Wii 10th Anniversary | Cubed3's Top 20 Games

By Az Elias 19.11.2016 20:00

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Nobody could have predicted the astronomical success of the Wii prior to its launch in 2006. Coming off the back of the subpar sales of the GameCube, and taking a path completely different to that of Sony and Microsoft, which both went for raw power with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, respectively, Nintendo targeted the non-gamers—the "casuals," as the group became known—which mainly encompassed the elderly and females.

Nintendo was already doing this with the Nintendo DS, making easy-to-play titles with simple controls and appealing games like Nintendogs, but the Wii marked an attempt to get the untapped demographic up and about in front of their TV screens, with a simple motion controller that resembled a TV remote and other peripherals being the key to this goal.

Titles like Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wii Fit, Mario Kart Wii and New Super Mario Bros. Wii were all made straightforward, and benefitted from devices like the Wii Wheel and Wii Balance Board to entice people to play, have fun, and even lose weight. Nintendo nailed what it set out to do with the Wii in a short space of time, and came out with some excellent titles that appealed to both casual and hardcore audiences in the process. The Cubed3 team shares our favourite 20 games in the Wii library, ten years after it hit the shelves.

20. Wii Sports Resort

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It could be argued that this is what the original Wii Sports should have been. MotionPlus delivers on the hype of the original Wii concept, which many experienced gamers soon saw through with its enjoyable but cheatable control scheme. You won't get away with such antics with the sequel's bowling game, which, along with its golf update, makes the original versions redundant. Wii Sports Resort was a gauntlet thrown down to third party developers, showcasing what MotionPlus could do, and apart from EA's fully featured golf games with their Wii exclusive Frisbee modes, the challenge wasn't accepted. Maybe commercial concerns about what is effectively a market splitting hardware upgrade was part of the problem.

Resort has a wonderful selection of events to try - some using MotionPlus more effectively than others, but all hinting at possible full scale game ideas. It's an absolute riot in multiplayer, with many options for up to four players in versus and co-operative scenarios. Perhaps at the time of the Wii launch the world wasn't ready for the extra demand MotionPlus asks of the player, and its calibration requirement (however brief) impacts on the immediacy that the original enjoys, but in the final analysis after waggle starts to settle down as an interesting chapter in gaming history, this is the definitive motion-controlled party game, and we will in all likelihood not see anything quite like this game ever again.
- Davy

19. MadWorld

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The Wii got a bad rap for being, for lack of a better description, a glorified children's toy. Many people went out and dug through licensed games about candy and princesses, and sports games like "Wii Log Sawing," looking for something to hand off to an unsuspecting youngster for their birthday. It's hard to imagine a relative who didn't know about video games stumbling upon MadWorld on a GameStop shelf and doing their research. Therefore, when this innocent tot popped the game in and discovered it was all about a black and white world they could fill with red by maiming their opponents in ways that would make Manhunt blush, it may have caused some shock.

MadWorld is a game that asks you to do such things as bash an opponent's face against an oncoming train, right before impaling him on spikes and setting him on fire. This is just standard fare, and, hey, the player gets more points the more creative their carnage-filled killing spree becomes. However, what MadWorld had to justify this was substance. It controlled well, there was a story explaining why all of this was happening, and it was a logical (in this world only) story that made the violence all the more cartoonish and benign. And so, while it may be written off by many as being a children's toy, one of the most unapologetically violent games of all time happens to live solely on this system.
- Thom

18. The House of the Dead: Overkill

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Nintendo has long held a reputation for being a kid- and family-friendly maker of video game consoles, an image that The House of the Dead: Overkill may have single-handedly destroyed for ages to come.

The violence- and profanity-laden romp through zombie-infested locations, peppered with foul-mouthed and often scantily-clad characters, remains one of the most adult-themed games on the market today. The on-rails shooter guides players through a hilarious and very much R-rated story involving zombies, guns, incest, and, of course, a little love.
- David

17. Donkey Kong Country Returns

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2D platformers fell by the wayside in the N64 and GameCube era, but came back with a bang in the next generation. Retro Studios was given the unenviable task of restoring one of the most loved and best-selling platformer series, but, surprisingly, they left fans, new players and even nostalgia freaks happy.

