Behind Convention Info-mercials, Deep Divisions in US Society

Caleb Maupin is a widely acclaimed speaker, writer, journalist, and political analyst. He has traveled extensively in the Middle East and in Latin America. He was involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement from its early planning stages, and has been involved many struggles for social justice. He is an outspoken advocate of international friendship and cooperation, as well 21st Century Socialism.

Near Waterfront station in Downtown Vancouver. Autumn of 2019.

Waterfront is a major intermodal public transportation facility and the main transit terminus in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It is located on West Cordova Street in Downtown Vancouver, between Granville and Seymour Street. The station is also accessible via two other street-level entrances, one on Howe Street to the west for direct access to the Expo Line and another on Granville Street to the south for direct access to the Canada Line.

The station is within walking distance of Vancouver’s historical Gastown district, Canada Place, Convention & Exhibition Centre, Harbour Centre, Sinclair Centre, and the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre float plane terminal. A heliport operated by Helijet, along with the downtown campuses for Simon Fraser University and the British Columbia Institute of Technology, are also located within the vicinity of the station.

Waterfront station was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and opened on August 1, 1914. It was the Pacific terminus for the CPR’s transcontinental passenger trains to Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario. The current station is the third CPR station. The previous CPR station was located one block west, at the foot of Granville, and unlike the current classical-styled Waterfront station was built in “railway gothic” like the CPR’s many railway hotels.

In 1978, when Via Rail took over the passenger operations of the CPR and the Canadian National Railway, it continued using both railways’ stations in Vancouver, but a year later, Via consolidated its Vancouver operations at Pacific Central Station, the CN station near False Creek, and ceased using the CPR station. The last scheduled Via passenger train to use Waterfront station departed on October 27, 1979.

Waterfront station’s transformation into a public intermodal transit facility began in 1977. That year, the SeaBus began operating out of a purpose-built floating pier that was connected to the main terminal building via an overhead walkway above the CPR tracks. The CPR’s passenger platform and some of its tracks were torn up in the early 1980s to make way for the guideway of the original SkyTrain line (Expo Line), which opened on December 11, 1985. During Expo 86, SkyTrain operated special shuttle trains between Waterfront station and Stadium–Chinatown station (then named Stadium station), connecting the Canadian Pavilion at Canada Place to the main Expo site along False Creek.

A private ferry company, Royal SeaLink Express, ran passenger ferries from a new dock on the west side of the SeaBus terminal to Victoria and Nanaimo in the early 1990s, but ultimately folded. In 2003, HarbourLynx began operating out of Royal Sealink’s old facility at the SeaBus terminal. In 2006, following major engine problems with their only vessel, they folded as well.

In 1995, platforms were built adjacent to the SkyTrain station for the West Coast Express, which uses the existing CPR tracks. The platforms for the West Coast Express were built in the same location as the old CPR platforms.

In 2002, Millennium Line trains began to share tracks with the Expo Line at Waterfront station. The lines continued to share tracks until late 2016, when an Expo Line branch to Production Way–University station was created in replacement of the Millennium Line service between VCC–Clark and Waterfront stations.

In 2009, the Canada Line opened with separate platforms which are accessible via the main station building, but require leaving the fare paid zone when transferring between other modes. Waterfront station serves as a common terminus point for both the Expo Line and the Canada Line.

Waterfront station was one of the first stations to receive TransLink’s “T” signage, denoting a transit station. This signage was originally installed in the downtown core of Vancouver to help visitors during the 2010 Olympics, as it made transit hubs easier to identify.

In 2018, TransLink announced that Waterfront’s Canada Line platforms, as well as two other stations on the line located within downtown Vancouver, would receive an accessibility upgrade which includes additional escalators, as most Canada Line stations were built with only up escalators initially. Construction is expected to begin in early 2019.

Waterfront’s main station building was designed in a neoclassical style, with a symmetrical red-brick facade dominated by a row of smooth, white Ionic order columns. The Ionic columns are repeated in the grand interior hall, flanking the perimeter of the space. The main hall features two large clocks facing each other high on the east and west walls. Paintings depicting various scenic Canadian landscapes, completed in 1916 by Adelaide Langford, line the walls above the columns. The Montreal architecture firm Barott, Blackader and Webster was responsible for designing the main station building.

