Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wii Game Holiday Gift Guide

I’ve been promising this for awhile, but at long last, here is The Driver I.D.’s Wii Holiday Game guide. Not too long ago, I emailed a few friends about The Driver I.D., telling them about the blog, that I was writing for it, and that they should check it out. One response I got back was from my lifelong friend and barber, Bill, who recently just got a Wii. He asked me to tell him which games were good now that he had a system. I decided then that since there are several people getting Wiis now that the supply is not as limited as past holiday seasons, I should do an article for such folks. So I decided to do a “Wii Gift Guide” to let Bill and others know what games are worth your time & money. Of course, the holiday shopping season is coming to a close, but this guide is not just geared at last-minute shoppers. It’s intended to give new Wii owners an idea from Christmas on what games are available and worth investing in over time.

For the most part, I’m only reviewing games for top picks that I’ve played. However, I’ve played several Wii games and have some good recommendations of the cream of the crop. I’ve also included a section for some really good second-tier titles that are worth a look, either in quality, value or both. Yes, Wii Sports is a great place to start, but it comes right out of the box with the Wii. Where do you go from there? Here are some suggestions, and for you parents out there, I’ve included the ESRB Rating for each game. (The following games are not listed in any particular order.)

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

The ultimate Wii game. First off, this game may not be the best for young children—just ask my niece and nephew, aged 8 and 9, who hated it and found it too complex. However, for pre-teens on up, SSBB is a fantastic bargain of a game to own (and some even get fanatic about it). If you’ve never played a Smash Bros. game, they’re fighting games that pit Nintendo’s all-star characters (Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, Samus Aran, and many more) against each other in over the top fights. Adding to the mayhem are crazy items consisting of weapons and power-ups, most of them also taken from Nintendo games. There are numerous characters to play with, tons of levels, practically countless modes, including a new story mode, “The Subspace Emissary.” There’s so much to do, even I haven’t done or unlocked everything yet. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is practically a must-have game—especially if you have more than one player in your house. If not, you can play the game online with friends or random people online over the Wii’s Wi-fi online connection. Again though, this game is definitely for more “hardcore” gamers; though casual fans could definitely get into it, SSBB is geared at longtime Nintendo veterans.

Rated “T” for Teen

Mario Kart Wii

For those uninitiated to the Mario Kart series, let me give a quick breakdown: It’s go kart racing with weapons and power-ups, all of which usually attack players ahead, and it stars the characters from the Super Mario Bros. games. On top of that, it is very fun and addicting, and the original created a whole genre of mascot racers. OK, now that we’re all on the same page, I’ll say that Mario Kart Wii is definitely a worthy entry to the series, has online play, battle mode (which can only be played on teams for some reason this time around) and comes with the “Wii Wheel” –a peripheral of questionable worth (sometimes it’s cool to steer with it, sometimes it’s utter crap). The game itself has many tracks, both old and new—though despite this it feels like there could have been more variety. One last gripe is that the A.I. computer controlled players can be very vicious and cheap at higher difficulty settings. It doesn’t make progressing impossible, but it can make it annoying. That said Mario Kart Wii delivers a fantastic game with some cool features (like being able to drive with your Mii if you pass enough courses) and is an all around great time.

Rated “E” for Everyone


ExciteTruck doesn’t get much love, but it is definitely worth owning and a Wii game bursting with fun. For me, it goes down in history as the first video game my mom ever played—and she loved it! She was laughing as she steered and crashed her truck this way and that. You steer your truck using the Wii remote held sideways, like a steering wheel. In fact, because of this, the game works great with the Wii Wheel peripheral, but it’s by no means necessary. The best way to describe ExciteTruck is that it is an arcade racer; you can wreck other cars, there are power-ups that terraform the terrain, there’s huge jumps, turbo boosts, over-the-top stunts and crazy crashes. Following in the ExciteBike tradition, you’re racing up and over hills and utilizing turbo to get ahead—but if you turbo too much you’ll overheat. There’s fantastic multiplayer (for two players) and it’s one of the few games you can play your own music in-game through use of a SD Card. No online play, and the different tracks are in the same areas, but these are easily overlooked shortcomings. There’s lots of replay and I come back to play this one often. If you like racing games at all, ExciteTruck is a great choice for your new Wii. You never know, maybe you can get a non-gamer member of your family to be a crazy truck driver too!

