The Legacy of the Wii: 14 of its Most Influential Games

With Nintendo's all-conquering console on its last legs, we look back at what made the Wii such a huge success.

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Some people wouldn't be caught dead playing on a Wii. For this Wii-shunning "hardcore", the mere notion of motion-control waggle is enough to induce fits of violent rage. Their loathing manifests as a poisonous bile that flows through the great sea of the internet and seeps into the waters of Xbox Live, where they scream their battle cry of "LOL GAY" while facehumping a corpse into oblivion.

But for all their juvenile posturing, the Wii deniers are dead inside. They have never experienced the unrelenting joy of grasping that last coin in Mario Galaxy, or saving the universe in Xenoblade Chronicles, or trying to bowl in Wii Sports after inhaling twelve vodka Red Bulls. No, these are pleasures reserved for the rest of us, the many who bought into Nintendo's promise of a console for everyone and discovered a heaving bosom of gaming brilliance, ripe for the suckling.

Sure, it has a daft name. And sure, it has the graphical prowess of a drunken monkey daubing faeces on a brick wall. But for all of its lack of technological wizardry, the Wii succeeded, and spectacularly so. Its influence is far broader than that of its contemporaries, bringing gaming to the fickle family audience by enlisting movie stars, pop stars, and footballers to shamelessly shill for it on television. That's not to mention the fact it made waggly motion controls standard issue for the industry--for better or worse.

Mums were using Wii Fit to keep in shape. Dads were vengefully lobbing Blue Shells at their offspring in Mario Kart. Wii Sports tennis battles were fought in retirement homes across the nation. But, like those very geriatrics who embraced it, the Wii is in its twilight years. And while it might be a little early to strap a catheter to it and wait for the inheritance money to pour in, a bunch of half-assed ports of EA Sports franchises and Wipeout: The Game 3 aren't much to look forward to. Especially not with the release of its replacement, the even more unfortunately titled Wii U, looming large on the horizon.

Rather than dwell on the Wii's gradual descent into irrelevance, though, we're here to celebrate what made it so great: the games. What better way to do so than by remembering some of the greatest and most influential games that got us swinging, waggling, and smacking people in the face in the name of 21st century family entertainment.

Just Dance

No, I haven't gone mental. Just Dance may not be the first great game you think of for the WIi, but its significance is undeniable. Released in time for Christmas 2009, Just Dance became an absolute phenomenon, selling over 2 million copies in its first few months on sale, which more than doubled to 4.3 million just a year later. And while reviews weren't exactly kind, the lack of objectives and the impreciseness of the controls didn't matter to the casual audience who embraced its accessibility and wonderfully ludicrous routines that were perfect for parties. Its sequel, Just Dance 2, remains the fastest selling third-party Wii game of all time, and its influence on Microsoft and Sony is clear--Dance Central and Dance Star Party both emerged from the aftermath of Ubisoft's juggernaut.

Wii Sports

Every great system needs its killer app, and for the Wii that was Wii Sports. This unassuming collection of minigames introduced the world to the concept of motion controls in gaming, and captured the hearts and minds of people the world over. The beauty of it was its simplicity. You swung the Wii remote like a racket to play tennis, punched the air to box, and swung your arm to throw a bowling ball. Even people who had never touched a games console in their life could play Wii Sports, and that accessibility meant it was adopted by families worldwide. It also marked the first truly successful attempt to get people off the sofa and actually put some physical effort into playing video games--a concept that would be taken to its logical conclusion with this next hugely successful Nintendo release.

Wii Fit

A fitness game for Wii that requires a £99 accessory? That'll never catch on! Or so we thought. Wii Fit and the accompanying Balance Board accessory were a huge success, and it currently ranks as the third best-selling console game in history (excluding box-ins like Wii Sports), selling over 22 million copies to date. Its combination of yoga, strength training, aerobics, and balance exercises struck a chord with the Wii's audience, who were eager to shed some pounds in the comfort of their own homes. Though there's been some debate over the benefits of Wii Fit's exercises, not to mention its somewhat aggressive BMI monitoring, there's no denying it got plenty of workout-averse folks off the sofa and exercising.

