The Nintendo Wii turns 10 years old this weekend and it feels like, with the announcement of the Switch, the Wii journey is finally over. Let’s put aside our mixed feelings for the Wii’s more abstract and off-putting younger brother the Wii U, and reflect on not just how the Wii steered Nintendo’s course through the noughties but also the appreciable dumpster-fire of games the system played host to.
Don’t get it twisted, my fondness for the Wii is stronger than any motion controller safety strap on the market, but think about this for a second: there were five games that shot off of Disney’s Cars franchise. Five?!
Without digging into the marketing specifics for why there was such a demand for these games, a quick glance through the complete titles on the Wii will prove that cheap and terrible 3rd party games and sketchy movie games constitute a good majority of the collection. As a result, the gems that we strive to remember after all these years shine brighter.
Competing with the Xbox 360 and PS3, I don’t believe, was ever Nintendo’s intention with the Wii. This is a company founded on the mantra that innovation comes through experimentation. Also, the other two competitors were locked into a performance horsepower pissing match.
Nintendo were running parallel to these alphas, looking to make a splash in the family market with their new-fangled infrared wands.
History will show that Microsoft and Sony threw their hat into the motion control ring a little too late with the paranoia-inducing Kinect camera and the Move multi-tool, respectively. And by that point Nintendo had already surpassed the initial waggling novelty that games like Wii Sports provided. Nintendo and third-party developers alike were integrating motion controls into more exciting properties.
And though there are swathes of half-baked Wii games that died swift and just deaths, there were still many games that were criminally overlooked, that showcased the Wii at its best as an innovation engine and a next generation of Nintendo.
This is the hall of fame of underrated games, the games that Wii forgot.
Before the Splatoon Inklings became the poster-children for making a multi-coloured mess, THQ’s de Blob was causing effervescent havoc on the original Wii. Released in 2008, this puzzle-platformer put you in control of the amorphous paint-puff de Blob as you traversed the streets of Chroma City that are under siege from the nefarious INKT corporation.
Your job is to return the buildings, streets and civilizations of Chroma into their painted and lively glory. As you colour areas, they become repopulated. The zany soundtrack started to play the more you colour, with more colour came more instrumentation. I’ve yet to come across a game with such an interesting and effective music mechanic.
LostWinds was the launch title for WiiWare, Nintendo’s wholesale attempt to coerce smaller developers into making games specifically for the Wii. It had middling success. At the time of this game’s release, however, puzzle-platformers didn’t have nearly the acute focus on aesthetic and atmosphere design as LostWinds.
In fact, it’s astonishing to see how games like Ori And The Blind Forest and Trine embrace this timeless elemental theme that LostWinds is rooted in. Additionally, the motion controlled wind mechanic was one of the console’s most effortless and intuitive platformer integrations.
Mario Strikers Charged
What makes Nintendo games feel the specific way they do is their prioritising function over form. The second entry into the Mario Football series, Strikers Charged took the acrobatic five-a-side formula of the first and added one of the best extreme sports mechanics I’ve ever played in a game.
The steel plated ball picks up momentum as you pass it from player to player. The cultivated inertia increase your chances of scoring a goal. It’s a simple system that adds a level of strategy and quick-thinking most Mario sports games lack.
SSX was the one EA franchise that I’m still holding out for a reboot from. While the motion controls weren’t more complex than just waggling the remote to pull off tricks, the varied and increasingly gnarly runs, a wry play on the stereotypical bro culture surrounding snowboarding and the electric soundtrack from now-famed Deadpool composer Junkie XL made Blur a huge exclusive for the Wii.
These are a handful of the Nintendo Wii’s hidden gems, but what were your favourites?
Will Butler | @QuesaWilla