Just buy a Wii U? Download these
Nintendo's Wii U has launched, and the company hopes to capture a whole new generation of fans. Wii owners know the console's WiiWare platform is host to some of the coolest little titles ever to hit a Nintendo machine, but if you're a Nintendo newbie, how do you know which downloads to sample first?
Well, obviously that's a somewhat rhetorical question as you're already reading an article in which we tell you exactly what you need to know. So let's get on with the business of recommending some games...
Alien Crush Returns
Two things that you stand a far better chance of encountering outside your living room are pinball machines and extra-terrestrials. So thank goodness for Alien Crush, which allowed shut-ins of the early 90s a chance to get their fix of multipliers, Action Ball showdowns and Giger-esque space creatures; and thank Battle Arena Toshinden developer Tamsoft, for updating the cult TG16 title with Wii-era physics and visual flair.
Alien Crush Returns marries the tactile physicality of three xenomorphic-looking pin-tables to a videogame-ready structure of alien-hunting, powerup-collecting and boss-battling. It's not as substantial as the likes of the XBLA/PC's Pinball FX 2; but then again, this is the only pinball game that doubles as an off-brand Alien adaptation, which must count for something?
Twitch-gaming may have had its birth in the unforgiving arcade shooters and console platformers of the bygone 80s and 90s, but the genre continues to scale new heights of amphetamine-paced insanity with series like the Bit.Trip sextet. Oh, quit your giggling: that's the proper term for a six-member musical ensemble, and Bit.Trip is as musical as it is retrogamer-friendly.
The games' Atari-inspired graphics mask a multi-colored, gorgeously chiptune-ful aesthetic that gets richer and more rewarding the closer you get to the series' frenetic, strobe-pumping heart. You haven't truly learned the meaning of the words just one more try until you've guided CommanderVideo through this six-phase epic of hyperspeed reflex-action.
Blaster Master Overdrive
As you'll see in the recommendations to come, the oh-so-contemporary WiiWare platform turned out to be the perfect outlet for no small number of retro reimaginings - playing host to titles whose post-2000 revival demanded a little more polish than a simple Virtual Console dust-off could provide. Blaster Master: Overdrive is one such, reskinning Sunsoft's 1988 platform-shooter for the new millennium with tweaked gameplay and all manner of natty cosmetic touch-ups.
Underneath it all, though, fans of the original will find much unchanged: you're still a plucky human commanding a superpowered tank with the same moniker as our esteemed EIC, leaping along side-scrolling segments broken up by top-down exploration and wishing the controls were a little more user-friendly. (Come on, like the NES original was such a triumph of ergonomic intuition).
While Japanese players were offered the option of a full-fledged Bomberman Blast complete with extensive story mode, English-speaking explosion-enthusiasts have to settle for this lower-priced release focusing entirely on the game's Battle Mode. What kind of a monster would slash the price of a Bomberman game by offering only the bit people actually want to play, right?
While contemporary titles struggle to fit two players onscreen without compromising too many pyrotechnics, Bomberman Blast can do eight-player local matches without breaking a sweat. Whether the Wii U's way of handling Gamecube controllers will half this number, we've yet to discover; but with the game still offering worldwide online PvP, even this compromise would hardly be a deal-breaker.
Bubble Bobble Plus!
Nowadays you may know Taito's bubble-spitting dinosaurs from the ubiquitous Puzzle Bobble, but let's not forget where Bub and Bob got their start: in the original platformer-with-a-twist, 1986's Bubble Bobble. It's hard to think of many mid-80s actioners that hold up this well today but the faithfully-recreated original is just Bubble Bobble Plus!'s opening salvo.
Besides 100 levels of authentic one- or two-player whale-slaying fun, Taito's in-house remake offers modern additions such as 100 new levels, a four-player Arrange mode starring new dragon-ladies Pab and Peb, and downloadable plus-difficult level packs offering further four-player challenge.
Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth
A retro treat that consciously harkens back to the series' cartridge-based glory days, Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth (lordy is that an unwieldy title) won't have you breaking out the graph-paper like the series' contemporary offerings; instead, retro-revival specialist M2 offers a SNES-flavored reimagining of the series' first Game Boy outing.
With such an old-skool pedigree (The Adventure was the third original title in the series), M2's game eschews the massive, retread-heavy gameplay of post-Symphony of the Night titles in favor of tight, scrolling gauntlets of zombies, Draculas and yes! Medusa Heads. If that gets your pulse racing in a good, non-homicidal way (those Flea Men, right?!), this bracingly straightforward jaunt is worth a look.
Do you like games where you can explore a vast environment from the perspective of a solitary humanoid character, gradually unlocking new paths and abilities through your intrepid attention to detail and enemy-fighting prowess? Given that you're reading about Nintendo games, we're going to guess probably. They don't call it the Alex Kidd-Vania genre, after all.
Cave Story is a contemporary tribute to formative titles like Castlevania and Metroid, built from pixels, love and sweat off the brow of indie developer Daisuke Pixel Amaya. The title borrows liberally from the structure of those games and their ilk, but Amaya shows himself a canny interpreter of modern gaming trends, with a well-constructed internal universe whose own story unfolds alongside your own.
Excitebike: World Rally
As you may've noticed by now, sometimes when classics this old come back for another round, 100% authenticity isn't actually the first thing we want out of them. A title like Excitebike may have thrilled audiences in 1985, but then so did Lionel Richie - so to appeal to the discerning ADD standards of today, many NES-era classics look better buffed up with some new-millennium sizzle.