Sure, Donkey Kong Country Returns was hardly ground-breaking, and the waggle motion controls could be tiresome, but everywhere else it hit the mark. The game was gorgeous, despite the lack of HD on the Wii. The music was just as good as the original trilogy's. The levels were varied, and even maintained the difficulty of yesteryear games. To top it off, the co-op multiplayer worked brilliantly.
- Andrew

16. Sonic Colours

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With Sonic's first exclusive outing on the Wii, it looked like SEGA was getting its mascot back to glory through his Secret Rings adventure; simple and tight linear controls, but levels marred by unfortunate motion control responses. The second title in this 'storybook' series stumbled through the use of a talking blade and slow medieval swordplay, and it wasn't until the multiformat Unleashed style of a 2D and 3D blend of design that the Blue Blur would finally find the right path, accumulating in Sonic Colours.

Only on Wii, this game remains one of Sonic's most acclaimed titles, showcasing some of the best and brightest visuals on the system with Eggman's amusement park and multiple worlds. Making use of the new Wisp powers, levels harkened back to the classics with many paths to find and explore, and a perspective switch at key intervals. Excellent writing and voice acting, together with vibrant and energetic tones, and tight control options round off a superb package. Ironic that both Sonic and Mario had two of their greatest games on one system.
- Shane

15. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn

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Radiant Dawn was a unique step forwards for Fire Emblem. Having come off a relatively successful GBA run and a middling run on the GameCube, Nintendo needed to hit it big. They did. Picking up the story where Path of Radiance left off, the game did its best to try and bring as many new features to the table, and they succeeded. Sort of.

Radiant Dawn can cause splits in the fan base over a multitude of things, be it if the option to support anyone was worth the cost of the majority of support conversations, the various unit imbalances, if a guaranteed stat-up is worth it or not, and so forth. However, despite the bickering, the fact is that Radiant Dawn was good. It picked up a lot of fans and made Ike a near superstar, and it seemed like Fire Emblem just might have a bright future ahead of it outside of Japan.
- Ian

14. No More Heroes

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No More Heroes is quirky yet offbeat; literally everything about this game, from its story to gameplay structure, is eccentric, ecstatic, yet so endearing. Players take control of one Travis Touchdown, an everyday nerd who just so happens to also be an assassin for a clandestine organisation. He's a man with a mission: to slaughter those in his way in the hopes of not only reaching number one on the United Assassin's Association's ranking list, but to also achieve his own goal of scoring it with the group's leader, Sylvia Christel.

To do so, Travis must raise money in order to gain permission into a ranked fight, but how does he obtain it? Through everyday tasks, of course! Completing different odd jobs, such as filling up cars with gas, collecting coconuts, as well as the occasional assassination contract, earns him the money necessary to participate. Once deposited, players can then continue on with eliminating the next ranked hitman, all the while a story that gets very crazy gradually unfolds.

With fun and intense combat, interesting characters, and a strong sense of style, No More Heroes is the game that not only showed that the Wii wasn't just kids' stuff, but it gave us a look into the mind of the eclectic game designer known as Goichi Suda, or Suda 51.
- William

13. The Last Story

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We all know that Nintendo systems from the N64 onwards were not exactly where RPG fans would look to stave their hunger for games in their favourite genre. Things started to look better when it was announced the GameCube would get a Final Fantasy game and Squaresoft would work again on Nintendo systems, but still, there was admittedly not nearly as many great RPGs for the system as there were for the PS2. Then came the Wii, and things did not improve drastically, but the system still got its share of great titles, some of them entirely exclusive to the platform.

The Last Story being announced as an exclusive for the Wii, coming from Hironobu Sakaguchi, mister Final Fantasy himself, and his studio Mistwalker, shook the planet, as the studio had up until that point developed pretty much exclusively for the Xbox 360 and had only one project for the DS.

