Dear Nintendo, how on earth do you do that voodoo you do so well?
The Wii broke sales records like no one’s business and it blindsided the entire industry. The Wii made motion gaming a standard feature in all consoles and it brought the wonderful term “filthy casuals” into the popular gaming vernacular.
Yet people HATE it. The poor Wii was the whipping boy and laughing stock of the first HD console generation, mainly just because it wasn’t an HD console at all. Screw those people though, because I loved the damn thing and history has proven that Nintendo played it pretty smart in keeping the Wii standard def; that price point was just unbeatable… I mean, shit, they did sell OVER 100 MILLION UNITS! I said God damn! God damn.
I freely admit that I have a soft spot for Nintendo, but the truth of the matter is, I played a lot of really great games on my Wii that I never could have played on any other platform. The Wii did a hell of a lot wrong, but despite everything that was frustratingly archaic about it – it still changed the industry, and when looked at objectively, had a large catalog of truly amazing games.
The Wii did do a lot of things right too though – Gamecube backwards compatibility was fantastic to have and the virtual console was really great (at first anyway), plus, it brought back the notion of a system shipping with an included game (that was actually really goddamned fun!).
For all its under-powered, standard def warts and basically non-functioning online component, I still loved the Wii. Like the ugly, but super-sweet best friend who is now just collecting dust at grandma’s house… wait…
So here then, is my sincere goodbye to you, sweet Wii – may you go softly into the night as I present my top 10 Nintendo Wii games:
10. WarioWare: Smooth Moves
Have you ever dropped acid and played a bunch of Nintendo games? No? Want to know what it would be like? Then play WarioWare Smooth Moves.
MMhhmmm… hhhnnngggg…hhrabbjshdje… and that’s not even the craziest shit you’ll see.
This game is beyond all rational description. It starts weird and grows exponentially weirder in every direction you could never imagine from there on out.
Once you make it to the final portion of the game and you’re basically playing an endurance lightning round, where the mini-games keep coming faster and faster until your brain is about to implode, you’ll either transcend reality and experience something akin to ego-death or you’ll have an aneurysm and die holding your Wii remote in a really awkward and embarrassing position. Either way you’ll have a smile on your face.
This game perfectly encapsulates the reasoning behind my enduring love for Nintendo – they just don’t give a flying fuck; they’ll put out a surreal collection of mini-games with ridiculous graphics without shame and they’ll be sincerely proud of it while joyfully trotting it about like it’s an AAA title. They march to the beat of their own drum and by god, we need people like that in this industry ruled by boring-as-shit homogenization. Fly your freak flag high, Nintendo!
9. Sin and Punishment: Star Successor
The first Sin and Punishment was a Japan-only release on the Nintendo 64 that was spoken about in the import circles as the best game we poor American’s never got to experience – that is until the Wii’s virtual console brought it over to the hungry American gamers. It was a big success on the VC and the developer, Treasure, decided it was time to revisit the series with a proper sequel which became Star Successor.
Sin and Punishment games are what’s known as “Cabal Shooters” – a third person, fixed perspective view that allows character movement across the X and Y axis while you can simultaneously aim your shooting reticule around the screen. It takes a bit to really nail down the controls on the original N64 game thanks to the odd complexity of movement and shooting mechanics bleeding into one another – but on the Wii, with the ir pointer capabilities of the Wii remote, it becomes very fluid and natural to control movement while shooting. Star Successor took everything that was great about the first game made it more frenetic while also streamlining the mechanics and making it an all-around more enjoyable and intuitive experience.
Star Successor even broke out of the standard cabal design on quite a few stages and became more of a shmup – hell, it’s a Treasure game … that’s really the best way to describe it. Treasure (the studio behind such awesomeness as Ikaruga and Gunstar Heroes just to name a few of my favorites) has always been known for it’s chaotic shooters and Sin and Punishment was just another in a long line of their particularly polished brand of insanity. Star Successor was fast, fun, frantic, ridiculously (deliciously) Japanese, and it looked really good for a Wii game. It’s a game that simply feels right when you pick up the Wii controllers, it fits the system perfectly and delivers a unique experience that wouldn’t have worked as well on any other system.
Hey Treasure – how about a WiiU port? Or even PS3/4 port with move controls? PLEASE???!!!!
