The Essential Wiiware List

by Tim Turi on Apr 18, 2012 at 09:00 AM

This week we return to the essential downloadable games of this generation, shining light on the newest titles that no gamer should miss.

Last year we outlined some of the best games across the life of the major console download services, with an eye towards including the important early games on the service as well as the latest and greatest hits. This week we're taking an updated look at each platform, adding in all the great titles that came out since last year. We continue today with a couple new list entries for the Nintendo Wii’s WiiWare.

If the PlayStation Network holds the silver medal compared to XBLA’s shining gold trophy, WiiWare clutches firmly to a tarnished, bronze third-place prize. The Nintendo console’s digital catalogue is composed mostly of rehashes of classic games buried under a virtual landfill of garbage motion games. To be frank, there’s not a lot to choose from here. We dove back into the WiiWare library and surfaced with one old title we missed during our first Essentials list, and one 2011 title that deserves credit.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for our updated Xbox Live Arcade Essentials List.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King
Developer:Square Enix
Release Date: May 2008

Do you remember the feeling of relief mixed with wonder each time you came across a town in your early Final Fantasy quests? Somebody had to commission those weapon shops to be built and inform your new quest-givers. My Life as a King allows players to boss around adventurers and do the town-building for a change. My Life as a King helped fill out the Wiiware’s young stable of games and offers players a unique perspective in the Final Fantasy universe.

Lost Winds
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release Date: May 2008

This motion control-enhanced sidescroller was a great early example of the creative feats the Wii could pull off. Players guide an improbable protagonist through a vibrant world reminiscent of Okami, using the Wii remote to guide the wind itself. Sweeping gestures are used to aid jumps, slam enemies into the dust, and even blow fire onto obstructing brambles. With its great motion controls and beautiful visuals, Lost Winds provides an experience unlike many Wii games.

Toki Tori
Developer: Two Tribes
Release Date: June 2008

This puzzle/platformer is a remake of an underappreciated Game Boy Color gem. Players control a portly chicken named Eggbert as he strives to collect his eggs which have been scattered across 70 different levels. Eggbert remove floor panels to destroy ghosts, teleport to access new areas, and suck up slime monsters with a vacuum. Toki Tori offered a fun downloadable distraction to early Wiiware enthusiasts, and is still worth checking out today.

Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: August 2008
Also on PC

What better way to end a marathon on the Homestar Runner website than by strolling through the world of Strong Bad? Donning the e-mail junky’s luchador mask and solving Telltale’s creative puzzles is a hilarious experience for fans of the series. The series’ ridiculous voice acting and absurd sense of humor translates into the adventure game format perfectly, and players loved experiencing TurboGrafx and Trogdor jokes in an interactive experience.

World of Goo
Developer: 2D Boy
Release Date: October 2008
Also on PC

Sure, the PC version of World of Goo is great, but most folks’ TVs are way bigger than their monitors. Relaxing on the couch while you assemble gelatinous pals into a bridge or tower is a way better experience than hunching over a keyboard and mouse. 2D Boy’s unique downloadable engineering game scratched an itch many gamers didn’t even know they had, and the early downloadable title helped the burgeoning indie scene gain even more notoriety.

Tetris Party
Developer: Hudson Soft
Release Date: October 2008

It turns out Tetris is a lot of fun. Is a video game system even really legit before it gets a playable version of Tetris on it? My uncle (who’s a cop), told me it’s technically illegal to own a device that can’t play Tetris. That being the case, Tetris Party’s four-player block-placing bouts offer a low risk investment for hesitant Wiiware shoppers. This excellent version of the classic game allows four-players to simultaneously compete or cooperate in more modes than you can shake an L-block at.

Bit.Trip Series
Developer: Gaijin Games
Release Date: March 2009
Also on PC

Beat. Core. Void. Runner. Fate. And Flux. Each entry in the Bit. Trip series offers a unique gameplay experience that fuses retro graphics with silky-smooth gameplay. In Bit.Trip Beat gamers deflect waves of projectiles by rotating their Wii remote like a Pong paddle, resulting in a hyperactive arcade techno rave experience. In Bit. Trip Runner players control Commander Video as he perpetually runs through old school and slick modern levels, dodging obstacles along the way. Gajin’s pixilated style and unique gameplay gives Wii owners something to brag about to their 360 and PS3 pals.

And Yet It Moves
Developer: Broken Rules
Release Date: April 2009
Also on PC

In most platformers players guide a protagonist through perilous locations filled with pits and ledges. And Yet It Moves has that, but also allows players to rotate the entire game world around said hero. You won’t soon forget turning a dangerous hole into a useful corridor, or accidentally squashing the protagonist by dislodging a boulder. If you’ve never experienced gameplay like I just described, this game is one worth checking out.

