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Cheap gamer's paradise: The Wii

This cartoonish and family-friendly boxing game, based on the 1980s Nintendo title, has strayed little from its original formula: dodge punches, counter and repeat.

Being an early adopter is a perverse thing. Sure, you may get to lay down some smack talk on your friends that you rushed through all 40-plus hours of “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” before the first week of December, but now that we’ve turned the page on 2011, those patient, penny-pinching friends might throw this right back at you: They’re paying less than half for the same experience.

Keeping in mind that the smarter gamers (or parents) among us might have waited until recently to get the best possible bundle deal on a Wii, here are the top titles you might want to consider with your new waggle wonder. Despite the Wii-U on the horizon and post-holiday deals abound, now is the best time to be a new Wii owner — especially if you’re price-conscious. The technology marches on, but that leaves plenty of great titles that can be grabbed for a fraction of the original price.

(Note: Prices are from eBay.com and Amazon.com listings as of Dec. 31, 2011)

'Mario Strikers Charged'
  • Genre: Sports, action, soccer
  • Price range: $9-$20
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Hard

Mario and Co. throw down on the pitch in this hectic action-soccer game set in the vein of “Mario Kart.” There’s a wide variety of bananas, red shells and bombs to help you trounce and bully other teams on your way to the top. This is one of the best hardcore multiplayer titles on Wii, complete with online multiplayer and a tough single-player campaign. As fun as it is, Strikers requires a lot of high-level reflexes and coordination to keep up with -- one of the few Wii sports titles that geared more toward the ‘hardcore’ crowd.

 'Punch-Out!'
  • Genre: Sports, boxing
  • Price range: $14-$20
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Progressive

This cartoonish and family-friendly boxing game, based on the 1980s Nintendo title, has strayed little from its original formula: dodge punches, counter and repeat. Yet somehow a game all about memorization and repetition is still a blast to play. Featuring an eclectic international cast of fiction champion boxers, you help Little Mac become world champion of every weight class; that is, if you can stop giggling at King Hippo.

  ‘Metroid Prime 3: Corruption’
  • Genre: Exploration, first-person shooting
  • Price range: $10-$35
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Medium

The last in Retro Studio’s first-person “Metroid” trilogy, this game pulls it all together. Samus must traverse to planets featuring arid landscapes, derelict sky civilizations, devoid space stations and other exotic locales as she seeks out the last of the Prime Metroids. The entire series, often a seemingly effortless blend of atmosphere, isolation and cool, is not to be missed if you’re a first-person shooter fan, and the third game expands upon the series’ direction with more action sequences and fluid aiming. Those willing to spend a little extra should consider the limited-release “Metroid Prime: Trilogy” that includes all three games.

 ‘WarioWare: Smooth Moves’
  • Genre: Minigames, variety, multiplayer
  • Price range: $20-$30
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Medium

The “WarioWare” series is gaming in its most distilled form. You have approximately five seconds to figure out what to do, do it and get ready for the next event. It may sound like a game with an ADHD problem, but after your Wiimote is used as an elephant trunk, samurai sword, vacuum and water glass in the first 15 seconds, you’ll probably fall in love. Smooth Moves comes complete with hundreds of “micro games” and many great multiplayer side games and party modes.

 ‘New Super Mario Bros. Wii’
  • Genre: Platforming, multiplayer co-op
  • Price range: $26-$44
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Easy to medium

Running, jumping and flying is everywhere in this classic side-scrolling platformer, but a multiplayer twist makes it both fiendishly fun and family friendly. Work together or against one another as you wind your way through level after level of platforming and fireballs. A lot of cool power-ups return from the “New Super Mario Bros.” title on DS, but most of this game revolves around the fact that, at any time, for any reason, you can throw your friends off a cliff. Fiendish indeed.

 ‘The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess’
  • Genre: Adventure, puzzle, RPG
  • Price range: $12-$20
  • Age group: Teen
  • Difficulty: Hard

The Wii turned 5 years old recently, which means a lot of gamers might have passed by the Zelda title that launched the system. The recently-released “Skyward Sword” may claim the mantle of best 1:1 Wiimote action, but “Twilight Princess” made a big deal of Wiimote use back in 2006, even if it was waggle-based. In this slightly darker, mature adventure, Link travels between the Twilight realm and his own to track down Zelda. “Skyward Sword” might eclipse it in controls, but “Twilight Princess” holds its own for with its darker mood, epically staged fights and sweeping scope.  

 
‘Wii Fit Plus’
  • Genre: Minigames, fitness
  • Price range: $10-$90
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Easy

All right, including this one on a cheap list is kinda cheating. You do need the balance board, which, as you can probably tell from the price range, is still rather high. But the fun and benefits of this game are well worth it — if you can stick with the program. “Wii Fit Plus” expands on the original game’s mix of yoga, strength training and physical minigame activities with a personal playlist that will help you decide what to train with each day. Think of the minigames as the ice cream after a balanced meal of yoga vegetables.

 
‘Kirby’s Epic Yarn’
  • Genre: Platforming, multiplayer co-op
  • Price range: $17-$30
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Easy

A handful of new Kirby games were released recently, but none quite match the creativity and charm of “Kirby’s Epic Yarn.” Kirby is whisked away to a world where everything, including the characters, are made of yarn. Transforming into various powerful vehicles along the way, Kirby and a newfound friend must unravel the plot that thread-ens the very fabric of existence. This game has more charm that last sentence had puns. In a good way.