Rated “E” for Everyone

Resident Evil 4

If you’ve played this game on other systems, then I don’t need to tell you how great Resident Evil 4 is. I played through the game a LOT on GameCube, but still bought the Wii version for the motion controlled aiming and extra features from the PS2 version. However, if you’ve never played this game and are a mature gamer, this should be on the top of your wish list. It’s a must have. RE4 was one of the best games of 2006, and it holds up today very well. It’s super good; very long, rewarding, scary, intense and features phenomenal graphics, gameplay, story and sound. You don’t even need to have played previous Resident Evil games to appreciate it. If you have played it before, maybe check out some other entries in this gift guide, but hey, it’s still worth buying again, and this time it’s cheaper (as low as $19.99!).

Rated “M” for Mature

The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess

Because The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was a Wii launch title, it may be getting overlooked by people who just purchased their Wiis. That’s a shame, because it is definitely one of the best Zeldas to date. This is due in part to the fact that it's very much like the N64 Zelda games, so if you’ve played any of those, you'll know what you're getting into. Twilight Princess is really cool with all kinds of great moments throughout, both gameplay and story wise. One new mechanic is that you can transform into a wolf, which can dig holes or track scents... Pretty neat. Also cool is that you can swing the Wii-remote which swings Link's sword in the game. There is also horseback combat, which is a really nice addition. There are several new items, a huge world to explore, and a quest that will take up several hours of your time. Don’t be fooled by the game’s slow start: Twilight Princess is a heck of a ride. It’s Zelda! Need I say more?

Rated “T” for Teen

Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy is by far one of the best Wii games and definitely a worthy entry in the Mario series. It's a lot like Mario 64, with Mario’s move set seemingly lifted directly from that game, except this time there’s crazy flying and gravity added to the mix. Many levels are like small planetoids, which you can literally walk "around." There are all kinds of crazy power-ups; Fire Mario makes a return and is joined by Bee Mario, Boo Mario & Ice Mario. It’s full of funny stuff and AMAZING gameplay, both traditional Mario style and some new innovative moves too. One of the coolest things about Super Mario Galaxy is that a second player can assist the first; it’s co-operative gameplay, but not in the way that you’d expect. Using the Wiimote, the second player can point and click on moving platforms, enemies or obstacles and stop them in their tracks. The second player can also pick up the countless star bits that pop up throughout levels simply by pointing at them. It makes the game a lot more fun, and perfect for family members who want to play together, but may not necessarily be gamers.

Rated “E” for Everyone

No More Heroes

Adults only! No More Heroes is a super violent, super fun, super WEIRD action game that looks like Grand Theft Auto but isn't (it takes place in a big city you can roam around on a rocket cycle but there are only a few places to go outside of missions, so it’s not quite a sandbox game) and has various 8-bit aesthetics sprinkled throughout. The premise is you're trying to get to the #1 spot of the top 10 assassins by killing your way to the top with a lightsaber like katana you won in an online auction. The game is divided into part time job mini-games (mowing lawns, filling gas tanks, catching kittens), which open assassin missions and both types of missions help pay for entry into the Ranked Assassin battles, or boss fights. The boss fights are all distinctive and spectacular. There are also some unique controller moves (swinging the remote in a certain direction to cleave a guy in two or chop off his head; holding the remote up to your ear to listen to a cell phone call), though most of the motion control while fighting comes from holding the remote up or down for high or low strikes. Again, it's very weird, but it's a very fun mature game & definitely one of my very favorite Wii games. I’m not alone; I’ve heard from two friends of mine that after playing No More Heroes, they’ve been unable to find a worthy follow up game on the Wii. Good thing there’s a sequel in the works… Plus, on top of all the goodness of No More Heroes, it’s available for $19.99! Don’t miss this excellent Wii exclusive!