Mark Ames: Libertarian Liars: Top Reagan Adviser, Cato Institute Chairman William Niskanen: “Deficits Don’t Matter”

Another Monday, another “deficit crisis” panic. If you haven’t got the feeling yet that you’re being played like a sucker over this alleged “deficit crisis,” then let me help you cross that cognitive bridge to dissonance. It comes in the figure of the recently-deceased William Niskanen, the embodiment of how Reaganomics and the Koch brothers’ libertarian movement were joined at the hip. Niskanen was an advisor to Ronald Reagan throughout the 1970s; a board director for the Koch-founded Reason Foundation; a member and chairman of Reagan’s Council on Economic Advisers from 1981-85; and he moved directly from Reagan’s side back to the Koch brothers’ side, as chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute from 1985 until 2008.

This is a brief story about how the 1% transformed this country into a failing oligarchy, and their useful tools, starting with A-list libertarian economist William Niskanen, Chicago School disciple of Milton Friedman, advocate of the rancid “public choice theory.”

First, let’s go back to December, 1981, and news is leaking out that Reagan’s supply-side tax cuts for the rich, combined with huge increases in defense spending, caused an explosion in the deficit to unimaginable levels, from Carter’s projected deficit of $27 billion to a real deficit of $109 billion and climbing fast–this, despite the fact that Reagan ran as a “responsible” deficit hawk. Someone needed to rationalize that deficit away, and the job fell to none other than CEA director and future Cato Institute chairman Niskanen, as reported in the AP on December 9, 1981:

Faced with record-smashing deficits that could top $100 billion a year, the Reagan administration now says it can live with a torrent of red ink without reversing its strategy against inflation and high interest rates.

In a turnaround from President Reagan’s longstanding assertion that deficits are a cause of inflation, senior White House economic advisers yesterday sought to downplay that relationship. One member of the Council of Economic Advisers, William A. Niskanen, suggested the connection is virtually nonexistent.

…Rudolph G. Penner, a budget official during Gerald Ford’s administration, said there is a “certain irony” that the record deficit of $66.4 billion, which occurred in 1976, “was set by a conservative president (Ford), and the record will be broken by another conservative president.”

Actually, what Niskanen said was this: “The simple relationship between deficits and inflation is as close to being empty as can be perceived.”

And this: “There are no necessary relationships between the deficit and money growth.”

And this: “Evidence doesn’t support” the assertion that deficits crowd out private borrowers.

And finally, William Niskanen, one of the leading libertarian figures of the past four decades, said this about deficits: “The economic community has reinforced an unfortunate perspective on the deficit which is not consistent with the historical evidence…It is preferable to tolerate deficits of these magnitudes either to reinflating [the money supply] or to raise taxes. Other things being equal, I would like to see lower deficits too, but other things are not equal.”*

That glib, “hah-hah we fooled you!” attitude towards federal deficits–the same deficits Reagan’s people used to scare the shit out of Americans in the 1980 elections–was captured best by Ronald Reagan himself, who in 1984 quipped, ”I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.”

Hardy-har-har. Such a charming guy.

Even Der Austerity-führer himself, Friedrich von Hayek, bragged in 1985 that the deficit scare was purely political–you can almost see the little troll rubbing his troll hands together gleefully as he brags about his master plan’s success:

After remarking that his work had influenced by Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher of Great Britain, that many of the president’s advisers had come from “circles I am acquainted with,” and that he was wearing a set of cuff links given to him by Reagan, the economist [von Hayek] commented:

“I really believe Reagan is fundamentally a decent and honest man. His politics? When the government of the United States borrows a large part of the savings in the world, the consequence is that capital must become scarce and expensive in the world world. That’s a problem.”

But, von Hayek continued, “You see, one of Reagan’s advisers told me why the president has permitted that to happen, which makes the matter partly excusable: Reagan thinks it is impossible to persuade Congress that expenditures must be reduced unless one creates deficits so large that absolutely everyone becomes convinced that no more money can be spent.”

Thus, the economist said, Reagan “hopes to persuade Congress of the necessity of spending reductions by means of an immense deficit. Unfortunately, he has not succeeded.”

