On the best-selling consoles list, the Wii has a solid lock on third place behind Sony’s PS2 and PS1. It rocketed to success on the back of mainstream attention due to its novel motion controls that literally anyone (with an arm) could pick up and play.
Catering to the casual audience and forcing motion controls into games caused Nintendo PR problems with hardcore gamers ever since. But looking back, there were some damn good ideas during Nintendo’s second gaming golden age.
Historically, Nintendo’s greatest strength has been designing controllers that are copied for years after. Their NES design was the first to place the d-pad on the left and buttons on the right; a staple we still see today. The SNES shoulder buttons are another innovation that no modern controller would ever leave out. The N64’s third leg was ghastly, but again, no modern controller would be caught dead without an analog stick. The N64 controller also placed a large emphasis on the z-button as a trigger, a precursor to the heavy trigger-button usage seen today.
While I absolutely hated forced gyro controls and waggle, I enjoyed playing Wii Bowling with my non-gamer family. I also really enjoyed the nunchuck’s separation from the main remote for lounging on the couch. Just last night I was wishing my PS4 controller could break in half while I played/watched Tales from the Borderlands.
3 Marios and 2 Zeldas!
Only the NES matched this incredible output of Nintendo’s best franchises. The N64 and Gamecube had 2 Zs and an M, and the Wii U had 2 Ms and Breath of the Wild.
This was common on other consoles of the era (PS3/360) as the lifecycle of that generation was elongated. A world-wide recession and struggling to find the next step after HD will do that.
Metroid Prime Trilogy
Yes I know the first two originally released on the Gamecube, but the third game and trilogy were available for the Wii as well as backwards compatibility with GC disks.
Metroid is arguably the most important Nintendo franchise after Mario and Zelda. For some, it’s their #1. Metroid and Super Metroid created a genre and pushed gaming into a more mature direction. Using ambience to feel alien in an alien world was lightyears away from the colorful and inviting worlds gamers were used to seeing.
Taking the series to 3D was scoffed at by many, but the new take on the franchise became a classic series of its own. Shifting the viewpoint to first-person increased the immersion and isolation. One of the best transitions in gaming history.
The virtual console has lost its luster over the generations due to Nintendo’s anti-consumer habit of asking customers to re-buy dinky ROMs.
At the time however, it was a wonderful concept to have your entire Nintendo collection on one console. Tilting the wiimote sideways for classic NES play was a clever move as well. Since a sizable percentage of the Wii audience had probably not played games since the NES, it was an extra incentive to buy a machine that combined everything they liked about gaming.
Nintendo could get away with charging another small transfer fee to bring the ROMs forward yet again, but it will hurt their image with core gamers once again. It seems like a no-brainer to institute a Netflix-esque subscription service, especially since the older games are so ridiculously small in size.
Unfortunately, when we see their online service will offer a pitiful one-free-rental-per-month, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be too progressive in this area.
Many non-gamers refer to all gaming as “Nintendo”. The Wii aimed directly at that audience and won them back. Nintendo became more niche with the SNES, N64, and Gamecube, but the Wii was everywhere. It brought Nintendo back to the mainstream as the one console everyone seemed to know about.
After the Wii U failed miserably to form its own identity, can the Switch do the same?