In April, Nintendo, a direct sequel to the legendary Wii Sports, a pack-in game for one of Nintendo’s most popular consoles, the Nintendo Wii. This is great news for most people, but I barely noticed it. Because despite the fact that we very clearly live in 2022, I still play my Nintendo Wii. And it turns out I’m not alone.
A little background: It was the summer of 2019, and I was a rising junior at the University of Texas, focused on one essential task: setting up a killer college apartment. My friend and I were moving into the place, and we were determined to make it stylish for our guests. I brought the TV, she provided the vacuum cleaner. But we still needed one thing. Something that would really take our pad to the next level.
“I want a Wii,” I texted my supportive friend who immediately agreed that this game console released in 2006 was needed. “We’re riding the nostalgia train all the way baby,” I replied excitedly. “All the.”
So when I was 20, I bought a second-hand Nintendo Wii, a gadget that was part of my childhood. It seemed like something other students would enjoy if they came along, a blast from the past with tons of recognizable games. We paid $60 for the Wii from a seller on OfferUp, and slowly built up a small stack of games that included some of the greats: Mario Kart, Wii Sports, and Just Dance 3.
There are plenty of reasons why I continue to invest my time (and money) in this bulky, discontinued console, even though people I know are playing better-looking game remakes on the Nintendo Switch or waiting online for a Brilliant PS5. The Wii is a conversation starter, and it’s not hard to find affordable games. Bottom line: There’s just something about running a familiar, low-res Mario Kart track that I can’t find anywhere else.
When the Wii debuted in November 2006, George W. Bush was president, SexyBack topped the Billboard charts, and Happy Feet was playing in theaters. The Wii cost $250, which was less than Sony’s Playstation 3 ($500+) and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 ($300+). Former Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime said Nintendo aimed to appeal not only to current gamers, but also to those who didn’t tend to pick up a controller. “The next step in the game is to bring the game back to the masses,” he said at the time.
The original American Wii bundle came with a single remote, a nunchuck, and the base game, Wii Sports. The Wii’s new motion-tracking features were notable at the time, though less present on consoles today, and Microsoft and Sony would respond with the Kinect and PS Move in 2010. Chris Tom, Store Owner of Game Republik video game repair, recalls how difficult it was to get your hands on the Wii console in 2006. “I checked like every Walmart and Target trying to find one,” he says. “It was incredibly hard to get.”
But eventually people bought Wiis – lots of them. Before the Nintendo Switchin December, the Wii established itself as Nintendo’s best-selling home console, with 101.63 million units sold.
I spoke with Tom on a recent Monday, when Game Republik was fixing three Wiis and six Wii U consoles, the chunkier and less successful successor to the Wii. He said they’ve been busy since the pandemic began as more free time along with supply chain issues have led people to dig into their once-loved systems. “You couldn’t find Switches, you couldn’t find PlayStations, Xboxs,” he says. “I think that led to people dusting off their old consoles.”
When I searched online for Wii enthusiasts like myself, it didn’t take long to find communities of people still rocking their boxy white consoles. After answering a question about my favorite Wii game (it’s Animal Crossing: City Folk), I was accepted into the 5,000-member “Wii/Wii U Collectors North America” Facebook group, where people share photos of their huge collections and the titles they’ rev sell. Venturing to the Wii subreddit, I found more people showing their hideouts, as well as a meme of Drake avoiding the new Switch Sports game. “Wii Sports will always be better,” the caption reads.
Just me and my Wii
Juan Rodriguez, manager of video game store Gamefellas, in Austin, Texas, thinks nostalgia is driving the decision to reinvest in Wiis. Whether it’s the Super Nintendo for kids in the early 90s or the Nintendo 64 for kids in the late 90s and early 2000s, there are always people who grew up playing at the console, he said. He also notes that because the Wii was released around 15 years ago, many of its early players are now young adults – like me – and have disposable income.
I’m not going to pretend that there are no downsides to owning a ten and a half year old system. When I’m playing Wii games with my friends, sometimes a remote randomly disconnects and the inside of the Wii frequently makes a loud buzzing noise, like it’s running a little too loud. Several months after buying my Wii, the console stopped playing discs and I had to pay to have it repaired. But the Wii always keeps me engaged – or even active, depending on the game – and it’s fun to share with others.
Although Gamefellas sells more Wii games on some days than others, people generally come to pick up titles every day, Rodriguez says. At Gamefellas, cheaper Wii games that may not have nostalgic value are put on the floor, but rarer games are kept behind the counter. “What we call rare is anything worth more than $24.99,” he says. “And most of that stuff will be filled with Mario titles, Mario Kart, Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Galaxy.” Pokemon and Zelda titles are also important, he says.
Rileigh Braisher, a 21-year-old Californian, says she usually buys new Wii games on eBay. She picked up the Wii after playing her boyfriend’s PS4. “It couldn’t accomplish what I remember from my childhood, the Wii did,” she told me. “Nothing beats Wii sports, and I really mean it.” So she went to the Goodwill website a little over a month ago and bought a Wii, which finally arrived last week.
In case I haven’t pleaded for the Wii yet, here it is: the iconic and catchy music of Wii Sports, the Mario Kart map of Coconut Mall, snag a virtual shark in Animal Crossing, and turn your friends into an army of tiny avatars in the Mii menu.
Even though I’m no longer a college student aspiring to impress my peers, I still consider my apartment – thanks to my Wii – to be the coolest on the block.