The way von Hayek brags that he and his little circle of free-market Nazis swindled the world is just stunning–really stunning, as in it’s almost impossible to respond to it’s so vile. But as Yasha Levine and I reported in The Nation in September, swindling the public and shameless hypocrisy–that’s how Friedrich von Hayek, and his sponsor Charles Koch, roll:

Publicly, in academia and in politics, in the media and in propaganda, these two major figures—one the sponsor [Koch], the other the mandarin [Hayek]—have been pushing Americans to do away with Social Security and Medicare for our own good: we will become freer, richer, healthier and better people.

But the exchange between Koch and Hayek exposes the bad-faith nature of their public arguments. In private, Koch expresses confidence in Social Security’s ability to care for a clearly worried Hayek. He and his fellow IHS libertarians repeatedly assure Hayek that his government-funded coverage in the United States would be adequate for his medical needs.None of them—not Koch, Hayek or the other libertarians at the IHS—express anything remotely resembling shame or unease at such a betrayal of their public ideals and writings. Nowhere do they worry that by opting into and taking advantage of Social Security programs they might be hastening a socialist takeover of America. It’s simply a given that Social Security and Medicare work, and therefore should be used.

Like typical Randroid libertarians, they find the public’s gullibility and good faith contemptible. This is something that Americans still can’t get their heads around about the free-market libertarians who’ve ruled us and ruined us over the past three decades. Here, for example, is how a middle-of-the-road guy, New York Times columnist Tom Wicker, described von Hayek’s cynical boasting about the big deficit swindle back in 1985:

While some Americans may agree that a shrunken government makes a deliberately created deficit “partly excusable,” such a deficit still reflects a reckless deception with worldwide consequences yet to be calculated. And congressional Democrats should realize the source of the pressure they’re under to sell their political birthright.

Poor earnest Tom Wicker’s problem here, we all know now, is his lack of rank cynicism; he still believes that these people care about “consequences” for anyone but themselves; he still believes in fantasy-Democrats who will “wake up” or get wise to the swindle. Keep waiting, Mr. Wicker. Yep, they’ll get wise all right.

A couple more things I want to say about Niskanen, who just died a few weeks ago of a stroke (he was still chairman emeritus of the Cato Institute up to his last breath). He not only was a cynical bastard who helped screw this country over, but he also had that other nauseating libertard trait: The faux-maverick contrarian dickhead trait.

In October 1984, just weeks before the election between Reagan-Bush and Mondale-Ferraro, libertarian economics adviser William Niskanen spoke before a meeting of women’s groups to tell them that the wage gap was all their own fault, if it even existed at all:

Wage Plan Is Labeled As “Crazy”

(AP) — White House economist William Niskanen, tackling a sensitive political issue, yesterday criticized Walter Mondale’s support for the concept of comparable pay for men and women and said it was “a truly crazy proposal.”

Niskanen, a member of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, also told a meeting of Women in Government Relations that the wage gap between the sexes was largely due to women interrupting their careers for marriage and children.

…Niskanen was asked for elaboration by one woman in the audience who said his remark had caused “bristling in the back of the room.”

“Comparable worth is an idea whose time, I think, has long passed,” he responded, adding it was based on the “rather medieval concept of a just pay and a just wage.”

Mondale’s response when he heard what Niskanen said is poignant, because it’s pretty much every sane American’s response to every batshit crazy, pernicious idea and “maverick” poison that Republicans and libertarians have been puking on this country–like that spitting dinosaur in Jurassic Park–for lo these past few decades. Here’s Mondale’s reaction:

“He said that?” Mondale asked incredulously.

Yep, he sure did.

In 1985, Niskanen left Reagan’s side for the comfort of a lifelong sinecure in the Koch welfare program, safely protected from the ravages of the free-market, just like Hayek, just like all the pus-humpers in the libertarian nomenklatura.

And within a year, chief pus-humper himself, William Niskanen, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute, was attacking Catholic bishops for daring to allege that Christianity is not all about free-markets and enriching the 1-percent:

A former economic adviser to President Reagan says the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are ignoring the Bible as well as sound economics in their call for more government help for the poor.

