With the recent release of the WiiU Nintendo has fully fazed out the original Wii. Really, they gave up on it after last year’s Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, releasing only a few dregs like Mario Party and the wholly excellent Kirby Collection since that. Sure, the Wii has been mostly dead all year, with Nintendo just now cutting off life support. While I am not surprised at the almost complete lack of anyone caring that it is gone, I am disappointed. Despite its bafflingly bad reputation, the Wii is one of my favorite gaming systems. It had its problems, like a lack of power and an unfortunate glut of crappy minigame collections, but the Wii also had some of the freshest, most original games since the original NES. I guess it is up to me to highlight some of the best things about the Wii.
The first is Nintendo’s own output for the machine. While there are many who suddenly decided they loved Nintendo’s Gamecube entries in their various series, Nintendo took what it learned from the at very least commercial failure of many of its GC games to good use with the Wii. It launched with a Zelda game. Twilight Princess is a great game, one of the best launch games ever. They followed up with 3 Mario games. No system had three new real Mario games since the NES. The Galaxy games were especially good. Mario Galaxy 2 is easily among my Top 5 favorite games of all time. They had a true Kirby game and an experimental Kirby game. A solid Metroid Prime game, though Other M is better off not mentioned. Then there are the other Nintendo series, a full complement of Mario Sports titles, the solid Super Paper Mario, WarioWare, a Fire Emblem, etc. The idea that the Wii was lacking in traditional games is laughable when Nintendo put out more than two dozen on their own.
Nintendo’s greatest success with the Wii was their new games, the games that got everybody playing. The Wii was a truly inclusive system, inviting everybody to play. Deride it if you will, but Wii Sports sold the system for a reason. While I was only really partial to bowling, there is something to be said for the magic of having your Grandmother play video games with you on Christmas.
The second biggest selling point of the Wii is the virtual console. While downloadable titles are commonplace now, the Virtual Console was what sold me on the idea. Many people seem determined to remember it only for the games it lacks, like the notable absence of Earthbound. However, the sheer wealth of classic games available for only slightly too much should be hard to overlook. While moving it over to my new WiiU, I realized that I have spent more than 200 dollars on VC games, and each one of them was worth the money. A significant chunk of the history of video games is on right there for everyone to experience.
There are also a lot of fun, experimental games. Games like the Trauma Center series, which turned playing doctor into an arcade-like experience or the pseudo-RTS Little King Story. Adventure games were already on their way back, but the Wii helped get them there fully, with games like the utterly charming Zack and Wiki. The motion controls of the Wii were not quite as revolutionary as some people hoped, but there is no arguing that they didn’t help widen the kinds of games available on home consoles.
In all, the Wii lived up to its original name of Revolution, though this Revolution turned out to be a short lived one. It was new and exciting, but Nintendo was unable to hook all their new gamers on buying things other than Wii Sports to play. The rise of tablets and gaming capable cell phones probably didn’t help either. Still there is enough to recommend about the Wii that it will receive an honored retirement at my home, sitting in a box alongside my decrepit PS2 and battered SNES, ready to be taken from the closet and hooked up at any time.
So what were the 10 best Wii games? Here’s my list
- Super Mario Galaxy 2: Just the best.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: Looks amazing and plays even better
- Super Mario Galaxy: Almost as good as its sequel
- Donkey Kong Country Returns: On any other system this might have been the best platformer
- Super Smash Brothers Brawl: It is hard to imagine any game topping this for a Nintendo love fest.
- No More Heroes 2: Brutal and hilarious. Old school in the best way.
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii: 2D Mario is back and I love it
- Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess: It is this low because it is better on the GC
- The Last Story: A great RPG with a nice tactical crunch
- Xenoblade Chronicles: An epic of epics, the closest thing we’re likely to get as a follow up to FFXII.
With two exceptions the best Wii games were published by Nintendo, and one of those two was developed by them and published by others. There were plenty of great games not made by the venerable king of video games. Here are the 10 best overlooked Wii games, though in no particular order.
- Little King Story. It doesn’t quite work as it should, but it is still fun
- Trauma Team. The culmination of the great doctor “sim.”
- Zack and Wiki. Some frustrating bits, but on the whole great fun.
- Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles The Crystal Bearers. The title might be longer than the game, but it is a great RPG sandbox.
- Sin and Punishment: Star Successor. Shooter heaven.
- Fragile Dreams. Haunting, though rough.
- Klonoa. Even better than on PS1, but still just as ignored
- Muramasa: The Demon Blade. Beautiful, great fun.
- A Boy and His Blob. An awesome reimagining of a crusty classic
- MadWorld. Dark, violent, funny and tragically overlooked.
Honestly, I look at these two lists and can only think of the games that aren’t being mentioned, like Punch-Out, Kirby’s Epic Yarn or Boom Blox. I’ve also ignored Wiiware entirely. For the last five years I have done the vast majority of my home gaming on the Wii and have never felt like I was missing anything. That is not to say the PS3 and 360 aren’t great, just that we are living in a gaming golden age, where all three consoles have unique, vital games. The Wii deserves to be remembered as the great success it was. The games are different, often weird or ungainly, but they are also innovative and interesting and often fun. Thank you Nintendo, for you little white box.