Wii U: Nintendo’s Dreamcast?


When I bought a Wii U the other year (2022-ish), it was mostly out of curiosity. A failed console often has an interesting story behind it, and a few interesting games that make it worth a revisit. If it is possible to run homebrew games or modify the console to run non-commercial software (including pirated games), it enhances the possibility of creating a nostalgic fan-base around it. The Dreamcast is a good example of this. And the Wii U kind of give me some Dreamcast-vibes for a few reasons further outlined below.

When the Wii U was released in 2012, I was mostly engaged with PC gaming. I owned an original Wii and Xbox 360 that I played on occasionally, but I was not heavily into console gaming at the time. So, the rise and fall of the Wii U mostly occurred beneath my radar. When I started seriously collecting retro games sometime around 2018 (the same year my son was born), I mostly focused on buying consoles and computers I was familiar with when I was a child. However, after satisfying most of my childhood needs I also started buying stuff produced post 2000, including the Playstation 3, and handheld consoles such as PSP, PS Vita, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS. Thus, it was only natural to explore the Wii U in addition to these consoles. After a year or so enjoying the console, I got a lot of similar vibes compared to what I feel when playing the Dreamcast. I outline these below:

Wii U has a strong, dedicated game library

A major reason for buying it was to play Mario Kart 8 with my son. We had previous Mario Kart games on the original Wii and Mario Kart 8 seemed like the perfect upgrade. Even if I softmodded the unit, most of the games I have enjoyed on my Wii U are originals together with my son, including Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Maker. These are only the tip of the iceberg, and it is no coincidence that the Switch version of Mario Kart is one of the best selling games on that console. Thus, similar to the Dreamcast, the Wii U has a great library of dedicated games.


Wii U
My softmodded Wii U

When I watched a video game showing how to softmod the Wii U, I decided to buy one. If nothing else, I could play my old Wii games on it, and run some emulators on it. Softmodding the console opens up entirely new possibilities of playing games previously available via the Nintendo Store, but also a range of homebrew applications. This is in line with the Dreamcast that has a strong fanbase that creates new games, applications and emulators for it.

Innovative hardware

The third similarity with the Dreamcast is the innovative hardware. The Wii U extended the original Wii with an added controller that also acted as an extra screen: The Wii U gamepad. Similar to how the Dreamcast’s VMU added extra value in games, the Wii U gamepad can extend the gameplay experience. However, it can also replace the TV in certain games. However, this gamepad also probably added to the failure of the console since it confused the customers. For, example, what is the possibilities of multiplayer when there is only one gamepad available. This is something that has to be checked for every game, where often Player 2 is referred to using a Wiimote instead.

Wii U Gamepad


The Dreamcast and Wii U shared the same fate, as failed consoles due to a confused customer base among other things. Where SEGA fans asked the question what the Dreamcast added in relation to their Saturn / 32X / MegaCD etc, Nintendo fans asked what exactly the “U” in Wii U contributed with in relation to their Wii consoles. Was it an upgrade, or a stand-alone console? Nevertheless, even if the Wii U failed, Nintendo has the abilities to recover from failures like no other company (take the Virtual Gameboy for example).

Wii U failure.

What are your memories of the Wii U?

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