Xenoblade Chronicles

Xenoblade Chronicles took everyone at the GameSpot office by surprise. At first glance, it looked like nothing more than your standard JRPG. This was a genre on the verge of stagnating, and it didn't seem like the Wii of all things was going to change that. But boy, did it ever. Xenoblade redefined what a great JRPG was, and the scale, scope, and vast expanse of its game world were something to behold. A killer soundtrack, engrossing narrative, sublime battle system, and beautiful visuals were just some of the fantastic elements that sucked you into Xenoblade's world, which drew upon classic JRPG tropes while bringing them kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Along with the similarly excellent The Last Story, Xenoblade marks a turning point for the JRPG genre, and is arguably the Wii's last great release.

Mario Galaxy

After the disappointing Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube, fans were eager for a return to form for their favourite portly plumber. Nintendo ended up not just delivering a great Mario game, but one of the best platformers ever made. Mario Galaxy was all things to all men: a gorgeous, accessible, fun game for casual players, and an incredibly challenging and addictive platformer for the hardcore. That's largely thanks to its genius level design, which took what Mario 64 started and pushed it to new extremes by bending the laws of physics around small planetoids. Each of them was a treasure trove of puzzles and platforming challenges that were so joyful, so fun to play, no-one could fail to be taken in by its charms. Its sequel Mario Galaxy 2 was somehow even better, earning a rare 10 out of 10 from our very own Tom McShea.

Resident Evil 4

Though Resident Evil 4 was originally a GameCube release, an elegantly reworked control system made the Wii version the one to pick up. Featuring nail-biting action, gargantuan bosses, top-notch production values, and a long, suspenseful story, Resident Evil 4 was a landmark for the series. It combined action and traditional survival horror tropes in a way no Resident Evil game has truly mastered since. To the naysayers who argued the Wii was no more than a console for kids, this was the game that showed Nintendo knew a thing or two about blood and guts as well as shoving plumbers down pipes.

World Of Goo

Nintendo hasn't been at the bleeding edge of online technology for games consoles. We still have to put up with the horror that is the Friend Code, after all. Its download store WiiWare, though, has spawned some surprisingly brilliant games. The indie-developed World Of Goo was one of the first to hit the store back in 2008, when it launched to unanimous critical acclaim. Its brilliant design and varied levels elevated the physics-based puzzle game to new levels of brilliance, while its surreal sense of humor and atmospheric soundtrack charmed the pants off the Nintendo faithful. World Of Goo still ranks as one of the highest rated Wii games of all time on Metacritic, and sparked a wave of brilliant WiiWare releases, including Fluidity, Swords & Soldiers, and Lostwinds: Winter Of The Melodias.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Second only to Mario's first appearance on the Wii, Zelda's debut was highly anticipated, even if it was only to be a rejigged GameCube title. When Twilight Princess arrived in 2006, fans were falling over themselves to declare it "the next Ocarina of Time". While that might be a little off, Twilight Princess was still a fabulously grand adventure, full of the classic Zelda moments we all craved: compelling characters, an outstanding game world, clever puzzle design, a great art style, horses, fairies, turning into a big, fluffy wolf… the list goes on. Demand for the game wasn't just based on its strong critical showing, though. It turned out Twilight Princess was vulnerable to a buffer overflow attack, known as the Twilight Hack, which allowed the execution of custom code--that is, homebrew from a SD card, making it an essential purchase for hackers as well as would-be adventurers.

