Few video game consoles stirred up as much buzz as the Nintendo Wii. Before motion tracking software was considered standard fare and lazy shovelware began popping up left and right to take advantage, Nintendo looked to revolutionize the gaming landscape with the Wii (before the name was officially announced, the system was codenamed Revolution). Utilizing a two-piece “Wiimote” and “Nunchuk” control scheme, the Wii promised gamers an opportunity to experience a new kind of paradigm, to capitalize on the popularity of titles like Dance Dance Revolution and turn the human body into a game controller.
So, did it work? Well … kind of. Many of Nintendo’s first-party Wii titles earned praise, with several becoming staple party games which, to this day, maintain premium real estate in entertainment centers. Unfortunately, the Wii came along during a period of consolidation for game developers: As it became easier to cross-publish games on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, many developers looked at the Wii’s relative technical limitations and unique controls, and simply chose to ignore the platform. Despite a dearth of quality third-party support, the Wii was still home to an exceptional core set of games in its lifespan. Without further ado, we present our list of the best Wii games ever made.
Note: Games that were originally released on other consoles and later ported to Wii — Resident Evil IV, Ōkami, Bully, etc. — were not included.
When most people think of the Wii, they think of Wii Sports. A simple pack-in minigame collection, Wii Sports featured simple, motion-controlled approximations of tennis, golf, bowling, baseball, and boxing. Players use their created Miis (linked to your Wii profile) to participate in sporting events using the Wiimote and Nunchuk, either competing against other players or against the computer.
The games are simple, but also are very fun and incredibly intuitive. You could put a Wiimote in almost anyone’s hand, and they could figure out how to play in seconds. At the time, it was a perfect showcase for the Wii’s potential. In hindsight, it may be the pinnacle of success for the console. For a time, you could walk into any college dorm room or apartment in America and see a couple of bobbleheaded cartoons battling it out on screen.
Given how ubiquitous the title was, it should not surprise anyone that Wii Sports clocks in as the fourth-best-selling video game of all time — Only Grand Theft Auto V, Minecraft, and Tetris have sold more copies, and all three of those were multi-platform releases.
Wii Sports Resort
Despite the success of Wii Sports, some felt the game was a little bit barebones, with just five sports to choose from — one of which (ahem, baseball) was straight-up awful. Enter Wii Sports Resort, which takes the same idea and cranks it up to 11; or, more accurately, to 12. The game offers 12 different fun vacation-themed activities, including archery, swordfighting, and basketball, among others. The immensely popular golf and bowling games from Wii Sports return, as does tennis (but this time, it’s in ping-pong form). Resort does an excellent job of expanding upon a successful formula, with games that use both the Wiimote and Nunchuk to full effect.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
The third entry in Nintendo’s famous fighting series earned critical acclaim for tweaking the popular formula and adding several new features, including crazy-powerful “Final Smash” moves that can swing the momentum of a battle. Brawl also introduced third-party characters to the series for the first time, namely Sonic the Hedgehog, and Solid Snake from the Metal Gear series. Other new additions include a Pokémon Trainer character that controls fully evolved versions of the starter Pokémon from Pokémon Red and Blue. The game featured an expanded suite of single-player activities, including the Subspace Emissary Adventure mode, and offered online multiplayer (via Wi-Fi) for the first time in the series. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi has since shut down, though emulators on PC have kept online multiplayer alive.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn
In Kirby’s Epic Yarn, an iconic Nintendo franchise gets a complete makeover, and it’s an absolute blast. The gorgeous “knit” art style here isn’t just for show — with his new abilities, Kirby can interact with the environment itself, unzipping portions of the level and pulling on threads to reveal hidden areas. The creatively designed game is built for younger and more experienced audiences alike, with a low difficulty threshold and lots of secrets to uncover as you play. Clever boss fights and challenges present a good deal of variance in gameplay, with certain levels transforming Kirby into numerous different vehicles. You can also play co-op, working together to reach lofty ledges or defeat crafty foes, and if you don’t own a Wii, the game will be coming to the 3DS as Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn.
As one of the Wii’s most popular titles, Xenoblade Chronicles earned a cult-like following and proved that sprawling RPG gameplay could survive — or even thrive — on the console. With real-time combat reminiscent of MMORPG games, players manage cooldowns and swap between basic attacks and more powerful “Arts.” The massive open world takes place on the bodies of two titans, where protagonist Shulk seeks to use a legendary sword to defend his people against the evil Mechon army. It sounds like your regular, everyday JRPG, but the game’s scope, immersive story, gorgeous sound design, and intuitive control scheme make Chronicles worth remembering. A sequel for Nintendo Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, has been released, and there’s also a Xenoblade game available on Wii U.
