Above all, video games are meant to just be one thing: Fun for everyone.
The Console Challenge is on and it’s time Wii get started on Day 24. Turns out “Wii” puns are harder to make then I thought…
The Wii was a bizarre phenomenon which, to my mind, in retrospect shouldn’t have worked, simultaneously reviled by “true gamers” (I made those quotation marks with my fingers sarcastically) while at the same time converting the entire world and your mom into gamers. Turn up your nose if you like, the Wii was Nintendo’s “I do what I want” moment. It ended up pushing well over 101 million units, meaning many millions more played it as it became a family/party system for a few years, despite Nintendo playing catchup after the GameCube, despite it not being Sony or Microsoft, despite its massive amount of forgettable shovelware, despite its gimmicky and awkward motion controls, despite it embarrassing Miyamoto and co. at E3, despite it delivering on something different. It was different enough for other companies to try copying some of its features.
This is a testament to the console’s accessibility and ability to engage people who hadn’t played video games for years (if ever). Like Iwata said, the Wii reminds us that video games belong to no one and everyone. They are for everyone. The Wii is a monument against elitism and gatekeeping, and in that regard, the Wii is still alright with me: a gateway system.
Here to ruminate is one of our newest mages and one I’m very happy to have on the team: the Sometimes Vaguely Philosophical Mage (who is not so secretly Chris from Overthinker Y and @overthinkery1). He has gelled with TWRM’s long-form approach like something that gels easily with something else, and furthermore he is an insightful and thoughtful writer whose work you should definitely enjoy. Oh and we’ve got some of it right here! Check out the Sometimes Vaguely Philosophical Mage’s not so vaguely described top 7 best games for the Nintendo Wii.
-The Well-Red Mage
The Nintendo Wii was a really rather lovely little console, I think. It was the first console that I had from launch, and it was my gateway into a lot of franchises that I’d never had the opportunity to experience before: Mario, Zelda, Metroid Prime, Kirby, and a host of third-party titles.
Released in 2006, the Wii’s motion controls were probably written off as gimmicky by a lot of people, but they were undeniably pretty revolutionary for the time, and although I don’t think I can say the ideas it explored were completely successful (we’re still using keyboards and controllers, after all), they gave the games in its library a wealth of interesting options to explore and play with. It was certainly a hit, selling more units during its lifetime than both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; this might be attributable to its accessibility to a range of demographics, what with it boasting a range of party and family games as well as entries into flagship Nintendo franchises and some surprising hits of a more, er, family-unfriendly nature.
My job is to sift through all the gems (and the rest, of which there was also a lot during the Wii’s four-or-five year period of active releases) and identify seven of the most truly brilliant titles to grace the humble console. Our mission is to find the seven ‘best’, rather than our favourites or the most unique or any other metric, but of course this can only possibly be based on my own opinion and I will be extremely interested to hear people’s courteous disagreements!
That’s the preamble, so let’s make a list of the seven best games on Nintendo Wii, shall we?
#7. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
The first entry in the Metroid Prime series marked a departure for the previously side-scrolling Metroid games; journeying into the world of 3D graphics, the first-person adventure showed that Samus really could keep up with new developments in gaming technology. That game won a few awards, actually, and deservedly so, but it can’t make this list because it was a GameCube title that eventually made it to the Wii in compilation form.
Metroid Prime 3, however, can more-than-happily take its place here as one of the great Wii games: like the first Prime, it showed that Metroid was more than capable of adapting to new ways of creating games, making great use of the Wii’s unique controls to give players control of a mobile, capable Samus. It wasn’t the only good shooter on the Wii (Red Steel and its sequel made good use of the console’s idiosyncrasies) – and, to be honest, it’s more of an adventure-platformer than a shooter, but it deserves praise for being an entry in a classic franchise that more than held its own, maintaining a beloved formula while doing some genuinely innovative work to develop the gameplay and control scheme in a smart way. It was certainly one of the most intuitive games to control on the Wii: its unusual controller layout required a bit of muscle-memory-tweaking to play effectively sometimes, but holding the Wiimote had a way of making me feel like I really was Samus.
Okay, so this isn’t a Wii original. I don’t care.
