Generation Wii-visited Part 1: Obviously Nintendo
Posted by Kris Randazzo on Dec 17th 2019
The games Nintendo shouldn't leave behind
A new console generation lies before us.
The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X (or just Xbox as it seems they want to call it because why should anything be easy?) are coming approximately one year from now. With that inexorable forward march of technology, we grow yet another generation removed from many of the games of old. It seems that the bulk of the ancient classics are preserved in one way or another. I could stand to see more modern compilations of Atari 2600 games, but for the most part, NES and onward have been re-released digitally in some form or another to be played on modern consoles. There’s one particular chunk of gaming history that seems to be fading quickly into obscurity though, and that’s the weird and wonderful library of the Nintendo Wii.
The Wii holds the unique distinction of being one of the most and least successful consoles of all time. People loved to buy the system, but few of them actually liked buying games for it. It was a Wii Sports machine. A Netflix player. A novelty. But for the gamers who weren’t turned off by the motion controls, it was more than that too.
The Wii played host to a remarkable library of games. Some of them found remarkable success. Others were doomed to languish in obscurity for eternity. Unlike its contemporaries though, most of the Wii’s library hasn’t been made available to play on HD consoles.
Wii marked the point where Nintendo officially decided to stay one generation behind the competition. They didn’t embrace HD when Microsoft and Sony did, meaning that porting the Wii’s games was always going to involve more than just putting them on new consoles. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games were in HD from the get go, which is why so many of their best titles have been made readily available again over the years. Wii, though, not so much. Sure, there have been a handful of games like No More Heroes, A Boy and his Blob, and Dead Space: Extraction that managed to escape their standard definition fate, but for every one of those there are dozens more that haven’t.
So as we head into 2020, I thought it would be fun to look back on what the Wii had to offer in its heyday and wish for their return on the consoles of today.
To start, I’ve decided to try and get the obvious stuff out of the way. I’m talking about the games Nintendo published on the platform that they haven’t seen fit to port yet. These I would obviously want to show up on Nintendo Switch, but in future editions, I’d honestly be happy with the games ending up on any current gen platform. The end of console life cycles are great times to take older games and spruce them up, right?
Anyway, let’s take a look at the obvious games Nintendo released on the Wii that really should be on Switch by now.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a freaking masterpiece. It didn’t do very big numbers on Wii U because, well, it was Wii U and very few games managed big numbers there. It did much better on Switch, but it still didn’t hit the sales a game of this calibre should have. I suspect it has a lot to do with the game’s name and cover art. Makes it seem like a bunch of ice levels. Donkey Kong Country Returns, on the other hand, sold a bajillion copies on Wii. Why? Because it just looked like a new Donkey Kong Country game. It’s also almost as good as its sequel.
Donkey Kong Country Returns really bordered on remake territory. It took players to all the familiar places of the original SNES Donkey Kong Country, except it put a delightful new spin on the whole experience. This game is where the base of Tropical Freeze’s gameplay came from. The game was eventually ported to the 3DS, but while that version had a few extra small features, it was mostly a downgrade since the 3DS wasn’t quite as powerful as the Wii. One thing it absolutely got right though was the controls, or at least got moving in the right direction.
An HD port of this gorgeous game wouldn’t just be awesome to look at, but it would be great to play again on a TV without having to deal with the ridiculous motion controls shoehorned into the game in the first place. They’d have to avoid making the pricing mistake they made with Tropical Freeze, but if they can do that, a budget Donkey Kong platformer would probably sell VERY well on Switch.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn
I remember when this game first came out, I really wished it was in HD because the art style would probably look amazing in a higher fidelity. The release of Yoshi’s Wooly World on Wii U confirmed that suspicion, and I’ve been hoping for an HD port ever since. Kirby’s Epic Yarn is an incredibly easy game, but I can honestly say I had some real fun playing through it regardless. Its endless creativity and charming visuals really carried the slower-paced experience, and the music was no slouch either.