 ‘Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition’
  • Genre: Horror, suspense, action
  • Price range: $10-$14
  • Age group: Mature
  • Difficulty: Hard

It’s sadly rare to find a mature title on Wii to recommend, but “Resident Evil 4” is a gaming classic that’s hard to pass up. Rebuilt from the older GameCube version with Wiimote controls, the game feels more responsive and engaging than ever. The game’s scares, graphics and corny plot may reveal a certain age, but it’s hard to argue with the price.

 ‘New Play Control: Pikmin’
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Price range: $15-$24
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Medium to hard

Another GameCube classic remade for Wii controls, “Pikmin” has the player as Olimar, a space explorer stranded on an Earth-like planet. Strange carrot-looking creatures volunteer to help him collect the pieces of his ship so he can find his way home, and so Olimar must command them through several forest locations in search of the pieces. With its lovely outdoor settings and soothing music, this game has plenty of charm, just like Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Be ready for a tougher challenge, however.

 ‘Boom Blox’ or ‘Boom Blox: Bash Party’
  • Genre: Minigames, multiplayer, puzzle
  • Price range: $14-$28
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Easy

Some the best Wii experiences are built around multiplayer, and EA’s two Boom Blox games offer the best of the best when it comes to silly, fun, problem-solving action. Players use the Wiimote to fling balls at towers of bricks in an effort to bring the whole structure down. A mixture of physics and chaos best describes the results. Throw in a long list of excellent unlockable minigames and you’ve got yourself a must-have.

 ‘Tiger Woods 12: The Masters’
  • Genre: Golfing, sports, minigames
  • Price range: $20-$30
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Easy

As rare as it is to find a decent mature game on the Wii, it can be even rarer to find a decent sports game. Ever since +Nintendo released the Wiimotion plus accessory, however, Tiger Woods has been that rare gem. With 1:1 club response, a plethora of character customization options  and loads of famous courses, each of the last three “Tiger Woods” are well worth taking a swing at. EA delivers another solid effort with “The Masters,” which not only includes the famous Augusta course in a video game for the first time, but also diversifies the experience with online tournaments, disc golf, and even balance board support.

 ‘Dead Space: Extraction’
  • Genre: Rails shooting, multiplayer, horror
  • Price range: $10-$22
  • Age group: Mature
  • Difficulty: Medium

A lot of horror fans were rightfully concerned when it was announced one of the best horror games of recent years would be released as an on-rails shooter for Wii. Could a game based around silent isolation really work at a set pace? The answer is a frighteningly loud yes. With two-player action that features a dozen upgradable weapons, multiple paths and a great story, this game is creepy, difficult and one of the best — if not the best — rail-shooters of all time.

 ‘Sin & Punishment: Star Successor’
  • Genre: Rails shooting, multiplayer, action
  • Price range: $10-$18
  • Age group: Teen
  • Difficulty: Hard

Rail-shooter fans looking for less of a gross-out factor should look no further than “Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.” Made by Treasure, the same company that’s pumped out classics like “Ikaruga” and “Gunstar Heroes,” this game comes out hard, fast and strange. The online leader boards help give it a slight edge over “Dead Space: Extraction” in the multiplayer department, but the brain-melting, bizarro plot might be a turn-off for some.

 ‘Goldeneye: 007’
  • Genre: First-person shooter, multiplayer, action
  • Price range: $15-$23
  • Age group: Teen
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ah, “Goldeneye.” Few games have the ability to conjure up such blissful multiplayer memories from so many gamers. That was the game from the Nintendo 64 days, of course, and there have been many Bond-wannabes since. No other comes as close as EA’s “Goldeneye: 007,” a modern (in gaming terms) retelling of the plot complete with long, “Call of Duty”-esque set pieces and top-notch production. The multiplayer falls short of the original once again, but the single player is definitely the best the Wii has to offer gamers itching for some FPS action.

 ‘Super Mario Galaxy’
  • Genre: Platforming
  • Price range: $17-$20
  • Age group: Everyone
  • Difficulty: Medium

The second Mario Galaxy may slightly surpass it in challenge and scope, but original gravity-bending adventure still holds its own. Help Mario restore power to an intergalactic starship by collecting ... wait, actually, don’t worry about the plot. Princess Peach, Bowser and starbits are all you need. With mind-twisting platforming sequences that ramp up in difficulty at a slow-but-satisfying rate, this is a must-own for anyone who enjoyed Super Mario 64 or Mario Sunshine.

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About the Authors


Brian Bowers is Stars and Stripes’ Assistant Managing Editor for Europe and Mideast and one of its video game reviewers. He joined the newspaper in 1992 in Germany, where he worked on the news desk and the city desk. He has a wife and three children, who are always eager to help him test games.


Sam Laney joined Stars and Stripes in 2007 as a copy/layout editor and slowly convinced upper management to support his video game habit. Since then, he’s added game reviews and previews to his list of duties and moved on to the iPad. When he’s not rocking newbies in “Left4Dead2,” he covers PC and Nintendo systems.


Michael S. Darnell joined Stars and Stripes in 2013 as a reporter and quickly annoyed his bosses into allowing him to write about video games in his spare time. He's a PC gamer at heart whose life goals include building the first gaming PC on Mars.