Rated “M” for Mature

Wario Land Shake It!

Wario Land is a 2D side scrolling platformer with fluid animation starring Wario, the "Bizarro Mario." It's really fun with a lot of different challenges and treasures in each level that aren't necessary to proceed but add to the replay value a great deal if you try to get them all. There are motion controls, like shaking the remote to shake enemies or coins out of money bags, or gesturing quickly to slam the ground which stuns enemies and opens pathways. They work well and don't seem tacked on. The graphics are really cartoon like, the music is excellent and it's just an all around fun game. The game is best suited for fans of 2D platfomers and gamers who don’t mind a challenge. While playing with friends, I thought for a second the game may be too hard for kids, but then I remembered the games I played as a kid, and there’s no comparison; I had it a lot tougher back in the 8-bit era.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Wario Ware Smooth Moves

It’s another Wario game, but a completely different flavor than Wario Land: Shake It!. In my opinion, there is no other game other than Wario Ware Smooth Moves that takes advantage of the Wii’s new control style of motion sensing and uses it to its full potential. If you haven’t played a Wario Ware game before, they are basically collections of “micro games,” games that last about ten seconds (or less!) each which require you to do some task quickly and efficiently. Wario Ware Smooth Moves takes this formula and adds in motion control, and each level features a different way to hold or use the Wiimote. One has you hold the remote like an umbrella, straight up in your hand; another has you holding it on your nose like an elephant’s trunk. The really cool thing is that even after I’ve played a bunch of this game, every once in awhile when I pick it up again, I’ll be thrown a totally new micro-game. There’s a single player mode that has you go through multiple levels, but there’s multiplayer too that’s perfect for a party game, which has you doing different mini-games to see who will mess up first. There are also several mini-games that are unlocked along the way, including a upward scaling Brickout-type game and a 3D version of Balloon Fight where you must flap your arms to fly. The only downside to Wario Ware Smooth Moves? You’ll look ridiculous playing it, but you’ll be having too much fun to care.

Rated “E+10” for Everyone age 10 & up

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

The last in the Metroid Prime trilogy, and arguably the best. Mainly because despite the great controls in the previous two entries, with Metroid Prime 3, you can aim Samus’ arm cannon with the remote, giving the player a real sense of immersion. This works out so well, that Nintendo has announced they will re-release Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes for the Wii with this control configuration. The graphics are beautiful, the music is haunting, and the atmosphere (as seen from behind Samus’ visor) is through the roof. There’s a good story too, with Samus acquiring a powerful (yet dangerous) ability: to infuse her suit with Phazon energy, which empowers her yet corrupts her at the same time. While most of the game is really straightforward, there are some stumping puzzlers I encountered while playing. I was able to figure out most of them however. The combat in this title is amazing, and exciting, as the grapple beam can now be used to rip enemies’ shields away, leaving them defenseless. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption totally belongs in your Wii library, if you think you’re up to the challenge.

Rated “T” for Teen

Super Paper Mario

Is it a platformer, or is it an RPG? Well, Super Paper Mario is sort of both! Instead of having turn based battles, Mario attacks in typical Mario style, jumping and whatnot. However, there are shops and people to talk to along the way very much akin to an RPG. In fact, there is so much talking and text in the game, that some people have been turned off by the whole experience. However, the dialogue is filled with jokes which often make the game fun by being so funny and outrageous. Another aspect to Super Paper Mario is that while the game usually progresses on a 2D plane, sometimes Mario gets stuck. When this happens, he can switch the plane to 3D for a short time and find the solution to his obstacle. This makes the gameplay very unique, though things in the 3D realm are usually a bit drab. As long as you don’t mind reading (and trust me, you will be rewarded by some funny moments by doing so) and you love classic Mario gameplay, Super Paper Mario is a great game for you!