8. The Last Story
From developer Mistwalker, The Last Story is a fitting title to usher in the end of the Wii’s life cycle – apropos name aside, it’s a great game to close the book on the Wii because it represents a lot of what made the console so great; basically that willingness to go where the other platforms weren’t.
A long and somewhat conventional (yet deep) Japanese RPG? Not made by Squeenix? What black magic is this?
The main gameplay is action/rpg, but saddled by really odd controls it never really feels like a traditional action rpg; it feels like some odd amalgamation of action rpg and strategy game mechanics. Once you get into it though, it all begins to make sense and it turns out that the battle system is surprisingly fluid and satisfying. Tie this up with a really good story and some fantastic graphics and it stands as one of the best rpgs on the system easily. You can still find it cheap on Amazon, so it’s definitely worth a look if you’re thirsting for some hardcore rpg action on the Wii.
7. Donkey Kong Country Returns
Retro Studios, the god-like men who made the Metroid Prime trilogy were offered pick of the first party litter as to what they wanted to do for their next game. After Prime 3 they decided to take a Metroid break, so they went about as far from away from sci-fi space drama as they could and landed on Donkey Kong Country Returns.
Everyone was bitching and moaning that we weren’t getting a new Metroid game – but come on; Retro pulled off three incredible games in a row, they need to recharge their batteries at some point, right? In any event, once they released DKCR everyone shut up because the game was so damn good. They showed that it was possible to capture that brilliant old-school Rareware spirit and make a DK platformer that felt fresh, looked beautiful, played perfectly and kept you grinning from ear to ear throughout the entirety of your play time.
As far as pure platforming experiences go, DKCR is absolutely brilliant and it is the end of the argument questioning whether Nintendo could create a ‘triple A’ platformer without Mario in it anymore. Tough as balls level design that will make you weep with joy and pain in equal measure has always been a hallmark of the DKC games and Retro pulled out all the stops reminding us how damned enjoyable that formula is.
6. Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition
While Resident Evil 4 isn’t a Wii exclusive by any stretch of the imagination, the Wii version is certainly exclusive in the fact that no other platform has released it since with the controls elevated to absolute perfection.
The Wii edition featured all the bonus content found on the PS2 release, so coupled with the redesigned control scheme the Wii edition is pretty much the definitive version of the game. The recent HD re-release was fantastic, but going back to playing the game with a standard controller after being able to use the Wii remote to pull off a split-second, perfectly precise head shot was a big step back for me. The aiming mechanics just feel clunky on a regular analog stick, so freeing that movement up and giving it the precision of the ir pointer was pretty much the only way to improve upon the perfection that this game is. When anyone talks about good pacing in games – the game that should always be brought up first as the ultimate example in practice, is Resident Evil 4 – it is really one of the most flawlessly executed action games ever made and was seemingly designed by Satan himself to keep you playing because there is never a big lulling moment where you want to put the game down and walk away.
The bottom line is that the game itself is one of the all-time greats and on the Wii it’s made more intuitive. If you have a Wii you need this game, it’s as simple as that.
5. Mario Kart Wii
Since the SNES every Nintendo console’s ‘best of’ list can and should include a Mario Kart game. I’m not sure why, but Nintendo seems to be the only company capable of making a really good kart racing game. Mario Kart Wii continues that illustrious trend with a ton of awesome courses and some (as always) truly inspired track designs – they even bring back some all-time favorites from games past. Plus… motorcycles!
The multi-player is fantastic as always and GASP!… what’s this? You could actually play this game online! And more than that – it actually worked and was a great experience! Crazy! Nintendo even kept updating the online experience for a really long time after release with little quests, contests and new things to do, it was really, really strange… in a good way.
Word of advice: ditch the stupid ‘wheel’ controller though, just play with the nunchuck/wiimote combo… trust me, the wheel thing makes the game seem so much poorer than it really is – if anyone ever tells you this version sucked, chances are it is because they used that unforgivably stupid wheel.
4. Xenoblade Chronicles
Monolith Soft’s greatest game? I think so. This game just shouldn’t exist on the Wii – it’s huge,it’s gorgeous and it’s just everything a big-budget AAA rpg on the PS3 or 360 should have been.