The end result is simply a game that doesn't have quite the scope of Xenoblade Chronicles, but rather goes for a shorter, condensed and story-focused experience with a high emphasis on dynamic combat, complete with an online battle arena mode unlike anything seen on the system in a RPG. It could be argued which one is better between this and Xenoblade, though the majority would put the latter on top, but there's no denying that those two, being released outside of Japan relatively close to one another (in Europe, anyway), are the two top tier RPGs for the console, and both are masterpieces made to appeal to different tastes.
- Rudy

12. Okami

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Few other games on the Wii possess as much style, artistry and vision as Okami. Heavily inspired by traditional Japanese art, folklore and music, it is impossible to ignore the arrestingly beautiful painterly environments; the minimalist character designs defined by broad black brushstrokes; or the incredible soundtrack, which showcases the range and power of traditional Japanese music.

The gameplay is also surprisingly fluid and constantly inventive, to boot. A steady stream of new brush techniques - abilities that are "drawn" onto the landscape to evoke different effects - help keep the game fresh, while making the most out of the Wii's motion controls at the same time. The game's world is populated with a diverse and quirky cast, with snappy back-and-forth dialogue punctuating the more dramatic moments, while the story twists and turns through numerous unexpected avenues before coming to its stunning conclusion. Whilst also being one of the most visually stunning games on the Wii, there's no denying that Okami is a genuinely compelling piece of art; a game that is just as much deep as it is beautiful.
- John

11. Muramasa: The Demon Blade

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The Wii may have been vastly underpowered in the generation it belonged to, but that doesn't mean it did not offer gorgeous visuals, especially in terms of 2D. Games like A Boy and His Blob or Rayman Origins were absolutely beautiful and ran well on the system. The only reproach one could level towards those is that, like Muramasa: The Demon Blade, they did not run in HD in a generation that pushed the HD envelope as far as it could. I personally dare say, though, that this title remains arguably the most beautiful 2D game of its generation.

The PlayStation Vita version may have been dubbed an HD version thereof, although this is not entirely true due to the Vita running games only at qHD resolution, but still, the Wii version holds up pretty well and is a must-have in its library. That's not to say that the game only had pretty visuals, either, as the fast-paced action felt great to play, the story was engaging enough to keep a player hooked through its short length, and the music was simply marvellous. Muramasa is one of those games that truly helps video games to be perceived as art, and lest we forget, it was for a long time a Wii exclusive. It did belong on that system supposedly made for kids and your grandma for the longest of times. It's a title that truly made one proud to own the underdog system.
- Rudy

10. Super Paper Mario

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Super Paper Mario ended up as a sort of transitional stage in the Paper Mario series, as Nintendo aimed it towards a broader audience by toning down the RPG elements and simplifying the gameplay.

While Super Paper Mario doesn't utilise the turn-based gameplay of its predecessors, it makes up for it with absolutely exceptional writing and a surprisingly deep and well-crafted story. While it might always be seen as a bit of a black sheep among the Paper Mario titles, it definitely makes for a platformer with a surprising amount of depth.
- Brandon

9. Wii Sports

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Wii Sports in many ways represents the greatest triumphs and failures of the Wii together in a neat package. It suffered from easily exploitable "waggle" in some games. Much of the gameplay was light and without much depth. Its graphics (though perfectly functional) hardly impressed. On the other hand, though, it was something new. Something highly accessible - and if you played honestly, darn fun. While arguably other games in the package, like baseball, provided more skill, it was the tennis matches in Wii Sports that became the symbol of the Wii.

Wii Sports Tennis became a family norm in many households; it provided entertainment everyone could get into with little effort, making it, for many families, worth the price of admission alone. More so, it made the Wii famous, with many TV shows referencing or showing people playing tennis on the system. Visually, at least, the image of people playing it became what the Wii was thought of.

