game. In memory of the Wii U’s upcoming tenth anniversary and in honor of the enduring popularity of the real time strategy subgenre, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the very best Wii U real time strategy games. Ten years after the console‘s release in November 2012, the legacy of the Wii U is a mixed one. Nevertheless, the memory that remains of these Wii U real time strategy games is one worth dwelling on. From Wii U exclusives to old-school ports, these are the best Wii U RTS games.
What is a Real Time Strategy Game?
A real time strategy game, or RTS, is a strategy video game subgenre similar — but not equal — to turn based strategy (or TBS) games. Instead of players taking turns as they would do in a TBS game, a real time strategy game allows all players to play at once. This simultaneous gameplay takes place in “real time” (or the vide game’s version of real time, that is). The term was first coined in 1992 with the release of Westwood Studios and Virgin Games’ Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty. Based on the popular science fiction series of the same name, the game effectively laid the subgenre’s foundation.
With the release of Dune II in 1992, it was off to the races for the real time strategy game industry. Without Dune II, there would be no Warcraft, no Age of Empires, no StarCraft, and no Command & Conquer… Not to mention these Wii U real time strategy games below. However, the concept behind the real time strategy game subgenre actually predates Dune II by at least a decade or more. In truth, it’s merely the term that was coined in 1992 — not the actual concept of a real time strategy game itself.
Many credit Utopia (1981) as the first real time strategy computer game. In actuality, it’s more appropriate to call it a bridge between turn based strategy and real time strategy. At its heart, Utopia was was a turn-based strategy game that made use of real-time gameplay elements in between the game’s turn-based cycle. Several other titles throughout the 1980s came close to true real time strategy: Utopia: Cytron Masters (1982), The Ancient Art of War (1984), Nether Earth (1987)… Alas, it wasn’t until Herzog Zwei (1989) for the Sega Genesis that RTS games truly arrived.
A Brief History of the Wii U Console
By the time the Wii U console was released in November of 2012, the real time strategy genre had been blooming for more than 20 years. Conceived as a follow-up to the immensely popular Wii from 2006, the Wii U arrived in conjunction with other eighth-generation consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. Officially the first Nintendo console to come equipped with HD graphics, the possibilities for real time strategy gaming were endless. This is particularly true when looking at the console’s one-of-a-kind controller.
Dubbed the Wii U GamePad, the console’s primary controller was unlike anything to come before or after its initial release and subsequent discontinuation in January of 2017. Featuring a unique embedded touchscreen in conjunction with traditional directional and action buttons and analog sticks, the Wii U GamePad could be used to supplement the game on a main display or as a way to play the game directly on the controller itself. What’s more, the Wii U backwards compatible with all of the Wii’s software and accessories — meaning one could use the Wii remote and Nunchuks, too.
The GamePad made the Wii U ideal for real time strategy games because of the way the GamePad elevated gameplay to new heights. In addition to what was happening on the main display, gamers could also keep track of separate tasks and activities on the GamePad. For instance, game inventories, maps, and tasks could be relegated to the GamePad while the main game took place on the TV. The real time strategy genre had never seen such innovative gameplay before, and it shows in the very best Wii U real time strategy games listed below.
Best Wii U Real Time Strategy Games
These five titles below might not be as iconic or as famous as other Wii U titles, but their underdog status is ultimately part of their lasting appeal. From sequels to standalones, new entries to old remasters, these are the absolute best Wii U real time strategy games of all time.
5. Cubemen 2 (2014)
|Available Platforms||Wii U, PC, Tablet|
|Released||September 4th, 2014|
One of the earliest real time strategy games for the Wii U also happens to be one of the very best: Cubemen 2. Initially developed by 3 Sprockets and eventually brought to the Wii U by Nnooo, Cubemen 2 is a uniquely complex, visually innovative RTS game that makes the most of the Wii U and its GamePad. Playing this Cubemen 2 port on the Wii U was like playing a brand new RTS game, really. Even those who’d played Cubemen 2 on a PC or a tablet prior to its Wii U port could attest to this fact.
