Feature: Nintendo Life's Top 20 Wii Games

The best of Wii

Yesterday we brought you a retrospective for six years of Wii, as we prepare for the not-too-distant future when the system will become Nintendo's "last generation" console. It's an emotional time, to be sure, and nothing touches raw and frayed nerves quite like a top 20 games list. With most of the likely candidates already in stores, we thought now was a good time to poll the Nintendo Life staff and decide once and for all — until the next poll, anyway — what games merit a place in our everlasting affections.

The only rules for voting were that Virtual Console games weren't valid, but retail collections of re-mastered or bundled retro games were eligible. WiiWare games were contenders, while we decided to incorporate votes for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption with those for Metroid Prime Trilogy, to avoid the same game potentially appearing twice or distorting results. Each staff member gave a full list of 20 games, with the points then added up for the final results; the outcome was an incredibly diverse range of titles, with 17 staff members voting for a total of 92 games.

Let's be clear that we're not stating that these are the top 20 Wii games as some kind of incontrovertible scientific fact; that would be silly. These are the favourites of our team at this moment in time, and already has differences from our top ten Wii games from last year. We do hope, whatever your views on this list, that you'll agree it represents some of the best of what we saw on Wii.

You'll also notice there were two positions tied, an indication of the competitiveness of the voting. With that out of the way, let the results and frenzied debate begin.

If this was a Nintendo 64 poll, this title's namesake would in all likelihood be near the top of the list. This one may not get Nintendo gamers as misty-eyed as the original, but it's a solid FPS that incorporates a lot of modern ideas and trends, with some suitable reverence for the source material. After all, your first enemy in the Facility level is still in a toilet cubicle...

From a technical perspective, this collection does everything that the original Wii Sports could have done with MotionPlus technology. With plenty to do, charming visuals and Miyamoto's newest "character", Wuhu Island, this is ideal for summer gaming with friends and delivers on the promise of motion controls.

In terms of sheer scale, ambition and execution, this is one of the most impressive games on Wii. Capcom cleverly masked the limitations of the hardware with a number of small areas to create a large world, while battling enormous monsters with over-sized swords is always plenty of fun. As for the online component, by Wii standards it's a revelation.

It says much for the enduring quality of Resident Evil 4 that it makes this list, despite originally being a flag-bearer for the capabilities of GameCube. The Wii version delivers Remote pointer controls that make shooting members of Los Ganados in the face easier and more satisfying than ever. Throw in the additional content previously exclusive to PS2, and it's some package.

While Wii missed out on some high profile fighters, this is one that Nintendo gamers can boast about. Though the Tatsunoko cast of characters may not be familiar to many, it matters little; this is a visually appealing, solid fighting game that's full to the brim with bombastic combos and charisma. Online play may be sketchy at times, but this one is a treat for fans of the genre.

Treasure's long-awaited sequel to the cult-classic on Nintendo 64, this has an equally baffling storyline to confuse, well, everyone. Who cares about that, though, when it serves up intense on-rail shooting action at 60 frames per second. With an art-style that looks fantastic, bar the odd iffy cut-scene, and typically imaginative and intriguing enemies flooding the screen, this should be played by all shmup fans. Oh, and it's pretty darn hard, too.

One of the infamous "Operation Rainfall" titles to arrive from Japan late in Wii's lifespan, this is an epic RPG in every sense of the world. It has a dynamic, intense combat system, a ridiculous amount of depth and side-quests, and a lengthy adventure that'll take months to beat fully. If you like JRPGs, want a grand scale and value for money, you owe it to yourself to play this.

The game that started it all. It would be churlish to exclude Wii Sport due to it being a pack-in game — though it wasn't in Japan — as it arguably made Wii what it is today. We all have memories of the first time we swung a tennis racket or bowled a strike, which makes it an indispensable part of Wii history.

Perhaps a surprising inclusion, this X-rated zombie blasting light-gun game brought a much needed mature angle to Wii when it was released. It has plenty of content to wade through, including a "Director's Cut" mode, stylish visuals and a lot of crude humour and language to justify its 18 rating. Sometimes simple games are compulsive and great fun to play, and this is one of them.

A typically stylistic and brash offering from SUDA51, this title exudes cool from every line of its code. It has a slightly wonky over-world, yes, but the uber-violent action and humour is, like HOTD: Overkill, a welcome bit of variety for the system. With fun, instinctive Wii Remote controls, a pet cat and saving on the toilet, who could possibly turn this one down?