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years
Developer: Matrix Software
Release Date: June 2009

This continuation of Cecil and Rosa’s story was originally a Japanese-only mobile series, but it eventually found its way to Wiiware episode by episode. Players reunite with the entire cast years later to combat a new evil; even the aforementioned couple’s son Ceodore joins the fight. Memorable sprites, tunes, and locations are all present to coax out those nostalgic feelings. This one is a no-brainer for fans of the SNES original, or anyone simply craving bite-sized RPG chunks.

Tales of Monkey Island
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: July 2009
Also on PC

This next title is also a continuation of a classic story, though a very different one. Guybrush Threepwood’s bumbling misadventures continue with another Telltale adventure masterpiece. This series eschews the 2D sprites of entries past, opting instead for full 3D character models. The game retains the older games’ tradition of wacky solutions to absurd situations, while injecting the whole package with a more modern feel. A Monkey Island fan can’t ask for much more.

Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth
Developer: M2
Release Date: December 2009

Don’t be confused, this whip-swinging WiiWare title isn’t an exact remake of the tough-as-tails Game Boy game, Castlevania: The Adventure. It’s more of a tribute. Christopher Belmont uses the trusty Vampire Killer, holy water, and other sub-weapons like the dagger to destroy skeletons and giant rolling eyeballs on his way to Dracula. If you’re interested in vivid 16-bit-esque visuals, a rockin’ Sega Genesis-style soundtrack, and some classic Castlevania action, you can’t go wrong here.

Max & The Magic Marker
Developer: Press Play
Release Date: January 2010

Max & The Magic Marker takes a page from Lost Winds, but instead of controlling the intangible breeze, players draws objects with a mystical marker. You guide Max through a familiar world of platforming challenges, sketching in a bridge or set of stairs when an impasse is encountered. This Wiiware game hits similar same sweet spots as DS titles like Kirby’s Canvas Curse and Drawn to Life, allowing players to interact with the game world like… a kid with a magic marker.

Blaster Master: Overdrive
Developer: Sunsoft
Release Date: February 2010

Many gamers have fond memories of Blaster Master and their old friend, Sofia the tank. Blaster Master: Overdrive is a modern revitalization of the side-scrolling action hybrid, complete with tank platforming and overhead shooter segments. It never gets old tearing dudes apart in a powerful tank, then hopping out of Sofia for some platforming on foot. Old school holdovers like an exponential difficulty curve and arduous boss battles make this one for hardcore Blaster Masters.

Rage of the Gladiator
Developer: Ghostfire Games
Release Date: March 2010

Do you love the dodge and attack mechanics of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! or Infinity Blade? If so, don’t ignore Rage of the Gladiator any longer. Players use the Wii remote and nunchuck as a sword and shield to face off one-on-one with minotaurs, orcs, and snake charmers. Memorizing and anticipating your foes’ attacks is key to success, and landing a vicious counterattack is a thoroughly satisfying feeling.

Cave Story
Developer: Studio Pixel, Nicalis
Release Date: March 2010
Also on PC

This retro-styled title takes players on a side-scrolling adventure through a huge game world filled with secrets and awesome boss battles. Similar to Metroid, players level up weapons, gain new abilities like a jetpack, and backtrack to discover new areas using their new upgrades. The graphical fidelity was also upgraded moving from the freeware PC version to Wiiware, giving players a better-looking game without losing the old school charm. You don’t have an excuse for missing out on this unforgettable tale… unless of course you’re waiting for the recently announced 3DS version.

Developer: Curve Studios
Release Date: December 2010

Not since Super Mario Sunshine has playing with water been so much fun. Similar to And Yet It Moves, this Wiiware puzzler allows players to tilt the game world, but this time they also control the flow of water. Using the childhood knowledge you gained the first time you spilled a gallon of milk trying to prepare cereal, you can cascade a body of water across platforms and jet through narrow tunnels. Progression is limited by water marker checkpoints which ensure you have the requisite amount of liquid to continue. Fluidity is one of those games that forces you adopt a whole new way of thinking about how to interact with a video game, and is definitely worth exploring for yourself.

Developer: Red Lynx
Release Date: September 2011

The developers of the successful XBLA stunt motorbike series Trials bring multiplayer chaos to the Wii. MotoHeroz ratchets up Trial’s core element of physics-based vehicular platforming while allowing you to blast through a colorful single-player story mode or square off with three other players in various party modes. A whopping 100 stages and online competitions make this one a sure bet for Wii owners looking to see what the talented folks at Red Lynx are capable.