Rated “E” for Everyone


Okami is a beautiful game that originally debuted on PS2 back in 2006. Fans clamored for a Wii version with motion control, and Capcom delivered it this year. Okami has a unique cel shaded art style that looks like old Japanese paintings, and has the unique gameplay aspect of having to “paint out” attacks, pathways and other functions to get through the game. You play the wolf goddess Amateratsu confronting an ancient evil, imbued with the power of a magic paintbrush. It sounds crazy, but it works and is fun. Although reportedly the painting mechanic is trickier in Wii version over the original PS2 version, I haven’t found it too difficult at all. It’s a really great game, one of the best on Wii right now, and it’s an experience no gamer should miss. If you missed it on PS2 like I did, do yourself a solid and pick this one up. Another thing to note is that this title has been favorably compared to being a lot like the Zelda games—an honor very few games have been distinguished by.

Rated “T” for Teen

Boom Blox

Disregard the cutsesy animal characters that adorn this game’s box art; Boom Blox is one of the best party games I’ve played on Wii or anywhere else. So much so, I almost can’t picture playing it alone. What makes Boom Blox so great is that it is a collection of games that are meant to be played with a group. Whether you’re shooting targets, moving blocks, throwing a ball at a block tower to knock over different point blocks, or even playing a Jenga-like game of carefully removing blocks, there are hours and hours of fun to be had playing this game—just be sure to bring friends. And don’t be intimidated if you don’t have four Wii remotes, as Boom Blox allows you to use one remote among four people, just by passing it on, as turns take place one at a time. I’ve had an insane amount of fun playing Boom Blox and cannot recommend it enough.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure

Zack & Wiki has been tragically overlooked, and while it may not be “the must have killer app,” it is a really great game that’s worth your attention. Instead of being a platformer or shooter, Zack & Wiki is a point and click puzzle solving game. Each room is a giant puzzle, filled with potential death traps, which you must navigate carefully through to get the treasure. Puzzles range from very simple early on to incredibly difficult as the game progresses. The best way to play is with family and friends, as up to three other people can control Wiimotes to draw on the screen to point out things to try. Maureen and I have been playing it with our pal, Aaron over several months and it’s a very rewarding experience to figure puzzles out together. Trying a couple puzzles alone, I’ve been forced to write things down, or draw diagrams to figure them out. It’s been since the 8 bit era that I’ve had to do that, and it’s a great feeling. It’s got style and charm all its own, and you’ll need to flex your grey cells, and not your thumb reflexes, to make it to the end of this one. It’s a unique game and is available for a bargain price ($19.99), so definitely give it a chance. Some of the puzzles may be a little tough for younger gamers to play alone, but with some guidance, it’s a great way to stimulate critical thinking.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Other Games of Note

These are either games I have not played but have heard good things, or have played and think they aren’t the best, but deserve an honorable mention for one outstanding reason or another.

Wii Fit

I list this on here sort of as a joke—not because it’s not a great game that supposedly does successfully help you shed pounds with low impact exercise (there are many reports of people playing the game and having modest weight loss results). No, it’s sort of a joke for me to list this because unless you bought your Wii with a Wii Fit Bundle, there’s almost no way you’re going to find this for Xmas. Hopefully, in the months to come, Wii Fit will finally become more available to the public, much like the Wii console itself has. If you can find it without paying an arm and a leg, snatch it up! The game itself is supposedly good and effective, but also the Wii Balance Board is worth owning, as it is being increasingly used in several other games being made for the Wii.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Wii Play

It comes with a Wii Remote! How can you go wrong? With remotes costing $40 each, and Wii Play costing $50, you’re basically getting $10 worth of games (and I’ve even seen the game & remote offered on for a little bit cheaper). The games aren’t super-awesome-great, but are fun to dig up every once in awhile and are certainly better than many of the mini-games available in the countless shovelware Wii titles. There’s a Duck Hunt-like shooting gallery, a “Where’s Waldo” type of game with Miis, ping-pong, air hockey, a cow race and a fun tank game, along with a couple others, each using the Wii remote differently. Think of it as a Wii remote tutorial. A true bargain to be sure.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Wii Music