…In a lengthy teaching letter approved last month, the bishops declared that significant poverty in such a rich nation is “a moral and social scandal that must not be ignored.” They said government as well as individuals and businesses should do much more to help the poor and powerless take part in economic life.

Niskanen, identifying himself as “an economist and a Protestant,” said, “one has reason to question the moral authority of a letter that has little apparent basis in the Scriptures of our shared religious heritage. The letter seeks to provide an agenda for the state. The New Testament is a message of individual salvation through Christ,” he said. “The bishops encourage us to seek justice through political action. Jesus counsels us that the Kingdom of God is not of this world.’ The central theme of the letter is economic justice. The New Testament provides no concept of secular justice, economic or otherwise,” he said.

Now William Niskanen is dead. For all I know, Niskanen may be in Heaven, bouncing on Calvin’s lap. Or maybe–one hopes–he’s dealing with a very Guantanamo-like wrathful god. The only thing we can say for sure is that William Niskanen did everything possible to create a kind of Hell on earth for the 99% of Americans who weren’t as blessed with Koch-funded sinecures as he.

May the bastard writhe in pain.

Halo: Combat Evolved review | Backlog Reviews

Of all the games I’ve ever played, none of them stand out quite like Halo: Combat Evolved. I remember being invited by my dad to one of his friend’s houses, where a dozen guys got together for occasional Halo-fests. (Those would happen two or three times a year for more than half a decade.) I fell in love with the SciFi FPS experience, and my parents got me the PC version of Halo …which I played through three times in a row.

Since then, I’ve always come back to Halo every few years. I own the PC version, the original Xbox version, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (the beautiful 2011 remaster), and the version included in Halo: The Master Chief Collection. I’ve beaten the campaign close to a dozen times, and I poured hundreds of hours into system link/LAN parties in high school.

After Halo: Reach, launching Halo: Combat Evolved immediately filled me with giddy excitement and nostalgia. Sure enough, the opening shots of The Pillar of Autumn and the descent to the mysterious ring-world swept me back to my childhood and my first “grown-up” gaming experience.


Mystery defines Halo: Combat Evolved. From Master Chief’s first steps on the ring to the hunt for Captain Keyes to the discovery of the Flood, danger surrounds every aspect of the game. The setting of Halo is strange and otherworldly, ancient and futuristic. Master Chief is a near-silent protagonist, and the team at Bungie made little effort to fleshing out his character (or anyone else’s, for that matter). But it is all of this uncertainty that provides a compelling experience, the quiet mystery of a bygone era of video games that, somehow, remains just as relevant and impactful in 2018 as it did in 2001.

From the very first scenes, Master Chief’s duty is clear. The Pillar of Autumn left hyperspace into a Covenant trap, and after failing to overcome the alien armada, the captain decides to land the ship on a strange ring-like object in front of them. As an elite Spartan supersoldier, Master Chief needs to protect the artificial intelligence Cortana at all costs or else risk all of her knowledge (particularly the location of Earth) falling into enemy hands. From that moment on, Chief’s primary goal is to stay alive, safeguard Cortana, and find a way to get himself—and the other survivors from The Pillar of Autumn—safely away from Halo.

Visually, one of the best elements in the 10-year anniversary edition is the ability to switch from the remastered visuals to the original game…and it only takes a single button press. While the 2011 version has aged very well, I was surprised that the 2001 graphics still hold up. Playing through a level in the “old school” style certainly provides a different experience, creating a darker and more horror-esque title (particularly in the latter levels). The game is the same, but the emotions I felt varied considerably, and I think that speaks to both the changes in FPS gaming over the years as well as Bungie’s grasp of environmental storytelling.

So much of Halo’s experience is wrapped up in the moment-to-moment gameplay. The Covenant have become just as iconic as Master Chief (or, arguably, most of the other members of the pantheon of gaming heroes), and the Flood aren’t far behind—the looks, weapons, vehicles, and behaviors of these aliens inspired a generation of game developers, and Master Chief steamrolls through hundreds or thousands of this alien enemies over the course of the game.

