Rest in peace, poor Wii. I hope the back of the closet or the locked display case at the Goodwill treat you well. With Nintendo’s latest console, the Wii U, coming out on Sunday, your days are numbered. It won’t happen overnight, of course, but with Nintendo and third-party developers having already moved on to the hot new hardware the already slow trickle of new Wii games will soon dry up completely. That’s sad news for anybody who uses the Wii as more than just a virtual bowling machine.
As a memorial we’re looking back once more at the best games to grace the tiny white box during its six-year lifespan. Many believed that the Wii lacked good games, and it’s true that the Wii quickly fell far behind the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in terms of lengthy, involved action games. Anybody who couldn’t have fun with the system obviously didn’t really try, though, and somehow must have missed the 10 games and additional honorable mentions listed below. And although this might be goodbye for the Wii, these games should all be playable on the Wii U, which supports the same Wii Remotes used by the Wii. So if you missed out on any of these you’ll be able to catch up.
(Oh: we only considered games that were exclusive to the Wii or debuted there before being ported to other platforms. Ergo no World of Goo or Cave Story.)
Honorable Mentions: Rhythm Heaven Fever, Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, Red Steel 2, LostWinds, Bit.Trip Complete, Monster Hunter Tri, A Boy and His Blob, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, de Blob, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, Donkey Kong Country
Like every new Zelda since Majora’s Mask, Skyward Sword is fairly divisive. Common complaints are that it starts too slow, that it drags on too long, that it’s too similar to every other Zelda made in the last 15 years. Those are all valid, but in the end the new MotionPlus-enabled swordplay system and particularly smart dungeon design make this one of the better games on the Wii.
You don’t play Kirby’s Epic Yarn for a challenge. This remarkably easy co-op platformer makes our list because of its striking art design. The textile-based aesthetic makes Epic Yarn look like a knitting project come to life. Kirby himself is a small loop of pink string and the backgrounds appear to be made of cloth. Again, it’s a simplistic game that even the youngest beginners probably won’t struggle with, but even jaded and hardened players will marvel at the incessantly charming and creative visuals.
Xenoblade Chronicles is the best RPG for the Wii (there aren’t many) and also probably the system’s last really good game. It’s absurdly long and dense, which may not fit your lifestyle any more, but those with the time and inclination will dig this time-suck. Feature-packed even by Japanese RPG standards, Xenoblade is the kind of game you could easily lose months on without even realizing it. It’s a genuine epic with a memorable story and a novel combat hook involving prophetic visions and time manipulation. It’s got character backed up with solid mechanics, which you can’t say about most games.
Like Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort is basically a tech demo, this time for the Wii MotionPlus add-on that improved the complexity and responsiveness of the system’s motion tracking. Although there’s nothing as immediately impressive as Wii Sports’ bowling (which inexplicably reappears here), Resort’s twelve minigames offer a wider range of well-designed activities that utilize the peripheral. The best are the archery and Frisbee events. Sports Resort also introduces a swordplay minigame that foreshadows the combat in Skyward Sword.
Little King’s Story might look like a cutesy diversion for kids, but this surprisingly deep strategy title is perfect for all ages. It’s similar to Pikmin, as your character commands a small army that can be used to fight foes, fix or erect buildings, and gather resources and treasure. These soldiers and engineers have names, though, and can get married and start families. They aren’t developed as characters but that bit of detail makes you care about them more than, say, the anonymous flower creatures in Pikmin, adding moral and emotional heft to every mission you send them on. It’s a grown-up game that’s kid-friendly and never mistakes vulgarity or cynicism for maturity.
Suda 51’s absurd parody of Grand Theft Auto-style open world games feels like a game made by Quentin Tarentino and David Lynch. It’s exceedingly violent and sophomoric but with startling character moments that are as weird and transfixing as videogames get. It’s a savage takedown of “gamer culture” and sprawling open world games that feel more lifeless the harder they try to feel lifelike. It combines low and high brow humor with one of the Wii’s more effective uses of motion control, resulting in one of the best and most memorable games of the last few years.
If only the Wii had existed in 1988. It would have aligned perfectly with the point-and-click adventure genre at its peak. Zack & Wiki is an equally charming and confounding puzzle game that uses the Wii Remote like a computer mouse. You point, you click, and your little cartoon pirate does what you want him to. It’s an unusually clever and mentally stimulating game with an adorable cartoon style. It was the first great third-party game for the system, and it’s too bad that we never got a sequel.
It’s hard not to put this at number one. No console pack-in has ever been more important than Wii Sports. It basically justified the Wii’s entire existence, and also propelled it into one of the biggest retail successes of the last decade. And not to slight the boxing or tennis minigames, but it’s really just Wii Bowling that drove the game’s success. Few videogames have ever succeeded at their mission statements as thoroughly and effortlessly as Wii Bowling.
For a hot second Metroid Prime 3 made the Wii Remote and a nunchuk seem like the best possible control scheme for first-person shooters. All you had to do is point your hand at the thing you wanted to kill and then press down on a trigger until it died. It’s definitely a great system for beginners, with none of the learning curve of either a dual-joystick controller with shoulder buttons or the old computer set-up of mouse and keyboard. Even with a traditional controller Metroid Prime 3 would be a classic, though, and an absorbing and atmospheric send-off to one of the most thrilling series of the last decade.
The best 3D Mario games are also the best games for the Wii. The Galaxy series packed all of the charm and childlike wonder expected from a Mario game into an innovative and fitfully challenging platformer, with novel gravity effects and spherical levels creating the most fleshed out Mario universe yet. And the visuals are unusually gorgeous for the Wii, with vibrant colors and lush extraterrestrial landscapes that are stunning even if they are only in 480P.