I’ve heard a lot of negative press surrounding Wii Music with its main complaint being that it isn’t your traditional music game. True, Wii Music is nothing like your average Rock Band or Guitar Hero title in that you’re not scored on how well you can play a song—there’s actually no real challenge in completing songs on Wii Music. But there are different ways to play along, with over 60 instruments to mimic playing through holding the Wii Remote and Nunchuck differently. Sure, this might make it dullsville to some, and many are calling the game “just for kids.” However, I’ve been watching more and more videos on the Nintendo Channel about Wii Music and I’m really interested in the game now. There are many different ways to play each instrument depending on which buttons you hold, and different ways to arrange songs, making the game a virtual musical playground. For those of you lucky enough to have Wii Fit, you can use the balance board as a kick drum and play a virtual drum set; moreover, the game includes “drum lessons” that teach you feet and hand independence—skills which could be transferred to a real life drum set. There are also mini-games, such as ringing bells and conducting an orchestra at any tempo you like. If you’ve got kids, Wii Music is definitely a good idea, but even older gamers might get a kick out of it too if they’re of the musical persuasion.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Link’s Crossbow Training

This game comes with the Wii Zapper accessory with the total package costing $24.99. While for me, the Wii Zapper is sort of like the Wii Wheel (love it sometimes, hate it others—especially with the superior Nyko Wii Pefect Shot out there) the game it comes with, Link’s Crossbow Training is a pretty nice, challenging little target game. There are bonuses to be had if you’re quick on the trigger, and the better you get, the more levels you unlock. Not the best shooting game (look for Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles and/or House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return for those—both zombie shooting gun games, both rated M for Mature), but it definitely prepares you to use the Wii Zapper in other shooting games, and overall, the Wii already has a few of them with more in the pipeline.

Rated “T” for Teen

Metal Slug Anthology

If you’re unfamiliar with the Metal Slug games, they’re side scrolling, platfomer shooters, with funny (and violent) cartoon animations. Metal Slug Anthology collects seven Metal Slug games on one disc. Awesome. Because of the sometimes brutal animation, this one is rated “T for Teen,” but it’s a great buy—especially now that Nintendo and SNK are releasing individual entries in the series (starting with Metal Slug 2 a couple weeks back) for Virtual Console at $9 a pop. Metal Slug Anthology on the other hand, can be found for $19.99. Good for short bursts of fun, old school gaming.

Rated “T” for Teen

Mario Party 8

This is a pretty awesome game, provided you have friends to play with and an afternoon to kill with it. There are many great mini-games that utilize motion controls, and some that don’t. I found myself playing this game a LOT for awhile with my wife and our friends, and now I haven’t touched it for nearly a year. There are just not enough levels (game boards) to keep it fresh over a long period of time, and the excitement wears off after a bit. That said, I played the game a bunch. Even still, I could see myself breaking this out rarely in the future, but with party games like Boom Blox, Wario Ware Smooth Moves and Wii Sports, there’s a good chance it’ll get looked over again too.

Rated “E” for Everyone

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga

If you haven’t played any of the LEGO Star Wars games, you’re missing out! LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga wraps up the two LEGO Star Wars games based on the two trilogies into one neat little package. It’s a lot of fun for the whole family. Honestly, the LEGO Star Wars series are some of the best (albeit wacky) Star Wars games I’ve ever played. You relive many memorable parts of the movies with major and minor characters alike, that the LEGO aspect isn’t even that noticeable. Plus, the price is only $19.99! May the Force be with you!