Xenoblade Chronicles stands as definitive proof that even third parties could make games look amazing on the Wii and that aesthetic design was far more important than raw GPU horsepower. Honestly, this game just kind of makes me angry because it shows how lazy other third party developers were when it came to making games for the Wii.
But, all bitterness aside, this game is marvelous. The battle system is crazy-addictive, the huge world is a joy to explore with a myriad of great sub-quests and the story (for a wacky jrpg story anyway) is really fantastically told. It’s a long game and really, one of the absolute overall best rpgs of the 7th generation across all platforms.
Also – word to the wise, for those of you who aren’t willing to plop down a Benjamin on this game, be aware – Gamestop is having a ‘Black Friday’ sale this year where they’ll be selling the game at ‘regular’ price… so get up on that!
3. Metroid Prime Trilogy
Oh hell yes. The original Metroid Prime is one of my favorite games (Super Metroid still makes it its’ bitch though) and having the first two GCN releases touched up with widescreen support and given the Wii control scheme is just amazing. The visuals are still gorgeous and stand up against stuff on systems that are twice as powerful. That alone would have been enough to get my money, but then Nintendo also included the, still-new at the time, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption in the package – making it the best gaming deal of the generation right next to The Orange Box.
The design and the mood of Metroid was always wholly its own and Retro took those elements and integrated them into a huge, first-person environment and managed to keep them just as focused as they had ever been… the music, the story, the overall design every damn thing about these games is just as close to perfect as you could ever want.
Retro took one of the greatest franchises the medium has ever known and changed the mechanics completely – yet they pulled it off and made the games work just as well as they ever did as a side-scroller.
Sure, Prime 2 didn’t hit the heights of the first Prime (how could it?), but it was still damn good. Prime 3 brought the series back full-force and is phenomenal… but really, this entire package is worth it just to have the first game re-done with the super-responsive Wii control scheme.
The spirit and the soul of Metroid remained unaltered in the Prime games and Retro Studios simultaneously created the “First Person Adventure Platformer” genre, and they knocked it out of the park on their first attempt, no less. Bravo.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
I’ll probably get some flack for this – but I have to say it. I didn’t enjoy Skyward Sword.
In fact, I still haven’t finished it. Skyward Sword is the only Zelda game I’ve started and not completed by the way… that should tell you something. To be perfectly honest, the whole game just feels off to me any time I try to pick it back up and continue on with it. The Wii controls drive me nuts in Skyward Sword; having to constantly be ‘in position’ to properly play it is much more annoying than cool and other aspects of the controls feel completely broken to me at times (flying on the birds, steering that fucking beetle). It quickly becomes a chore to play and then combine that with the most annoying tag-along companion in any Zelda game ever, fuckingFi, and it is a game I always find myself liking for the conceptual ideas it presents more than for the way they actually execute any of those ideas.
However, the one thing everyone always takes Twilight Princess to task for is exactly what I enjoyed about it: its’ familiarity. People tend to complain that it didn’t do enough ‘different’ and felt stale. Well… my counter-argument would be ‘have you played any Zelda games before?’ they’re basically the same formula over and over again every damn time, with the exception of Majora’s Mask.
Twilight Princess, for all its alleged contemptuous familiarity, still managed to refine all these elements and make them fun again in a big and beautiful open world. The wolf mechanic is just the dark world mechanic from ALTTP re-skinned, but then, so it the ocarina time jumping from OoT. It’s all the same formula. But Twilight Princess had amazing bosses, great dungeons, some cool new weapons and great graphics – so it tied all the Zelda cliches together in a very enjoyable package for me. It took all the elements of past 3D Zelda games and pushed them as far as they could go on the hardware.
Tell me the horseback fighting wasn’t amazingly well done, tell me those weren’t some of the best bosses in all the 3D Zelda games (the final Ganon fight was the best in the series!), tell me the story wasn’t fantastic for a Zelda game. It all worked really well and to top it off, even though you used Wii controls, they were basically just tacked on. It seems counter-intuitive for me to say that like it is a good thing – but… it is. You get the benefit of being able to precisely and quickly aim your bow, slingshot, etc. but you don’t have to wiggle-waggle your sword a specific way during combat. All the sword combat mechanics were just a remapping of a button press so you could just barely flick your wrist to swing your sword. It wasn’t tiring or obtrusive and I never felt like I was wrestling with the input method to make it recognize what I was trying to get it to do. It was simpler and it was all the better for it.
