Nintendo’s Wii U console has been a disappointment to say the least.
With lifetime sales hovering in the 10-12 million units sold, the Wii U is well behind the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and nowhere close to the original Wii (for reference, the Wii has sold approximately 100 million to date). With the recent announcement of its successor, the Nintendo Switch, the Wii U will become a legacy console in a mater of months. Still, if you set aside all of the Wii U’s shortcomings and the fact that it’s pretty much dead at this point, there are still a lot of things to like about Nintendo’s console. It’s got some great games, is more affordable than the competition, and has some nifty features that can’t be found on any other console. Seasoned Wii owners and new converts alike would still do well to familiarize themselves with these less obvious, but still useful, features.
8. The Gamepad’s Built-In Sensor Bar
The Wii U in general has a bit of an issue with making its features obvious, so it’s no surprise to find out that Nintendo buried a Wii sensor bar in the gamepad without doing much to advertise it. It’s not exactly the most useful feature, but the built-in sensor allows you to play original Wii games right off the gamepad without having to hook up anything else. No more fumbling around with that flimsy sensor bar when you want to bust out Super Mario Galaxy.
7. Universal Storage Solutions
When it comes to hard drive space, the Wii U’s paltry 32 GB lags pretty far behind when compared to the Xbox One and PS4’s 500 GB and up. On the plus side, the Wii U has both consoles beat when it comes to hard drive expansion solutions, as you can pretty much plug any kind of USB drive into the system and it will work. The one caveat is that the Wii U only supports up to 2 terabytes of space, but it’s extremely unlikely that you will need more than that anyway. Unlike the PS4, which doesn’t even support external drives, the Wii U also supports USB flash drives as a storage solution, but it’s not recommended given the limited read/write ability of flash storage. Nevertheless, when it comes to storage, the Wii U is surprisingly robust in terms of options.
6. Energy Efficiency
This isn’t really a system feature in the traditional sense, but it’s still worth pointing out in light of our ever-increasing energy bills. Simply put, the Wii U is much more energy efficient than the PS4 or Xbox One. Sure, a lot of that has to do with the console simply being less powerful than its competitors, but running hardware that consumes only a fraction of the energy of other systems is nothing to sneeze at. The difference is really quite dramatic: the Xbox One, the biggest energy leech of the three, eats up close to 300 kWh/year. By comparison, the Wii U only takes 37 kWh/year. Wii U gamers may not have the most powerful system, but at least they’re saving a ton of money on their energy bills.
5. Quick Boot
Being able to access our games almost instantaneously has been one of the best new features of modern consoles and the Wii U is no slouch in this category. The system’s quick boot function, which was introduced in a 2014 firmware update, allows users to jump into their previously played games right from the gamepad menu. This also allows software downloads and updates while the system is in standby. Sure, these are standard features now, but that doesn’t mean they’re no less useful.
4. Stats App
One of the neatest features thrown right into the Wii U’s dashboard that many users likely ignore is the Stats app, which tracks how many hours you’ve put into your games and other applications. It even tracks daily records for each user and compares the data in handy graphs. Sure, it’s nothing groundbreaking, but sometimes it’s nice to know just how many hours you’re sinking into every game. For all their bells and whistles, this seemingly simple functionality is nowhere near as simple to access on the PS4 or Xbox One.
3. Plex Media Server
Plex Media Server is an online resource that allows users to stream their movies and TV show content and the service works really well on the Wii U. While Plex doesn’t run natively on the console, it still functions remarkably well and is pretty easy to use. All you really need to do is open the Wii U’s internet browser, log into your Plex account, and pretty soon you’ll be streaming all of your video content with ease thanks to the gamepad’s convenient touchscreen functionality and easy-to-use GUI (graphical user interface).
2. Restore Points
One of the Wii U’s best features is its Virtual Console, which is a noticeable step above the Wii’s version. There’s no other console with a catalog of retro games this good and the Wii U makes the act of playing these classics even better with the restore points function. Basically, this allows you to save your progress at any point in the game without having to worry about the sometimes ridiculously stringent save systems these games originally shipped with. In practice, this can make extremely difficult games much easier, which is either a blessing or a curse depending on your personal viewpoint. Still, making old games more accessible to players should be something to celebrate and the Wii U is arguably the best place to experience these games in large part due to restore points.
1. Wii U Portable
There’s a reason Nintendo doesn’t tout this as a feature because technically, it isn’t. Still, if you don’t mind lugging the console around and can find an electrical outlet, you can pretty much play the Wii U whereever you go. Intrepid Wii owners have been photographed playing their Wii Us on airplanes and trains; say what you will about the relative merits of the system in comparison to the Xbox One or PS4, but there’s no way you’re making those beasts portable without a lot of hassle. With the Nintendo Switch not available until March 2017, the Wii U is the only home console that really qualifies as being “portable.”