Rated “E+10” for Everyone age 10 & up

LEGO Batman

My niece and nephew may not like Super Smash Bros. Brawl but they are crazy for LEGO Games, and right now that means they’re up to their bat-ears in LEGO Batman. Batman's been in some really bad games, and this one seems to buck the trend despite the kiddy-spin to it. The really cool thing about the game is that while it’s lighthearted, it features nearly everyone in Batman’s supporting cast, and almost all of his rogues’ gallery—and you are able to play as many of these characters, whether they’re bad or good! There’s two player co-op and lots of fun here. If you haven’t been LEGOed out from the Star Wars and Indiana Jones games, definitely check this one out! If the quality of those games are any indication, LEGO Batman should be great. I haven't picked it up yet, but as a Bat-fanatic and a fan of the LEGO games thus far, I plan to pick it up in the new year.

Rated “E+10” for Everyone age 10 & up

de Blob

THQ’s de Blob has been a highly anticipated title, and from what the reviews are saying, it’s been worth the wait. In this unique game, you play as de Blob, it is your job to repaint an entire city that has had its color sucked from it by bouncing around town, colliding off of walls and splashing paint everywhere. The gameplay is top notch and includes a split-screen multiplayer mode. You’re bound to get carried away coloring in this addictive soon-to-be classic. I haven’t played it, but have only heard great things about it.

Rated “E” for Everyone

SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1

Much like Metal Slug Anthology, SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 brings back a bunch of old Neo Geo arcade games together for a cheap price ($29.99), while charging an arm and a leg for them individually over the Virtual Console. There’s some real classics to be had here including: World Heroes, King of the Monsters, KOF94, Samurai Showdown, Last Resort, Magician Lord, Art of Fighting, Burning Fight, Fatal Fury and 7 more games. Most of them are fighting games, but there is a platformer, a side-scrolling beat-'em-up, a shooter and a baseball game in there too. This may not be for your junior gamer, though for anyone who likes some of the best arcade games from last decade, it’s a steal!

Rated “T” for Teen

Rock Band 2

I haven’t played the Wii version of Rock Band 2; probably because it’s coming out this week. I’ve played both Rock Band games on Xbox 360 and loved them. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be interested in getting this title—even if you own either a PS3 or Xbox 360. Unlike the first Rock Band release for Wii, it has been confirmed that Rock Band 2 for Wii will have downloadable content songs and will eventually have all the songs of the other versions. From my understanding, Harmonix will also be releasing “Track Packs” that will add to your set and help the Wii version catch up with the set lists found on other consoles. One big advantage Rock Band 2 for the Wii has over its console brethren is that the game and instruments bundle are cheaper than for either PS3 or Xbox 360. Rock Band is a game that can make hours and hours vanish into thin air, and be the life of any party. With the recent news of DLC being available for Wii, I highly recommend it.

Rated “T” for Teen

Guitar Hero World Tour

Unlike Rock Band 2 where I’ve at least played the game on another system, I have yet to try Guitar Hero World Tour. Unlike other Guitar Hero games, this one seems to be taking its cues from the Rock Band franchise and including a drum set and microphone along with the standard guitar. Seeing as I don’t know much about it, I can’t speak to its quality or lack thereof, but I have heard good things. I thought that there was no downloadable songs for the Wii version (like Guitar Hero 3 on Wii), but it turns out there is; the downside is only single tracks can be downloaded at a time and some artists (or their ghosts) don’t like this, meaning not all of the songs will be available. I leave it to you, dear consumer, to research whether Rock Band or Guitar Hero is the music game you’re looking for on your Wii (many make these decisions on the songs available in each game). Personally, I’d go with Rock Band as its developer, Harmonix is the team that created the Guitar Hero franchise in the first place.

