Image Credit: Sharan Vijayagopal
It’s incredibly tempting to splurge on new consoles like the Nintendo Switch and Xbox Series X during this frankly boring time in our lives. But for many of us, this simply isn’t an option, nor is it the only viable option for those of us wishing to spend more time gaming. Hear the cries of retro consoles of our childhood from the attic (or from the living room) if, like myself, you never really gave them up). One console remains, as ever, more alluring than the rest.
The humble Nintendo Wii.
The enduring pull of this console proves that we need not always look forwards. The Wii would not be nearly as memorable without its signature clumsy, cartoonish graphics and infuriatingly catchy tunes. New consoles simply can’t afford to have this amount of fun; the market demands sleek, contemporary software and evermore realistic graphics. But when a console becomes so fondly rooted in nostalgia such as the Wii, the dated graphics aren’t something simply to be put up with, but rather a cornerstone of the Wii’s comforting, familiar experience.
It should come as no surprise that the Wii outsold its contemporaries, the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. That’s the beauty of a console designed for families; it is as passively usable as a TV, to spice up another dull evening at home. The Wii was, and is, a console for the non-gamers, the non-purists; those that may never have considered playing video games in the first place.
The beauty of the Wii is that many of its games require almost no skill to play. After dusting off the console this week, my mum (who doesn’t know how to turn off an Xbox) was able to participate in a full round of the classic Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. You can have your nan involved, you can have your five-year-old nephew involved. The Wii is a unifying force, and the perfect party trick to crack out before your relatives start bringing up politics at Christmas. Wii Party remains a solid diplomatic replacement for Monopoly, as well as being a perfect pre-drinking game.
I can’t see the Wii’s continued relevance waning any time soon, despite the console being discontinued seven years ago. The unique gyroscopic motion sensor controls are incomparable to any console since (excluding the Wii U, the Wii’s less-cool, less successful, younger brother). This break from conventional D-pad gaming allows for an iconic playing style that has been embedded in our cultural memory. Really, would you rather twiddle your thumbs around the courses of Mario Kart 8 on the Switch, or chuck your controller into a plastic steering wheel as you dramatically swivel your way around the Wii’s original and iconic courses? When I tried the new Switch console for myself, I was dismayed to find it was missing the novelty fun of my childhood.
It goes without saying that the Switch is an incredibly strong console. But the Wii’s best-selling games are simply incompatible with any style of gaming besides its own specific dual-control motion sensor technology. Lazy afternoons batting back and forth on Wii Sports can never be replaced, nor can the hilarity of attempting to dance along to any number of cringe noughties tracks on Just Dance. It says a lot that the Wii U is due to be discontinued, while the ‘restyled’ Wii Mini is still available direct from Nintendo in the UK, for £89.99. The only major difference is that the Wii Mini is not compatible with the GameCube. Clearly, Nintendo knows that its ‘classic games’ are built to endure.
There is the minor hitch that the Wii can no longer access online multiplayer services due to the server being shut down years ago. For those looking to use gaming to connect with anyone outside of their household during lockdown, the Wii falls short here. But maybe three months stuck inside with your parents, morosely tolerating some TV program that none of you actually want to watch, is beginning to grate. The Wii might well be your saving grace.
Some video games never die. Just as the arcade machines of our parents’ era are just as enjoyable now, with any luck the Wii will be around for a few more generations. While it’s all too tempting to splash the cash on new consoles, the cost of new games quickly mounts on top of this to become a very unaffordable solution to boredom. If you find your console itself has given up, rest assured that there are many still circulating on eBay for less than £50 - buying a console without accessories becomes a lot cheaper. Bear in mind before you chuck away your faulty console that there are tech wizards out there who will take it off your hands and restore it for reselling. Do your bit for the planet, and for the Wii’s legacy.