Friday, September 21, 2012

The 50 Best Nintendo Wii Games - Part One

Generally when I see people say that the Wii's library is one of the worst of any mainstream console, I can only roll my eyes so far to the back of my head before pain sets in. It's just a lazy, thoughtless, misguided statement. Unless one's tastes are severely limited, there is no excuse for such a comment.

The Nintendo DS had its turn for the past five weeks, now the Wii is getting its share of the spotlight as the system is approaching the end of its life as Nintendo's main console. The console has one of the most diverse lineups of software. There's really everything except the Western RPG, I believe -- platformers, action, adventure, shooters, puzzle games, JRPGs, open world games, and so on and so forth for Wii owners to enjoy. So for every vocal minority that says the Wii has few games worth playing, there is a title that appeals to most people, and a library with loads of undiscovered and well known treasures to find. This list of fifty of the greatest Wii games details just that.

Once again, I remind people that only North American releases will be listed here. Sorry, Fatal Frame, Disaster, and Pandora's Tower fans.

Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy is without a doubt one of the greatest platformers of all time, showcasing brilliant ideas and ingenuity in nearly every facet of its design. Taking Mario and friends into outer space, the final frontier, where no plumber has gone before, Super Mario Galaxy utilizes planetoids both large and small to increase the platforming possibilities exponentially. The game also uses a new smart camera that generally focuses on the action in wondrous ways, without the need for the player's interaction like in past 3D Marios like Super Mario 64 and Sunshine. Then there is the fabulous soundtrack, mostly sporting a 50-person orchestra, never before seen in a Mario game before. Super Mario Galaxy isn't one of the top-rated games of all time for no reason. It is absolutely fantastic in every regard. 

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Not a fighter in the traditional sense, the Super Smash Bros. series focuses on knocking someone out of the ring rather than simply knocking them out. Super Smash Bros. Brawl delivered not only on compelling gameplay (sorry, competitive players), but it also delivered on fan service. Containing characters, stages, and music (the latter being composed and arranged by over 35 unique video game music composers), Super Smash Bros. Brawl is essentially a love letter to fans of Nintendo, with stages from Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, Pikmin, Kid Icarus, F-Zero, Star Fox, and the list goes on and on. But it's not just for Nintendo fans and nostalgia-lovers solely. No, the fighting mechanics are simple enough for anyone to learn, but they are mighty tough to master. Case in point: Super Smash Bros. Brawl is one of Nintendo's beefiest games, and it possesses enough content, replay value, and action to last you for generations... or until the next Smash Bros. arrives.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Mario is back, but this time he's not alone. One of the best selling games of this generation, and rightfully so, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Mario is joined by Luigi and two Toads to rescue the Princess. Of course, you can play the nine worlds (one bonus) of the game alone, but with friends and family, things get all the more hectic, and all the more fun. Star Coins that were once difficult to get alone could be grabbed by a partner doing an amazing suicide leap. But multiplayer alone isn't what makes New Super Mario Bros. Wii so enticing and enchanting. No, the level design in some of the best seen in a 2D Mario. Each level showcases a new concept. From erupting sand geysers to use as platforms to cross bottomless pits to swimming in bubbles that float within dry air, each level brings something new to the table, and makes an already exciting game all the more exciting. New power-ups such as the Ice Flower, Penguin Suit, and one of my favorites, the Propeller Mushroom, liven things up as well. New Super Mario Bros. Wii isn't a ho-hum Mario game. It's an essential Mario game, and one that is essential for fans of the franchise.

Metroid Prime Trilogy

A must-have collection for Metroid fans, Metroid Prime Trilogy is an out-of-print collection of all three Metroid Prime games (Prime 1, Echoes, and the Wii's Corruption) given the Wii treatment with what I consider to be supremely superior controls in comparison to the original two Primes. The pointer aiming is second place only to a keyboard and mouse in accuracy and enjoyability. They alone are worth the price of admission and reliving Metroid Prime 1 and 2 all over again. These two titles almost feel like completely different games, and that is a good thing. Outside of the new controls, an achievement system was implemented, allowing players to earn tokens to obtain artwork, music, and even the Fusion Suit for Metroid Prime, originally only available by linking a Game Boy Advance with Metroid Fusion inserted in it to a GameCube. Additionally, Metroid Prime Trilogy had lessened load times, 16:9 capabilities, updated visual textures, and increased special effects. If you're looking (and can find for a reasonable price) this excellent compilation, do not hesitate to pull the trigger... or whatever you do with Samus' Arm Cannon.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

With some of the most impressive motion controls ever implemented into a video game, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is one of the most satisfying Wii experiences on the market. The near 1:1 swordplay offered new challenges to the combat. You had to smarten up and be quick on the uptake in each confrontation, especially with enemies that could damage you if you attacked incorrectly. Some claim that the controls don't work and the game is awful for it, but some of these people are the same types who "waggle" their way through everything. Skyward Sword altered the formula for the Zelda series quite a bit. It featured a world of puzzles and exploration that extended outside of dungeons and onto the various overworlds. Following Super Mario Galaxy's lead, Skyward Sword's soundtrack mostly consisted of fully orchestrated themes. I consider Skyward Sword's score to be one of the best the Zelda series has ever seen, and the game itself is tremendous in its own right as well, pending you try to learn the controls and be capable with them.