Rated “T” for Teen

Animal Crossing City Folk

I have yet to play Animal Crossing City Folk, though I have played the last two games, so believe me when I say I’m well versed in what the Wii version entails. Unless you’re a freak like me and have already played the GameCube and DS versions of Animal Crossing, you may want to skip out on City Folk, as apparently almost nothing has changed from the last go around. Still, it’s a fun game, where there’s no set objective. You can decorate and pay off your house, design clothes, catch fish and insects, plant gardens or run errands for your animal neighbors. Plus, the game changes with the seasons, so there’s always something new going on in your town. It’s a non-game, where you can just mess around, which is really nice sometimes. The big draw for me with this one is the Wii Speak Microphone that you can get for it, to talk to real-life friends of yours while visiting each others’ towns. Another cool aspect of the game is up to four people can live in your town—and this time everyone gets their own house. This makes it a perfect game to share with family and friends, as you can leave each other notes, send presents, or share furniture and other items with people you play with. I think this is the aspect of Animal Crossing I like the most, and I look forward to playing not only to visit family and friends’ towns, but to share a town with my wife, who has never played any of the Animal Crossing games before.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Don’t Forget the Virtual Console!

One of the best things about the Wii by far is its Virtual Console, which brings back games from the NES, Super NES, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, TurboGrafix 16, Nintendo 64, and Neo Geo to download. New games are added every Monday, though in recent months, it's been about one new game for the Virtual Console, along with a couple Wii Ware games. For more information on the Virtual Console and the games available for it, click here. Here’s some of my top picks of Virtual Console games currently available:

Kirby’s Adventure(NES, 500 points)

While Kirby had appeared on the Game Boy prior to this, this is his first console adventure. It was so simple, even my niece Katie could play it at a very young age. Kirby can fly, but his best known ability is his power to suck up enemies and copy them. He’ll need to use this to proceed through numerous levels. Kirby’s Adventure is a great platformer, with unique level & puzzle designs with mini-games sprinkled throughout. The music is delightful, and so is the gameplay.

Rated “E” for Everyone

River City Ransom(NES, 500 points)

While River City Ransom was not the first beat ‘em up sidescroller, it was one of the undisputed best for almost all time (dethroned perhaps, only by Castle Crashers just recently.) with its food item power-ups, street weapon arsenal and simple, yet effective control scheme. Not to mention classic lines of dialogue such as “WAAAAAAHHH!” and “BARF!” Seriously though, what makes River City Ransom such a great game for VC is that it is two-player and is perfect for the “save state” created when exiting the game to the Wii Menu. Although a little challenging, this was a classic back in the 8 bit days, and it’s still revered today with good reason.

Rated “E+10” for Everyone age 10 & up

Super Mario World(SNES, 800 points)

Super Mario World is the game that introduced the world to his ride able sidekick, Yoshi, though it offers up some really spectacular gameplay outside of dinosaur riding too. Another thing I like about SMW is that it is pure Super Mario Bros. action, though with a lot of bells and whistles (such as Yoshi and the most expansive baddie roster of any Mario game). Some say its derivative of Super Mario Bros. 3 and it is a bit, but this has got a bit more shine to it and is one of the better games of the 16-bit era. There’s also two player trade off gameplay, perfect for siblings to tackle the game together.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 800 points)

This is a must have on any and every Virtual Console. It’s a true sequel to the original Legend of Zelda gameplay (as in top down view with no jumping) with so many great additions, such as a Light and Dark World that must be toggled between to solve puzzles and the introduction of power ups that would become Zelda standards, such as the hookshot. The game’s colorful designs, spectacular gameplay, and epic soundtrack remain strong even for modern players, and it’s arguably one of the best Zelda games out there to date and one of the better action-RPGs available both then and now. And though it is a long adventure, it is one not overly difficult so even younger players can enjoy playing through it.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Super Metroid(SNES, 800 points)

If you’ve played any of the Castlevania games in the past ten years, then you’re familiar with the gameplay of Super Metroid. Super Metroid’s non-linear gameplay, stacking power-ups, immense boss fights, and a whole planet’s caverns to explore made this game a benchmark that has been much imitated since. It’s a true masterpiece that improved on the original Metroid by a great deal, and while it probably is not for the easily frustrated (as you’ll be backtracking a lot to look for new areas you’re able to access with each power up, though there is a map function that helps guide the way) it’s a classic game by every definition.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Gunstar Heroes(Sega Genesis, 800 points)