Combat is where the Halo series truly shines, and nowhere is the more clear than in the first installment of this blockbuster gaming franchise. Bungie has always combined guns, grenades, and vehicles into the perfect combat loop, a masterful grasp of the “30 seconds of fun” idea that spearheaded the actual gameplay design. And with the focus on a superhuman soldier (who often borders on “superhero”), Halo: Combat Evolved provides a compelling and nostalgic power-fantasy that modern FPS titles are still trying to replicate.


Even after more than 16 years, there’s something inherently magical about Halo: Combat Evolved. The anniversary edition certainly modernized the visuals (although the option to switch to the original graphics is incredibly seamless) without taking away any of what set the game apart as a trailblazer for the genre and the industry. I’ve played a lot of games over the years, a lot of FPS campaigns, and a lot of intense set pieces, but there is still no comparable experience to Bungie’s mastery of the genre. The combination of smooth gameplay, sound design, and enemy AI intensity creates an adrenaline high like no other, rolling through rooms and corridors of Covenant, feeling invincible as the legendary Master Chief, and mowing down aliens to a swelling electric guitar riff.

You’ll love Halo: Combat Evolved if you enjoyed Halo 5, Destiny 2, or… You know what? Just go play it.

Mongol Hordes: Last Khan Of Khans

Storm From The East
1. Birth Of An Empire
2. World Conquerors
3. Tartar Crusaders
4. Last Khan Of Khans
This series covers the life and accomplishments of Genghis Khan and examines the art, culture, science, and technology of Mongol civilization. Genghis Khan left not only a highly trained army, but the beginning of an imperial administrative framework, a system of taxation, a communications network—all of which were built upon and expanded by his successors. The series was filmed on location in Mongolia and also features battle re-enactments shot at historical locations throughout Europe and Asia. 4-part series, 50 minutes each.
This program traces the life of the fifth Great Khan, Kublai Khan, who preferred to make his home in China, where he ruled as the first emperor of the Yuan dynasty. Upon his succession to power, he set out to unite the entire nation. It took 14 years of war and a lifetime devoted to winning the hearts and minds of the Chinese, which he largely accomplished by being a great patron of the arts and sciences. Kublai lacked, however, his grandfathers military acumen and sent ill-fated military expeditions to Java, Southeast Asia, and Japan that produced disastrous results. Though his achievements had world significance, he died a disappointed man with the empire showing signs of decay.

Top 10 Nintendo Wii U Games

Nintendo reached historic levels of success with the Wii, but they stumbled out of the gates with the Wii U. The console was notable for being Nintendo’s first HD console, but the biggest selling point was the inclusion of a GamePad that housed its own touch screen. Unfortunately, few games truly took advantage of the unique controller. Some titles offered creative asymmetric gameplay experiences, but third-parties were not interested in experimentation and Nintendo themselves failed to justify the value of the GamePad. This issue was further compounded by poor marketing decisions. Naming the console the Wii U created confusion with consumers and glib gaming journalists alike, and backward compatibility with Wii games and accessories only made things more confusing. The Wii U was the least successful Nintendo console since the Virtual Boy and it’s generally considered a disappointment – if not, an outright failure. Even though its features were half baked and its promise was never realized, the Wii U was still home to many of the generation’s best games. The Wii U feels like Nintendo’s version of the Dreamcast in many ways, and I had fun with the system even if most gamers and publishers took a pass on it. Production of the Wii U has ended and Nintendo’s last Wii U game has been released, so now’s as good a time as any to look back at the best games released for Nintendo’s one-of-a-kind console.

  1. ZombiU (2012)

ZombiU was met with mixed reviews, but it was everything that core gamers were asking for in a launch title. It was a new IP, it was intended for mature audiences, and it offered gameplay experiences that couldn’t be found elsewhere. The game is set in London after a zombie outbreak has ravaged the city, and players assume the role of a survivor who is trying to escape. If players are attacked by a zombie, their character will become a zombie themselves and players will then assume the role of another random survivor. If players track down their previous character, they can potentially reclaim all of the items that they had previously collected. Some criticized the game for being too difficult, but ZombiU captures the essence of a zombie apocalypse and the fear it would instill. The primary weapon in the game is a simple cricket bat which is slow and under-powered. At the same time, the player can be defeated with a single zombie bite and the game’s auto-save features cannot be turned off. As a result, every zombie encounter feels like a significant event, and players have to be on alert at all times since they always have something to lose. ZombiU deserves credit for its creative use of the Wii U GamePad. Players primarily use the GamePad to scan for items and to manage their inventory, but looking down at the second screen diverts their attention from the action. Much in the same way that rummaging through a backpack would make you vulnerable in a real-life scenario, looking at the Wii U’s second screen leaves you open to attack in ZombiU. The game never gives players a break, and that’s what makes it so intense. ZombiU wasn’t the fast-paced first-person shooter that some people were looking for, but it’s one of the purest examples of a survival/horror game that I’ve ever played.