Xenoblade Chronicles

After almost a two-year wait and an online campaign for the game, Xenoblade Chronicles finally reached North American soil, though with the caveat of being exclusive to Nintendo's online shop and GameStop. Regardless, Xenoblade is what I consider to be one of the best RPGs this generation, Japanese OR Western. The world of the game takes places on the bodies of two deceased titans, and these are enormous giants much like the world Shulk and the gang traverses. Gaur Plains alone spreads out so far and is so expansive that you might think you were playing an offline MMORPG. Coincidentally enough, the creators of Xenoblade Chronicles have in the past compared the world they created to such a game. Introducing a real-time battle system, the ability to earn experience through not only slaying monsters but through completing quests and finding new areas, and the time-saving feature of being able to warp to any previously visited destination, Xenoblade Chronicles rights many wrongs of past RPGs. It's an experience many thought was impossible on the modest in power Wii. Those in a state of discontent with current JRPGs should definitely check out this extremely competent 50+ hour quest.

Wario Land: Shake It!

A platformer from a series that was in hibernation for approximately seven years, Wario Land: Shake It! (known as Wario Land: The Shake Dimension in Europe and simply Wario Land: Shake in Japan) is the series's first console installment. If the gorgeous hand-drawn art style doesn't grab you (it's fantastic even in standard definition), the gameplay certainly will. Each level has Wario plundering it for treasure, found in bags that must be shook, and diamonds placed in hard-to-find/reach areas. The true fun comes in trying to complete the game 100% as just running through the 15 or so levels of the game won't last too long, even if you find all of the treasure chests. Getting 100% involves finishing off all of the game's challenges such as running to the goal within a set amount of time (requiring the player to learn the best route to do so), not getting hit within a level, not entering a body of water, and so forth. Alongside the vivacious visuals is a stellar soundtrack that hits all the right notes and contains an abundance of genres like rock, funk, latin, and new age. Wario Land: Shake It! features a splendid art style and the gameplay to back it up.

Kirby's Return to Dream Land

What I love about the Wii (well, one of the things I love about the Wii) is the renaissance of 2D platformers it brought to systems. Kirby's Return to Dream Land is another of such games that brought back 2D platformers to the spotlight. Like New Super Mario Bros. Wii before it, the latest Kirby game (the second one on Wii) offered four person cooperative multiplayer. Unlike NSMB Wii, however, all players shared a life pool, so one player could drag down the entire team. That notwithstanding, Return to Dream Land is one of more impressive and enjoyable Kirby platforming titles around. The levels and worlds are superb, supporting plenty of secrets, trouble spots, and devious designs. The addition of Kirby's Super Abilities means the pink puffball can unleash even more of his pent-up rage onto his opponents as well as come across portals to another dimension. These sections of the game have Kirby (and friends) being pursued by a purple cloud that if it touches the player, it automatically defeats them. These tense sections break up any monotony of the game, though there is hardly any repetition within the game. And those who claim Kirby's Return to Dream Land is a cakewalk have obviously not played the Extra campaign.

Excite Truck

While not the best in the series to me (a later game on this batch of 50 Nintendo Wii games will take that crown), Excite Truck was a Wii launch arcade racing game with loads of fun. The game wasn't simply content with you winning the race. No, no. You had to score stars while doing so through pulling off various stunts like spins. Acquiring enough stars in a given race allowed you to move forward to the next, but if you wanted that all-coveted S ranking, you'd have to trick out immensely and (generally) win first place. Excite Truck featured terrain that could be transformed through passing across certain icons. If you timed it just right, the track could transform while a competitor was jetting across, sending them rocketing way off course or into the air. Excite Truck was one of the first all-motion control games on the Wii, and it worked remarkably well. Through tilting the Wii remote, you steered your monster truck (you started out with only three, but could unlock many more). You could boost to speed past your opponents, but you could overheat if you held the throttle for too long (going through water or letting the booster rest would allow you to cool down). Excite Truck is a significantly entertaining racer, and I hope, I just hope, Monster Games is working on a Wii U equivalent.

Boom Blox Bash Party

You might be thinking, "SuperPhillip. Dude. All of these games mentioned so far are first or second-party ones. Where are the third-party games?" Well, that's a question many Wii owners throughout the console's life asked. They were greeted with shovelware and C-team efforts most of the time by developers who were caught with their pants down regarding the Wii's success and their heavy investment on the HD consoles. That said, don't worry. There will honestly be plenty of third-party efforts within the 50 best Wii games. Boom Blox Bash Party (and its predecessor Boom Blox, for that matter) is yet another great Wii game. It is a physics-based puzzle game featuring over 400 puzzles where you throw a limited supply of balls at towers to earn points, carefully pull blocks from a teetering tower Jenga-style, and other various activities. Two new environments with their own physics, underwater and outer space, joined the party, and originally there was the ability to download and share created levels (EA has since taken down the servers for the game). Still, what you'll find with Boom Blox's sequels is a party that is quite frankly a blast, alone or with family and friends.


Speaking of parties, ours has just begun with the Nintendo Wii. Ten more terrific titles for the Wii will be posted next Friday. If you need more of a bash, check out the past five weeks of articles where I listed my favorite Nintendo DS titles:

The 50 Best Nintendo DS Games - Part One
The 50 Best Nintendo DS Games - Part Two
The 50 Best Nintendo DS Games - Part Three
The 50 Best Nintendo DS Games - Part Four
The 50 Best Nintendo DS Games - Part Five 

Have a great weekend!

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