Nothing lasts forever. Nintendo fans are learning this the hard way with the upcoming end of the Wii’s digital games store. The Wii Shop Channel was the big N’s first gateway to digital gaming. While it started out with a slew of old games via Virtual Console, 2008 kicked off the WiiWare category, where original Wii games could be downloaded to the console from the Shop Channel.
A month from now however, you’ll no longer be able to put money into the Shop Channel to buy games. Your purchased games will remain available until 2019 but you better hurry if you want to get anything from the shop. Do you still have your Wii around? Want to put it to use and buy some games you hadn’t considered before? Well, hopefully this article will help! This is going to be a list of personal recommendations from yours truly. Their qualities may differ from one another but tastes are always different; there’s bound to be something here for you to enjoy.
Shin’en Multimedia’s Games
One baffling aspect of making something for WiiWare is that the game file can’t exceed 50 MB. It’s a miracle such a puny filesize didn’t put off as many developers as it could have. However, Shin’en Multimedia took this filesize into account and gave it the middle finger. The programming geniuses over there managed to put together games that would have had significantly larger file sizes if not for some clever compression techniques that got the games to fall under 50 MB. I’m talking about Jett Rocket and Fast Racing League. These two games are bosses in their own right.
Jett Rocket‘s a 3D platformer that takes clear inspiration from Super Mario Galaxy, the polish in its graphics to the responsive nature of its run ‘n jump gameplay. It’s obviously not as great as what critics dub the best 3D platformer ever, but still offers its own fun brand of level design and collectibles to look out for. Getting to hover with the jetpack also adds a refreshing variable to the game’s platforming mechanics.
Fast Racing League is the F-Zero-ish game you never knew you wanted. There’s a reason why this game has sequels on the Wii U and Nintendo Switch: People realized they wanted it. The hook with Fast Racing League is that it’s a quickly-paced racer with futuristic-looking hovercrafts a la F-Zero, but with an extra mechanic to use to your advantage. This mechanic involves color-changing, and it is the main mechanism for avoiding hazards of an opposite color and boosting from panels that share the same one. The result is a game that, while has its inevitable trial and error bits, is sure to satisfy hardcore racers’ cravings.
Konami’s ReBirth Series
Yes, Konami was still a games publisher back when WiiWare was in its heyday! Their best entries consist of new installments inspired by old-school franchises from their disposal. Contra: Rebirth, Gradius: Rebirth, and Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth are all modern classics that deserve to be played if you’re a fan of any of these series. My personal favorite is Castlevania; it may be a remake of a rather dull Game Boy game, but it is such a great 2D Castlevania experience that it’s not really possible to tell.
Licensed video games are never good…Unless they are executed as well as these. Admittedly these aren’t the most ideal versions to pick up since they are available on other platforms for cheaper. Still, TellTale Games is noteworthy for bringing Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People and Tales of Monkey Island to WiiWare episode by episode. Both games are point ‘n click adventures that rely on humorous scripts (This was before TellTale focused on top-tier licenses and darker storylines) and clever puzzles. Strong Bad is the best game that could have ever come out out of the Homestar Runner body of work, and Monkey Island is the comeback fans have waited oh-so-many years to see.
Mega Man 9 & 10
If there was anything that popularized the idea of bringing an old franchise back to its roots, it’s the Mega Man entries on WiiWare. Mega Man 9 was an amazing new entry that harnessed everything that was great about the classic NES Mega Man games. Created by the same people that did the Mega Man Zero games (and went on to do the Azure Striker Gunvolt and Mighty No. 9 games), Mega Man 9 felt exactly like the oldschool platforming gauntlet that the franchise has been known for. Mega Man 10 was more of the same, but in a way that was welcomed by the community.
Retro City Rampage
Released on other platforms years ahead of its strangely delayed WiiWare release, Retro City Rampage is one of the last great games to ever be on Wii. Combining retro aesthetics with classic Grand Theft Auto, this game is an affectionate parody and embodiment of the ’80s. From the various situations Player winds up in to references galore, Retro City Rampage is an 8-Bit content-crammed thrill ride.
Excitebike: World Rally
Over the years, it seemed like Nintendo wasn’t sure how to use the Excite name after the release of Excitebike. They did make a sequel to Excitebike for the Nintendo 64, but it was this realistic motocross game that only related to the series in name only. Then games like Excite Truck and Excitebots come in to loosen the meaning of the prefix even more.
Folks, Excitebike: World Rally is a tried-and-true Excitebike game. It plays like the NES original but with modern improvements that make it much more fun. There are Grand Prix modes that allow you to play a series of courses, a level editor with track sharing, and there was even online play before the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service was unfortunately shut down.
Alien Crush Returns
Combining pinball with science fiction, Alien Crush Returns must have been the result of its predecessors gaining popularity through Virtual Console. There’s a mode that plays out like regular pinball, but arguably more interesting is the one where you play through a series of levels that ends with a boss battle against an alien leader.
Bubble Bobble Plus
This one’s a no-brainer if you loved the original game in arcades or on home consoles. It’s an addictive arcade platformer that can be played with friends locally. Shooting enemies with bubbles and popping them afterwards is as fun as ever; with the new levels being playable by up to four people, the fun can only be further shared.
The Bit.Trip Series
This indie series kicked off on WiiWare, and has become a collective mainstay in the public eye since. Each of the five games here (Bit.Trip Beat, Bit.Trip Fate, Bit.Trip Flux, Bit.Trip Runner, Bit.Trip Core) are fun twists on simple arcade-like gameplay formulas. Backed by its excellent rhythmic timings and stylistic graphics, the series as a whole is an entertaining set of energetic throwbacks to games of old.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1
Granted, it’s not quite as good as the Genesis/Mega Drive games that inspired it or the recent masterpiece that is Sonic Mania. However, I still think Sonic 4: Episode 1 is remarkably solid as the video game it is. Obviously intending to hop on the revival train Mega Man 9 set, Sonic 4: Episode 1 provides a healthy set of levels to blaze through. Many of the levels have their own little gimmicks that make things interesting, and the challenge to collect all seven Chaos Emeralds remains an incentive to master the Special Stages and Sonic’s platforming abilities. It’s not a Sonic fan’s Sonic game, but it is a fun 2D Sonic game.
Mr. Driller W
Although lacking some features of a typical retail Mr. Driller game, Mr. Driller W still contains the fast-paced puzzler action the series is known for. Drilling through the colorful blocks can be quite the ongoing challenge, but collecting air packs and reaching as far as possible makes the overall experience rewarding in the long run. If you haven’t gotten into the series yet, W isn’t a bad place to start.
WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase
WarioWare D.I.Y. is this Nintendo DS spin-off of the WarioWare series where you get to make your own microgames for other people to play. This WiiWare counterpart has selections of its own microgames for you to play and download onto the DS game. You can treat it like a typical WarioWare game or put your newly created microgames onto the Wii to play on the TV.
Tomena Sanner is easily the weirdest game of the bunch, but that’s all part of its charm. In this auto-runner, you press A right before colliding with an object to avert said collision in a ridiculously over-the-top fashion. Although on the short side, this game contains plenty of delicious craziness while it lasts! Definitely give this one a look if you’re into off-the-wall Japanese humor.