There's no lack of Wii games to choose from this Holiday season, but picking out the signal from the noise can be difficult when the release list is so damn loud. With a massive line up of Wii games, some retail, some Virtual Console, some WiiWare, it's often difficult to know where to drop the dollars and the Wii Points. Our gift guide will hopefully help new Wii owners and those gifting Wiis this season find the right software purchases to complement their new hardware. Don't forget those Wii Points cards and the extra Nunchuk and Wii Remote for the stockings. As for the games, we've picked some of the best titles for all ages. Broken down into four categories — bargains for the cheap, essentials to prevent embarrassment, socializers to bring everyone together and epics to log the hours — there's something in the Wii library for all tastes. Read on to see our picks.
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga Price: $19.99 Rating: E 10+ Yes, you'll be playing through some of the more "memorable" moments from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones in LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, but don't let that distastefulness dissuade you. There's still a lot of fun to be had with this two-games-in-one LEGO romp. Like most Wii games, it's fun for all ages and waggling your way through the Battle of Hoth with mini-figs makes LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga worth the price of admission.
No More Heroes Price: $19.99 Rating: M For the action hungry otaku on your list, there's Grasshopper Manufacture's quirky No More Heroes, a stylish, beam katana (read: lightsaber) swinging adventure loaded with over-the-top violence, nutty boss fights and bizarre lowbrow humor — you'll save your game progress on the toilet, for example. It's full of oddball characters and beheadings and general weirdness, a title that will add some spice to your Wii library.
Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection Price: $19.99 Rating: E With real pinball at Death's door, we're going to have to settle for virtual pinball to get our silver ball fix. Fortunately, Crave's collection of ten classic Williams tables is about as good as it gets. Classics like Fun House, Pin*Bot and Whirlwind help to make up for some of the more tepid choices, like the early 70s Jive Time.
Link's Crossbow Training Price: $24.99 Rating: T The included Wii Zapper control peripheral may not be the best investment, but the addictive arcade shooter included in the package is a hell of a lot of fun. Link's Crossbow Training is a straightforward, mostly non-violent fantasy shooter that feels more like a carnival challenge than your traditional light gun shooter. It's still well-designed and, now that you have that Zapper, you'll have reason to go pick up the also cheap, but far more wacky Ghost Squad and the gory The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return.
World of Goo (WiiWare) Price: $15.00 Rating: N/A This independently developed puzzle game is one of the few real highlights from the WiiWare service. With a polished presentation that belies its list of credits, World of Goo tasks players with building structures made of little black goo people, presenting the player with a series of challenges that requires creative thinking and occasionally quick reflexes.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl Price: $49.99 Rating: T The ultimate Nintendo fanboy match up is one of the Wii's best fighting games. The addition of fighters like Sonic the Hedgehog and Snake from Metal Gear Solid to the Nintendo mascot packed line-up makes for an interesting mix of brawlers, which includes mainstays like Mario, Link, Donkey Kong and PIkachu. The single-player portion is an interesting diversion, but the deep roster and massive list of unlockable treasures is the real draw in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Online play doesn't hold a candle to having four folks in the same room, so make sure you have extra Wii Remotes and Classic Controllers at the ready.
Super Mario Galaxy Price: $49.99 Rating: E Mario goes galactic in the Wii entry into the core Super Mario Bros. franchise. With new power ups like the Boo Suit and Bee Suit and a control scheme that makes smart use of the Wii Remote, Super Mario Galaxy feels fresh and innovative — even if the core platforming gameplay remains mostly unchanged. One of the Wii's prettiest games is also one of its most charming. Super Mario Galaxy should be in every Wii library.
Mario Kart Wii Price: $49.99 Rating: E Mario Kart Wii doesn't do much to add to the classic kart racing series, but it presents a solid racing package for anyone looking for a quick multiplayer fix. Like many Wii releases, it feels more like a greatest hits package than a totally new sequel. The Wii entry does add a new racing option with motorbikes, brings a slew of new enjoyable tracks and introduces online play. Unfortunately, you won't be doing any trash talking online, so local multiplayer will probably feel more rewarding.
de Blob Price: $49.99 Rating: E THQ's de Blob is one of the few third-party titles that doesn't just fit well with the Wii's control scheme, it rivals Nintendo's own first-party software in terms of creativity, fun and polish. Using the titular blob, players must restore color to a barren city by bouncing off walls and splashing paint on buildings. There's a good local split-screen multiplayer mode attached, but the dozen hours spent repainting will probably be the most enjoyable painting you've ever done.