I’ve always called Gunstar Heroes the “anime Contra,” but it’s way more than that. Yes, it’s a two-player simultaneous co-op sidescrolling platformer shooter, though it has way more character than any Contra, with great animations and character design. The music is phenomenal, and the gameplay is great, with three types of guns, all of which can be used individually or criss-crossed for varying effect two at a time. When enemies get too close though, you’re able to disperse them with a judo-throw. Gunstar Heroes has selectable levels of difficulty, so things don’t get too hairy for novice gamers. Another one of the Virtual Console greats, Gunstar Heroes is a testament to why the development team is called Treasure.

Rated “E+10” for Everyone age 10 & up

Sonic the Hedgehog 2(Sega Genesis, 800 points)

Lots of kids like Sonic these days, but precious few have played any of his games that were actually good. While the first Sonic is alright, 2 adds sidekick Tails (and along with him, two player simultaneous co-op) and a great deal of polish, creating numerous memorable worlds and high speed antics. Worth a look if you’re unfamiliar with the original series and think you can handle high speed platforming.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Earth – (N64, import, 1200 points)

One of my favorite games ever and another demonstration to developer Treasure’s awesomeness. It’s an on-rails shooter with jumping and sword and gun play. Sin & Punishment is both mature and challenging, and the Virtual Console is the only way it’s been officially released in North America, which is why it costs a couple extra hundred points. Still, the menus are in English, and all the spoken dialogue was always in English. The game’s been slightly touched up graphically since its N64 incarnation too. It’s a little tricky (OK, maybe more than a little), but totally worth experiencing; it’s an all around phenomenal game.

I can’t recommend this game highly enough—besides, how else are you going to prepare for Sin & Punishment 2?

Rated “T” for Teen

F-Zero X - (N64, 1000 points)

The F-Zero series has long been a favorite of mine, with the original game for SNES injecting a frenzy into me that made me want a Super Nintendo more than anything. It’s the high speed futuristic racer that inspired all other high speed futuristic racers. F-Zero X is the second installment of the franchise, and was made for N64. It introduces 30 racers to the mix, as well as attacks and trading off boost power for health. As with other N64 games, the graphics are a little dated, but the gameplay is solid and very enjoyable. With so many characters and racers, everyone is bound to find someone they like. Provided you have enough GameCube or Classic Controllers, up to four people can race against one another.

Rated “E” for Everyone

Super Mario 64 - (N64, 1000 points)

Called the “Greatest Game of All Time” circa its release in 1996, Super Mario 64 still holds on to much of its charm and addictive gameplay. The graphics are a little dated, though that should do little from dissuade platforming fans from considering it as a Virtual Console purchase, as it remains one of the better 3D platformers—a genre this title pretty much initiated—to this day. Mario’s move set found in Super Mario Galaxy has its roots here, and there are several memorable moments, from penguin racing to swinging Bowser around by his tail. A great Nintendo classic and a game that defined its generation.

Rated “E” for Everyone

These are just a few of the Virtual Console titles available. There are also several titles on Wii Ware, original games created for Nintendo’s download service, though I have not played any of them (though I’ve heard World of Goo and Tetris Party are standouts). Again, for more information on Virtual Console visit Nintendo’s dedicated Virtual Console website.

Whew! Well, that should give all you new Wii owners plenty of options and ideas about what’s out there to hopefully jump start your Wii game library. There are many exciting things in the works for Wii and 2009 should see some great releases. But there’s lots of games out now to suit every gamer and family. I’m sure I overlooked some games, or named ones that may not be on everyone’s list of favorites, but I tried to be thorough. Of course, I would have liked to finish sooner, but getting good games isn’t just related to holidays. Hopefully this guide will help steer you toward some quality titles in the years to come.

Happy Holidays everyone and enjoy your new Wiis!


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