Platforming, and its derivatives, are my all-time favorite genres of video games. I feel that it distills the medium down to its purest form, and allows for unadulterated challenge and fun. Having complete control over a character and navigating them through treacherous obstacles and scenic environments is what I play games for. It’s a simple concept that gave birth to some of the greatest games in history. Seriously, when you think of video games, you think platformer. And no one has the genre mastered like Nintendo; in fact, the company invented it.
In future times, when children ask me about the fossilized white box called the Wii, I won’t remember the shovelware. I won’t remember the Miis, the strange ports, or the waggling. No, I will lean back in my rocking chair and think of soaring through the skies in Super Mario Galaxy, and riding mine carts in Donkey Kong Country Returns. I will remember the platformers, and how Wii gave them a comeback.
Pure platform games, particularly sidescrollers, had been all but abandoned during the generation of GameCube. We were exploring new worlds of play, like dual-analog first person control and gritty hack n’ slash games. Sure, we got the odd platformer here or there, like Super Mario Sunshine, but those weren’t the norm. When I look through my PlayStation 2 and GameCube library, there are barely any at all. Those that did stick to platforming roots, like Jak and Daxter, ended up becoming action games later on. Where did all the top quality platformers go during this time?
They were being saved for the Wii generation it seems. I don’t know if Wii started the trend or was just following it, but what came during the years of 2006-2012 was nothing short of a platformer renaissance. Suddenly, running around, jumping, and having fun was back in vogue. When Super Mario Galaxy came out in 2007, I was absolutely dazzled with the sheer joy that came from playing it. The wondrous feeling of Super Mario 64 was captured once again, and Nintendo and other developers wouldn’t stop there.
As the years went on, more and more platforming goodness was to be had. 2008 started the trend of sidescroller resurgence, with Mega Man 9, LostWinds, and Wario Land: Shake It! 2009 was a bit dry for platforming, but the end of the year was capped off by two more great sidescrollers: A Boy and his Blob and New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
2010 was truly the year Wii hit its stride, and I consider it to be one of the best years in gaming ever. The amount of amazing platforming games to come out this year was staggering. Where should I start? We had Mega Man 10, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Lost in Shadow, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Epic Mickey, Sonic Colors, Super Mario All-Stars, and the fantastic Donkey Kong Country Returns. Wow. Anyone who ever said Wii has bad games is just lying.
2011 was when the Wii’s library started winding down, but it still brought us some great games. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land and Rayman Origins came out, and they were two of the finest sidescrollers ever to grace the Wii.
As the late and great Billy Mays would say: “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!” I haven’t even brought up the slew of LEGO games that came out over the Wii’s lifespan, all respectable action-platforming adventures in their own right. There’s also the small matter of the Wii Virtual Console, a place where you can play the amazing platforming games of yore.
The more I look back at Wii, the more comparisons I draw between it and the Nintendo Entertainment System. Both consoles were hits out of nowhere, and introduced gaming to those who never tried it before. Both consoles had a huge reach, and I think in the future Wii will be remembered for its breadth of content almost as fondly as the NES (but not quite as much). Most importantly, both consoles featured the best platform games ever made, and that’s what I love.
Truly, Wii is the ultimate platforming console. There’s a lot of bad mouthing about Wii, but I believe that will fade with time. Wii’s legacy is its unwavering commitment to fun. The system always had the games that were the most fun, plain and simple. So if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek what I seek, then I ask you stand beside me in commemorating the Wii as a true pioneer of the platforming renaissance.