Like DKC Returns, Epic Yarn was ported to the 3DS, a decision that still baffles me since the 3DS doesn’t do this game’s visual style any justice. It’s co-op, great for kids, and would look spectacular on both the Switch’s small screen and my lovely HDTV.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land
Speaking of Kirby, Star Allies was a pretty decent game, but it left a bit to be desired. This game is one I never actually wound up playing, but I always wanted to. Looking back on it now, it seems like it would do a good job of scratching the itch left behind by Kirby’s first Switch outing.
Return to Dreamland was the first console co-op Kirby game. It’s bright, beautiful, and it looks like a ball to play. The 3DS games that followed it are typically regarded as superior experiences, but folks seemed to really like this one when it launched. Unlike most other Kirby games though, it seems this one didn’t exactly set the sales charts on fire. Kirby is one of Nintendo’s stronger brands, but even colorful platformers weren’t selling as well as they could have on Wii by this point. Unless you were New Super Mario Bros. Wii. That game sold an obscene number of copies.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
It was touted as the game that would legitimize motion controls. Then it was released and most people thought its motion integration was its worst feature. I loved this game personally, but I think that had a lot to do with my TV setup at the time. The motion controls worked nearly flawlessly for me the entire time I played it. I tried replaying it a few years later in a different apartment though, and I couldn’t get it to work correctly for the life of me. I never realized until this game just how much the Wii’s finer motion controls depended on your TV’s placement and how much sunlight is in the room when you’re trying to play.
I know I’m hardly the first person to point out that this game should be ported to Switch. I’m also not the first to point out that there would have to be some serious work put into the port because of how the game works. The motion controls are completely woven into the entire experience, and rejiggering the game to work with standard controls wouldn’t exactly be a super easy fix. I do hope they take the time to do it though, because Skyward Sword still has a lot to offer. It has a cool story, a beautiful art style, and lots of clever puzzles and dungeons. It isn’t perfect, but I look back on it fondly. I can’t imagine playing it again with the Wii Remote, though.
Super Paper Mario
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is almost too obvious a choice to put on Switch. The reason I didn’t actually include it on the list is because it’s pretty bland. New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is on Switch now, and it’s a vastly superior game (with a terrible name) But there's another 2D Mario game on the Wii that would work out great on Switch, and that’s Super Paper Mario.
This poor franchise has been through so much over the years, culminating in the Wii U’s Color Splash tanking and enraging the series fanbase beyond belief. But while that game and the ones before it got lambasted for not being Thousand Year Door, Super Paper Mario was more of a spinoff, and it was a really clever one at that. It’s like a platformer RPG almost. It has great writing, and was a lot of fun to play through. It had its moments of tedium, but all in all I remember my time with it extremely fondly.
And speaking of Color Splash, Paper Mario looks AMAZING in HD. So yeah. This would be awesome.
Super Mario Galaxy 1&2
That said, the best Mario games on the Wii were Super Mario Galaxy and its incredible sequel. Yes, these games had some motion control stuff in them, but the whole pointer thing would be an easy fix (or in the case of collecting star bits, straight up omission) and the other things were simple waggle commands that would map perfectly well to regular button presses.
Super Mario Galaxy is 3D Mario at its best. It’s not quite as exploratory as games like Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Odyssey, but it isn’t the 2D/3D hybrid of Super Mario 3D Land and 3D World either. It’s a more digestible set of small 3D Mario stages with gravity defying mechanics and an astonishing amount of creativity on display.
I can’t put into words just how much I loved these games. Super Mario Sunshine isn't quite as bad as some folks make it out to be, but going back to it today really shines a light on just how cracked its armor is. All the voice acted cutscenes are pretty cringeworthy, and a lot of the areas simply aren’t very fun to play. That was completely fixed for the Galaxy titles. They introduced Rosalina and her surprisingly touching story in a way that was completely optional. There were very few if any stages in the game that weren’t at least sort of fun to play, and the music, oh that orchestrated music, was sublime. These two are probably the Wii games I want most to be remastered in HD. They still look shockingly good today, even when played on an HDTV with an original Wii. The art direction is just that good. But the full HD treatment is what these gems deserve.