  1. Xenoblade Chronicles X (2015)

A spiritual successor to Xenoblade Chronicles that borrows heavily from its predecessor, Xenoblade Chronicles X is an open-world RPG with an emphasis on exploration. The game follows a group of humans who are forced to take refuge on a distant planet after the Earth is destroyed by hostile aliens. The planet in question is filled with majestic sites and magnificent creatures, and it’s a lot of fun to discover new areas. The first Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the greatest RPGs of all-time, and the follow-up is cut from the same cloth in many regards. The battle system, mission structure, and expansive environments were directly inspired by the original, but Chronicles X adds transforming mecha (called Skells) to the mix that can traverse land, sea, and air. The world in Chronicles X is significantly larger than its predecessor’s was, so the importance of the Skells cannot be overstated. There are some areas where Chronicles X falls short of the original, however. The decision to focus on a player-created character hurt the narrative structure of the game to an extent, and it’s not always clear what you’re supposed to do in order to drive the story forward. Nevertheless, the premise is compelling and the environments are filled with atmosphere and wonder. You won’t always know where you’re going, but the journey is exciting even when the objectives are vague. No game on the Wii U can match the size and scope of Xenoblade Chronicles X.

  1. Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE (2015)

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE was first announced as a crossover of the Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensai franchises, but the eventual game is more akin to Persona with Fire Emblem cameos. The game takes place in modern-day Tokyo and is centered around Japan’s idol culture. Every facet of the game is flowing with personality, and the environments, music, and characters all compliment each other perfectly. Rest assured, the vibrant colors are a perfect reflection of the game’s energy. The story follows a group of teenagers at a talent agency that secretly recruits individuals to fight hostile beings from another world. It’s a strange premise, but the personalities of the characters are surprisingly nuanced and it’s interesting to see them move beyond the manufactured nature of the idol industry in order to find their true selves. I fell in love with the game’s aesthetics, but the gameplay is where the game really shines. The turn-based battles are fast, flashy, and fun – it’s arguably the best battle system ever seen in an Atlus game. Combat is intuitive and easy to understand, but you’ll want to explore every move, ability, and character at your disposal. The game makes it easy to avoid enemies altogether, but I was actively looking for a fight more often than not because the battles were so enjoyable. I’m probably opening up a can of worms by ranking Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE above Xenoblade Chronicles X. The game takes a much more linear approach than Monolith Soft’s epic RPG, but it still provides dozens of hours of content and I enjoyed every upbeat moment of it.

  1. Splatoon (2015)

A third-person shooter with heavy emphasis on online play, Splatoon was a breath of fresh air for an oversaturated genre. Rather than destroying things with bullets, the objective in Splatoon is to cover everything with colorful ink. The main characters are bizarre creatures known as Inklings that can freely switch between human and squid forms. The squids can hide from enemies, pass through grates, and swim through ink at a much faster rate than humans can move. (They can even swim up walls!) At its core, Splatoon is primarily a team-based shooter in which teams engage each other in elaborate turf wars with the goal of covering as much area as they can with their ink. Various ink guns and special items (like paint rollers) allow for different strategies to be used, but even those who are not especially good at the game can contribute. The multiplayer component is the main draw of the game, but Splatoon has a surprisingly robust single-player campaign too. The fantastic stage layouts and creative boss battles do a great job of highlighting the finer points of the game’s mechanics. The game’s presentation is also worth noting, and the level of polish is apparent from the very beginning. The world of Inkopolis is filled with colorful characters and interesting attractions, and the game itself is overflowing with creativity. Splatoon is the most successful franchise born on the Wii U and arguably the best new Nintendo IP since Pikmin.

