Not just a gimmick
The Wii's codename was the "Revolution," which Nintendo probably should have stuck with, but despite the name change you can't deny that a revolution is what the Wii was. With its cheap price, accessible controls, and a veritable cornucopia of games, it helped bring gaming to the mainstream.
Like many revolutions, we can only appreciate the Wii fully in hindsight. In the Wii's heyday, we could've overlooked any number of its wonderful games. But today, we can look back at the system's complete library and highlight 25 of its absolute best. Join us and enjoy our countdown of the 25 best Wii games of all time.
(By the way, as a rule we didn't allow multiple entries in a franchise on the list. It keeps things more interesting.)
25. The House of the Dead: Overkill
There have been lightgun-style games for almost as long as there have been home game consoles, but The House of the Dead: Overkill is easily one of the best in class, let alone on the Wii. Good old-fashioned zombie slaying mixed with grindhouse cinema presentation make this a fun (and funny) title that meshes naturally with the Wii Remote's design.
24. Mario Kart Wii
Were it not for its Wii U sequel, Mario Kart Wii would undisputably hold the crown for best Mario Kart game. The addition of more riders per race, motorbikes, a tweaked drifting system, and the ability to perform tricks were all hailed as major improvements, and the courses are as wonderful as they've ever been.
Reboots and remakes are a tricky business. You want the experience to feel fresh, but you need to pay respect to what came before. Thankfully, Punch-Out!! for the Wii does exactly that, bringing back the dodge, dodge, punch rhythm that made the original such a classic, and wrapping it up in a beautifully stylized package.
22. Rhythm Heaven Fever
With its simple design and gyroscope sensor, the Wii Remote makes for a great music game controller. And while Just Dance parties were fun, it was Rhythm Heaven Fever that stuck with you, ensaring players with its adorable visuals, cutesy storylines, and catchy tunes. Plus, it had a certain wacky charm that simply can't be described on the back of a box.
21. Excitebots: Trick Racing
Excitebots: Trick Racing proves that it's not all about how fast you cross the finish line, but how cool you looked when you did it. Rather than focus on tight curves and single-file racing speedways, Excitebots features large, sprawling courses with multiple pathways. And while you may end up in first place just from being fast, you'll want to challenge yourself to be the best trickster too.
20. Red Steel 2
The first Red Steel promised us the fantasy of wielding a console controller like a sword, transforming us into badass samurai (that also wielded guns). But it wasn't until Red Steel 2 that we finally got a sense of how utterly cool that could feel. With more stylized visuals and support for the Wii MotionPlus, Red Steel 2 is one of the tightest action games the Wii ever had.
19. Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Without question, Muramasa: The Demon Blade is very high on our list of most beautiful Wii games. Its lavish, superbly animated world shames the system's tepid 3D offerings to the point where "pretty for a Wii game" should be forever stricken from gaming phraseology. With fantastic combat, a diverse armory of unique weapons, and over a dozen hours of gameplay, Muramasa would stand out on any system. On the Wii it shines as one more ray of inspiration to anyone who passed on the system for good.
18. Dead Space: Extraction
Dead Space: Extraction is much more than a haunted shooting gallery, as the presentation, voice acting, and exceptional visuals make you feel like a part of the action. You're not just moving along with a target reticle blasting grotesque monsters; you are that person - ducking and weaving, cussing in disbelief, shuddering with the guerrilla-style shaky cam that immerses you in the world like no other game in the genre. Like any good rollercoaster, Extraction gets your heart racing and adrenaline pounding even though you have no control. An interesting and emotional take on the lightgun scene.
17. A Boy and His Blob
With highly inventive gameplay and outstanding storybook visuals, the updated adventure of A Boy and His Blob (originally on the NES) is absolutely worth checking out again or for the first time. Whether it's the boy calling his pal in alternately playful and impatient tones or the blob obediently hopping along awaiting its next jellybean snack, this tale is as much about friendship as it about adventure. Nothing drives this point home more than the hug button, which serves no other purpose than to make the boy snuggle his blob like a favorite teddy bear. Simply put: You'd have to have a frigid, icy heart to not love this game on some level.
16. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
It would be easy to overlook Silent Hill: Shattered Memories as a sloppy Wii remake - we all know there were plenty of those - but going in with that mindset would be a mistake. In reality, it was essentially an original story loosely based on the first Silent Hill, using the franchise as a platform to tell a dark, mature tale. Though it lacked many of the classic Silent Hill tropes, it came with a few tricks of its own, sporting interesting gameplay that analyzed your decisions to taunt you with specific elements suited to your playstyle. If that sounds weird or psychological, that's because it is. Shattered Memories is a game every Wii owner should experience.
15. Super Paper Mario
Fans of Mario RPG clamored for years for more role-playing Mario goodness, and got their wish with the Paper Mario series. The Wii entry, Super Paper Mario, brings all of the silliness and charm of the RPG series to the modern era, mixing in some interesting 3D puzzles and platforming. But what really sets it apart is the dialogue and narrative, which doesn't shy away from shattering the fourth wall in favor of silly puns and awesome jokes that will have anyone, Mario fan or not, rolling on the floor with laughter.
14. Donkey Kong Country Returns
Donkey Kong Country Returns is everything fans wanted from the series. It's beautiful, painfully difficult, and a nostalgic trip for fans of the storied franchise. And yet it feels remarkably new, with strong mechanics and emphasis on cooperative play. DKCR is a lush, vibrant reimagining of the franchise, and one that we hope is only the first step toward a future resurgence for DK and crew.
13. New Super Mario Bros. Wii
There's a reason that New Super Mario Bros. Wii is one of the best-selling games on the system: It wonderfully blended together the nostalgic feeling of classic Mario with four-player cooperative play, creating an experience that had children laughing and adults grinning from ear to ear. Though the level design isn't the best in the series and things can get hectic with four people onscreen at the same time, the overall experience is fantastic, providing some worthwhile fun for groups and solo players alike. Just make sure to share the mushrooms.
12. Boom Blox Bash Party
The Steven Spielberg-produced (seriously) Boom Blox was an early success on the Wii, and the sequel, Boom Blox Bash Party, improves on the formula in every way. Bash Party is a brilliant little toy to mess around with, and one you'll get a lot of pleasure from regardless of how many friends or family members you rope in. It wouldn't work on any other console, and as a Wii owner you really ought to check out at least one Boom Blox game; ideally, make it this one.
11. Xenoblade Chronicles
Xenoblade Chronicles, a latecomer to the Wii, offers a singularly beautiful world, streamlined gameplay, likable characters, and a fantastic soundtrack. For these reasons alone it's probably the best RPG on the Wii. Lest you think we're damning it with faint praise, there's no denying that Xenoblade is invigorating and engaging like few recent games of its kind, giving us reason to hope that this once-proud genre may yet have better days ahead. Visit the strange world of Xenoblade for 100-odd hours and see if you don't feel the same.
10. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Metroid Prime 3 is the ultimate achievement of the series. By this point, the formula had been tweaked and pruned to its most perfect point, with some of the best shooting on the system. Best of all, it makes beautiful use of the Wii Remote. Freely aiming with the remote makes the experience much faster than the older titles, where you had to hold R just to look around. Here, it's almost on par with a mouse and keyboard, with gesture controls - like yanking and pulling the Nunchuk to activate the Grapple Beam - that makes ripping off limbs oddly satisfying.
9. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars
The Wii doesn't have that many true fighting games aside from Smash Bros., and that makes the outstanding success of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom all the sweeter. Made specifically from the ground up for the Wii, the game shines on Nintendo's platform, making for a deep, complex fighting game that's perfect for those wanting something more mechanically sound than Brawl. The character models and striking design are powerful even without any HD tomfoolery, easily making this one of the most gorgeous and unique-looking titles on the system.