Ōkami was originally released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2006, and it was a very good game for the PS2, with a wonderful visual aesthetic and a story that drew heavily on Japanese folklore in, I think, a deeper and more respectful way than some of its contemporaries. I won’t name names, but suffice to say that this is very much a game that draws on a rich mythology in tasteful fashion rather than just sort of pulling elements out and going ‘look, it’s Japanese, ain’t that cool’.
Despite being a very good game on PS2, I would argue that Ōkami is in fact a great game in its Wii incarnation; I can’t speak for the more recent HD rereleases, which I hear are also really rather good, but what I can say is that once it made it to the Wii, Ōkami felt like it had always belonged there. There were really only a few very small changes to the game, but the most noticeable one was surely the implementation of motion controls, allowing the player to use the Wiimote like a paintbrush (previously, it had just been a case of approximating patterns with a joystick) in order to use the Celestial Brush to create all sorts of clever effects. It seems a no-brainer, really, and it’s for that reason that I’m confident in saying that Ōkami deserves a place among the best games of the Wii.
#5. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Recognised by IGN and Nintendo Power, among others, as one of the great fighting games of all time – nay, one of the great games of all time! – this is another ‘entry-in-a-classic-franchise-that-did-good-in-a-new-setting’. As someone who’s never got into fighting games, the Super Smash Bros. series has always appealed to me because a) I already know who all the characters are and b) it is in many ways a much simpler system of fighting at which I could become passably skilled fairly quickly, even though it’s still an immensely deep system to master.
I don’t think I need to say much more about Brawl. I don’t know enough about the metagame to know whether serious fans would consider it one of the better Smash games, but certainly from the perspective of a casual fan, it looks and feels like an enhanced version of what had come before, and just generally a whole lot of fun (especially with friends, but even solo it has a lot to offer).
#4. No More Heroes
Suda51’s a bit of a peculiar chap. I don’t think you’ll find many people arguing with that; we’re talking about the brains behind Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer is Dead, among others. No More Heroes is, correspondingly, a bit of a peculiar game: it’s one of the rare titles for the Wii that’s definitively not family-friendly (and it’s probably the best of the bunch on that front, not that I didn’t think Madworld was actually pretty fun), featuring a story about a guy who just decides to become the world’s greatest assassin and buys a lightsaber – sorry, ‘beam katana’ – off eBay.
No More Heroes is in many ways a bit like Shadow of the Colossus, I reckon. It’s mostly a rush of consecutive boss battles, it features a protagonist whose morality shifts over the course of a game spent killing, albeit for different causes, and you save by having a poo. I’m kidding; I wouldn’t seriously contend that they’re anything alike, really, but I do think No More Heroes deserves a lot of credit. It’s one of those superficially ‘edgy’ games that’s actually a genuinely insightful postmodern (that word gets thrown around a lot where it doesn’t really belong, as does ‘Kafkaesque’, and both actually apply rather nicely here) commentary on a lot of issues that most games wouldn’t try to touch, or would do clumsily if they did, and it’s extremely fun to boot. I feel extremely comfortable putting No More Heroes on the list of the greatest Wii games – in fact, if this were my favourite Wii games, it might well be even higher up the list.
#3. Wii Sports Resort
I think all Wii consoles came with Wii Sports, and that could probably be considered the quintessential Wii game, a fun set of party-/ mini-games for the whole family, and also in some ways a proof of concept for the Wii’s unique controller capabilities.
Resort provides enhanced variations on the classic original Wii Sports games, as well as a bunch of completely new ones, and makes use of the Wii MotionPlus to allow for greater fidelity in the motion controls (which, while never terrible, could always be a little bit temperamental with a vanilla Wiimote). All the games are fun whether played individually or with friends and family, and the package as a whole is simple but very enjoyable. I’m not just including this on the list as a token, or for some sort of quintessential value; it’s a genuinely great game that benefits from really understanding how to make the absolute most of what they had to work with. Sure, some of the games lower down on the list have better stories – well, any story would be better than Resort‘s total lack of one, I suppose – but this is a game that dedicates itself to getting accessible gameplay right, and does so perfectly.
