Ever since the days of the Super NES, Sony and Microsoft had been outselling all of Nintendo’s consoles via the PlayStation and the Xbox. The GameCube had come out a year before Satoru Iwata became Nintendo’s new president, and he wanted to do something to take back the console war with its successor.
In 2004, Iwata announced the system code-named Revolution, which would take a cue from the Nintendo DS and appeal to a wide range of people who were not traditional gamers.
Where Sony and Microsoft were focusing on power, Nintendo would be focusing on new experiences, and they came through with a game console the likes of which were never seen before.
Instead of an intimidating controller with a million buttons, the Revolution would have a controller that felt more like a remote control.
The remote would have the power of motion control when waved in front of the motion sensor placed near the television, allowing for players to control what happens in the game via movement.
The console would also have online functions. When turned on, the home menu would feature rows of “channels” that could be clicked on to get news, check the weather, take photos, and when you’re ready, play a game.
In 2006, the system’s name was revealed: Wii (as in “we,” as in “we all play together”), and everyone who played it could create an avatar, which was called a Mii, so as to distinguish which friend or family member was playing, allowing the Wii to track status individually.
Your Mii would be featured in many games, including the console’s pack-in title Wii Sports. Wii Sports was a collection of five sports games: Baseball, Bowling, Boxing, Golf and Tennis, all played using motion control. It was a revolutionary way of playing video games that was fun and easy. So easy that even grandparents got into it, and the Wii had entered the mainstream, Nintendo’s most successful console since the NES.
Other Wii games include Wii Play (2006), which was a collection of even more fun motion-controlled Mii games, Wii Fit (2007), which came with a balance board that could track your movement as you performed aerobic activities and tried to lose weight, and Wii Music (2008), which was Shigeru Miyamoto’s answer to games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, albeit a lot more mellow than the average rhythm game, allowing players to improvise their own melodies while listening to tunes.
Super Mario Galaxy (2007) was the most innovative three-dimensional Mario platformer since Super Mario 64. The idea of navigating a spherical planet hadn’t been implemented so perfectly before. Level designs were creative and surreal, even more so in the fantastic 2010 sequel Super Mario Galaxy 2. The Wii remote could even be used to aid Mario in 2-player mode by aiming at the TV screen and shooting at enemies before they attack him.
In addition to Galaxy, among Nintendo’s best Wii games are The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Wario Land: Shake It!, Xenoblade Chronicles, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Super Paper Mario, Punch-Out!! and WarioWare: Smooth Moves.
As with most of Nintendo’s hardware, the most popular Wii games came from Nintendo itself, despite the existence of many high-quality third-party titles like Steven Spielberg’s family-friendly collaboration with Electronic Arts, Boom Blox, not to mention No More Heroes, A Boy and His Blob, Madworld, Rayman Origins, Sonic Colors, Little King’s Story and Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure.
The successor to the Wii was the Wii U (2012), which had a bit more of a complex interface. It featured an iPad-like controller which allowed you to play games on your television and your controller (sometimes at the same time) which made for some creative mechanics but was a bit too confusing for the mainstream.
Even though Nintendo had overestimated the Wii brand, the Wii U was not without some great software, including Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Wii Sports Club, Wii Fit U, ZombiU, and some amazing entries in the Monster World, Bayonetta and Pikmin series.
The Nintendo DS and the Wii showed skeptics that Nintendo still knew how to revolutionize gaming, but many hardcore gamers felt like their mainstream appeal left them in the dust in favor of games that were too easy and simple. I counter that these people are not looking hard enough for great games, but reputation is everything in society, and DS and Wii were seen as the consoles for kids, while PlayStation and Xbox were seen as the consoles for adults.
Nintendo now had a new goal for its next system: win back hardcore gamers.
The Wii had some fun titles. Catering to the mainstream over hardcore gamers did hurt them when the Wii U came out. On the plus side the Switch seems to be winning back the gamers who left Nintendo during the U era.
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