Oddities, exclusives, and otherwise notable gems
As a general rule, WiiWare was weird ware. Even in its prime, it was one of the least popular online storefronts in gaming, despite being on the best-selling console at the time and coming equipped with a now-legendary theme song. A lot of people slept on the most fun and interesting games on the service, and now they have less than two weeks to wake up.
The Wii Shop Channel will no longer be taking in funds after March 26, 2018, and the whole store will close for good on January 31, 2019. That means a host of WiiWare and Wii Virtual Console exclusives are about to become unavailable. This is your last chance to get most of these games legally.
This is not an exhaustive list, so please add to it in the comments if you see anything we missed. Most of the games here are either Wii Shop exclusives or are only otherwise available on PC, portables, or other dead home consoles. Games that have recently been ported to more recent home systems, like Cave Story and World of Goo, are disqualified. Also disqualified are games that are available on disc-based collections for Wii or other consoles like the Bit.Trip series, or now-unavailable games like the Commodore 64 collection, Doc Louis’s Punch-Out, and Grill-Off with Ultra Hand.
Wii Points are about to become the most rare crypto-currency in the world. Here’s some of the best games you can buy with them while you still can.
Gradius ReBirth: The first of three WiiWare-exclusive games from Konami, mostly a remix of classic Gradius levels, but has an all-new story, a great soundtrack, and even a few cut scenes.
Snowpack Park: A weird game from the developers of Chibi-Robo about helping an ever-growing group of penguins find true happiness. It has a surprising amount of depth, a Captain Rainbow mask, and a dedicated “scream like a penguin” button.
Let’s Catch: If Sonic the Hedgehog is Yuji Naka’s equivalent to Psycho, this is as close as he’s come to The Birds. Play catch with depressed children, adults, and maybe even a few aliens.
Space Invaders Get Even: A WiiWare exclusive that lets you play as the titular Space Invaders as you destroy large cities from the comfort of your UFO. Not the best game on the list, but a definite digital collector’s item for fans of the series.
Toribash: A fighting game where every blow is planned out for minutes, or even hours at a time, by painstakingly directing every part of your character’s body. It’s an all-physics, no-reflexes-required competition, and truly one of a kind.
Cho Aniki (only available in the U.S. via Virtual Console): The first game in a series of shmups featuring veiny body builders fighting over protein. They just don’t make them like this anymore folks, though surprisingly, this isn’t the only game about protein-loving bodybuilders to make our list.
Bubble Bobble Plus!: A four-player remake of the original Bubble Bobble was ported to the Xbox 360 as Bubble Bobble Neo, though this WiiWare version has a few unique traits that make it worth looking at.
Mr. Driller W: A relatively bare-bones version of Mr. Driller, but it’s a WiiWare exclusive, and at $8, its also one of the cheapest versions of the game available for home consoles.
Adventure Island: The Beginning: A polygon-based WiiWare exclusive in the long-running Adventure Island franchise. For series completionists only.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (only available in the U.S. via Virtual Console): Considered by many to be the last great traditional, level-based 2D Castlevania, never released outside of Japan for home consoles. Also available as an unlockable on the PSP-exclusive Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, but this is the only legal way to get it in its purest form without importing the original TurboGrafx CD disc and related hardware.
Alien Crush Returns: A WiiWare-exclusive sequel to the TurboGrafx action-pinball classic, co-designed by Brian “There’s a Donkey Kong Kill Screen coming up” Kuh.
Star Soldier R: A time-attack-only shooter from the cult classic shmup series, exclusive to WiiWare.
Contra ReBirth: The first Contra game to directly connect to the Gradius world (specifically to Gradius ReBirth), featuring cameos from Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his good friend and lizard man Newt Plissken. Pound for pound, it’s the weirdest game in the series, only made weirder by the fact that it was never ported to anything else. I just wish it had been longer.
Alien Soldier (only available in the U.S. via Virtual Console): Treasure’s super weird, super hard 2D shooter about an guy with a bird head killing everything. Previously only available on the Sega Channel in the U.S.A., a failed online-only game download service for the Genesis. Also features an appearance by Melon Bread.
NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits: A unique 2D puzzle platformer that makes good use of the Wii Remote’s IR pointer. It’s an alternate-reality sequel to Kid Icarus where quicksand is a real problem.
Fluidity: Nintendo published this fun little puzzle platformer where you need to alter the physical state of your player character from ice, steam, and good old-fashioned water in order to make it through. The 3DS sequel featured a cute mascot who got his on trophy in Smash, but it all started here.
Bomberman Blast: This one got a disc release in Japan, but it’s a WiiWare exclusive everywhere else. Not the best Bomberman game ever, but it’s cheap and fun, and this is the only way to get it.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King: If Little King’s Story is A Bug’s Life, this is WiiWare’s Antz. Worth checking out for fans of resource management town-building royalty sims.
My Pokémon Ranch and Pokémon Rumble: This is where that low-poly, creepy feel-bad look for Pokémon got started. Two pieces of Pokémon history, neither all that fun, but there’s no other place to get them but here.
Excitebike: World Rally: Arguably the best Excitebike game, takes the series back to its 2D roots while adding new mechanics for increased levels of depth. A WiiWare exclusive. Too bad the online servers are down.
Monsteca Corral: A game where you direct some textureless gorillas called “Stompies” around a field as they battle robots in a quest to resurrect a giant astro maggot. A home console oddity of the highest order. Also, the game’s official website is still up, complete with nonsensical web comics and coloring book pages.
WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase: An app designed specifically to play games created and imported from Warioware D.I.Y., a DS game. The servers are dead now, but it has a bunch of pre-made game built in, making it worthwhile purchase for any Wario historian.
Eco Shooter: Plant 530: Another one that’s more for Nintendo history buffs than anyone else, this is an on-rails FPS where all you do is shoot cans. These cans are possessed by aliens, and you love to recycle them. That’s the plot. The game was developed by Intelligent Systems, which is fun to think about.
Bonsai Barber: An adorable game where vegetable people ask you to give them a haircut. Hard to complain about this one.
Lostwinds 1 & 2: Great art direction, smart puzzles, and great atmosphere. Considered to be among the best WiiWare exclusives.
Star Parodier: (only available in the U.S. via Virtual Console): A heck of a good top-down shmup where you can play as an actual game console. If this was already delisted, I’m sorry, but there was no way I wasn’t going to include it.
Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove: Monster Mix: A $5 dance game where you play as a fashionable baby who hangs out with dead people. Has exclusive content not found on the handheld follow-ups.
Pulseman (only available in the U.S. via Virtual Console): Another former Sega Channel U.S. exclusive, this time developed by Game Freak, the creator of Pokémon. Basically a 2D platformer starring Elec Man from the Mega Man series.
Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People: A five-part episodic point-and-click series from Telltale based on the internet cartoon series. I still play the last episode in the series from time to time. The 64-bit Trogdor still holds up.
La-Mulana: One of the few games that truly deserves to be called a Metroidvania. Play as an intrepid, whip-cracking explorer as you delve into the La-Mulana ruins. Few games allow the player to wander into more dangerous territory than this one. The long lost evil brother of Cave Story.
Gradius 2 (only available in the U.S. via Virtual Console): Another great TurboGrafx-16 shmup that you can only get here if you’re in the U.S. of A. It may look like Life Force, but it’s not.
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years: A sequel to the SNES classic created by some of the original game’s development team. This is the only way to play the game with its original SNES-style sprites on a home console. All other versions either have altered graphics and/or are only available on phones.
Muscle March: A game where you play as one of multiple body builders and one polar bear as you chase after the person who stole your protein powder. A must-buy for fans of the Katamari Damacy soundtrack.
Tomena Sanner: A side-scrolling auto-runner where you play a salaryman who breakdances at the end of every level. A comedy game that made me laugh out loud several times, filled with secrets and even a demon or two.