So Skyward Sword be damned, Twilight Princess is the best Zelda game on the Wii.
1. Super Mario Galaxy 2
The first Super Mario Galaxy was the best 3D Mario game ever created… until Super Mario Galaxy 2 came out. It’s a bold statement, as most everyone still claims Super Mario 64 is the end-all be-all of 3D Mario games. Those people are wrong.
There’s never been a bad main-series Mario title, so that’s not to disparage 64 in any way – it’s just that Galaxy managed to make not only Mario games, but 3D platformers as a whole, seem woefully banal by comparison. It once again, as Mario games are wont to do, completely redefined what the genre was capable of in one fell swoop. Galaxy was the first truly three-dimensional 3D platformer ever made. Nintendo gleefully bent the laws of physics and shattered our preconceived notions of how to interact with the playing field in a three-dimensional gaming environment. They successfully took the platformer, very literally, in new directions by allowing us to climb around, within, on top, bottom, side, edge – anywhere, all while utilizing the game engine’s gravity physics in the negative space between the platforms if we so needed.
I mean – holy fuck – think about that, the space in between the platforms, always relegated to be ‘dead zones’ in platformers, were calculated as part of the playable map by using the game’s physic’s engine to emulate gravitational pulls – you could literally use this invisible gravitational force as a tool in your platforming arsenal to complete levels and reach otherwise unreachable levels. They turned the idea of there not being a platform there, into something that could be used as a platform. Amazing.
Beyond the groundbreaking conceptual aspects of the game and it’s ground-breaking mechanics, you still have that all-time great Nintendo level design shining through on every single stage and you have what are probably the most amazing graphics that ever appeared on the Wii. Nintendo should have released this engine to third parties, we could have seen some really striking games on the Wii if they had.
Even the camera in these games was near-perfect; for all the mind and visual bending constantly going on in this game it was rare that the camera ever really failed you and caused a huge problem. Sure, every now and then it may lose you, but for all the unusual ways you’re able to move in this game it was astonishing how well it worked. The goodness doesn’t stop there though, because the game was also HUGE with tons and tons of levels with all kinds of stars to get. We had new power ups, new enemies and best of all, some real challenge. Some of the levels are just absolutely brutal.
But you know what – everything that Galaxy did, Galaxy 2 did even better. We got more levels, more challenge, better graphics, AND we got Yoshi! Finally, Yoshi was completely at our disposal in a 3D Mario game – and it was totally worth the wait!
Not to stop there though, Galaxy 2 also fixed the one issue I had with the original game – that horribly laid out hub world/ship. It was just a huge pain in the ass to not only find levels in the first Galaxy, but to just check and see if you even needed to be in there was a cumbersome process that caused me to waste a ton of time just trying to keep track of where I needed to go and where I’d been. Galaxy 2 ditched that idea completely and gave you an updated version of the world map from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario Land. It was streamlined, laid out in a perfectly clear fashion and it made Galaxy 2 so much more enjoyable to play solely because of it.
That’s it – that’s the only thing I could find fault with in Super Mario Galaxy – the hub world. Otherwise it was as close to a perfect game as I have seen… and Galaxy 2 fixed that one niggling issue. That is why, for me, it is without a shadow of a doubt the best Nintendo Wii game of all time.
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Very solid list — every game up there deserves a spot in the top 10. It was honestly kind of hard owning a Wii because of long droughts and endless shovelware, but in retrospective, there were a lot of games to enjoy.
If I could find some way to have my Wii U display these games in 480 instead of stretching to 1080 on my tv, they would be no-brainers to go revisit.
Thanks, it definitely was difficult sometimes.
The WiiU doesn’t display Wii games in their native aspects? That’s crazy, I didn’t know that was the case.
Twilight Princess may have been Nintendo exclusive but it wasn’t Wii exclusive. And Metroid Prime Trilogy has Metriod 1 & 2, both of which were on the Gamecube.
Well – I’ll give you Twilight Princess, that one definitely isn’t a pure Wii exclusive.. but Prime Trilogy I stand by. Nowhere else was this release available and the first two games had major upgrades – I think it’s justified to call the trilogy collection a dyed-in-the-wool exclusive.
I should probably just change the title of the list to ‘top ten Wii games’ and drop the exclusive bit, really.