  1. Bayonetta 2 (2014)

With the exception of Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE, no game on the Wii U was more shocking than Bayonetta 2. It wasn’t the quality of the game – but its very existence – that was surprising. Bayonetta was the best action game of its generation, and Bayonetta herself was destined to go down as one of gaming’s greatest heroines. The first Bayonetta had everything I was looking for in a game. The action was over-the-top, the characters didn’t take themselves too seriously, and the combo-centric gameplay was exciting. Bayonetta received critical acclaim and developed a cult following, but PlatinumGames had trouble financing the sequel and Sega themselves passed on the project despite owning the property. Bayonetta 2 would have never seen the light of day had Nintendo not swooped in to fund the development. The game was rife with violence, hyper-sexuality, and religious iconography, but it filled a void in the Wii U’s library with its M-rated sensibilities. Against all odds, Bayonetta 2 was even more ridiculous (and sexier) than the original. The first stage of the game places Bayonetta on the wings of an F-18 that’s flying above a city, and the scenarios just get more absurd from there. Whether she’s surfing through a tidal wave or humiliating her opponents with a good spanking, Bayonetta never stops enjoying herself. There’s no reason for players to stop enjoying themselves either. PlatinumGames was justified in describing Bayonetta 2 as a “non-stop climax action game.”

  1. Pikmin 3 (2013)

Pikmin 3 follows the same formula that its predecessors did. For the uninitiated, the series follows the adventures of tiny space explorers who recruit plant-like creatures called Pikmin to help with various tasks. The Pikmin are primarily used for the purpose of gathering resources, but they can also build bridges, destroy barriers, and defeat enemies. Players can command up to 100 Pikmin at any given time, and the game is essentially an exercise in resource management. Multitasking is strongly encouraged, and players will usually find themselves managing multiple groups of Pikmin at the same time. Some Pikmin might be tasked with gathering items while others are busy with a construction project. At the same time, players will probably want to keep Pikmin by their side to be used as ammunition against potential threats. Various control schemes are available to the player, but the Wii remote makes it especially easy to target Pikmin and give them instructions. It’s the best-playing game in the series by far, and it’s also the most balanced. The new rationing system is a perfect compromise between the first game’s fixed time limit and the sequel’s more relaxed pacing. Players can build up their rations in the game by gathering more fruit, and this essentially allows them to create their own safety net rather than having one supplied to them by default. The first two Pikmin games were released on the GameCube, so the visuals in Pikmin 3 were a huge step forward for the series. The game is almost photo realistic at times, and the depth of field effects are especially impressive. Nine years separated Pikmin 3 from its immediate predecessor, but it was a game worth waiting for.

  1. Super Smash Bros. (2014)

Like previous entries in the series, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a crossover fighting game that features characters and stages from popular (and not-so-popular) Nintendo franchises. Due to the variety of characters, gameplay styles, and special items, the battles are a lot more hectic than what typical fighting games offer. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the fourth entry in the series, and it’s arguably the best. It’s the best-looking game in the series (the 1080p/60fps graphics were a huge step up from Brawl), it has more than twice as many music tracks as any Smash Bros. game, and it boasts the largest roster in the series by far. New fighters like Little Mac and Wii Fit Trainer added even more variety to the roster, and the inclusion of new third-party characters like Mega Man and Pac-Man made the game feel like a celebration of the entire medium. (The downloadable content was also incredible, and I was especially surprised to see Cloud Strife and Bayonetta added to the mix.) No game in the series has more content, and the depth of the roster is beyond compare. Some will point to Melee as the most competitive game in the series, but Super Smash Bros. for Wii U went to great lengths to appeal to both hardcore and casual fans. The random prat falls that were introduced in Brawl were nowhere to be seen, an adapter allowed GameCube controllers to be used, and characters were re-balanced after the game’s launch to keep things more competitive. All things considered, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is brimming with content and stands as the most well-rounded game in the series.

