These days I have come to appreciate older generation consoles and games more. I have always considered the Super Nintendo my favorite console, but there is so much more to explore and try, and it often feels hard to figure out where to even start. With so many great titles that exist across so many platforms and generations, where to begin?
And so, we often end up going with the current generation. It is, after all, very accessible (price aside, perhaps), and there are ads, reviews and previews everywhere to show you the latest and greatest. Titles like Luigi's Mansion 3 come out to near universal acclaim, and for good reason too; it looks fantastic!
But, what about Luigi's Mansion 1 and 2? I have never played either of them before (I know!). While it is incredibly tempting to at least consider buying into the Switch ecosystem (again — I had one when it just came out, but had to sell it for financial reasons), I instead opted to look in another direction.
The Nintendo Wii
Not too long ago I purchased a Nintendo Wii. I had originally entirely missed out on this console generation, and while I did briefly owned a Wii U just before the Switch came out, I did not have it long enough to be able to revisit this generation properly. Switch aside, the last Nintendo I had owned and played with properly was the GameCube, way back when that was the current console. But even there, I had either completely missed out on or was not able to finish some classic titles — like the aforementioned Luigi's Mansion.
I wasn't planning on buying this Wii, to be honest. But things just sort of fell into place. It was a fair deal, and it came with a bunch of titles. Most of these were unfortunately shovelware or kids games, but it had a few titles worth keeping around at least.
The Wii is a great console to consider, I think. It has full backwards compatibility with GameCube, which means you have full access to effectively two generations worth of titles. It also had a large library of Virtual Console titles from even more consoles, although the eShop is no longer available. I often think it's better not to buy digitally from Nintendo anyway; digital purchases are overpriced rentals, after all.
The Homebrew community is still thriving for the Wii, so if you have older console titles you can't wait to play again, all you have to do is install custom firmware on your Wii and you'll have accesss to a wide range of emulators, which you can use to play your own dumped ROMs, or ones obtained from a friend you might not know I suppose. All 8 and 16 bit consoles and even the Nintendo 64 (mostly) will work fine on a Wii, so there really are a crazy amount of titles available for you to play or replay. But I digress.
What about a GameCube?
With a stock, unmodified first generation Wii —recognized by the cover at the top of the unit which exposes 4 GameCube controller ports as-well as two memory slots— you have full access to effectively two generations worth of games. You'll instantly have access to an amazing game library, with most games being available at very affordable prices.
That's one of the big benefits of going with a previous-generation console, and one that shouldn't be overlooked. Unless you buy a console for just one or two specific titles, it's the games that end up being the biggest cost. With each Switch title on average going for $50, for example, you can get three to five Wii titles for the price of one Switch game. This is purely because it is an older generation title; the games are not inherently less good. In fact, many of the great titles that are now getting sequals or re-releases on current-gen consoles are coming straight from this generation.
You could consider getting a GameCube, too, but it, in my opinion, is just a bit more complicated. For GameCube you'll likely want to use either an old CRT television if you can still find a decent one where you live, or you might have to invest in a decent upscaler, which will complicate the process if getting you to actually play some games. Not to mention those can be quite costly, too.
On the other hand, it is very easy to buy a cheap Wii HDMI adapter that works more than adequately. I purchased a $10 adapter and while the image is a bit noisy, at normal viewing distances you won't notice it at all. Actually I am consistently surprised at how decent a picture the Wii produces, as I previously only ever saw it used with analog SCART/AV cable. The difference is quite stark.
How to get the most out of your Wii
If you're not tech savvy, this is all you really need to do. Pick up a used Wii with two or more controllers, and one of those cheap HDMI adapters. Make sure the top of the Wii has a door that exposes the GameCube controller and memory card ports, as that's the only model that natively supports GameCube titles.
The HDMI adapters all over Amazon and eBay, so you won't have any trouble finding one. While there is an image quality difference between the original, slightly more expensive HDMI adapter and the off-brand clones, I would say it is not worth the ~3x cost. However, if you are looking for the cleanest picture, it might be worth it to you.
If you are not interested in native support for playing GameCube discs, you can instead choose a second generation Wii. Although in this case I would highly recommend you buy a Wii U instead. You still have the option to emulate GameCube titles if you so choose, but in addition you gain the Wii U's admittedly limited but very solid game library. Wii Us can also be found for very affordable prices, with places like GameStop offering "premium refurbished" units for as little as $70.
It is pretty easy to install custom firmware on every first and second generation Wii console, regardless of what firmware they have installed. Even if you are not planning to use emulation, you might want to consider going this route, as this will also let you play different region titles. On the Wii the region lock truly is software-only, meaning there are no hardware or game differences between PAL and NTSC versions, unlike some of the more classic consoles.
This means you can buy games from any region and, assuming the game contains a language you understand, you can play it freely without worry. I mainly installed custom firmware for this very reason, as the Wii I bought is a US-region console, but I wanted to purchase and play some Korean-region games as-well. I also have a few PAL titles on their way.
Some of the great titles for Switch that came out recently like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze or Bayonetta were direct ports of the Wii U originals, so if you have been wanting to try any of these titles out, with a Wii U you'll be able to. And in a more affordable way, too. And, of course, the iconic Breath of the Wild was also released for Wii U.
But the Wii itself has a tremendous amount of titles worthy of exploring. Besides the popular choices like Super Mario Galaxy, Skyward Sword, Wii Sports, Mario Party, and of course Mario Kart Wii, there are a host of games released on the console, some of which might even surprise you. Some of the great and unique series Nintendo has worked on over the years started their life on the Wii or GameCube.
The aforementioned Luigi's Mansion is one such example. Pikmin would be another. The often revered Resident Evil 4 has a great Wii port as-well, with full motion aim controls, which is quite fun. Other titles like Punch-Out!!, or one of the many party titles are solid choices and a lot of fun to play together with friends and family. Then there are the Metroid Prime trilogy, Xenoblade Chronicles, Okami, No More Heroes, Fire Emblem, the cheesy but very entertaining Harry Potter games, a host of LEGO titles, and many more.
Metacritic's list of Wii games sorted by user score is a good resource to discover additional titles you might have missed out on, as-well as their Wii U list. GameSpot's somewhat hard to find list is another good source.
This week marks a special week for Wii. Ubisoft released Just Dance 2020, which is officially the last physical Wii title to be released for the platform. The Wii's 13 year reign is as unique as its control scheme was for its time. For casual, couch co-op games there truly is no console better suited than the Wii. Over time the Switch might surpass it in one way or another, but it will take time to catch up on Wii's long lasting and very large game collection, no doubt.
Of course the Switch is a fantastic console. I had it, and will most likely end up with one again at some point later. But for right now, in 2019/2020, I think the very best Nintendo console to get and play on is the Wii (or Wii U). You'll finally be able to play all those titles you missed out on before, and you'll actually be able to afford buying them too.
And then, a few years down the line, when you're starting to run out of Wii (U) titles to enjoy afresh, and there is a next generation Switch available, maybe then is a good time to buy a Switch.
My personal projects with the Wii & related
I have been thinking of ways to help preserve games from consoles such as the Wii. I have been helping complete Korea-region collections for projects like Redump and No-Intro, but beyond that I'm pretty sure there are more ways we can help remember and preserve great (and less great) games. Though I'm not sure if I'd be the right person to do those kinds of things.
Anyway, that's all for today.