8. Rayman Origins
At a time when games seem to offer a bit of everything, Rayman Origins stays focused on pure platforming pleasure, and it delivers. Yes, it can be too tough for some, but we're betting even more casual players will soon find themselves hopelessly addicted to the finely tuned challenges on offer here. Play it for the love of platforming, the love of 2D art, or the love of the Rayman series. It doesn't matter why you play it. Just, for crying out loud, make sure you do.
7. Little King's Story
Look at that title. So unobtrusive. That's the little king's secret: smile, look harmless, and crush with extreme prejudice. Underestimating this diminutive dictator will be the biggest mistake you make with this city-building, Pikmin-like Wii game. When everyone else is mucking around in blood and guts, Little King's Story has the tenacity to be an actual game you can play and play and play. With an adorable art style and fantastic gameplay, it's definitely a standout success.
6. No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
Usually, the word trashy is saved for bad things, but we can't think of a better, more loving way to describe No More Heroes 2. The game goes for a pulpy, sexy, raunchy vibe and nails it perfectly, with hilarious characters and awesome hack-and-slash gameplay that takes full advantage of the Wii Remote's love of waggle. Bizarre, silly situations and awesome boss battles make it easy to recommend this game to anyone interested in a completely unique experience on the Wii. Actually, it's sort of a unique experience in general; what other games let you chop up models with a lightsaber that needs to be... well... shaken to charge it up?
5. Sin and Punishment: Star Successor
The fact that the Wii didn't see a proper Star Fox game was disappointing, but that sadness was overridden when Sin and Punishment: Star Successor filled the void perfectly with remarkable gameplay, awesome music, and some of the most over-the-top action we've seen. Kicking missiles out of the sky? Sign us up. Extreme difficulty during the early levels might be a turnoff for some people, but if you're able to get past that (either by tenacity or by bumping the game down to Easy) you're in for an absolute treat that shouldn't be missed.
4. Kirby's Epic Yarn
Is Kirby's Epic Yarn easy? Yes. It's absurdly easy. You can't die, it's hard to lose, and the game basically holds your hand the entire way. And yet despite that, it still manages to be one of the most enjoyable games on the system, with its absurdly charming art style and some of the strongest platforming from the Wii generation. Even the co-op, a weak point in some of Nintendo's other platformers, made for some incredibly enjoyable play, and the game's somewhat simplistic gameplay made it possible to play it with anyone and still have a good time.
3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Not much of the core gameplay changed between Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and that's because not much had to. Instead of altering the core formula, Nintendo settled for piling on loads of new content, from new items to new characters. The entire game is an insanely robust love letter to not just Nintendo's history, but video game history in general. The inclusion of both Solid Snake and Sonic The Hedgehog helped flesh out the game's already-robust character list, making for one of the most enjoyable experiences on the Wii.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
The Wii saw the release of not one, but two Zelda games, though only one made full use of the new technology to create a unique experience. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword featured an imaginative art style which allowed for some of the best visuals on the system, and made masterful use of the Wii MotionPlus to prove that motion controls were no gimmick. It used these motion controls to the fullest too, resulting in the best swordplay in Zelda's storied history. The puzzles were also some of the best we'd ever seen, and the plot was a treat not just for fans (serving as the first story chronologically), but for newcomers as well. This was the Zelda we were waiting for.
1. Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2 improves over the original in every way - a task we didn't even think was possible - to create not just the best Wii game available, but one of the best Mario games of all time. It pushed the system to its limits with wonderful, mesmerizing visuals and some of the best platforming in history, completely redefining what it even means to be a platformer. Even if you believe it's too similar to the first game, what's wrong with more of an incredibly great thing?
Wii will miss you
Obviously not every game could make the list; there are only so many games that can be labeled the absolute best. We're sure that some of you have games you think should have been added, cut, or rearranged, so let us know in the comments below what you would change about our list of the best Wii games of all time.