Metroid: Other M
I know, I know, but hear me out. Metroid: Other M wouldn’t be that hard to fix. Oaky, “fix” might not be the best word to use. There’s no getting around this game’s horrible narrative. It’s filled with anime gobbledygook and straight up character assassination on Samus, but under all that crap is a really cool action game that’s really fun to play.
When I was going through this game I was constantly amazed by just how at odds its gameplay was with its cutscenes. The scene where Samus freaks out over seeing Ridley is a perfect example. She’s so terrified to see him back (which makes no sense in the context of the franchise) that she can’t even maintain enough concentration to keep her power suit active. But when the battle begins, she’s basically a completely different character, and that character is really fun to play with.
Other M has no shortage of problems, but it is proof positive that a 3rd person 3D Metroid game can work. But not even that was done right in Other M thanks to this weird insistence that the game be played with the Wii remote held sideways. Mapping this game’s movement to an analog stick and more buttons would go a long way in making it even more fun to blast through. It’s never going to happen though, because I think Nintendo wants everyone to forget this game happened, but I’d buy it again. I love Metroid, and this game already looks fantastic. An HD version would be amazing for the visuals alone.
Metroid Prime Trilogy
This, on the other hand, positively must happen before Metroid Prime 4, preferably sooner than later. Not only is this one of the best action/adventure trilogies out there, but they’re positively screaming for exactly two things. One, to be upgraded to HD so everyone can properly appreciate the incredible art design on display. Two, to utilize traditional first person shooter controls. The original Metroid Prime was a huge success despite its unconventional control scheme. Prime 2 came out against Halo 2, so its lower sales don't come as any kind of surprise, especially considering where the GameCube was at the time and Nintendo’s insistence on keeping the controls the same as the first game. Then Prime 3 landed on Wii where the audience wasn’t, and featuring admittedly excellent motion controls that still aren’t the controls anyone actually wanted to use for a first person game of any kind.
All three of the games in the Metroid Prime Trilogy are great. All three of these games would be even better on Switch. But they have to come out well before Prime 4. None of these games are exactly what I’d call short, and I want to have plenty of time to dedicate to re-exploring these worlds from top to bottom.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
I don’t know much about Fire Emblem, but I know people love it. Fire Emblem: Three Houses was a monster hit on Switch. 2020 would be an excellent time to give fans a chance to experience some more classic Fire Emblem designs with a port of Radiant Dawn and just for funsies, let’s throw in Path of Radiance in for good measure.
I remember Path of Radiance being very well regarded when it hit the GameCube, but much like Prime 3, that audience didn’t really follow to the Wii. Switch is a great chance to get these games in more hands, and I can’t imagine they’d do anything but really well, especially if they came out at a sub $60 price point. (Which they won’t because this is Nintendo).
Yes, I know the Switch isn't’ the Wii so Wii Sports wouldn’t make a ton of sense, but really, who cares at this point? I miss Wii Bowling and I want to do it with my Joy Cons on the go! The switch would be able to handle the rudimentary motion controls required for the original Wii Sports very easily. Wii Sports Club was sort of an HD version of this game, but you had to buy each sport piecemeal, and that’s just dumb. The original Wii Sports and its followup Wii Sports Resort were some of the best selling games of all time, and for good reason. They’re actually still fun to bust out from time to time today.
Honestly, I'd' be cool with a full on Wii collection. Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Play, Wii Play Motion, Wii Music, Wii Fit, Wii Party, Wii Crazy, pour them all on! When the Switch first came out and they announced 1-2 Switch I was sure that was going to be the system’s doom, but the Switch brand is more than powerful enough now to be able to handle the Wii brand and still be the cool machine it is today. Remember, the Wii brand was incredibly toxic by the time the Wii U came out, which is part of why the system failed as hard as it did. Now though, enough time has passed for Wii nostalgia. And nothing says Wii nostalgia like some Wii Bowling.
That's round 1, but it’s going to get way more interesting from here. Next week we’ll be taking a look at ten of Nintendo’s own games that were more off the beaten path. When Nintendo Gets weird, everyone wins, and their offbeat Wii output was largely spectacular stuff that just didn’t find the audience it deserved. Will we ever see them again? I certainly hope so.