While its successor, Wii Sports Resort, is an undoubtedly better game, Wii Sports was the spearhead of a short-lived motion-controlled revolution - one that might yet resurface as motion controls become popular again on VR systems like the Vive.
- Thomas

8. New Super Mario Bros. Wii

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Whilst the Mario series has made some astonishing leaps, not least of all into 3D, and consolidated itself at the pinnacle of the genre, there is still a desire to play a straight up 2D left to right Mario game. Nintendo realised this and relaunched the 2D games under the New Super Mario Bros. banner, and the Wii version serves up a full size eight-world platformer. While it has the standard features, such as the overworld map and the familiar set of moves, they kept with tradition and added more tricks, traps, enemies and new costume movesets, such as the propeller and penguin suits. But the real curve ball they threw at the fans is the four-player simultaneous mode. It's a chaotic way to play, and could frustrate those wanting to progress, but play it with the right state of mind and it proves to be a highly entertaining knockabout party game.

The main eight-world campaign is a great single-player experience, though, with branching paths, and replay value is provided by a search for hidden giant coins that can be used to unlock secret levels, but also astounding expert playthroughs. These are particularly impressive when they show breath-taking multiplayer assaults on courses revealing all sort of tricks to try for yourself.

The multiplayer game can also be played in a Free Mode, which allows selection of any unlocked level to tackle, but there is also a more structured Coin Battle Mode that has some re-arrangements of certain stages that facilitate more entertaining gameplay in which the four players race to the end of the course while collecting as many coins as possible. This mode offers up recommended levels, but as with Free Mode, you can select any unlocked mode to play this way.

This is, of course, the usual solid, polished Nintendo game, with pleasing graphics and sounds, accompanied by that trademark level design, pixel perfect placement of enemies, and exquisite sense of inertia and responsive control.
- Davy

7. Mario Kart Wii

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Mario Kart Wii may have been the second game in the series to enjoy online multiplayer, but this was home to a lot of firsts. Not only did it have twelve-player multiplayer over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (Reggie himself said that "more players means more fun," and he was right!), it also gave players something to strive for in the form of an online ranking system: one for races, and another for the game's Battle Mode. You knew somebody meant business when they had a Versus Rating in the 9000s, and gold stars next to their name. Unfortunately, the multiplayer servers are no more, but that doesn't diminish the impact and polish that Mario Kart Wii has had on the series.
- Carrick

6. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

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Though it may not necessarily be remembered today, Metroid Prime 3 was actually one of the very first games to be announced and shown off for the Wii, as Reggie Fils Aime would hint that the Nintendo "Revolution" would hold its own in the graphics department into the then-next generation of consoles. We know, of course, that this was not entirely truthful, but seeing a next generation Samus along with her newly-shaped spaceship sure left an impression. What came out years later, however, was still nothing short of awesome. What it may have lacked in terms of next generation graphics, it more than made up for in the visual design and aesthetic department, and was carried along by well-crafted controls that showed the world how great the Wii Remote and Nunchuk were for first-person adventure/shooting games.

The feeling of perfect control of the action that came from launching a lasso with a movement of the Nunchuk to grab onto an enemy's shield and yank it out of their hands felt like nothing else on the market. In fact, few games really made extensive use of the motion sensing technology inside the Nunchuk itself to the point that some may even forget that the Nunchuk was, too, capable of motion sensing. Metroid Prime 3 came at a time when the Wii had still a lot to prove, and succeeded at that in pretty much all departments. It was perhaps the first Nintendo title released exclusively on the system that was geared towards core gamers, and really showed what those could expect from the system, before the other greats like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl even came out. Retro Studios deserves the praise for beating Nintendo's own in-house development teams on the calendar of releases to help carry the system.
- Rudy

5. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

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The Wii's swan song had its fair share of criticism lobbied against it, but history will probably look back at The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword as one of the turning points in Zelda's history. Many of the concepts fans are currently on the edge of their seats for regarding Breath of the Wild had taken root in Skyward Sword, with Link able to collect various items used to forge better equipment, a more open world, and a stronger emphasis on environment exploration.

