The Nintendo Wii exploded off store shelves when it first launched back in 2006. Is it too late to hop on the Wii bandwagon, or has Nintendo saved you a spot? UPDATED for the holidays.]
Consider this guide our formal advice on whether you should buy a Wii or not, and if you do, which games you should get.
[This post was last updated on November 19, 2010 and will be updated if events, news, games, prices or acts of nature cause our opinion to change.]
Should I Buy A Wii Now? ANSWER UPDATED, 11/19/10:
If you don't already own a console, Yes. The Wii might be the least powerful of the three current generation consoles, but it has a lot going for it. Along with being the current home to Nintendo classic franchises Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid, the Wii has a surprising number of quality third party titles as well. Plus, with low power comes low financial responsibility, and the $199 price tag the system carries is very reasonable, especially considering the console comes packed with both Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, two titles that highlight the console's motion controls.
Thing is, those motion controls are no longer all that unique. The Xbox 360's Kinect and Sony's PlayStation Move have both launched. Both platforms are still early in their launch catalogs, but if the visual strength and core gaming appeal of those two consoles are more your speed, you should consider how much Nintendo's exclusive properties and motion gaming matter to you.
But What If I've Already Got An Xbox 360? Should I Buy One Now? ANSWER UPDATED, 11/19/10:
No, unless you're a big fan of Nintendo properties like Mario, Metroid, and Zelda. With Kinect, the magic of the Wii Remote starts to feel more diminished. Microsoft is taking cues from the Wii library with its Kinect offerings. On the other hand, if you have an Xbox 360, the cost of Kinect and a game is about as much as a Wii costs, so you should seriously consider what else you expect to get out of the console or the device.
But What If I've Already Got A PlayStation 3? Should I Buy One Now? ANSWER UPDATED, 10/1/10:
Again, not unless you're a fan of Mario, Metroid, and Zelda. The PlayStation Move controller for the PlayStation 3 from Sony can easily serve the same purpose as a Wii remote, which could lead to one console gathering dust as former Wii-centric titles start appearing on the PS3. The PlayStation Move line-up may fit your needs for motion control gaming, but it's still too early to tell if the add-on scheme will catch on in any meaningful way. The currently available Move software isn't spectacular, so if you need immediate wand-waving satisfaction, consider a Wii. Otherwise, wait it out.
What Else Does It Do Besides Gaming?
The Wii is mainly a gaming machine, as evidenced by the fact that it's the only one of the three major consoles that doesn't support DVD playback. Still, there are several other things you can do with your Wii once the gaming is done. Through the console's channel menu you can check the weather anywhere in the world, check out the latest headlines, or browse the internet. Netflix is available on the Wii as well, allowing owners to watching streaming video. Unlike the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the Wii does not support high definition streaming.
If I'm Going To Buy A Wii, Which One Should I Get? ANSWER UPDATED, 11/19/10
The Wii comes in three flavors — black, white, and a red, 25th Anniversary Super Mario Bros bundle that went on sale in North America Nov. 7. All are $199. The black and white bundles give you Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, and a Wii Remote with the MotionPlus attachment. The newer red bundle gives you Wii Sports and New Super Mario Bros. Wii, plus a Wii Remote Plus which integrates the Wii MotionPlus functionality into a single controller. If you're buying new, we recommend the red bundle for the updated controller and the better game.
What Are The Best Games On The Wii? ANSWER UPDATED, 11/19/10:
It comes as no surprise to long-time Nintendo fans that the very best games on the system are generally first-party titles. No one knows Nintendo fans and Nintendo hardware like Nintendo, after all. While many companies struggled over how to best utilize the motion controls of the Wii, Nintendo was pumping out games like Super Mario Galaxy and its stellar sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and a new version of the beloved boxing title Punch-Out!!. This year's Kirby's Epic Yarn is also an outstanding example of that first-party platform-game tradition.
That's not to say third parties haven't had their fair share of success. Games like Capcom's Zack and Wiki and THQ's De Blob captured the playful spirit of the console while delivering deep gameplay. Some publishers took a gamble on more mature games like Grasshopper Manufacture's bold and racy No More Heroes series and EA's terrifying Dead Space: Extraction. Serious gamers may want to get their thrills from Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, Trauma Team or Monster Hunter 3. And 1990s console classics, like NBA Jam and GoldenEye 007 also have seen very worthy reboots in the past two 2months.
All current Wii bundles now include Wii MotionPlus support, either as an attachment (if the bundle was stocked before late October) or now integrated into the Wii Remote itself. MotionPlus gives players full 1:1 motion control, allowing for unparalleled precision of movement in games that support the feature. Two games that make excellent use of the MotionPlus are Nintendo's Wii Sports Resort, currently packed in with new consoles, and Ubisoft's Red Steel 2, a moody mash-up of high-tech and Old West, swords and six-shooters.
And let's not forget WiiWare, Nintendo's downloadable game platform, that's paved the way for amazing indie titles like 2D Boy's puzzling World of Goo and Frontier Developments' amazing, atmospheric LostWinds.
