A Postmortem on the Wii’s Game Library

The Wii U comes out in a little over a week and new releases for the Wii have just about flat-lined. I think it’s time we review how much the console was really worth it.

I’m almost always a Nintendo defender, but this is actually the first console generation in which Nintendo’s platform wasn’t my primary choice. Despite that, I’m still going to defend the worthiness of the Wii’s game library.

The common joke with pretty much every Nintendo console since the N64 is that people either borrowed one every time one if its few must-have games came out, sold it mere months after buying one, or stopped playing it for so long as to literally lose the console. Despite the Wii’s dominant sales those jokes persist, but this time it’s even harder to pinpoint what the problem was.

With the N64 or Gamecube you could always point out the limited 3rd party support and that’s still a problem with the Wii – possibly even more so than with its predecessors, but this time it wasn’t completely Nintendo’s fault. No one saw its commercial success coming and even afterwards no one could make heads or tails as to how to utilize that. The big publishers, especially the western ones, just kind of ignored it, and you can’t deny that they paid for doing so.

The Xbox 360 and PS3 provided just what core gamers wanted and satisfied developers’ and publishers’ vision for where the industry was supposed to head, but financially they were probably the wrong horses to bet on. That core console game space saw the least growth this generation, and by focusing on it too many companies lost out on new audiences and by doubling down on it too many developers went out of business. I think Nintendo hoped other publishers would see the writing on the wall and try to temper development costs. They didn’t, at least not enough and not soon enough, and just about everyone in the conventional games market paid the price.

Whatever the cause, the Wii ended up missing out on nearly all of this generation’s major 3rd party support which at face value would cause many to see it as worthless compared to its competitors. When I look at my library of Wii games I see a lot of value as well as some missed potential.

I have to look back on the Wii differently from other Nintendo consoles because the N64 and Gamecube were the only consoles I owned during those generations. Despite their weak 3rd party support I had to scrape up every decent game on those machines and squeeze every last bit of fun out of them. Not so much with the Wii, and while I did ignore the system for months at a time, every time I looked at its game catalog I saw a lot that I would be enjoying if I’d set aside the time for it.

The fact that I have a fairly large Wii backlog alone validates the platform I think. If it weren’t for the PC and Xbox games I played all year I’d still be enjoying myself with Xenoblade, Rhythm Heaven Fever, The Last Story, and a lot more. I don’t know if I could have lived off of just a Wii (probably a Wii and a DS), but it hasn’t been the barren wasteland people apparently see it as.

There are those who argue Nintendo’s first party output this generation has been the best since the Super NES days. Sure we never got an F-Zero or Star Fox game, but we got three Mario platformers – one of them the first console sidescroller since the SNES and the other two some of Nintendo’s best games ever, as well as two main Zelda games just to start. We also got the first console Donkey Kong sidescroller since the SNES, and the first console Kirby sidesroller since the N64. Even Punch-Out!! came back for a minute.

Outside of that the Wii just about became the last refuge for middle-budget Japanese console games. I think years from now (possibly on the Wii U) people will be investigating hidden gems like Sin & Punishment Star Successor, Trauma Team, Little King’s Story, MadWorld (hey I liked that game!), Tatsunoko vs Capcom, Monster Hunter Tri, Endless Ocean, and much more.

That’s not even mentioning Virtual Console.

I think Virtual Console might have been the most valuable thing about the Wii. There’s a ton of history on that service that I still intend to buy and investigate – a whole backlog of its own if you will, of verified classics that I still haven’t touched. If I only owned a Wii this generation I probably would’ve bought dozens of Virtual Console games and spent countless hours on them.

I’m not sure if I could say that the Wii had one of the best libraries of exclusives this generation in terms of pure fun games (exclusives almost became a moot point between the PS3 and 360), but maybe the most underrated. There was definitely enough fun and value to be had if your attention wasn’t always stuck on the HD AAA titles. As a whole the Xbox 360 and PS3 libraries definitely got the lion’s share of the press attention this generation but there was definitely a whole lot outside of that whether it was on the DS, PSP, or the Wii.

BULLETS:

  • For 3DS owners, a demo of Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is on the eShop now. I’m much more excited for it than I am in the console versions.
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