If you’ve young kids or a preschooler in the house one of the most underrated and frankly absolute bargain gaming consoles you can lay your hands on these days is a Wii U.
If you’re looking for something to amuse your toddler and they show an interest in technology, forget the Ipad / tablet or your phone. Get them moving around and interacting! For not very much money at all you can have literally hundreds of hours of fun with a Wii U. Believe me, I know, my son has, and still does!
Erm What’s a Wii U?
Most people remember the Nintendo Wii. Lots of us still have one. The Wii was a groundbreaking console released in 2006. Groundbreaking because it introduced motion sensors and infa-red handheld controllers. You could swing them around and point them and the console could track you. This meant you could pretend to bowl, play tennis, and shoot at things in a fairly realistic and fun way!
Pretty much everyone has had one or used one at some point. I managed to lay my hands on one close to holiday season in 2006 (no easy task, they sold out fast) and I’ll never forget the fun everyone had that year! Over-enthusiasm and christmas tree accidents aside 🙂
The successor to the good old Wii was named the Wii U and was released in 2012 (again in time for the holidays). It featured a redesigned controller that included a screen alongside motion sensors, and better graphics and sound over its predecessor.
Unfortunately it never really caught on in the same way. Harcode gamers weren’t impressed with the upgrades and the sales didn’t skyrocket. Nothing really wrong with the console itself, but I think the casual gamers had their fun with the Wii and didn’t see the need for another upgrade.
Why get a Wii U for a toddler
Wholesome family friendly games
Nintendo is a family friendly company. I’ve always thought that. All their big heroes and villains, Mario, Bowser, Peach etc, they’re all harmless cartoon characters. No death and destruction feature in the major game lineup! The premium titles for the Wii U are targeted and designed to just be wholesome. You can find some Zombies if you really want, but they’re simply not the best titles available.
Using the controller is intuitive when you’re 4
You can control your paintballers aim in Splatoon by actually tilting the main Wii U controller up and down, and you can turn him around by turning the controller. Whilst it can be a little confusing for adults used to pushing little sticks, your toddler will pick it up in no-time. He’s over there!!! Okay, so I’ll point over there 🙂
Wii games and other Wii U games that support the old Wii controller (the Wii Remote) are also very toddler friendly. The Wiimote and Nunchuck, are small enough for them to wrap their hands around. Where my toddler failed to be able to properly use the sticks and buttons on a standard playstation Dual-Shock controller, he had no such problems with the Wiimote and Nunchuck.
It’s also a Wii
Yep, the Wii U plays Wii games. It supports the Wii controllers and allows you to play everything you loved on the Wii all over again along with the brilliant new stuff they created especially for the Wii U like Splatoon.
Bargain Wii U bundles
You’ll not struggle to find a bundle bargain on Ebay or any other used tech site or second hand swap store. For Under $120 you can get yourself a Wii U extra controllers and bunch of games.
Look for a bundle that includes:
- Wii U (should include: console, main controller with screen and sensor bar)
- 2x Wii Remotes (‘Plus’ if possible)
- 2x Wii Motion Plus add-ons (if remotes are not ‘Plus’ version)
- 2x Nunchucks
The games and accessories are dirt cheap
If you don’t manage to get games in your bundle, second hand tech shops and Ebay sell them for next to nothing (under $5) compared to the cost of todays AAA rated titles ($50 > $60) for the top consoles. $50 is not what you want to splash out when you’re not really sure if your little one will enjoy something or not. But $5 for something they might get hours and hours of use and enjoyment from? A bargain.
Wii U vs Switch
But what about the latest and greatest offering from Nintendo, the Switch? Why not get one of those?
The Switch is smaller, has a better screen and better graphics and the latest titles available.
But wait a minute… preschoolers don’t care about graphics, or the latest titles, or the screen resolution. At least mine doesn’t!
The Switch is not backwards compatible. All those Wii and Wii U games that are great and cost nearly nothing nowadays won’t work on a Switch.
