Fortunately, Nintendo proved that the Wii was more than capable of catering to the "hardcore" crowd with their own summer release of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Not only did Corruption provide a great end to a very strong trilogy, it also proved that motion control could actually add to an experience, as long as it was done right. I will personally never forget zip-lining around SkyTown with ease or battling Mogenar in the Bryyo Seed, as both examples made gesturing with the Wii controller feel intuitive and engaging.
Don't let the silly name, kiddie-style graphics, and point-and-click gameplay turn you off of what is quite possibly one of the greatest puzzle adventures available for home consoles. Zack & Wiki was a surprising title that featured sharp, clever writing centered around booby-trapped filled levels. Utilizing a simple point-and-click mechanic to move the titular characters around the level, then implementing some of the best uses for the Wiimote waggle we all know so well, was fresher than expected and held just the right combination of old-school play mechanics and (then) new motion control.
While the game's 20 levels may sound sparse, each stage itself was a puzzle, and many took 30 minutes to a full hour to solve. While the frame rate wasn't spectacular, the cel-shaded graphics were beautifully animated, and there was a huge sense of accomplishment when you finally got your way through the brain-bending tricks and traps. There was certainly a lot of trial and (repeated) error, but to me that was part of the game's endless charm, and I have yet to find a title that engaged me more throughout the entire adventure.
Honorable mention: Wario Land: Shake It!
Little King's Story puts you in the shoes of a novice monarch reigning over a tiny hamlet, but instead of spending time passing edicts and going to fancy diplomatic soirees like regular heads of state, the titular little king is of warrior and adventurer stock and is more interested in exciting pursuits -- he's more Lionheart than Windsor. Don't be fooled by all the whimsy and the adorable characters; this is a game of imperial conquest, tense expeditions, and a loony religion.
While turning the burgeoning village into a vast metropolis is a lot of fun, it's the little king's more action-packed adventures that make this one of my favorite games for the Wii. With his motley crew made up of soldiers, carpenters, and even chefs (the nemesis of the dangerous psychopathic chickens), the king can explore the wilderness, fight dragons, and most importantly expand his borders. Without the right combination of minions, however, he's utterly doomed.
The soundtrack filled with wonderful classical rearrangements, the characters that bubble with personality, and the promise of constant adventure make this a game I can't help but come back to when I'm bored or feeling glum.
Honorable mention: MadWorld
Sometimes, even two years after release, I'm still in awe at how gorgeous Super Mario Galaxy 2 looks. Whatever witchcraft Nintendo brewed with the development of this game, it worked, and I don't understand why no other game even comes close on the Wii. In fact, if the Wii U can produce beautiful-looking games that are easier on the eyes than Galaxy 2, I'd consider it graphical porn.
In addition to solid level design (potentially the best in the 3D series) and air-tight gameplay, it also hosts my new favorite Mario power-up of all time: the Cloud Flower. (take that Hamza!). For these reasons and more, you need to check out Galaxy 2, which trumps its predecessor in nearly every imaginable way.
Honorable mentions: Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby's Return to Dreamland
Kirby's Epic Yarn was by no means a traditional Kirby game. Just like the Paper Mario series, it dared to do something different for an established franchise and ended up knocking it out of the park. Though the game exhibits charm, personality, and style, it'd be easy for a game like this to wear out its welcome pretty quickly. It seems gimmicky, so it's therefore very impressive that Epic Yarn manages to keep the quilted aesthetic fresh from start to finish.
It was a good reminder that sometimes videogames can be straightforward and still be incredibly enjoyable. Kirby's Epic Yarn was also deceptively difficult, especially towards the later stages if you wanted to get all of the collectibles. Whether or not you're a Kirby fan, this game had something for everyone. As Jim would say, he's made of goddamn string!
Also, I'm a huge fan of Prince Fluff. He's so cool!
