With the Wii U itself being the only backwards compatible console of this generation (unless you count PSNow…which you shouldn’t), It makes sense for Nintendo to begin offering some of it’s amazing title backlog to new console owners via it’s online store.
Luckily, they have decided to begin the process of doing just that, and in fabulous fashion. Over the past few months, Nintendo has been rolling out downloadable versions of some of the Wii’s best, with Punch Out, Mario Galaxy 2, and The Metroid Prime Trilogy kicking things off (and for an amazing price I might add).
If this becomes a trend, it would be wonderful to see a whole host of Wii Games recieve a digital release, as some of its more niche, but still noteworthy titles have become rare in physical format, or just didn’t get the notoriety and exposure that they deserved. While a lot of the Wii’s best have found new iterations of the Wii U, such as Smash Brother’s, Mario Kart, and Monster Hunter, there are still plenty of reasons to go back that you might have missed. In no particular order, here’s a few I think deserve the digital treatment.
1. Rhythm Heaven Fever
With over 50 level, stunning visuals, and some of the most elegantly simple gameplay I’ve ever experienced, Rhythm Heaven Fever is easily one of the best Nintendo games ever made, and a personal favorite. Each challenge is so easily explained that anyone, regardless of their video game skill level, will enjoy picking up the controller, perfectly personifying the entire purpose of the console.
All you have to do is keep the rhythm, tapping A (or sometimes A+B!) along with the music. It may seem like something that would wear out its welcome, lacking the nuance and skill that a game like Guitar Hero would offer, but this limiting of input is what makes Rhythm Heaven shine. It’s not about fancy controls or memorization, its about feeling the Rhythm, getting in the groove, bobbing your head and tapping your feet. Each mini game is a joy to experience, with a visual style and musical score so delightfully infectious, you’ll want to play each of them over and over again. With the 2015 release of a new Rhythm Heaven for the 3DS, there’s no better time to acquaint a wider audience with one of the most charming games ever.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
An obvious inclusion. Twilight Princess continued the tradition of excellence begun by Ocarina of Time, bringing some of the best 3D Zelda content to both the Wii and The Gamecube. It’s packed to the gills with some of the best exploring, combat, and puzzles that the series has ever offered, and with a marvelous visual style and a fun cast of characters to boot. What I love so much about the Zelda series is that each title never feels outdated by its contemporaries. Every single game, including the gameboy titles, have their own charm, and a clear reason to be explored and enjoyed by every fan. They all have a place within the canon that validates them as timeless entries in a stellar collection. Having never owned an original Wii, Twilight Princess was the first game I completed on my Wii U, and I spent hours exploring every inch of that game, collecting all the heart pieces, skulltulas, and insects. If you haven’t played this game, go do so. It’s a worthy part of Zelda History.
3. Donkey Kong Country Returns
Despite its rerelease on the 3DS being an arguably definitive version of the game, Donkey Kong Country Returns deserves all the exposure it can get. Retro Studios, also responsible for the groundbreaking Metroid Prime Series, has done a wonderful job of continuing where Rare Studios left off over 15 years ago. The DKC titles have been a favorite of mine since childhood, and it gave me goosebumps to see a game that was able to recapture those nostalgic feelings while also coming into its own in fabulous fashion.
It’s a truly remarkable feat to make a platformer that feels so original. For the uninitiated, DK’s shambling pace and massive momentum may be a bit off putting initially, but once you master the mechanics of the roll technique, you’ll be amazed how much fun he is to control. It’s sequel Tropical Freeze is one of the best titles available for the Wii U right now, so there’s no reason not to revisit this game.
4. Fortune Street
If you like Monopoly, prepare to adore Fortune Street. A Strange mash up of Mario and Dragonquest characters cast this adorably fast paced game of investments and property management. While not everyone’s cup of tea, Fortune Street offers an amazing experience for those who are willing to let it.
The digital format allows the addition of complex mathematics to a game like Monopoly, as sums and percentages too tedious to figure out on paper are easily dealt with by the computer. You can invest in opponent’s properties, refurbish your own, buy and sell stock, and get fully involved in a nail biting race for financial domination. Throw in all your favorite Nintendo and Square Enix characters, and you’ve got a game that will bring your inner capitalist hours of enjoyment.
5. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland
Who doesn’t love Kirby? The kind of people that don’t just melt at the sight of that little pink gumball are the kind of people you don’t need in your life. Call them up and tell them to hit the bricks. Once you’ve appropriately culled your social circle, pick three of the people that still remain. Call them up, sit them down, and get ready to play one of the most adorable games ever conceived. Kirby’s titles, while never too harsh on the difficulty, offer a spectacular sense of fun and wonder. From the music, to the visuals, to the level design, it all just feels exciting and fresh, and the copy mechanics offer a ton of diversity and variation to your arsenal.
Even though more experienced players will handily breeze through most of the game’s easier levels, you never get the sense that you’re playing a game for children. If a game like Super Meat Boy is a wild drag race through the bowels of hell, Kirby is a pleasant train ride through a field of wildflowers. As much as I love Meat Boy, I can’t deny that sometimes it just feels wonderful to pop in a kirby game and get lost in a world of whimsy for a few hours. Coupled with some great co-op mechanics and a host of fun side games, you and your friends will have tons to do and see on your quest through Dreamland.
6. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
I don’t have a ton to say about this one…cuz I haven’t played it. But that’s the point I’m trying to make here. If you don’t know about this game, or why it would deserve a digital rerelease, I urge you to go look it up on amazon or any other competitive game retailer’s website. See that price tag? Yeah. Why this game is so scarce is a mystery to me entirely. Considering the popularity of the series and the continued inclusion of it’s protagonist, Ike, in the Smash Bros. Series, it’s a shame that it doesn’t have the exposure it deserves.
Fire Emblem, for those who of you who haven’t played it, is a turn based strategy RPG famous for it’s character development, addictively rewarding gameplay, and harsh perma-death mechanics. It’s had a bit of a complicated relationship with the Western Market, but its latest iteration on 3DS, Fire Emblem: Awakening, was an unmitigated success, bringing in new western fans in droves. For series completionists like myself, a cheap downloadable alternative to the limited physical version would be a great way to celebrate the series’ older titles.
7. Resident Evil 4
This one’s a bit sneaky. While Resident Evil 4 is originally a title for the Nintendo Gamecube, it did receive a port to the Wii including new motion control gameplay (don’t worry, you can use a classic controller). If that version is anywhere near as good as the original, undoubtedly one of the greatest games ever made, then it’s a no-brainer for a digital release. Keiji Inafune is a master of his craft, and the feeling of suspense and adrenaline pounding fear that RE4 can elicit is palpably addictive. It found a balance between the series combat and puzzle adventure elements that highlights both perfectly.
All those elements feel in sync, and the atmosphere created by the game’s setting and characters adds to the overwhelming feeling of dread and hopelessness you’ll start to crave. Gunning down hoards of attackers with a never ending hellfire of bullets has it’s undeniable attraction, and its understandable that big budget modern games would want to grant you that power fantasy…but for my money, there’s no feeling quite like tactically dispatching enemies with nothing but your own cunning and a few well placed bullets.
8. Wario Ware: Smooth Moves
Wario Ware… a line of games so brilliantly absurd that they singlehandedly validate one of the most unlikeable characters in the Mario Universe. Much like Radiant Dawn, this is a title I’m hoping for based entirely on its scarcity in physical formats. I don’t have a ton of experience with this particular version, and a cheap way to support the series would be greatly appreciated. I love Wario Ware. I love Wario Ware. I looooooooove Wario Ware.
This one falls into the same category as Rhythm Heaven. A series so seemingly bereft of complexity that you’ll be amazed how well its executed. Everything is simple, simple controls, simple ideas, simple mechanics, but with tons of character and fun. Wario Ware games are the ultimate in group insanity. Getting friends together to see who can perform some of the most bizarre and whacky mini games imaginable.
There’s no tutorials, no explanations of control schemes, just a quick statement of objective, a simple task, and a rapidly depleting timer stand between you and ultimate victory. It should also be mentioned that the art style, writing, and character design of this series are all top notch. Just give me a way to buy this game without paying some Ebay price gouger 70 dollars….*sigh* Did I mention that I love Wario Ware?
9. Super Paper Mario
In the long running tradition of Nintendo shoving Mario into just about every genre of game they can get him in, Paper Mario has to be considered one of the more successful examples. The series is a fan favorite, and justifiably so. The writing, mechanics, and visual style of this turn based RPG series are always inventive, charming, and dynamic. Super Paper Mario, whilst being the only title in the series I have very little experience with, is considered to be a worthy addition by many.
While it’s disc release is still pretty easily obtained, not cursed with the same inflated price that some of the rarer Wii titles do now, I’d still love to dive further into it on the Wii U. It seems like a game that would be perfect to play on the gamepad screen. Super Paper Mario added a deeper level of platforming to the series, as well as the introduction of a changeable viewing angle, allowing the player to switch between a side-scroller and 3rd person view. It’s an impressive experiment, and one I’d love to enjoy further.
10. Muramasa: The Demon Blade
To call Muramasa a visual feast would be a drastic understatement. Every inch of this game is stunning. Backgrounds are elegantly detailed, character design and animation is fresh, and the eerie Japanese mythology theme make everything this game has to offer so well presented that you’ll be willing to forgive it for some of its shallower aspects. It plays a little bit like a metroid-vania style brawler, pitting you against enemies in sword based combat.
Some of it’s mechanics don’t always gel perfectly, but it’s still a joy just to see it in action. I’m including this one because it seems as if it didn’t get the exposure it deserved. My time with it is admittedly limited, but I enjoyed what I saw and relish the idea of getting back to it soon. A game this visually impressive deserves to be seen, and with the boost in resolution it will recieve from HDMI connection, it would be wonderful to see it make it’s way onto the Wii U (of course, you can also play it on the vita…but still).
The Wii receives a lot of flack for being a console bereft of worthwhile titles, and that led a lot of it’s better games to obscurity. With Nintendo reintroducing them via their eShop, a ton of new fans could be exposed to these titles. I love knowing that there’s effort being put into preserving these games for the people who want to play them, and while many of the Wii’s great games were just iterations of still active franchises with newer, more advanced titles, There are a few games on the Wii that can’t be improved by simply adding a number, and deserve to been seen as true classics of gaming history.
What do you guys think? Are there some games you think I’ve forgotten? Feel free to post your favorites in the comments.
Oh, and if you’d like to point out that I forgot Skyward Sword…I didn’t.