Finally there’s simply the price, it’s going to cost you hundreds of dollars more to buy a Switch and all the games and accessories vs a Wii U.
Whilst I’m not going to advocate you buying an ESRB 10+ rated game for a preschooler, there are some in the list below. I’ve added all the games ESRB ratings in the description. ESRB is a guidance, not a law. You can interpret that guidance and you know your own children.
We’ve played and still play all these games and they’ve caused no behavioral issues or contain nothing more than cartoon violence.
No sexual references, no bad language, no online chat rooms, no in app purchasing.
If you’re okay with cartoon violence and most importantly your little one knows the difference you’ll be okay with all these games.
Wii U (and Wii) games for toddlers or preschoolers
Wii Sports Resort (Wii)
Sports resort improves on sports and has 12 games from Archery to flying a plane. Each game has several modes too, making 24 different options to choose from.
The upgraded Wii sports makes use of better Wii remote controllers called ‘Plus’ controllers, (or standard controllers with a ‘Motion Plus’ accessory added). This improves tracking.
The top pick for our toddler on this game was always Swordplay. Ours loved it! You can duel on a platform or battle through waves of opponents in various scenes like the bridge.
Everyone is dressed in fencing gear and the swords are more like Ken-do sticks than actual swords. No blood in sight. If you knock someone off a cliff they get picked up by a drone. Harmless fun and your little one has to learn to respond to the opponent. They can’t always win by randomly swinging. You have to swing where your opponent’s sword isn’t, to be able to beat them!
The second choice was bowling, but the bowling in Sports resort includes something I’ve never seen in real life. A 100 pin game! Lots of fun trying to get a strike and no gutters. So it’s easy for the toddlers.
We also got some use out of Archery (but it took a little time to appreciate how to aim a virtual bow), Cycling (but it’s tiring to keep pedaling when you’re 3!), Frisbee (accuracy can be tricky) and basketball (fun for a bit but can get repetitive!).
Sports Resort is rated ESRB E for everyone.
Wii Sports (Wii)
5 games in one, bowling, boxing, tennis, golf and baseball. This one is a Wii game that used to come free with the Wii console and also works on the Wii U if you have the Wii remotes. It’s rated ESRB E for Everyone.
We had the most fun with bowling. Once a preschooler gets the idea of holding the controller and swinging to release the ball they’re off. There’s no bumpers on the bowling alley so there will be some disappointment and some gutter balls. But once they get it, it’s a lot of fun.
Boxing is a little less tricky to get used to. Give a toddler the controllers and they’ll just punch away and the Wii will try to interpret their actions. Most of which will work! They’ll be able to beat the first few opponents without much trouble. This is actually a good workout for a little one!
Baseball can also be tricky until you get the timing right. In fact, it’s all about the timing. But once you know it, you can instruct them when to swing and the sense of achievement on their faces after hitting a home run is priceless.
Tennis and golf never really got much use. Club selection in golf takes away from the fun and understanding which side (forehand or backhand) to swing the racket under pressure can be tricky when you’re only little!
Lego Marvel Super Heroes (Wii U)
Lego games are great for preschoolers. They have a nice balance of problem solving and bashing stuff that keeps both them (and you) entertained. They also have funny storylines and protagonists, everyones a comedian in the Lego world.
Although this is ESRB 10+, again there is nothing but cartoon violence. You can bash lego cars and people, shoot rockets and laser beams. The worst that happens is your opponents just break apart and disappear.
My toddler loves the Avengers and has from a young age so he’s always enjoyed being able to turn into the Hulk or Iron Man and battle with me and the enemies in the game. I’ve enjoyed playing through with him, and talking him through how to solve the missions.
The ‘hub’ of the game is a whole city to explore, so without even doing anything or the storyline missions, once you’ve unlocked their favorite characters with them there’s a lot they can do on their own.