It's the top ten, and now we're getting serious. The Wii entry in the Smash Bros. series had to feature in this list, especially as it has plenty of modes, stages, settings and a ridiculous number of collectibles to unlock. Anyone who achieves 100% completion in this one has spent many, many hours brawling with Nintendo mascots. The only blot on this one's copy-book is the online play, which can be a lag-fest.

When Kirby's Epic Yarn was unveiled, many may have wondered why on early the pink ball was being turned into fabric material. It doesn't matter a jot, really, as this is a thoroughly charming, well designed and enjoyable slice of platforming excellence. Designed so that anyone can beat it, there's also plenty of challenge for those that simply have to achieve top ranks and achievements.

After the success of his 2D return on DS, the "New" Mario Bros. series stepped up a notch on Wii; while some debate and question whether the level design has that magic, plenty think that it does. It's classic Mario platforming in single player, which rapidly transforms to chaotic madness when extra players join in. It's 2D Mario, and the sales figures suggest that people still love it.

After completing the Metroid Prime series, plenty wondered what assignment Retro Studios had been given by Nintendo. Much excitement ensued when it transpired that it was developing Donkey Kong Country Returns, which only went up a notch when gamers actually played it. With challenging, stimulating levels and gorgeous art design, this one's so good that most can overlook the rather unnecessary waggle controls. One for platforming wizards that want a challenge.

It's Retro Studios again with the trilogy that started it all, rather fittingly tying with its platforming revival of Donkey Kong. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was an accomplished first-person adventure game that showed how Wii pointer controls should be done, with an epic storyline and a strong mix of action and exploration. When the two original GameCube titles were then released with the final part in a compilation, with Wii Remote controls applied retrospectively, it became an exceptional and irresistible package.

Probably Nintendo's last grand first-party release on Wii, some may be surprised that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword isn't higher than fifth place. This adventure incorporates much of the classic Zelda gameplay but makes some notable tweaks, such as Link having a stamina bar and greater athleticism. The main difference, of course, is MotionPlus controls and swordplay, making many people's fantasies come to life. Critically acclaimed and adored by plenty, its position has perhaps been affected by some noticeable repetition and, possibly, some quirks with the MotionPlus controls. Still, fifth best in Wii's whole generation isn't bad, right?

Being one of the best games on the system doesn't necessitate being a challenging and epic undertaking for gamers. Mario Kart Wii is proof of that, which delivers 32 tracks, a sizeable cast of characters and, most surprisingly, motorbikes. Some may prefer conventional controls, but the Wii Wheel and Wii Remote capabilities mean that this is possibly the most accessible kart racer ever released. With solid online, previously regular competitions through the Mario Kart channel and a lot of fun all part of the bargain, this is a title that still gets a regular airing in plenty of households.

In the battle of the Zelda titles, it's the Wii launch release that triumphs. Originally developed for GameCube — and actually released for the older system — this was the star of the show for most that picked up a Wii on day one. It's a lengthy, involving quest that traverses a simply enormous Hyrule environment, with plenty of characters and plot developments along the way. Some still love the art style, and the waggle controls for sword play felt rather good when the game first arrived, even if that impression may change in a current-day play-through. It's fairly divisive amongst fans, but a large part of the Nintendo Life team feels that it's the strongest Zelda experience on Wii.

We suspect that everyone already had an inkling of the top two before this started, but now we know the order in which they fall amongst our staff. When Super Mario Galaxy was unveiled it blew minds, and that didn't change once gamers got hold of the final release. With wonderfully realised, gorgeous 3D worlds, tight controls that make subtle use of the Wii Remote and level design that delights at every turn, this is a definitive experience on the system. A true leap forward for 3D Mario platforming.

What could possibly be better than Super Mario Galaxy? Its sequel, of course. While it can be argued that this is really Super Mario Galaxy 1.5, when the gaming is this good, and the standards so inexplicably high, we're not sure that anyone should care about originality. This title takes the ideas from the ground-breaking début and does even more, with a simpler structure and more individual and varied stages to take on. With a stellar appearance from Yoshi, innovative and joyful power-ups at every turn and plenty of challenge for completionists, this is one of the great games not just on Wii, but on any system.

So there you have it, our team's top 20 Wii games. Honourable mentions must go to the highest-placed WiiWare games that were only a few points from making the list: World of Goo and BIT.TRIP RUNNER.

You know what we think, but what about you? We'd love to read about your favourite Wii games and opinions on our list in the comments below.

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