Lilt Line: A inventive rhythm game where you control a line as you race through a series rollicking feel-good dubstep songs. Sadly, it was released a good two years before dubstep blew up, so it didn’t get much attention at the time. This is the only way to play it on your TV.
Blaster Master: Overdrive: Before there was Blaster Master Zero, a revived Sunsoft tried to bring the franchise back with this unusual WiiWare exclusive. It’s less of a remake and more of a sequel than Zero, and definitely worth checking out for fans of the genre. Just don’t go into it expecting retro. It looks very much like a download-only game from 2010, for better or worse.
Zombie Panic in Wonderland: This one later made it to the 3DS, but this is still the only way to play it on your TV. As protagonists from Japanese and European folklore, you’ll mow down wave after wave of zombies. It’s more like Duck Hunt than Left 4 Dead, but charming graphics and two-player co-op make it worth picking up if you and your friends like shooting things sometimes.
And yet it moves: Brilliant 2D platformer where you rotate the entire world. Hand-drawn graphics made of real paper and cute mouth-made sound effects provide a lovely window into the early days of indie game development on consoles.
Lit: WayForward’s cross between The Adventures of Lolo and Silent Hill. A smart and fun game that definitely deserves a sequel.
Sin and Punishment (only available in the U.S. via Virtual Console): A surreal mix of Star Fox and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Also features Melon Bread.
Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth: A remake of Castlevania: The Adventure for Game Boy, though all the graphics and most of the level designs are new. A really good classic Castlevania game, and like the other ReBirth titles, it remains a WiiWare exclusive.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord: The semi-sequel to FFCC: My Life as a King, this one is more of a tower-building defense sim. Polished and well-designed, you play as the last boss trying to keep the heroes at bay, laying out monsters before them in the most treacherous ways that money can buy.
Onslaught: This could be the dumbest FPS I’ve ever played, but games that utilize the Wii Remote’s pointer capabilities are few and far between, and the repetitive crappy insults it hurls at you have a certain charm that’s hard to deny. This is perhaps the only game in history that will yell “That’s why you’re still a kid!” at you five times in a row just because you didn’t kill as many alien maggots as it thought you should. A true game of its time.
MaBoShi Arcade: A game where you actually play three separate puzzle games at once, each themed around a different shape (circle, stick, and square). How you (or you and up to two friends) play in one game effects what happens in the others, and the whole thing feels delightfully original and chaotic. You can also use wireless connectivity to download a version of the game from your Wii to your DS, which is pretty wild.
Snowboard Riot: Probably the only game on this list that comes close to being as dumb as Onslaught, but the adorably ’90s character designs and Wii Balance Board-compatible controls make it special. Its also the only snowboarding game I’ve ever played that lets you blow up your friends with missiles and napalm.
You, Me, and the Cubes: The last home console game from legendary musician and developer Kenji Eno. It’s a fun action-puzzle game where you throw children that look a little like Splatoon‘s Inklings at large floating boxes and hope they don’t die. It’s also a metaphor for marriage and/or masturbation, at least maybe. Another WiiWare exclusive and a must-have for game historians.
DoRiMe Fantasy (only available in the U.S. via Virtual Console): A cute 2D platformer that is apparently a sequel to the extremely difficult and vindictive Milon’s Secret Castle. Worth buying for curious fans of the NES game or for lovers of lighthearted and fun SNES games.
The Art Style series: My favorite of the bunch is easily Light Trax, as it’s basically a cross between Tron‘s Light Cycle racing and the previously mentioned Lilt Line, but the whole series is pretty great. They were developed by Skip Ltd, some being ports from a Japanese-exclusive GBA series called “bit Generations,” while others are totally new. Either way, they are all WiiWare exclusives now, and stand as some of the most interesting, experimental games Nintendo has ever published.
That makes them one of the best representations of the Wii Shop Channel, one of Nintendo’s most interesting, experimental outings into the world of online anything. You had a good run, guys. Thanks for the memories, and of course, for that loading bar. Watching Mario get coins of out a block over and over again makes everything better, even waiting five minutes for your tiny game to download.