The game also features a fan favourite incarnation of the titular princess, with Zelda taking a more leading role in addition to being a playful, three-dimensional character, rather than a means of advancing the plot. The same can be said for the rest of the game's supporting cast—fans won't forget the likes of Impa or Groose anytime soon. Underneath it all are some of the series' best boss battles and most colourful graphics, and striking, breath-taking moments worthy of the Legend of Zelda title.
- David

The beauty of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is that it extracts the key core elements that make the series so impressive in the first place and brings along a large dose of familiarity, but then goes on to mix in a whole host of newly-styled dungeons, brand new puzzles that appeal to a broad audience, a twist on the normal storyline, as well as superb 1:1 sword control that actually needs to be mastered for progression, rather than being added as a gimmick or just for show. Nintendo took on board the feedback from fans and critics alike following Twilight Princess' release and used it to create one of the best Zelda games ever.
- Adam

The first and only Zelda title developed specifically for the Wii, Skyward Sword delivered some twists on the usual series formula, while also showcasing a number of innovations never seen before. Though it seems that fans will always be divided over the game's use of MotionPlus, there's no denying the cleverness of some of its implementations - whether it be slashing a sword at just the right angle to penetrate an enemy's defences, steering the Beetle towards targets, or blowing away sand with the Gust Bellows.

This aside, however, there are many things regarding the game that are unanimous in retrospect. The Impressionist-inspired graphics, for one, are a simply beautiful way of showcasing what must be the most colourful Hyrule seen to date. The dungeons, compact and concise, introduce clever concepts with ingenious methods of interacting with the surroundings. Finally, the soundtrack matches the increased scale of the game, and utilises a grand orchestral sound undercut with homely folk and acoustic strains for a more intimate tone when needed.

Also notable are the Silent Realm challenges - portions of the game similar to Twilight Princess' in concept, but with genuine heart-stopping moments of fear and suspense, making for some of the most nerve-wracking moments ever seen in the series. All things considered, Skyward Sword is another solid entry into the series; bold, uncompromising, and always a joy to play through.
- John

4. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

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A fighting game mixing Nintendo's most popular icons was always a recipe for success, but in the hands of game director Masahiro Sakurai, each entry in the series has been something a little more. The third entry, Brawl, is no exception, with rolling updates to the game's website, the Dojo, teasing upcoming content and keeping fans on the edge of their seats prior to release.

While some would go on to criticise the game for being less competitive than Melee, Brawl was more hit than miss on several aspects; the single-player campaign, Subspace Emissary, or the inclusion, finally, of third-party characters, some expected (Sonic the Hedgehog) and others not so much (Solid Snake), with all of it coming together to make one of the Wii's biggest hits.
- David

3. Xenoblade Chronicles

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Xenoblade has, without a shred of doubt in my mind, the coolest setting of any video game ever made thus far. It's not just that it has an amazingly impressive and vast freely explorable landscape. It's not just that it's visually interesting pretty much everywhere you go, with stunning environmental designs.

No, it's the fact the whole world you're running about on is a giant mech. The scope of this core idea is both glorious and insane, and yet somehow, somehow… Monolith Soft built a coherent world out of it, told a decent multi-facetted story, and wrapped it up in both highly streamlined and pretty inventive RPG mechanics.
- Thomas

Xenoblade Chronicles easily tops the list of the best JRPGs to come out in recent times. Its gameplay is as complex and unique as the story involved; worlds collide as the residents of two dead titans meet in all-out war, and a young man named Shulk, along with his allies, embarks on a journey both epic and existential. The sheer scope of the game is something to marvel at, and just about every aspect of it is executed perfectly. A major fan campaign helped bring the title to North America, and the effects of this can be seen today, as Nintendo of America brought in voice actors from the European release when dubbing the game's Wii U sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles X.
- David

Wii owners had been waiting for something truly epic to grace the system since launch, and whilst there were superb experiences in the action and platform genres, RPGs had been rather thin on the ground. Good examples that have made it to Europe, such as Opoona, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Fragile Dreams, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, and Sakura Wars: So Long My Love, had all been criminally overlooked.