As a matter of fact, most of Cubemen 2‘s gameplay takes place on the GamePad. From navigating battlefields to moving the camera to actually making your player’s moves, whatever’s happening on the TV is merely for onlookers. Those playing Cubemen 2 on the Wii U aren’t going to be taking their eyes off the GamePad. Complete with both single-player and multiplayer game modes, Cubemen 2 was a hugely entertaining RTS game for the Wii U well deserving of a spot on this list.
4. Swords & Soldiers (2014)
|Available Platforms||Wii U, PC, Tablet, PlayStation 3|
|Released||May 22nd, 2014|
Another port, Swords & Soldiers was initially released for the Wii in the summer of 2009. Given its initial success on the Wii console, it only made sense to port the game to the console’s successor in late spring of 2014. Following three distinct factions — Aztecs, Imperial Chinese, and Vikings — Swords & Soldiers sees this trio of armies pitted against one another in hopes of gaining the power of the gods above.
While it first hit the Wii, the Wii U proved to be the perfect outlet for Swords & Soldiers. With both single-player and multiplayer campaigns designated for each Aztec, Imperial Chinese, and Viking faction, Swords & Soldiers also came with a “skirmish mode” and a local multiplayer split-screen mode. (Not to mention quite a few minigames unlocked throughout your progress.) It was a massive, truly brilliant game. What’s more, it was made all the better by its subsequent sequel.
3. Swords & Soldiers II (2015)
|Available Platforms||Wii U, PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch|
|Released||May 21st, 2015|
Originally exclusive to the Wii U and eventually remastered and rereleased on future-gen consoles with a budget secured through crowdfunding, Swords & Soldiers II improves upon its predecessor in just about every conceivable way. Whereas the first installment was merely ported to the Wii U at a later date, this epic sequel was made exclusively for the Wii U. With this at the forefront of the developer’s mind, it only makes sense that the game would make the most of the GamePad.
On a basic level, Swords & Soldiers II is the same 2D side-scrolling real time strategy game as its predecessor. Once you play it, however, you can see just how much thought was put into improving and optimizing the game for the Wii U. This includes new controls, smooth and innovative crossover from the TV to the GamePad, and expanded campaigns, among several other added bonuses. Swords & Soldiers is a great Wii U game, but Swords & Soldiers II is just that much better.
2. Nova-111 (2015)
|Available Platforms||Wii U, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
|Released||September 24, 2015|
Originally designed for the PC, the PlayStation, and the Xbox before being released on the Wii U later in 2015, Nova-111 remains one of the very best examples of a real time strategy game to date. Not just for the Wii U, but for all 21st century consoles as a whole. Tasking players with the mission to fire their way through sci-fi planets while piloting a spaceship, the main goal of the game is to search the wreckage for missing scientists amongst the destruction.
Interestingly enough, the game’s reception improved when released for the Wii U. When it was exclusive to the PlayStation and Xbox, audiences and critics were quite mixed. Yet, when released for the Wii U, those same players now praised the special Wii U gameplay. This is due to — you guessed it! — the use of the Wii U’s GamePad. With this move, the game changed from pretty good to truly great. It remains one of the weirdest, wackiest, most enjoyable Wii U RTS games of all time.
1. Pikmin 3 (2013)
|Available Platforms||Wii U, Nintendo Switch|
|Released||August 4th, 2013|
A late-stage sequel to the iconic GameCube games Pikmin (2001) and Pikmin 2 (2004), the third installment in the Pikmin series remains the best real time strategy game to ever hit the Wii U. It exceeded the expectations of a ten-year wait time. Pikmin 3 creatively built upon earlier elements of the Pikmin series (including more character types and modes). It makes sense for Pikmin 3 to be so exceptional: It was developed and released by Nintendo themselves.
Because Nintendo obviously knows how to make best use of its own console, Pikmin 3 absolutely knocks it out of the park. While playing, the Wii U GamePad offers an overhead map of the game. On the television, users control a horde of as many as 100 Pikmins. Best of all, users can use their choice of the Wii U GamePad, the Wii U Pro Controller, or the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. It’s one of the best of the real time strategy game subgenre and one of the best Wii U offerings in one.
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