It was hard for me to pick just one Wii game for this list, as the console is home to quite a few of my favorite games ever made, but when it comes to games that do a lot of different things while maintaining a near perfect level of craftsmanship throughout It doesn't get too much better than Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Sure, the game has some floaty jumps that can make the platforming sections feel unfairly difficult, but for me, that just added to the game's Kirby-esque charm. I'm also a big fan of how different Brawl's metagame is from Melee's. I know a lot of people found that disappointing, but for me, I want a new game to be new! While Brawl appeared to be a straight sequel to Melee on the surface, it's really a separate experience, almost as separate as Street Fighter III was from Street Fighter II.
Those are really the only two remotely negative things I can say about Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Everything else about the game in unquestionably perfect. The roster is huge, varied, and lovable, all unified under a visual style that managed to bring Solid Snake, Jigglypuff, and Captain Falcon all under the same umbrella without leaving anyone feeling out of place. The soundtrack is also worth the $50 price of admission on its own. In terms of length, the game can be played for tens of hours in single-player before you've unlocked all the content, and literally hundreds of hours with multi-player.
It's a game that can be equally enjoyed by lifers who want to turn competitive Smash Bros. competitions into a career, and those who'd don't want to go any deeper than learning what all two attack buttons do. And they didn't even need to use motion controls! After playing Brawl for the past 4 years, I'm left doubting that there is anything Nintendo can do to top this one. It's the pinnacle of the 4-player fighting game genre, and the greatest crossover title of all time.
Honorable mentions: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Rhythm Heaven Fever
Like so many of my favorite games on the system, Fragile Dreams is a truly bizarre experience. It blurs the lines between several genres, borrowing elements from survival horror, action-adventure, and role-playing games. While the evasion of a traditional classification is interesting, it was the narrative rather than the hybridized gameplay where the game truly shined.
One most emotionally evocative tales in recent memory, Fragile Dreams follows the journey of a young boy named Seto. After the only person he's ever known passes away, he's forced to venture out into a post-apocalyptic world in hopes of finding other survivors. Seto's lonely search makes Fragile Dreams not only one of the most tragic and heartwarming stories the Wii has to offer but also an experience unlike any other.
Honorable mentions: Let's Catch, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars
The Bit.Trip games are some of the most interesting releases from this past console generation, and one of the defining series for the Wii. When Sony and Microsoft were focusing on big budget HD games, Gaijin put out Bit.Trip Beat, which showed the world that a small team of talented individuals can take a decades-old idea and breathe new life into it. With each entry in the series, Bit.Trip evolved from a neat musical Pong clone into an incredible metaphorical journey, introducing entirely new yet familiar mechanics. It culminated with Bit.Trip Flux, which brought the series back to its humble beginnings, with a few tricks up its sleeve.
Each game in the series has its strengths and weaknesses, but all of them have the ability to cause the player to enter a zen-like state of almost synesthesia, taking in all of the neon colors and electronic sounds until it all just clicks. It's a difficult series to get through, certainly a throwback to gaming days of yore, but it's immensely satisfying to enter the Bit.Trip state of mind and come out on the other side having completed some of the more difficult levels. Even better is taking the trip from Beat all the way to Flux; each entry is fantastic in its own right, but the series as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series always have felt like a hollow shell of the magic contained within Squaresoft's Super Mario RPG for the SNES. These games always have reasonably good stories and combat but just feel like diminishing returns. Despite its namesake, Super Paper Mario doesn't share all that much with the rest of the series. There are RPG elements, but Super Paper Mario has a lot more going for it. It's the holy grail of Nintendo titles: the platforming of Super Mario World, puzzles of Zelda, and exploration of Metroid (it even plays a Metroid sample when you solve a puzzle).
Even better, the game's script is hilarious, often recalling Mother 3. The highlight is when you need to go to a world run by a hopeless nerd who grills you on the necessity of JRPGs among other things. The game gets a little too exploration-heavy in its second half, but the story and tried-and-true gameplay will keep you invested. Don't let the name fool you. It's super and it's Mario, and, yeah, I guess "Paper" fits somewhere in there too.
Over this past generation, "rail shooter" has become a term of scorn and derision, applied towards games that offer cheap thrills at the expense of direct player control. Not only does Sin & Punishment: Star Successor disprove the notion that rail shooters are fundamentally neutered experiences, it also stands as perhaps the best pure action game of the entire generation -- on the Wii or any other platform.