  1. Mario Kart 8 (2014)

Mario Kart 64 introduced four-player mayhem, Double Dash!! allowed for two characters to ride on a single cart, and Mario Kart DS gave players a chance to hone their skills online. Nintendo takes great care to ensure that every Mario Kart game will be meaningful in its own way, but it was clear from the very beginning that there was something extra special about Mario Kart 8. It was the best-looking Mario Kart, the live orchestrated soundtrack was amazing, and the production values were unrivaled in the genre. On a less superficial level, the game’s new gravity-shifting gimmick allowed for the most creative track designs ever seen in the series. Whether you were racing up waterfalls or driving through space stations, the ability to drive on walls and ceilings gave the game a distinct F-Zero flavor. Nintendo also deserves a lot of credit for using DLC as a way to add value to an already excellent game rather than using it as an excuse to release an unfinished product. Mario Kart 8 was already the best game in the series, but the downloadable characters, vehicles, and tracks put the exclamation mark on things. Perhaps the most unexpected and meaningful update was the inclusion of a new engine class which increased the speed of the game significantly. This free update almost made Mario Kart 8 feel like a completely new game. The increased speed allowed for more shortcut opportunities, new ways to use items, and a much more competitive online scene. A Deluxe Nintendo Switch version of the game adds even more content to the game, but that doesn’t make Mario Kart 8 any less impressive on the Wii U.

  1. Super Mario 3D World (2013)

The Wii U gave Mario fans a lot of options. Super Mario Maker has near-endless replay value and makes perfect use of the touchscreen, but it wouldn’t feel right listing a game that relies so heavily on user-created content. With Super Mario Maker out of the running, the debate came down to New Super Mario Bros. U or Super Mario 3D World. New Super Mario Bros. U represents a high point for the series in terms of pure platforming, but Super Mario 3D World is more imaginative and fun. Every stage feels radically different from the one before it, and new ideas are constantly being introduced throughout the adventure. The game combines the free-roaming gameplay of 3D Mario titles with the straight-forward level structure employed by classic 2D Mario games, but it feels like its own thing even though it borrows heavily from past games. The Super Mario Bros. 2 influence is especially apparent, and the playable characters each have their own unique abilities for the first time in ages. (I was especially pleased to see the return of Peach’s hovering ability.) Super Mario 3D World looks amazing, its upbeat soundtrack features some of the catchiest tunes in the entire series, and its multiplayer component makes it the most accessible 3D Mario game ever released. I’ve come to expect creative level designs and responsive controls from the series, but Super Mario 3D World still managed to surprise me. The game features an unadvertised bonus character, and there were several occasions in which new stages were opened up after I thought I had reached the end of the game. All told, there are over 100 stages to play through! Whether you’re pouncing on enemies with the new cat suit or throwing your friends off a cliff for laughs, Super Mario 3D World never stops being fun.

  1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

Taking cues from Twilight Princess, Breath of the Wild was both a killer app for the newly-minted Switch and a swan song for the Wii U. The game had an usually long development cycle (even for a Zelda title) so expectations could not have been higher. Remarkably, it set a new bar for the series and open-world games in general. Breath of the Wild pushed new boundaries, but it also took the franchise back to its roots by giving players complete freedom to explore the world as they saw fit. The game is ten times larger than any previous Zelda title, and its environments are a lot more interactive too. Link can climb almost any surface he comes across and nearly everything in the game can be manipulated in one way or another. Link can create weapons and food from items that he finds in the wild, and nearly everything can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, tree branches can be used as weapons, but they can also be used to light fires. Likewise, Link’s shield can fend off attacks, but it can also be used as a makeshift snowboard. Non-linear progression and multi-purpose weapons give players more ways to approach battles than ever before, and the game actively encourages creativity. Instead of mowing down moblins with your sword, you might choose to roll a boulder off a mountain in order to squash them. In lieu of fighting at all, you might drop your metal swords near your enemies during a thunder storm in the hopes that they’ll be struck by lightning. The physics engine has incredible depth and consistency, and this allows for the best puzzles in the entire series. (Like every other aspect in the game, the puzzles often have more than one solution.) Unlike most Zelda games, Breath of the Wild doesn’t have a mentor character who holds your hand through the entire adventure. The world itself is your teacher, and it’s a brilliant one at that. Breath of the Wild is everything I’ve ever wanted from a Zelda game, and it just might be the best game I’ve ever played.