If you like the idea of Mario Party, but do not want to risk losing lifelong friends over a meaningless video game, consider going back and playing Wii Party. The fast-paced minigame collection features 80 different activities, which you can play a la carte, or as part of organized game modes like “Board Game Island” and “Globe Trot.” Games like “Time Bomb” and “Buddy Quiz” offer fun game-show-type diversions that let you play casually with friends, though there are also several more involved games like “Balance Boat,” which will require your undivided attention. The game makes excellent use of the Wii’s unique control scheme in a number of creative ways, and — best of all — there are no stupid ghosts waiting to steal all your stuff.
PlatinumGames’ highly stylized brawler MadWorld makes brutal murder look good. Players control Jack, who enters an extremely violent game show called DeathWatch and proceeds to kill his way through several levels in creative and gory ways. MadWorld earned the scorn of many reviewers and media members for its graphic content; in fact, Sega declined to release the game in several countries altogether due to subject matter limitations. The game is actually quite funny, with hilarious commentary provided by John DiMaggio (Futurama) and Greg Proops, and the story — while short — is engaging and satisfying. Oh, did we mention Jack has a chainsaw for an arm? ‘Cause he does.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
The original Donkey Kong Country is legendary. From its seemingly futuristic graphics (in its time) to the iconic music to the controller-shattering difficulty, the 1994 title provided treasured memories for lots of gamers. After a 13-year hiatus following Donkey Kong Country 3, the series made its triumphant return on the Wii with Donkey Kong Country Returns. The side-scrolling, platforming gameplay is as ruthless as ever, with more bananas to collect and more hidden areas than you can shake a stick at. This time around, Diddy Kong is equipped with a jetpack to help the primate pair traverse the levels, and a co-op mode lets Player 2 take control of the junior Kong. The Wii version was later ported to Nintendo 3DS, and a sequel is also available on the Wii U and Switch.
Animal Crossing: City Folk
Nintendo’s Animal Crossing franchise has become a household name, beloved by fans across the world for its anthropomorphic animals and quirky life simulation gameplay. City Folk successfully brought that formula to the Wii in 2008, letting players build a life among the woodland critters (no, not those woodland critters); if you liked the Gamecube or Nintendo DS versions of Animal Crossing, you’ll probably like this too. City Folk brings back series mainstays like raccoon-dog shop owner Tom Nook, and players will see the seasons change in real time, according to the Wii’s clock. The game utilizes motion controls for things like chopping wood and fishing. If nothing else, City Folk offers what may be the most exhilarating accomplishment found in a video game: Paying off a mortgage.
Super Mario Galaxy
Nintendo — and the Mario franchise in particular — has always been known for its innovation. Super Mario Galaxy, one of the most beloved video games of all time (on any platform) is as innovative as it gets, blending the tried-and-true formula introduced in Super Mario 64 with incredibly creative level design and unique mechanics centered around gravity. Like most games in the series, Galaxy begins with Bowser abducting Peach, after which Mario is granted magical powers so that he can, uh, fly through space and traverse tiny planetoids to collect Power Stars. It sounds dumb, and it is, but the experience is sublime.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
You knew this was coming! The first iteration of Galaxy was universally acclaimed, earning near perfect scores from just about every reviewer that touched it. Somehow, Nintendo went out and made it significantly better with Galaxy 2, which features more interesting level design, paired with better pacing and tougher challenges than the original. Here, you’ll find more varied power-ups and some really creative additions, like Light Yoshi’s ability to uncover invisible platforms. The second Galaxy improves upon the (very few) issues that fans had with the first — namely, camera control and a half-baked cooperative component — without breaking the wheel.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
When the Metroid series made its way onto GameCube as Metroid Prime, it was showered with praise for successfully offering a first-person take on the franchise. Like Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes before it, Corruption follows bounty hunter Samus Aran in her battle against the nefarious Space Pirates (and other foes). Samus’ trusty beam cannon and missile launcher return, as does her “Morph Ball” ability, allowing her to roll up in a tiny ball to explore tight spaces. Corruption makes excellent use of the Wii’s motion controls, combining lock-on targeting with free aiming for a smooth, responsive feel. The difficulty is toned down a bit from Echoes, where boss fights often required several attempts, but Corruption is still a satisfying experience. A fourth Prime game is currently in development for Nintendo Switch, so you still have time to catch up!