It was almost six years ago but I remember it like it had just happened. Opening that gift and finding inside a brand new Wii console was probably one of my fondest Christmas memories. Within minutes my brothers and I were whipping bowling balls down the lane, hitting home runs and punching eachother in the face over who would get to play boxing next. Good times. And as we stand on the verge of a whole new slate of experiences with the Wii U I figured it would be fun to look back at the games that helped make the Wii the Wii.
So here’s a look at seven games that helped define the Wii - one for each year if it’s life. Some of these games were great experiences that helped push Nintendo’s philosophy of innovation while others cemented in many people’s minds that the Wii was more of a party machine than it was a game console. Nonetheless, all of these games shaped the perception of the Wii over the years and influenced the direction of the games that followed.
2006 - Wii Sports
The single most important game Nintendo has ever published. Wii Sports helped prove to the masses that video games could be controlled with familiar gestures instead of relying on complex button inputs. Suddenly gamers were playing right alongside their mom, sister, grandparents and everyone was having fun together. When Nintendo first announced the ‘Revolution’ they said that they were out to change the definition of gaming, well Wii Sports was the coup that won the day. Its influence continued to be felt throughout the Wii’s life (you don’t sell 79 million copies without doing something right) through its spiritual successors Wii Fit and Wii Play and every single party/sports collection that seems to make up the bulk of the Wii’s library.
2007 - Super Mario Galaxy
Before Super Mario Galaxy it was pretty safe to assume what we would be getting a 3D Mario platformer. Peach would get kidnapped and the only way to get her back would be to collect a set number of stars. And while those things remain true in Super Mario Galaxy it was how you went about rescuing your princess that made the game special. Within moments of setting off on your intergalactic journey you are introduced to all new gameplay mechanics neatly wrapped in classic Mario hooks and nostalgia. Super Mario Galaxy did not only breathe new life into a stagnating genre it completely changed the way we looked at one of gaming’s most recognisable faces.
2008 - Mario Kart Wii
Going into 2008 the Wii was still looking for its big multiplayer hook. Sure games like Wii Sports and the like would draw a crowd but most of the Wii’s multiplayer experiences up to this point were lacking in depth and features. Then all that changed. Within the span of a month both Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii were released and suddenly the Wii was a multiplayer force. While both these games feature extensive online and offline multiplayer modes, it was Mario Kart Wii that won over our hearts. Mario Kart Wii was a game changer for Nintendo; all of a sudden online communities were forming, Nintendo organized tournaments and trials and sent them to you via WiiConnect24 (remember that?) and people still race fervently to this day. This was the game that proved to Nintendo that online communities were the wave of the future, which is evident with the 3DS’ slew of online modes and the upcoming Miiverse.
2009 - New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Nintendo fans will remember 2009 as a pretty bleak year for the Wii. New game releases were few and far between and what was there didn’t exactly light the world on fire (Wii Fit Plus, The Conduit, Cursed Mountain and Wii Sports: Resort come to mind). None of those were bad games, but what the Wii needed was a swift kick in the USB port; something to drum up excitement for a system now mired in a mid-life crisis. New Super Mario Bros. Wii was that answer. While the game itself was a pretty fun, yet plain Mario adventure, it sold exceptionally well, even by Mario’s standards, and ushered in the revival of the 2D platformer. Within the next year or so the Wii got two great Kirby adventures, the stellar return of Donkey Kong, a classic style Metroid game and even Mickey Mouse’s epic quest added 2D stages. New Super Mario Bros. Wii’s influence can even be seen beyond the Wii as both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have gotten a wealth of 2D platformers to call their own.
2010 - Just Dance 2
Third party games have been hit or miss on the Wii (well, mostly miss), but if there is one non-Nintendo franchise that has bucked the trend and found success on the Wii it has to be the Just Dance series. The first game in the series was a pretty basic dance and rhythm game and while the core gameplay wasn’t changed all that much it was number two that cemented itself as a hit on Wii. The game is not without its flaws - big flaws. The controls aren’t that responsive, the gameplay is pretty repetitive and, frankly, if you don’t like pop and dance music then please move on. But despite these issue(that never really seem to go away) the series continues to persevere and find a huge audience, which, like it or not, looks to keep on going with the upcoming Just Dance 4 and Sing Party.
2011 - The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2011 will be remembered as the year of Zelda. Not just for the series’ monumental 25th anniversary celebrations, which included three game releases (one for each of Nintendo’s systems), a touring orchestra and various events and contests but because Nintendo finally outdid itself and created a Zelda game to rival Ocarina Of Time. The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword took everything from the series' rich legacy and updated it for the modern gamer. The game was an absolute thrill from start to finish but the reason it should be remembered is because Skyward Sword was the culmination of everything we had ever hoped for from a ‘true’ Zelda experience on the Wii. A perfect swan song, although one that came just a bit too soon...
2012 - Xenoblade Chronicles
With the 3DS garnering more and more support from Nintendo and the Wii U now less than a year away it was clear that resources were being moved away from the Wii. The early months of 2012 didn’t get off to a bad start with Poképark 2, Rhythm Heaven and Mario Party 9 keeping the system afloat for a while, but none of those games had much staying power once the shine wore off. It would have been easy to simply ignore Nintendo’s outgoing system, play other games on other systems, or catch up on your backlog, but instead you chose to have your voice heard. Operation Rainfall, the largest, most organised fan campaign in gaming history was set up to do one thing: get Nintendo of America to bring over three titles that Europe and Japan were already enjoying (Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower). Nintendo of America can deny that the fan movement had any effect on its decision to eventually publish Xenoblade all it wants, but when the game was finally made available here in North America we had a reason to pick up the Wii Remote again.
From the very first ball thrown in Wii Sports to traversing the vast plains of the Bionis in Xenoblade, the Wii has been home to some very fond memories over the past half-dozen years. In this article I highlighted just a few of the important games that graced Nintendo’s little white box, but what do you think? What games do you believe truly defined the Wii over the years? Sound off in the comments below.