Okami

If Zelda wasn't enough to satisfy your adventurer's wanderlust, you could always turn to Okami. Originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2007, Okami took the classic Zelda formula and gave it the once-over with beautiful visuals and an engrossing narrative that placed you in the shoes of the Japanese sun goddess, a white wolf named Amaterasu. What made the game such a great fit for the Wii were Amaterasu's powers, which let you paint directly over the vast game world to solve puzzles by swiping across the screen with the Wii Remote. You could slash clean through stone and other objects, rejuvenate plants, change night into day, create lily pad platforms in water, and summon gusts of wind to push the boats of villagers. It was this novel and intuitive use of the Wii's technology that made Okami such a joy to play, and one of the best adventure games on any platform.

Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies

When the Wii first launched, the immediately obvious application for its pointer technology was the classic light gun game. Though the Wii has had more than its fair share of greats, such as The House Of Dead: Overkill and Dead Space Extraction, it was Japanese developer Treasure and the fantastic Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies that would perfect the formula. It told the story of two kids called Isa and Kachi as they did battle with military types, mechs, and outlandish animals in a future Japan. The Wii's motion controls were a perfect fit for the fast-paced, action-packed gameplay and epic boss battles. Plus, its neat high scoring system made for addictive, pleasingly frustrating bids for a spot at the top of the online leaderboards.

No More Heroes

Suda 51's irreverent, somewhat controversial style is well known in gaming circles. So there was understandable excitement back in 2008 when it was revealed his next game would appear exclusively on the Wii. It didn't disappoint. No More Heroes was the kind of action game one would expect to see on a Sony console, not this usually family-friendly Nintendo machine. The highly stylised action was as satisfying to perform as it was to watch, as it thankfully avoided an overuse of waggle, and instead concentrated on keeping the action as fast-paced and as gruesome as possible. Spleens, limbs, and an eruption of blood and coins would spill from each downed enemy, after which you could finish them off with an satisfyingly brutal execution move. A truly bizarre yet compelling story was just the icing on No More Heroes' outrageously blood-soaked cake. Yummy.

Little King's Story

As our own Alex Coby put it, "first impressions can be misleading". In the case of Little King's Story, what appears to be a cutesy, simplistic kids game is in fact an incredibly deep and engaging RTS-RPG hybrid, wrapped up in some gorgeous visuals. You play as the titular tiny king Corobo, who is on a quest to expand his kingdom. To do so, you must gather resources, build new structures, and defend your patch of earth by commanding your loyal followers, with that activity combined with RPG-style quests and exploration. It's a unique combination that works brilliantly, and thanks to some witty writing and an undeniable sense of charm, it's guaranteed to raise a smile too.

Metroid Prime Trilogy

Sure, this is a compilation, but boy, what a compilation. Metroid Prime Trilogy brought together the GameCube titles Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and the Wii-only title Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and gave the latter's superior motion controls to the whole set. At first glance, it's easy to mistake Metroid for just another first-person shooter, but nothing could be further from the truth. These games were all about exploration, discovery, and the solving of some brilliantly designed puzzles. The vast, detailed game worlds were something to behold and a pleasure to explore, while epic boss battles that required brains as well as brawn kept your trigger finger busy too.

Mario Kart Wii

Mario Kart is the definitive weapons-based racer. Released to critical acclaim in 2008, Mario Kart Wii took the best bits from its predecessors such as Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, and Mario Kart Double Dash and combined them with motion controls for an incredibly exciting and fun experience. Nothing was more satisfying than nailing someone with a Blue Shell just as they were about to cross the finish line, which resulted in more expletives than strictly suitable in such a family-friendly game. The addition of online modes meant you could challenge people outside of your living room for the first time too, while motorcycles provided a neat alternative to the ubiquitous go-kart. Mario Kart Wii remains the second best-selling Wii game of all time after Wii Sports, with over 31 million copies sold--which also just happens to make it the best selling racing game of all time, regardless of platform.

Have we missed anything? Let us know how wrong we are by telling us about your favourite Wii games in the comments below.

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Mark Walton

Mark is a senior staff writer based out of the UK, the home of heavy metal and superior chocolate.
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