When the news hit that Nintendo had to cut its Wii U projections from 9 million to 2.8 million units, I think every Mario, Zelda, and Metroid fan felt a little faint. Frankly, as much as we love Sony, Microsoft, Valve, and the other big names in gaming, Nintendo is really responsible for creating a new marketplace for all of them to grow and compete in. Countless franchises, memorable characters and experiences, and more have made Nintendo the biggest, most recognizable name in gaming, but could the Wii U jeopardize all of that?
We say no. With Nintendo 3DS bouncing back stronger than ever after a price drop and a killer slate of software, the reaction from Iwata, Miyamoto, and the rest of the organization should be clear. Give Wii U early adopters free games and slash the price. While a list of 20 different price points Wii U could sell at might be interesting, we’d rather fantasize about the games early adopters like ourselves might get to download and enjoy for free.
When Nintendo gave 3DS owners a copy of the original Super Mario Bros., I figured it’d be a neat and instantly accessible piece of software to carry around with me no matter where I went. I didn’t think that I’d play and beat the game in one sitting. Mario games continue to dominate with tons of charm and some neat new gameplay hooks, but I don’t think there’s a Nintendo fan alive today who could deny that a lot of that started with Super Mario World. The game is already available via the Wii U Virtual Console library, so this seems like a no-brainer.
SNES - Super Metroid
The Metroid franchise was well-represented in the 3DS ambassador program, and the same should be true of a Wii U ambassador program. Metroid is one of the more beloved franchises among Western Nintendo fans, so including a download of the SNES Metroid game makes a lot of sense. I’d love to take down Ridley on my GamePad screen while someone else has control of the TV.
SNES - Kirby's Dream Land 3
This is another game that’s already available via the Wii U Virtual Console service, meaning Nintendo would have minimal work to do getting it into our hands. Just add it to every Wii U owner’s download list and let them bring it down from the server as they see fit. How about a game that’s not already available via Wii U Virtual Console?
SNES - Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
We love Paper Mario, but the original Mario-themed role-playing game came from Square in a ground-breaking partnership with Nintendo. Legend of the Seven Stars introduced a handful of new characters, enemies, and even gave you control over Bowser as a powerful party member. [And who can forget his adorable haiku. ~Ed. Nick] This game is available on Wii Virtual Console, but with GamePad-only support remaining an extremely attractive feature, a Wii U download for Ambassadors would be a welcome gift.
SNES - StarFox
While this franchise hasn’t received the love it deserves over the past decade, it’s time for Fox McCloud and his entire crew to retake the spotlight. The original Super NES game certainly won’t look great on modern HD television sets, but it’ll be more than playable and a great time capsule of 3D graphics technology for GamePad-only play.
SNES - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
With the latest Nintendo 3DS Zelda game acting as a direct sequel to this SNES classic, there are bound to be millions of modern Nintendo fans who’ve never played the original. A Link Between Worlds combined the world map and lore with lots of new gameplay hooks, but the original formula still stands the test of time and would make another great game for Wii U Ambassadors stinging from a drastic price-drop.
SNES - Super Mario Kart
With Mario Kart 8 on the horizon, an early Ambassador program gift of the original SNES Karting classic would be just what the Dr. Mario ordered. Getting hands-on a classic two-player game like this via Wii U would give younger gamers a great idea of how far the medium has come and it’ll guarantee that fans are in the racing spirit to make Mario Kart 8 a successful release for Nintendo when they really need one.
SNES - Earthbound
This game landed on Wii U Virtual Console in 2013 and made a splash as a classic many of us haven’t had a chance (or the necessary funds) to play. It sold well enough on Wii U, but obviously prospective consumers can’t justify a brand new console for a throwback like this. It would make an ideal addition to Nintendo’s Wii U Ambassador lineup. With the Strategy Guide online and optimized for the Wii U GamePad’s web browser I can see a lot of current Wii U owners begrudgingly accepting a reduced Wii U price by getting distracted with Ness and company.
SNES - Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors got a heaping helping of platforming greatness with the Game Boy Advance version of SNES classic Yoshi’s Island, but what could set Wii U Ambassadors apart? How about a download of one of the best and most rewarding platformers of all time? Donkey Kong Country 2 introduced Dixie Kong to the world and gave Diddy Kong the starring role. This would be an excellent complement to the rest of our list by adding some classic Rare gameplay to the stable of free Ambassador rewards.
SNES - F-Zero
While Super Mario Kart would certainly be a fan-favorite addition to Ambassador rewards for early Wii U owners, F-Zero is the rocket-powered launch pad for the second half of our list. With a blistering framerate, more ground-breaking 3D technology (for its time), and competitive head-to-head or couch co-op, a re-release would be fantastic. This is another game already available on Wii U Virtual Console, but the rest of our list might be a bigger leap for Nintendo to make.
GCN - 1080° Avalanche
Gamers should remember one thing when dreaming up an Ambassador Program list of goodies for current Wii U owners. The last 20 games Nintendo gave early adopters for free on Nintendo 3DS were all published by Nintendo. Don’t get carried away with imagining games like Timesplitters 2 or Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes arriving on your Wii U by way of a free download. As such, we’ll start off the list of 10 GameCube games for Wii U Ambassadors with 1080° Avalanche, an under-appreciated sports title from the Big N.
