With Wii U now released for some time and beginning to pick up on the release front, it’s time for us to get all nostalgic and look back over the period when the Wii became a worldwide phenomenon against the expectations of many. It has had its share of troubles, a struggle to gain acceptance among the enthusiast community and largely shunned by third party developers. Nonetheless it did develop a tremendously diverse library, certainly a lot more diverse than the Gamecube achieved, and the efforts of Nintendo’s big hitting first-party properties, by and large, remained strong.
But what else was there, tucked away out of sight in places many gamers have not searched? Plenty which, while lacking the razzmatazz found in titles on its more powerful rivals, still provided a wealth of amazing gaming treats. If you’re looking to find something to play before the PS4 and XboxOne hit, or are tempted to take the plunge now the Wii is dirt cheap and are wondering what the console actually has on offer, here are a selection of gems you might otherwise pass up.
Released at launch and lost among the hubbub of Wii Sports, copies of Excite Truck are now extremely hard to come by. But if you do find one, and are a fan of old fashioned arcade over-the-top racers, then this is a game for you. It is a unique racer in that simply winning is not enough to progress to the next stage. The aim is to collect stars by performing outrageous stunts, making difficult manoeuvres, and bashing opponents out of the way, while trying to finish at the head of the pack for maximum bonus stars. It’s a system that rewards bold driving. Add into the equation tracks which shift, rise and dip when you collect special tokens, and the race descends into what can only be described as organised chaos. Yet underneath it all is a solid racer where balance and positioning is just as important as raw speed. It is a shame that many dismissed it due to its cheapish graphics and lack of online. What is equally a shame is how the sequel Excitebots (with online) never made it to Europe.
Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure
One genre many hoped would see a renaissance on the Wii was the old point-and-click adventure. With a pointer controller it seemed like common sense. And when Zack and Wiki appeared early on in the consoles life many hoped it would be the first of many. Lamentably it was not, though that does not stop what is perhaps the weirdest named title of this generation revelling in a spot of good ol’ fashioned puzzle-based adventuring. Don’t let the cutesy graphics dissuade you; the puzzles are fiendish and require a lot of thought to solve. In some respects it feels like a precursor to the Professor Layton games. So if you like a game that will leave you harrumphing over a seemingly indecipherable puzzle then you can’t find much fault with it.
Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies
A follow up to the cult Treasure and Nintendo classic from the N64 days, and one which utilises the leap in power to the full. The sequel to the Japan only Sin and Punishment continues much in the same vein as the first, echoing the spirit of sidescrolling shooters for which Treasure are renown. The screen swarms with enemies and is filled by massive bosses, and the reflexes of a mongoose are needed to get to the end of each level. This is not a game for the faint of heart. It’s a tricky proposition even for the seasoned pro. But stick with it for an experience that is as rewarding as it is challenging.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Anyone who has picked up and enjoyed the recent Fire Emblem: Awakening on 3DS will find plenty to entertain them here. It plays a lot like every other Fire Emblem game that came before, and consequently offers the same intense turn based strategy. The series’ unique permadeath mechanic returns, though for the first time a save button is added so that if you make a silly tactical move you can always turn the game off faster than a BBC Saturday teatime game show. It has other unique elements such as units who can transform into beasts for a limited time, after which they are vulnerable to attack, adding another dimension to your unit placement. It is a direct sequel to the Gamecube instalment, so it’s perhaps a little inaccessible to those unfamiliar with the series, but it remains an entertaining, and tough, slice of strategy.
Wario Land Shake
Odd to think, given the success of the New Super Mario Bros. series, that it was his yellow wearing, money grabbing rival who got on the 2D platforming scene first. The first Wario Land in yonks was scrumptious to look at; comparisons to it looking like an interactive cartoon were this time merited. Levels were large and many of the unique attributes of the Wario Land series remained present, such as his trademarked shoulder barge attack and the aim of collecting as much swag as possible. While it may lack the polish and replay factor of Mario’s games, this is still a great slice of side scrolling action from a period where they had become something of a rarity. It’s a real completionists dream, with plenty to collect and nooks and crannies to explore.
Red Steel 2
Red Steel was the game that caught everyone’s attention when the Wii was first unveiled. Pity then it was as dull as it was broken. Its sequel had a troubled development period, during which it underwent a complete identity switch from modern day Japan to a steampunk fusion of western gunplay and samurai duelling. It’s a shame many did not give the sequel a chance based on these factors, because it was a vast improvement. Switching between shooting and slicing with a mere button press, it contained the pin point controls and fast paced physical activity that we imagined the Wii would provide when first unveiled. As it is, Red Steel 2 stands apart as what might have been had others taken the console seriously. It’s not perfect by any means, and it has no multiplayer to extend its lifespan. But it remains a thoroughly enjoyable single player romp and does enough to make you feel like a katana-wielding cowboy badass.
Curious, given all the weird furore over Bayonetta 2 ending up on Wii U, that Platinum Games debut title was for Wii. Mad World was bonkers. Set in a black and white world interspersed with splatters of red blood, it was gratuitously, comically violent. It is a beat-em up where using the surrounding world to inflict an agonising death is rewarded with bonuses and combo chains. As you progress through the gladiatorial arenas you’ll encounter bizarre minigames like human darts, baseball and golf, where people’s heads and other limbs are used as point scoring implements. Not exactly in keeping with the Wii’s family friendly image. Its black and white art style grates a little towards the end, so too the repetitive combat, but its dark humour will see you through. The game is worth it for the Greg Proops and John DiMaggio commentary alone.
So anyways, there are a couple of recommendations for you. Remember you can play these on your Wii U as well, in case you’ve bought one and need something to play until Nintendo’s big hitters arrive this winter. Have I missed any game you consider an overlooked gem? Give us a bell with your selections.