Listen: probably don’t import a Wii U. Unlike most consoles we cover, there’s not a huge depth of Japan-only titles to explore, and it looks like its days of getting releases in general are over. Still, we’re the crazy people who import one anyway, and if you’re like us, you might as well check out our sage advice. Onward!
Before you get too far, here are a few helpful things to know about Wii U importing:
It’s locked down. There’s no region-free importing on the system, and there isn’t really even a convenient way to get around the lock even if you wanted to resort to such tactics. So grab that box from Japan. (Maybe a Premium White one? Those are fun and exclusive to that region.)
North American accessories work. This is most helpful to know if you’re worried about voltages, as Japanese power cords can work over here but aren’t designed for it, so you can just use the one you’re using for your U.S. system. And of course you can re-sync those remotes and Pro Controllers for multiplayer titles.
Your credit cards totally work on the eShop. While the process of navigating the store in Japanese may take some getting used to, you don’t actually need to pay for expensive eShop credit codes. Your bank will charge a foreign transaction fee, but it’s usually around three percent — significantly less than the import-code premium. (Still, if you’re uncomfortable using your card, you can buy eShop credit on Nippon-Yasan.)
Now, to the games!
Taiko no Tatsujin: Atsumete Tomodachi Daisakusen!
The Taiko games are probably the best reason to import a Wii U, as they’re tons of fun and the series hasn’t made it over in some time. The best one to pick up is unsurprisingly the latest one: Atsumete Tomodachi Daisakusen, which has a special story mode about making animals like you. More importantly, it has fun songs from J-Pop, anime and games, as well as dozens of original tunes to round out the selection. You can play yourself, but playing with friends is where it’s at! Check out our video for more. Also take a look at Taiko no Tatsujin: Wii U Version and Taiko no Tatsujin: Tokumori!, which are also quite solid and offer different track lists.
Nintendo Game Seminar 2013
Nintendo has long educated new developers through a summer program, and these programs resulted in actual, playable games. The DS era saw them released at Japanese download stations, but a switch to Wii U development was accompanied by a push from Nintendo to release these more widely. And for free! These experimental HTML 5 games are all quirky and worth the download, but the star of this year’s collection is Hissatsu! Center Heroes, a 2-to-5-player party game that has you playing the role of a sentai hero trying to become the squad’s leader by appearing in the center of group photos. You shove, run and pose around single-screen environments, positioning yourself near the center of photo frames at the right time for the most points.
Fujiko F. Fujio Characters: Daishuugou! SF Dotabata Party!
If you’ve looked at the Wii U’s board game releases and found them lacking, you’re not alone: Mario Party 10, Wii Party U and Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival were not great, even by genre standards. So hey, join Doraemon and friends for a game that heads back to the earlier Mario Party formula and brings a whole bunch of quirk along with it! It’ll remind you of the GameCube days, and also of that day you watched Doraemon.
Nintendo Game Seminar 2014
The 2014 seminar switched from HTML 5 to Unity, and the result is a series of games with a lot more visual artistry. None are party smashes, but the best may be about passing notes in class on the GamePad while checking the TV to make sure the teacher doesn’t see you. Seriously, these are free, and it’s sad that they weren’t available everywhere.
Bike Rider UltraDX 2
Little series Bike Rider DX has been a big success on 3DS, and the Wii U games add fun multiplayer components and pack a ton of levels. This second installment hasn’t reached the States (at least yet), and it brings more stages and some creative environments in which to be a stickman and ride a bike. (You can, of course, get the first one on domestic systems first, and that’s probably a good call.)
Gotouchi Tetsudou: Gotouchi Chara to Nihon Zenkoku no Tabi
Another board-game-based title, Gotouchi Tetsudou has you traversing Japan as one of its infamous regional mascots (think Funassyi and Kumamon) along the nation’s rails. It’s bizarre, it’s good for a laugh and it’s from Sakura Samurai developer Grounding. That’s… about it!
Yo-kai Watch Dance: Just Dance Special Version
The Just Dance formula is definitely stale at this point, but… look at this thing. It’s a bunch of silly Yo-kai Watch songs. It’s an affordable import, and the sort of off-the-wall weird that you may be looking for when you throw down hundreds on import hardware. Its target audience is probably Japanese children, but it plays… well, it plays as well as Just Dance games always have.
Line Attack Heroes (WiiWare)
I have played this game in English. This game exists in English. Somewhere. Just not in any released form, because localization plans were apparently scrapped despite being shown at E3, which again was in a form that you and I could read. Okay, well while I probably won’t get over that ever, you can play this game on the Japanese store! This project from Grezzo, the team you probably know from its Zelda 3DS releases, has you attacking with helpers in a line not entirely unlike The Wonderful 101 but with a lighter, simpler, less-Platinum-like approach.
F-Zero Climax (Virtual Console)
With how starved players are for a new F-Zero game these days, why not get one where you can find it? This Japan-only third GBA entry in the series offers a track editor and other “modern” conveniences, but most importantly, it offers more F-Zero that you haven’t played yet.
Super Famicom Wars (Virtual Console)
Advance Wars became a big hit in the West, but before that first GBA game was this late-life Super Famicom title. Why’s it on the Wii U list, then, you may ask? Well it’s so hard to find on that platform, and expensive when you do find it, that grabbing it on the Wii U Virtual Console is a great alternative. Check it out!
Sutte Hakkun (Virtual Console)
Another rare Super Famicom release! You can check out a better look at Sutte Hakkun in our video, but the thing to know is that it’s a puzzle-heavy game about getting a little glass paint-holding creature where it needs to go on the screen. Nintendo is so good at these little games! Imagine a 3DS eShop version of this game. It’d be so great in much the same way as Boxboy! or Pushmo.
Kirby’s Super Star Stacker (Virtual Console)
Okay, okay, one final Super Famicom game, and it’s nothing like the other two. An upgraded, fully-featured form of the Game Boy’s Kirby’s Star Stacker, it adds multiplayer, a lush aesthetic and the sorts of features you’d expect from a SNES puzzler.
You know what, now that we’ve listed all that… maybe importing a Wii U isn’t such a crazy idea?
For more helpful advice for budding importers, check out our console guides.