First, this is not a commentary on the Wii or the Wii U. I have never owned either system, so I am unfit to comment on the quality of either system. This is more an article of how not owning them left me feeling lost in the gaming world. It’s not that I stopped gaming during that time. It’s that I had no variety in a world without them. Finding quality games is a risky process without the safety net of choosing a game just because Shigeru Miyamoto’s name is somewhere in the credits.
As long as I can remember I have had a Nintendo console. Was I raised by Nintendo? No, but Nintendo did babysit a lot. I remember when my sister and me would play the co-op mode of Super Mario 3 on the NES. Before school I would sneak in 10 minutes of Pokemon Red using the Gameboy adapter to the SNES. Beating Paper Mario for the unknownth time on Saturday afternoons. I was hyping Wind Waker to people who couldn’t be bothered because of the art style. However, when it came to the Wii, I was the one who couldn’t be bothered.
It isn’t that the Wii is a bad system. It sold over 100 million units. The first and second Super Mario Galaxy games are two of the top three highest rated games ever according to GameRankings.com. My girlfriend owns two of them. The Wii likely is an amazing console. It just has you play games in a way that I don’t want to play them. This is a common sticking point with the Wii and not a revolution (wink) in the complaint department with the system. While the Wii U has, in my opinion, the worst looking controller in the history of controllers. I do not want to have to lookup and down at two different screens as if my head has its own waggle controls.There is a pro controller for the Wii U. True, but if every game is played on the Wii U with the pro controller, what’s the difference between the Wii U and the other consoles of that generation? Nintendo exclusives and not being nearly as powerful?
This isn’t written to complain about the Wii and the Wii U. The point is that without Nintendo my gaming life was pretty bland. I have had other consoles. The Playstation 2 was in my collection along with the Gamecube. Its not like I was new to games from other manufacturers. I needed to play the Grand Theft Auto series somehow. So when I went Nintendo-free, I had the fallback plan to spend my time playing other things. Nintendo could take a break. They needed one. I had only been playing their games for almost all of my life.
The Wii released in 2006. The two other console options were the$600 Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360. Between launch pricing and red rings of death, I found myself owning both consoles at various stages. I really don’t think that I got the most out of those two systems though. I used them as FPS and 200-Hour-RPG machines, which is fine. I love Oblivion. I’ve likely given Bethesda money for it at least 4 times. I love Mass Effect. I love the entire Bioshock series. (Side note: Bioshock 2 is better than the original.) Every now and again a breath of fresh air like Portal would release. Skipping the Wii was pretty easy. When the Wii U came out in November 2012 with a deflated yawn, things became more difficult.
An itch for the old Nintendo magic and polish that I knew started to creep in. A need to supplement the experiences of the games I was playing with lighter varieties. While Grand Theft Auto Vice City is amazing, not balancing it out with a Banjo Kazooie drags a person down. Red Dead Redemption I am sure is a great game, but I was having a hard time getting into it. I was playing a lot of “go here, shoot NPC” games. Red Dead felt too much the same. Fallout 4 struggled from similar issues. I had already saved a wasteland. A wasteland I like way more than this new voiced-protagonist wasteland. The Witcher III is the most Game of the Year-ed game ever. I just didn’t have it in me to spend another 200 hours playing another medieval RPG. Halo 5 didn’t feel as fun as Halo 3.
I needed to find something that felt new. Experiences like that do exist on every Sony or Microsoft console and PC. It just takes digging a little bit. I didn’t know how to dig, so I learned. I looked. I researched. I downloaded Steam. I found games that felt new. The Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive is possible the most fun a person can have controlling a game character. It’s a wire swinging, rail grinding, zombie squishing and occasionally witty love letter to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Ubisoft’s Child of Light is an adorably gorgeous RPG that utilizes their UbiArt Framework. Super Meat Boy is the most fun I have ever had while being uncontrollably angry. Psychonauts, Terraria, Firewatch, Wolf Among Us, Lovely Planet, Deadly Premonition, Abzu and Life is Strange all found their way into my collection. All became games that let me spend too many hours running around Afghanistan in The Phantom Pain without feeling like I had just done the exact same thing.
In ways, I’m happy that I didn’t want to own the Wiis. There would be even more that I missed out in the gaming world. I wouldn’t have conquered Shadow of the Colossus or the other games that fill my long list of gamer shame. I wouldn’t have discovered the new genre that is walking simulators or interactive novels. I wouldn’t know that there is a full and vibrant indie game world. At the same time, I also regret not picking up the Wiis. Those two consoles have great games on them. Maybe they were few and far between during their lifetimes, but with the power of hindsight, there is a lot to love in those libraries.
Fortunately for me and for anyone that feels the way I do, this is where the Nintendo Switch comes in. I love the look of the Switch. I love the idea. I am so excited to return to owning a Nintendo console. Details including the launch title library, pricing, and hardware specs will come out on January 12th at a convention held specifically for the new console. Here’s to hoping that it comes with a robust virtual console library to catch up on what I or we missed.