The 20 Most-Loved Wii Games, For The Last Time

After more than three years of tracking Nintendo stats, I'm done. Monster Hunter wins. Smash Bros. comes in second. Mario squeaks in at the last minute.

You are reading the final installment of a series I've been running monthly in various ways for a few years. Since joining Kotaku in the spring of 2009, I've been providing the most detailed version, a chart and list of the 10 — eventually 20 — Wii games that had the highest average playing time per Wii gamer. Behind every list was my personal file of data for a couple hundred games updated, until recently on the first of every month.

This was never the list for best-sellers. It was always the list for the games that provided their gamers the most fun, the games people kept playing. Pool all the gamers who let Nintendo track their stats — as many as a couple million of them — and these games were the ones that, among the people who had them, got played the most. These were the games that weren't collecting dust. These were the games that compelled new purchasers and long-time owners to keep going back to them.

This series has been a monthly rebuke to those who say people don't play Wii games. It's also made it obvious which elements help make games last long for players. No revelations there: multiplayer, online play, farming all keep a game in rotation.

Here's the latest version of the big chart, showing what the 20-most-loved games on the system were from launch through December 12, 2010.

The 20 Most-Loved Wii Games, For The Last Time


(click the chart to enlarge it)

This is the top 20 listed for you, with average cumulative play times, since the launch of each of those games, also as of December 12.

1. Monster Hunter Tri - 87:33
2. Super Smash Bros. Brawl - 79:09
3. Animal Crossing: City Folk - 76:09
4. Harvest Moon: Animal Parade - 66:51
5. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition - 62:11
6. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock - 56:44
7. Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility - 53:50
8. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn - 52:49
9. WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2010 - 52:20 (up from the 10th spot)
10. Rune Factory: Frontier - 51:29 (up from the 11th spot)
11. Call of Duty: World at War - 51:26 (down from the 9th spot)
12. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga - 51:11
13. Rock Band 2 - 49:37
14. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - 47:54
15. Mario Kart Wii - 41:57
16. Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World - 41:21
17. Wii Sports - 40:26
18. Pro Evolution 2010 - 40:18
19. FIFA Soccer 09 All-Play - 39:55
20. New Super Mario Bros Wii — 38:34 (new entry)

Check out New Super Mario Bros. Wii there, sneaking into the 20th spot this month, bumping out Guitar Hero: World Tour.

The Call of Duty games tended to do well on this chart. People don't just like their first-person shooters on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. They're hooked on the ones they have for Wii. Call of Duty Black Ops didn't chart on the top 20 this time, but, in about a month, it already has an average per-player play time of 25 hours. The new GoldenEye, also out for only about a month, has an average per-player playing time of almost 15 hours.

Kirby's Epic Yarn, released in October, has an average playing time of under 10 hours by early November and just under 13 a month later, a suggestion that people were playing through the game. Donkey Kong Country Returns, released in November was averaging about 9 1/2 hours per player so far.

The 20 Most-Loved Wii Games, For The Last Time

I got these numbers each month by connecting my Wii to the Internet and manually flipping through every entry for the more than 500 Wii games tracked by the system's Nintendo Channel. I could skip the unreleased games, but otherwise, I pulled stats for every one.

Every.

Single.

One.

For example:

Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant
As of June 1 - 9:54
As of July 1 - 10:07
As of August 1 - 10:24
As of September 1 - 10:43
As of October 1 - 10:47
As of November 1 - 11:00
As of December 1 - 11:09
As of January 1 - 11:20
As of February 1 - 11:30
As of March 1 - 11:35
As of April 1 - 11:40
As of May 1 - 11:53
As of June 1 - 12:01
As of July 1 – 12:14
As of August 1 - 12:24
As of September 1 - 12:38
As of October 1 - 12:44
As of November 9 - 12:52
As of December 12 - 13:01

or...

Metroid Prime Trilogy
As of October 1 - 11:48
As of November 1 - 20:10
As of December 1 - 22:53
As of January 1 - 23:48
As of February 1 - 23:01
As of March 1 - 24:17
As of April 1 - 25:22
As of May 1 - 26:21
As of June 1 - 27:08
As of July 1 – 27:50
As of August 1 - 28:38
As of September 1 - 29:41
As of October 1 - 30:21
As of November 9 - 31:05
As of December 12 - 31:30

I tracked all the games because I never knew what was going to percolate to the top. And I never knew which games would be fun to share data about:

Jeep Thrills
As of February 1 - 3:32
As of March 1 - 3:35
As of April 1 - 3:39
As of May 1 - 3:46
As of June 1 - 3:52
As of July 1 – 3:59
As of August 1 - 4:04
As of September 1 - 4:12
As of October 1 - 4:17
As of November 9 - 4:25
As of December 12 - 4:33

I was excited to discover a few years ago that Nintendo publicized all this data. I was less thrilled that it was so laborious to collect it. I didn't relish my monthly session spent clicking through each entry on the Nintendo Channel, though it did help me catch up on listening to podcasts.

Nintendo had declined to send me an easy spreadsheet. Some unlucky interns did the data trawl for me for a couple of months this past summer. But most of the time, it was just me, pulling the numbers, making the chart and hoping for drama.

In the years I did this, I doubted we'd see a game pass Smash Bros., but we got that. Monster Hunter charged past and has a decent shot at reaching the 100-hour-per-player mark. I was always impressed with how steadily the Lego Star Wars game did. No matter what else happened it always seemed to climb at a perfectly consistent pace. It produced the one line on my chart that is almost a perfect straight line.

For those who kept up with this series of posts, thanks for your support. I'm happy to see that some of you were inspired to start tracking stats yourself. For those who will miss it, I'm sorry it won't be continuing. Going into 2011, I feel this series has run its course, its points have been made and the labor involved in putting it together would be best spent on new projects.

Thanks for your support on this, everyone. And now, for one last time:

Where's all this from? (AKA an explanation of the above chart for stat junkies only): In a move somewhat surprising for the generally secretive company, Nintendo makes all of this data public. Any Wii owner can download the Nintendo Channel to their Wii and begin browsing for games. Any game that has been played enough times has usage stats listed for it, contributed by anyone who chose to share their data with the channel. The sample size that the channel tracks is pretty good, though it is obviously biased toward users who hook up a Wii to the Internet. We calculate that sample size by looking at Wii Sports usage numbers, which show that more than 133 million sessions of that game have been played by Nintendo Channel users as of December 12 (up 5 million in the last month), for an average of 31.9 sessions per player. That divides to around 4.2 million Wii Sports users whose gaming has been tracked by the channel. Since almost all Wii Sports owners in North America would be Wii users, we will venture that as many as 4.2 million people have contributed stats. That is up from the 4.1 million people when these numbers were run for November 9. (Please not that in the chart atop this post October 09 data is not included due to a problem with Nintendo's data reporting during that period.)