GCN - Baten Kaitos Origins
Monolith Soft and Nintendo have already shocked the Xenoblade fan base with X, a beautifully futuristic mech-based RPG game on the horizon, but the two companies formed a deep bond back on GameCube. Baten Kaitos Origins would certainly give the fans looking forward to X an excuse to buy their Wii U early. What’s more, Baten Kaitos Origins would help stave off a software lull on Wii U by giving owners a lengthy experience to enjoy thanks to their fanboyism. Further, not a lot of people played this game back on GameCube either.
GCN - Battalion Wars
While it doesn’t have the name recognition of other Nintendo titles, creating a new base of fans for this third-person Advance Wars spin-off would help Nintendo fill the months with Wii U software. If the game is received well enough on Wii U, a sequel could be developed and released, especially since developer Kuju Entertainment is still working with Nintendo and it has experience on other HD consoles.
GCN - Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
There isn’t a Wii U owner alive who wouldn’t like a chance to experience one of the most terrifying games ever made all over again. I remember playing Eternal Darkness in the dark when my CRT TV seemingly shut off after a lengthy session. While the game’s tricks might not hold up thanks to HDTVs changing the way menus and static are displayed, the story and combat would certainly stand toe-to-toe with modern horror games. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem might also move a few more Wii U consoles at the current price point if the Ambassador doors are left open for a few weeks as they were on Nintendo 3DS. This would be even truer if Nintendo communicated to consumers that some of these ambassador games would not be made available after the program’s cutoff date.
GCN - Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
After Fire Emblem: Awakening’s great success on Nintendo 3DS, this seems like another slam dunk choice for Ambassador Program goodies. The GameCube’s Fire Emblem combined gorgeous graphics and a compelling story with a huge cast of characters. It won’t retain the gameplay advances seen in Awakening, but with the GBA Fire Emblem joining the roster of 3DS Ambassador downloads, this selection just makes too much sense to ignore.
GCN - Luigi's Mansion
Despite the year of Luigi winding to a close, this GameCube title would certainly go a long way in converting Wii U Ambassadors into Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon consumers. I think the full-blown sequel to this quirky GCN launch game got ignored as many prospective 3DS owners probably waited for Zelda or Pokémon games in 2013. Luigi might not have moved many 3DS units, but including the original in a Wii U Ambassador program makes about as much sense as sucking a ghost up with a vacuum. And truly, I don’t know any other way to get the job done.
GCN - Metroid Prime
The original Metroid Prime remains one of the most beloved GameCube games for the way it translated Samus’s 2D adventures to 3D and presented a beautifully realized universe around the daring female bounty hunter. Obviously Retro’s name was built on the back of the Metroid Prime trilogy and you can still buy the collection as a Wii game fully playable on Wii U, but a free download might be a great way to kick off the rest of the trilogy made available digitally through Nintendo’s eShop.
GCN - Star Fox Assault
GameCube owners were lucky enough to receive two original StarFox games on that platform, but we’re going to forego Star Fox Adventures and the dinosaur planet developed by Rare to select Star Fox Assault as an Ambassador reward. This collaboration between Namco and Nintendo did its best to meld the space-shooting action and on-foot sequences perfected in other games. With a full-blown campaign combining Arwing, Landmaster, and third-person on-foot sequences, this would be an easy game to download and enjoy one weekend while we wait for more original Wii U software to materialize.
GCN - Super Mario Sunshine
Not everyone fell in love with Mario’s talking squirt-gun backpack, but it was certainly an entertaining and endearing platformer on GameCube. No one can deny that the challenges and mechanical advances helped to create the fantastic Super Mario Galaxy series on Wii, but many longtime Nintendo fans probably missed out on Sunshine just for how poorly the Nintendo GameCube was selling back in 2002. I’ve played the heck out of Sunshine and I still remember the overworld map and soundtrack fondly. With Super Mario 3D World shunning an overarching narrative and map for an NSMB-like format of three stars per level, Super Mario Sunshine could be a great Ambassador freebie just for the fact that it’ll get gamers ready for Super Mario Galaxy 3 or the next major Mario game.
GCN - Wario World
Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors were not left wanting for platformers when their free games finally became available for download. On the GameBoy Advance side of things alone, early 3DS adopters got games in the Wario Land, Super Mario Advance, Kirby, and Mario vs. DK franchises. It’s safe to say that an under-appreciated GCN game like Wario World would round out the list of free Wii U games for download.
While Nintendo’s been in this situation before, both during the GameCube era and with Nintendo 3DS, we can’t say for sure if an Ambassador program is in the green warp pipe for early Wii U adopters. Obviously, consumers would like to see a drastic price cut to the hardware, but early adopters don’t want to be completely screwed. Hopefully, Nintendo can navigate itself through these rough waters, no matter how many Apple-branded sharks tell them they should put Mario on an iPhone.