Monolith Soft's grand Xenoblade Chronicles arrived, though, bringing with it a sterling soundtrack, a phenomenal visual impact, vast amount of customisation, intriguing story, and massive value for money. With it definitely proving itself to be of the highest calibre on Wii, RPG fans must take a stand and show their appreciation for this sublime classic.
- Adam

2. Super Mario Galaxy 2

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Nintendo pulled out all the stops to cook up far more than a mere "Super Mario Galaxy with bells on," instead serving up a steaming dish of delicious gaming goodness with a sequel that is leaps and bounds above not only every other similar adventure, but nearly all of Nintendo's own previous platform/3D adventure creations. When such a level of perfection has been reached, you have to wonder where Mario can go next in order to once again raise the bar. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a truly magical video game that must be experienced by one and all without delay.
- Adam

When you're lucky enough to stumble upon a good thing, you run with it. That seems to be the ethos Nintendo had in mind when they decided to develop a sequel to Super Mario Galaxy. To say that Super Mario Galaxy 2 merely serves up more of the same, however, would be doing it a monumental disservice. This is no mere expansion pack - nor is it simply a cheap and hasty cut wheeled out sorely to capitalise on the success of the original. Yes, the game may have carried over numerous core gameplay elements from its predecessor, but this comes across as more of a necessary component to lay down the groundwork for this stunning game, rather than laziness on Nintendo's part.

Everything about this game simply feels better, more streamlined and more polished than the first. A new overworld map system ends the hassle of having to navigate a central hub world as in the first game. The galaxies are bolder, with more daring concepts and some of the best-looking graphics on the console to date. The soundtrack, while not straying too far from the orchestral/synth sound established by the first game, stretches even further to include jaunty Celtic fiddles, minimalist ambient techno and swinging big band arrangements, to name but a few.

The most significant aspect of the game, though, is simply how staggeringly fun it is to play. It's often said that Nintendo is in the business of fun, and if this is to be held true, then Super Mario Galaxy 2 must surely be the pinnacle of this; the crowning jewel in a well-established line of triple-A platforming titles stretching all the way back to the first Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Everything, from the level design, to the gameplay, the difficulty curve, the music and the creativity, feels flawlessly executed, with a constant feeling of surprise at every turn - indeed, there is incredibly little the game doesn't do well.

Will there ever be another game like Super Mario Galaxy 2? One can only guess, but there's one thing that can be said for certain: this game is undoubtedly Nintendo at its joyous, captivating, and magnificent best.
- John

1. Super Mario Galaxy

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Super Mario Galaxy is gobsmackingly fun. There has never been such a simplistic yet brilliant twist on a game. By letting Mario explore spherical and non-linear gravitational planes, the player is faced with something intrinsically new, yet very easy to grasp. The alien nature of the physics appeals deeply on a very basic human level. Simply running and jumping is fun and fresh again. Wheee!!!
- Thomas

Super Mario Galaxy turned the platforming genre on its head, figuratively and literally. New power-ups, such as the Bee Mushroom, Ice Flower, and Boo Mushroom, allow you to navigate worlds in ways not previously possible. Imaginative worlds, now called galaxies, are some of the largest seen, with differing routes opening depending on your current objective.

Memorable bosses, such as Dino Piranha, King Caliente, and Bouldergeist, appear to keep things fresher than funky rhymes, and a jaw-dropping orchestral soundtrack plays perfectly to the mood created by the environments, power-ups, and the bosses. To top it off, Nintendo had so much content they wanted to add, they ended up creating a sequel out of it all!
- Carrick

The anticipation for Mario's next big 3D adventure following Super Mario Sunshine was through the roof, so it's an amazing achievement that Nintendo was able to not only meet expectations, but exceed them. The space theme lent itself well to platforming, and the use of gravity allowed the imaginations of Super Mario Galaxy's developers to run wild, coming up with some sublime level creations that utilised an enormous amount of different mechanics, keeping gameplay fresh throughout.

Although designed as a much more linear game than its two predecessors on Nintendo 64 and GameCube, the sheer variety of planets to explore and things to do meant there was always fun to be had around the next corner and on subsequent playthroughs. Furthermore, the Wii Remote, the console's core selling point, was put to great use, allowing Mario to fling himself across space, or even pick up star bits whilst on the run, ensuring the action flowed as the plumber leapt his way through galaxies in style.
- Az

What do you think to our favourite 20 games on Wii? Was the console as "revolutionary" as Nintendo said it would be? Share your thoughts on the system's ten-year history and your favourite games below.

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