Developed by Treasure -- responsible for such imaginative titles as Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Headdy, Mischief Makers, Bangai-O, Ikaruga, and more -- the original Japan-exclusive Sin & Punishment was one of the holy grails of the N64 library. It was eventually brought out West via the Wii's Virtual Console, where it quickly shot up the sales chart. Based entirely on this positive reception, Nintendo and Treasure joined forces once more for a sequel that no one thought would ever see the light of day.
Star Successor is everything that made the original great times a billion. The analog aiming of the first game is replaced by IR pointing, streamlining the controls and allowing for much faster gameplay. From swarms of hundreds upon hundreds of flying sperm to a boss who turns into a giant liquified manta ray, so much shit happens on screen at once that you never have a moment's rest. It's the perfect combination of Japanese weirdness, manic action, and nail-biting challenge, and I love every second.
If you ever complained about the Wii not being "hardcore" enough and never played Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, you only have yourself to blame.
Honorable mentions: Mega Man 9, Punch-Out!!
When it comes to games, I am, if nothing else, drawn to the fresh and the funky. It's no surprise then that Suda 51 is among my favorite developers and gaming auteurs -- even if some of his more recent works have felt a little lackluster.
No More Heroes gets my vote for best Wii game specifically because I feel like it's one of the few projects that actually works with Wii exclusivity. It never takes itself seriously and understands the limits and strengths of the console. Masafumi Takada's infectious theme and brilliant score help bring the whole experience to life in a way that I don't think too many composers could pull off. It's an absolutely psychotic ride from start to finish, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Frankly speaking, there's no other game like Sakura Wars on the market (except its PS2 version, of course), and players missed out by ignoring it. The game's utterly unique mix of conversation, relationship-building, and tactical combat set against the a preposterous steampunk version of 1920s New York (envisioned in the way only Japanese anime can) set it apart from the masses of mini-game collections and shovelware that tainted the platform in the eyes of the hardcore.
In fact, it was only the hardcore gamer open to new experiences who was willing to give Sakura Wars a chance, which was a damn shame. Lackluster sales (it reportedly cost more to localize the game than it did to develop it!) discouraged NIS from localizing other titles in the venerable series, likely making So Long, My Love an experience that might never be seen again.
So, Nintendo isn't exactly known for its fan service towards Metroid fans. In fact, it was somehow able to completely ignore Metroid's 25th anniversary last year, but that's a story for another time. However, back in 2009, Nintendo put out a collection of all three Metroid Prime games on a single disc in the form of Metroid Prime: Trilogy. This added motion controls, 16:9 widescreen capabilities, and the award system (introduced in Corruption) into the first two titles. Not only that, it also came in a sexy steelbook case and had a small art booklet that documented the story of the entire Metroid franchise up to that point.
Nintendo said this release would be limited and, well, it really was limited. The collections went fast, and now people are left to track one down on eBay, where they easily go for well over $100 and much more if someone still has an unopened copy. Everyone that did pick it up were treated to one of the best deals in gaming (outside of The Orange Box) and were able to witness a rare moment when Nintendo celebrated one of the best trilogies of the past decade with its fans. Yes, all these games were re-releases, but Metroid Prime: Trilogy added quite a lot in the way of gameplay and in-game unlocks that simply can't be ignored. This is one of the best Wii titles, and these are easily some of the greatest games of all time.
I love it when all of my gaming passions can come together under one banner, which is why Dokapon Kingdom managed to be such a compelling game. Mashing together a board game, mini-game activities, and RPG-like mechanics, it's a cute and very strange little adventure with a great sense of humor. Players move around a fantasy world, collecting new equipment and fighting off enemies. Meanwhile, random events and the interference of the other players will get in your way of becoming the richest in all the kingdom.
It's deeply flawed, running entirely too long and consisting of so many random events that it's easy to just pitch a session and go play something else, but there are few more enjoyable experiences I've had with my Wii than a regular game of Dokapon Kingdom, spread out over a few weeks with friends. It's a vicious, funny, and adorable couch multiplayer title that is pretty much unlike anything else.
So yeah, those are some of our favorite Wii games. Now tell us about yours.