This title also allows you to use the Wii U controller as separate screen. Your toddler can use the controller they’re familiar with (ours was the Wii remote and Nunchuck) and you can use the main Wii U controller and there is no split-screen to confuse, you each get your own and play in the same game world.
Lego Pirates of the Carribean (Wii)
If your little one has seen any Pirates films or loves pirates then this game will keep them (and you) entertained for a while. Two players can cooperate with two Wii Remotes and Nunchucks on a split-screen view which merges into single screen when you’re in the same place.
All the Pirates of the Carribean characters are in it and there’s lots of bashing and sword fighting possibilities. Again this follows the same format as other Lego games. You’ll need to play with a preschooler to help them solve the storyline missions. Or you can just let them run around in the harbour and play around, but there’s not too much depth to that.
Rated ESRB 10+ for cartoon violence only.
Rabbids Land (Wii U)
This is a board game with crazy rabbits (called Rabbids) as the pieces, and the object is to get 10 or 20 trophies and then get to the centre of the board to win. You roll the dice and the square on the board you land on means you get to play mini-games, answer questions, try your luck on the jackpot, fall down a hole etc.
Rabbids are zany characters that get zapped, squashed, bashed and thrown around the board in funny cartoon ways all the time. Google a cartoon of them and you’ll see the type of antics they get up-to. This is rated ESRB 10+ for that reason only.
My son loves playing this with me. Admittedly I have to often play both parts of the mini-games, and read the questions out loud. Some of the stuff in the mini-games is too difficult to master (even for me to be honest!!). But some of it is just right for a preschooler and the rabbids antics make them laugh. You can also choose to play the minigames on their own if there turns out to be one that’s a hit with your child.
Splatoon (Wii U)
Splatoon is an paintballing game. It’s first person perspective, like all good shooting games, but the controls are what sets it apart. You can setup the control pad to aim using motion sensing. Look up (aim up) by tilting the control pad up, look left and right by tilting it left and right. They only have to push a stick to move backwards, forward, left and right. The combination is incredibly intuitive for a preschooler and easy to pick up.
Whilst this is a shooting game rated ESRB 10+, it’s cartoon violence. There’s paint everywhere and cartoon squid people doing the splatting. The actual aim of the game isn’t to shoot the opposition, but to paint as much of the floor in your color as you can (whilst not being splatted by the opposition who want to do the same).
Whilst there is an online play element, online text chat and voice chat is non-existent, so it’s safe.
If you’re the type of parent that thinks boys playing with guns is just boys being boys this might be for you. We had and still have a lot of fun with this one! Moreso when my sons team wins a match 🙂
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Mario Kart is a go-kart racing game where you can choose to race as any of your favorite Nintendo characters. You can get some little wheel shaped holders for Wii controllers that make the driving experience more realistic. You hold a wheel instead of a little controller!
Even on the 50cc slowest race, it can be tough to win. Especially when the opposition zaps you with lightning or puts ink on your screen! So it’s taken until being 5 for my little one to be able to navigate the course and react quickly enough and drive smoothly enough to even finish a race without getting bored.
Great fun, and a learning experience. Rated ESRB E – for Everyone!
Super Smash Brothers (Wii U)
A cartoon violence, beat em up game (ESRB 10+) that allows up-to 8 players on screen at any one time (if you have enough controllers!). We’ve had a lot of fun with this when friends come to visit, especially older cousins who understand how to play it.
When you’ve 4 kids and 4 computer players on the screen, things are chaotic. It’s difficult to know exactly what’s going on. The little ones enjoy it, they enjoy being part of it with their older siblings, even if they’re not actually doing anything!
Whilst my son loves to think he’s battling against the opposition I think the control scheme and button press combinations required are all a little too advanced for a preschooler. He just does the same move (basic attack) over and over, which sometimes does work! That aside, it’s fun, he’s enjoyed playing it and still asks to play it regularly.
Let me know if you’ve played anything else on the Wii U (or Wii) that works well for toddlers. I’m always on the lookout for new learning experiences for them!