I’ve heard it said that your favourite Zelda game is more likely than not to be the one that came out when you were 12 (or the closest one), and perhaps that’s why Twilight Princess endures as one of my most-loved of Link’s adventures. It’s also the first one I ever completed, believe it or not, and maybe that’s got something to do with it as well.
Anyway, Twilight Princess really is a wonderful game, my own biases aside. It showed me that the Wii was capable of taking me on adventures in enormous worlds, across multiple dimensions and against legendary foes. In many ways the later Skyward Sword did the same thing just as well by all measurable standards, but I really do think that Twilight Princess is overall the better game. Its story still resonates with me; I think it has one of the best supporting casts of all the Legend of Zelda titles (primarily for Midna and Zant, especially when you start to understand the tragedy of their stories), as well as a great soundtrack and a well-laid-out structure which feels like a huge adventure while not being as opaque as some of its sisters.
I think one of Twilight Princess’s greatest achievements – and one of its most understated ones – is in creating a really deep world, with a lot to explore and discover, that still feels accessible to explore. (I realise, by the way, that the ‘creation’ of the world borrows a lot from other Zelda games, but I do think Twilight Princess is particularly good at reappropriating time-honoured Zelda features into its own world.) As a youngster new to Zelda-ing, and to RPGs and adventure games in general, I was able to go where I needed to go, find some interesting side stuff on the way, then find where I was supposed to be again, and that’s harder to pull off than it sounds. Later I was able to go more in-depth, to discover more hidden treasures and rewarding content, but it was the right level of discovery that I felt like an accomplished explorer who’d followed an interesting path and come across something worth coming across, rather than someone who’d just sort of tried everything until I found a thing. It’s a truly wonderful adventure.
#1. Super Mario Galaxy
Okay, so Mario had a lot of really strong entries on the Wii. New Super Mario Bros Wii, Super Paper Mario, Mario Strikers (a surprisingly fun, and criminally forgotten, football game), Mario Kart Wii, Mario Party 8 and 9… oh, and Super Mario Galaxy 2, of course. This, though, is one of the greatest Mario games ever, and for my money the best Wii game that there ever was.
What Mario has done over the course of his storied lifetime is adapt, perhaps better than any other flagship hero. He’s been in 2D. He’s been in 3D. He’s been in 2D and 3D in the same game. He’s been to the Olympics. He’s used a hat to take control of stuff. He’s just got a knack for transitioning, maintaining the recognisable charm but making genuine innovations in gameplay, and that’s exactly what Super Mario Galaxy is. It also happens to be one of the best-looking and best-sounding games that the Wii can boast – almost better than I would expect a Wii game to have any right to look and sound, to be honest – and this coupled with a fresh gravity-shifting, planet-hopping vibe that could have really easily gone horribly wrong. Somehow, though, the level design is so terrifically on-point that everything just makes sense, even though the spatial nature of the puzzles is of a type that hadn’t really been seen before.
This is another one of those games that just feels so perfectly at home on the Wii, too. I was initially doubtful that controlling Mario would transfer well, but within just a level or two you start to feel as if this is the only way you’ve ever made a little Italian chap do all the runny-jumpy things. It’s really rather rare that a game comes along and does something pretty much completely new in flawless fashion; most things take time to refine before they’re in a form that can approach greatness, but Super Mario Galaxy just popped up one day and said ‘hey, here’s a thing you’ve never seen before, and we’ve already worked out how to do it the best way it could possibly be done’. Somehow its sequel recaptured almost all of the same feeling, but I’m putting the original in its rightful place here because, well, it had to do it first.
I feel extremely justified in saying that Super Mario Galaxy is the best game for the Nintendo Wii, but I’ll be very interested to see what everyone else thinks. Let the civil discussion abound!
Though he’s been known by many names across the vast and peculiar landscape of the Internet, every iteration of The Sometimes Vaguely Philosophical Mage has shared an urge to look far too closely at tiny details and extrapolate huge, important-seeming conclusions. These days, in addition to Mage duties, he can be found discussing gaming and other pop culture (and occasionally sharing some of his own musical and fictional creations) at the Overthinker Y blog and on Twitter.