Super Metroid (Virtual Console) Price: $10.00 Rating: E It's a Super Nintendo classic — one of the best games of all time — definitely worth the Nintendo Points. Samus Aran's 16-bit adventure set the bar for 2D adventure games in 1994, spawning a host of imitators. If you have Wii Points to spend, get Super Metroid first.
Boom Blox Price: $39.99 Rating: E Pay no attention to the Stephen Spielberg pedigree; Boom Blox is a fun, if flawed, block smashing puzzle game that will give little indication the director was involved. There are 300 levels to play through in single-player, multiplayer, co-op and competitive modes. There's also a level editor to extend the life of those simple, but deep puzzler. The throwing mechanics work, but the occasionally slow four-person multiplayer might might leave you .
Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure Price: $39.99 Rating: E This under-appreciated (and underperforming) puzzle adventure follows the treasure hunting adventures of the pirate Zack and his monkey thing Wiki. It's essentially a point and click adventure, typically the stuff of single-player sessions. But its collaborative puzzle solving appeal — other players can draw suggestions on-screen with the Wii Remote — makes Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure a fun cooperative group game. There are some frustrations with having to redo puzzles, but Zack and Wiki are fun to watch as are the solutions a blast to suss out.
Animal Crossing: City Folk Price: $59.99 with WiiSpeak microphone Rating: E If you've already invested dozens of hours with the GameCube and Nintendo DS versions of Animal Crossing, you might not find enough new here to continue your mortgage paying, bug collecting adventures. But if you've never played an Animal Crossing game, City Folk has a lot to offer. The WiiSpeak microphone bundle lets you chat with your friends online for co-op fishing or shopping and will give you free access to the WiiSpeak channel when it launches.
Rock Band Special Edition Price: $99.99 Rating: T The Wii version of Rock Band may be handicapped by the system's online and storage solutions, but even with the limited track selection — which can be boosted with inexpensive "Track Pack" discs — Rock Band is still a blast. The upcoming Rock Band 2, a little delayed for the Wii but due to hit days before Christmas, will probably be your best bet in the long run, but the cheaper instrument bundle available now is a good investment for the future. Four player Rock Band can make hours disappear.
Bomberman '93 (Virtual Console) Price: $6.00 Rating: T Until Super Bomberman 2 for the SNES hits the Virtual Console service, your best, cheapest multiplayer option will have to be the Turbografx 16 release. Classic competitive bomb-dropping fun allows up to five players to join in on the fun. The visuals may be dated, but the gameplay is still strong.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Price: $49.99 Rating: T Link sheds his cel-shaded stylings from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker for the more mature Twilight Princess. It may not be the best of the Zelda series, but the classic puzzle solving and adventuring that has made it so memorable is still intact. The GameCube version is a good alternative if you're not feeling the motion controls or want to have a better excuse for the sometimes dated visuals. It's a big, long adventure and one of the best the Wii has to offer.
Okami Price: $24.99 Rating: T If you happened to like that cel-shaded look, though, Clover's Okami is a capable Zelda-like alternative. You'll control wolf-goddess Amaterasu in her epic journey to purge the world of the demon Orochi. Like Twilight Princess, this is a 40-hour long adventure that's worth the investment. Smart use of motion controls — a perfect fit for painting with the game's celestial paintbrush — and stunning visuals help separate this game from its adventure competitors.
Super Paper Mario Price: $49.99 Rating: E The latest in the Paper Mario role-playing game series adds some clever 3D trickery to the always amusing story line to keep things interesting. The game is rife with inside jokes and bizarre characters, but some of the clunky character designs dent its visual polish. There's a lot to see and do, but not much in the way of challenge or depth to the plot. A fun diversion.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Price: $19.99 Rating: E 10+ Good for both short session and long session gaming, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords combines the simplicity of color matching puzzle game play with role-playing game conventions for an addictive, deep and value-packed adventure. It may not have the length or epic production values of other RPGs, but its a fabulous blend of genre.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Virtual Console) Price: $10.00 Rating: E If you're looking for a rock-solid throwback to action RPGs, you can't go wrong with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a highlight of the Zelda series. Its SNES era sprite-work still impresses, as do the stellar gameplay mechanics. A Virtual Console essential.