Excitebike: World Rally is a prime example: based on the landmark racer that served as a US launch title for the original NES, the game's WiiWare update got a new 3D gloss courtesy of Monster Games (brains behind underloved semi-sequel Excite Truck). The result's a twitchy little time-trial racer that, while no challenger to today's full-fledged exemplars of the genre, bridges the 25-year gap since NES owners first discovered Excitebike.
LostWinds 2: Winter of the Melodias
The original LostWinds was a launch title for the WiiWare platform, and immediately started the service off on the right foot with its clever incorporation of the motion-controls that, back in 2008, we still thought might be a passing fad. Here was a platformer whose central point-'n'-blow mechanic set it apart from all the press-A-to-jump adventures that'd gone before, while honoring the formula with plus-sized Metroidvania-style level design.
For the quickly-approved follow-up, LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias, Frontier Developments set its sights higher, beefing up the relatively scant playtime with more abilities, a deeper story, and a season-changing game mechanic. The result was a self-contained adventure that's won acclaim on Wii and iOS alike though the tactile experience of guiding hero Toku with WiiMote-controlled gusts of wind still can't be beat.
Mega Man 9/10
With over 50 titles to his name, Capcom's Mega Man is one of the most prolific and best-loved heroes of the 8-bit era, and continues to inspire fan-love through updated series such as Mega Man Battle Network and Legends. Sorry, did we say love? We meant incessant, intolerable grumbling, with newer entries in the series encountering mixed receptions from the public at large and incurring frequent cancellation.
And all told, we've little sympathy for those who wanted to see their beloved Blue Bomber go down the Sonic route. Until you've mastered the retro-rebirth charms of Mega Mans 9 and 10, in which NES-era charm meets the sadistic cutting-edge of 21st-century level design, you can just pretend the series ended sometime during the SNES era. And with two full-sized, download-priced games' worth of challenge every bit as engaging and daunting as any of Mega Man's 80s adventures, that ought to keep fans quiet for a while yet.
For its WiiWare debut, XBLA superstar developer RedLynx (of the acclaimed Trials series) offered a twist on its usual motocross fare. Gone were the realistically-proportioned human racers negotiating almost-feasible arenas; in their place came a rambunctious 4WD adventure that retained Trials' physics-centric time-trial play.
Designed from the ground up for a Nintendo audience, any knee-jerk assumptions that Wii players is another word for wimps will be banished after a few hours striving for MotoHeroz' gold-medal rewards. Turns out RedLynx has just as much love/hate for those impossible old NES games as the rest of us.
Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
Nowadays, you know Telltale Games as the household-name developer of serialized adventures like The Walking Dead and Back to the Future; but back in 2008 the company was still building its brand with licenses like Bone and CSI. We should've known the San Rafael upstart had its sights set on weirder fare when it paired with proto-memetic online cartoon Homestar Runner to release a series of episodes based around the show's fan favorite, Strong Bad.
The Cool Game for Attractive People - you want to be one of those, right? - offers five episodes' worth of subversive fun that's a bit like Monkey Island laced with geek-friendly Internet humor from the early days of Web 2.0. If that all sounds a little meta for your tastes, there's also Telltale's Monkey Island reboot.
Do you like Tetris? Good to know, but hey, do you like parties also? Well gee buddy, that's just great, because here's Hudson Soft with a Tetris game that's built for parties. What kind of parties might one expect the seminal Russian puzzler to initiate? You may be surprised.
Besides the obvious sit-on-your-keister-sorting-falling-blocks challenge that's conjured by the word Tetris (and possibly banished by the word Party), Tetris Party incorporates numerous online and local multiplayer modes to keep things fresh. These include speed challenges, worldwide Hudson-organized tournaments, and full-body, I-can't-believe-it's-healthy gameplay which utilizes the forwards-compatible Wii Balance Board.
Platform puzzler Toki Tori has been quietly building steam since 1994, when MSX developer Fony offered a tight little computer-style platformer called Eggbert up into the world. Despite failing to unseat Mario or Sonic, Eggbert's adventure had enough traction that when Fony staff reformed as Two Tribes BV, the newly-minted developer elected to revisit its creation with Game Boy Color title Toki Tori.
A populace enamored of the brand-new Game Boy Advance--not to mention somewhat distracted on the game's original launch date of September 12, 2001--let the title sink into semi-obscurity, from which point it spent the next decade clawing its way back to prominence. Skip forward to now and the authentically taxing platformer has an enthusiastic following across a wealth of platforms, of which the Wii's 2.5D iteration is one of the strongest.
World of Goo
If you didn't pick up World of Goo when it came offered as part of the premiere Humble Indie Bundle, right your error immediately with prompt purchase and enthusiastic embrace of this uniquely addictive architecture-puzzler.
Yes indeed, you might start World of Goo expecting a diverting jaunt through a gelatinous fantasy realm; but before you know it, you're immersed in a reality-bending story of living blobs trapped inside a sentient spam-filter, fighting for escape by teaching you to become a master of structural engineering. By the time you've rescued the adorable little gummies from any number of dire fates, you'll have a new respect for the struggles of architects and jellybeans alike.
Raise our a-ware-ness now!
There's 15 titles you can safely get stuck into immediately, but what other games have piqued your interest? WiiWare veterans, which other titles ought Nintendo converts pick up on their first weekend with the Wii U?