Gift cards have always been popular as Christmas gifts, especially for people who have no idea what to get someone. If someone in the family knows that you have a Nintendo console, then you might find one under the tree yourself.
The good news is that there are so many cheap games you can nab on both the Wii U and 3DS console that a gift card can be one that keeps on giving. There’s a lot available on both consoles now too, so we’ve compiled a list of some games that will provide longevity and cost $Aus10 or less to help you get the most out of your gift.
For many people this game is one of the finest Zelda games ever. Despite being on a console that was so incredibly limited in terms of its tech, Link’s Awakening is a fully fledged experience with a large world to explore, massive dungeons filled with monsters to defeat and traps to navigate, and one of the finest soundtracks in the series to date. A true classic that still stands up all these years later.
Lufia: The Legend Returns
Lufia is a clever take on the roguelike concept that is so well designed that I’m surprised that we haven’t seen more games play with its structure. As with a roguelike you’ll be wandering through randomised dungeons and fighting with enemies in turn based combat. But it’s the party system that makes Lufia so interesting. You need to pay special attention to the way your team of heroes are organised in order to access the most powerful abilities at their disposal. It’s also one of the most gorgeous Game Boy Colour games ever thanks to its lovely backgrounds and character designs.
It’s truly incredible that Nintendo hasn’t turned this game into a franchise of its own. In the Pokémon Trading card game you do a similar thing to what happens in the main ‘mon games, but instead of collecting monsters you collect packs of cards by successfully defeating opponents in a simple, but addictive, collectible card game. There’s a reason that kids continue to collect and play the real card game to this day (despite it costing their parents a fortune) after all these years, after all – it’s awesome good fun.
Sword of Hope 2 is very old school, but it is also a bit of a forgotten classic. It’s the kind of game where you’ll want to have a sheet of grid paper handy as you play along so that you can doodle down notes to prevent you from getting lost. Combat is archaic and the game progresses at a snail’s pace, but as with games like Wizardry of old, the first person perspective helps give you the impression of exploration, and it’s an oddity among classic handheld games for that reason.
Both the Wii U and 3DS Virtual Console are starved for shoot ’em ups at the moment, so it’s a good thing that Life Force exists. A more than competent horizontal scroller, this one has you piloting a ship through both predictable space scenery and oddly captivating backdrops. Its mechanics no longer reek of innovation and there’s some technical niggles inherent in the NES tech, but depth that goes beyond the conventional dodging and shooting will have you gleefully experimenting with all the weapons and strategies at your disposal.
Nintendo Wii U
Golden Sun was one of the true classics of the Game Boy Advance era. A classic JRPG in the vein of Final Fantasy, Golden Sun offered a massive world to explore, dozens of towns and dungeons to explore and hidden secrets everywhere. It was also a game in which dungeons were absolutely filled with puzzles to solve, meaning that exploration was much more than a simple “travel from point A to point B deal.”
Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3
Yoshi games might as well be synonymous with the word “charming”, but Yoshi’s Island stands out among them for merging aesthetic cuteness with some of the most creative platforming in the genre. The soundtrack will effortlessly tug the heartstrings and the pastel-inspired sprites will have you gawking at how adorable even the most conceptually repulsive creatures can be, but it’s the sheer diversity and ceaseless ingenuity of level designs made possible by Yoshi’s unconventional arsenal that catapulted this one into classic territory. If you’re even passively interested in platformers, this game is the next best thing to cuddling a real Yoshi.
WarioWare, Inc.: Minigame Mania
You could write a hundred page essay on how Wario Ware is the cumulative result of every creative concept Nintendo has ever cooked up, but the appeal of the franchise can be felt within seconds of playing firsthand. One of a couple hundred simple, addictive minigames is shot out every few seconds and you’ve got to clear them all through quick reflexes and mental gymnastics. These games are accentuated by a quirky cast of characters and a boundless irreverence for the conventional.
As the first Fire Emblem to be released outside Japan over a decade ago, this game doesn’t have the deepest mechanics in its franchise, let alone the strategy genre as a whole. It is, however, one of the best strategy games you’re going to find digitally on a modern Nintendo console (especially for pocket change). The classic appeal of Fire Emblem – carefully managing a team of very mortal units over the course of an entire 20+ hour campaign – is captured here perfectly. The JRPG elements also lead to a story brimming with memorable characters and heart-wrenching plot twists.
Kirby Super Star
Kirby Super Star is a compilation of smaller, more experimental games than the pink puffball normally sees in his platforming outings. And it’s positively stellar as a result. Each sub-game has its own little gimmick or hook to it. You’ll hunt treasure, end famine, and befriend a certain avian variety while making use of Kirby’s ever-versatile copy abilities to unlock even more games. It’s also got drop-in co-op multiplayer support throughout virtually the entire game, so this is absolutely one to bust out in front of friends over the holidays.
– Clark A.