Which Ones Are Worst?
The Wii software library has suffered from the console's mainstream popularity. As millions of new gamers flocked to the Nintendo console, hundreds of small developers crowded retail shelves with games of a quality normally reserved for budget PC titles or web-based Flash games. So the bad news is there are plenty of bad Wii games. For every gem like Zack and Wiki there's a Ninjabread Man and a Cold Stone Creamery: Scoop It Up. The influx of bad games was such that no game-reviewing outlet could possibly keep up with them all, so there are many Wii titles with no online reviews at all. Avoid those.
So I've Bought A Wii...What Should My First Three Games Be?
So you've got a shiny new Wii, and you're done fiddling around with Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort. Where to next?
1. Super Mario Galaxy: It isn't a Nintendo console without a Mario game, and while Super Mario Galaxy 2 might come out tops in terms of quality, that means nothing if you've never played the original.
2. Red Steel 2: The first Red Steel was a clunky mess. The second game hones the concept of sword-meets-gun to razor sharpness, thanks in no small part to the Wii MotionPlus accessory. This is what motion control is all about.
3. LostWinds: One of the WiiWare service's first titles, Frontier Developments' LostWinds is a fantastic little platformer that neatly sums up the potential of independent games on the Wii in one downloadable package.
Is the Wii Backwards Compatible?
Not only does the Wii run all of the games from Nintendo's previous console, the Gamecube, the Wii Shop Channel is home to the Virtual Console, where you can spend Wii Points on classic video games from many classic gaming platforms. You'll find Nintendo games for the original Nintendo Entertainment System through the Nintendo 64, Sega Master System and Genesis titles, games for the NEC's TurboGrafx 16, and SNK's Neo Geo consoles. They've even got Commodore 64 PC games up there.
What About Online Multiplayer?
If you're looking for a full-featured online gaming experience, then you might want to look somewhere else. While the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 allow players to meet new people and add them to their friends list on a whim, most online Wii titles require the exchange of system specific Friend Codes in order for two players to interact online. If you've not exchanged codes with another player, you generally can't interact with them outside of the confines of gameplay. It's a very kid-friendly online system that keeps children from being exposed to the creepy strangers and vulgar trash-talk rampant on the more powerful consoles. So you won't have to worry about being called names during online bouts of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. To some, that sucks away all of the fun.
What's Wrong With The Wii?
Other than a software library muddied with shovelware titles and limited online gaming capability, there isn't much to complain about with the Wii. There were some issues with property damage due to flying Wii remotes when the system launched, but Nintendo handled the problem with stronger wrist straps and shock-absorbing rubber Wii remote sleeves. The only real issue a new Wii owner has to be wary of is the soreness resulting from playing some of the consoles more active titles like Wii Sports. If you aren't much for physical activity, you can expect a certain degree of aches and pains as you adjust to this new way of playing. Don't worry, it's a good pain.
Some won't see a problem with this, but the Wii does not play DVD movies. Other consoles do, and we just don't want you mistakenly popping a new movie in your Wii and expecting it to work.
Are There Any Hidden Costs? ANSWER UPDATED, 11/19/10:
The Nintendo Wii comes with everything one player needs to enjoy the console. Getting the most out of the Wii, however, can get a bit expensive.
The console comes packed with a Wii remote, a nunchuk attachment, and a Wii Remote either with the MotionPlus accessory (the white and black bundles) or with the feature built in (the red bundle, which released Nov. 7). If you plan on playing the console with friends you'll have to invest in additional controller sets. Right now a Wii Remote Plus retails for $49.99, giving you a copy of the forgettable FlingSmash in the bargain. It's still cheaper than buying a standard Wii remote at $39.99 and a $19.99 MotionPlus attachment. Extra Nunchuks are $19.99. Fitness buffs will also want to pick up the Wii Fit Plus bundle packed with the Wii Balance Board for $99.
But Wait, Won't The Wii Be Replaced Soon?
Rumors of a high definition version of the Wii have been swirling about since the console's launch. But those are merely rumors/ Nintendo has given no indication that it is releasing a follow-up to its hit console any time in the next year, at least.
Essential Facts About The Wii
Released in 2006
The Wii is a home video game console sold by Nintendo. Its key gaming features are motion control, surround sound, built-in wireless network adapter, backwards compatibility with the Gamecube, downloadable games, and the ability to play with or against other people over the internet. Its key multimedia feature is a partnership with Netflix that allows subscribers to stream movies and TV shows.
Nintendo targeted a wide demographic with the Wii, using the system's launch pack-in game Wii Sports to capture the attentions of audiences that had never had games marketed towards them before. From the elderly playing Wii Sports in rest homes to middle-aged housewives picking up Wii Fit and the Wii Balance Board to help them stay healthy, the Wii is one of the farthest-reaching consoles in gaming history.
Currently Available Models: Black ($199), White ($199), Red ($199)
Price of New Games: $30-50
Discount Line of Games: None
Need more shopping advice? Take a look at Kotaku's other video game hardware buyer's guides.