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Best Nintendo Wii games: from Super Mario to Metroid, Zelda and beyond

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Nintendo's all-time top-selling home console was a massive success, to say the least, but also enormously divisive. By focusing on accessibility and affordability, the Wii reached millions of players who might not have otherwise bought a pricier, more powerful console. That's great!

However, the focus on motion controls and weaker graphics put off some longtime Nintendo fans who felt like they were being ignored or edged out. That's not so great. Needless to say, the Wii couldn't be everything to everyone at all times—but when all was said and done, the console still delivered incredible games for all types of players, including many that are still worth looping back on today.

Looking to fill holes in your classic collection? Here's a look at our favorite Nintendo Wii games of all time, including an array of familiar Nintendo icons—and a couple of surprises along the way.

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Super Mario Galaxy

One of the Super Mario series' greatest strengths over the years has been its consistent ability to reinvent itself, and Super Mario Galaxy is undoubtedly one of its best permutations. This planet-hopping 3D quest is bursting at the seams with creative concepts and inventive twists, delivering a pitch-perfect platformer that can stand the test of time. And sequel Super Mario Galaxy 2 goes above and beyond being just a simple follow-up, thanks to its own plethora of brilliant ideas.

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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Just as the Switch did with Breath of the Wild a decade later, the Wii came out swinging with a brilliant Legend of Zelda game on day one. Twilight Princess was notably darker than previous games, delivering an epic quest that embraced the Wii's motion controls while making other strides for the series. It also launched on GameCube soon after the Wii debut, but it's primarily known for being a seriously captivating quest on a console known for its casual favorites. 

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Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Although not as beloved by the Smash community as the GameCube's Melee before it, Super Smash Bros. Brawl brought massive enhancements to Nintendo's cross-franchise battler. Most important, of course, was the addition of online play, but Brawl is also known for being the first in the series to implement third-party characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake, setting the stage for many, many more guest brawlers in future entries. 

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Wii Sports

There were a lot of Wii games like Wii Sports, but none of them felt as effortlessly enjoyable as Nintendo's original pack-in. While simplistic, the motion-controlled versions of sports like tennis and bowling showed the brilliance of the Wii's focus on accessibility, and it's a game that you can keep coming back to—with any mix of friends and family in tow. Special shout-out to sequel Wii Sports Resort, which had a few super-fun Wii MotionPlus-enhanced games within but wasn't nearly as impactful overall.

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Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

Metroid Prime was originally built for a dual-analog gamepad, but Metroid Prime 3: Corruption showed how surprisingly adept the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo could be for a first-person shooter. Metroid Prime 3 marks a high point for the sci-fi adventure sub-series, delivering larger and more immersive environments and some of the best visuals you'll find on the Wii. And the later Metroid Prime Trilogy is even better, packing in updated versions of the GameCube originals with the same kind of added motion controls.

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Kirby's Epic Yarn

Looking for a serious challenge? You won't find it in Kirby's Epic Yarn, but don't dismiss this gorgeous platformer because of that. What Epic Yarn lacks in difficulty it more than makes up for with immense charm, as the pink puff is reimagined in an absorbing world made of yarn and fabric. It's a whimsical affair that's sure to put a smile on your face, which is likely to stay put thanks to the creative levels and incredible heart packed within.

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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Wii houses not just one, but two brilliant Zelda adventures. The second is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, a game that is built around Wii MotionPlus gesture controls and features a much brighter aesthetic than Twilight Princess before it. With a look inspired by impressionist painters, this dreamy-looking quest sticks to Zelda conventions in some ways while completely sidestepping them in others. The end result is thoroughly captivating.

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New Super Mario Bros. Wii

New Super Mario Bros. Wii enters unexplored and unexpected terrain for the long-running series with the addition of four-player multiplayer support. The end result is raucous and hilarious, as the side-scrolling levels serve up both cooperation and competition as your heroes leap and bop en route to the finish. It's not as mind-blowingly inventive as Super Mario Galaxy, but this retro-redefined romp is still a blast whether playing solo or with pals.

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Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars

Decidedly lesser-known than Marvel vs. Capcom and that lineage of cross-franchise fighters, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is an overlooked gem of a Wii exclusive. Pairing an odd mixture of Capcom characters—from Chun-Li and Mega Man Volnutt to Frank West and Viewtiful Joe—with various anime heroes from Tatsunoko Production series like Gatchaman and Yatterman, this explosive fighter is by far the best available on the Wii.

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World of Goo

World of Goo is the only WiiWare game to make the cut and also the only indie game on this mostly Nintendo-dominated list—but it's just that good. This wonderfully offbeat puzzler makes perfect use of the Wii Remote's pointer, letting you drop in gooey, sticky ball-like creatures that can connect to devise makeshift structures. You'll have to build a bunch of them to get your way out of each level, and while the increasingly brainy challenges are a treat unto themselves, the charming look and music add so much to the overall experience.

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Donkey Kong Country Returns

It's right there in the title: this is the proper, rightfully-celebrated comeback of Rare's Donkey Kong Country series from the SNES, only now in the careful hands of Metroid Prime maker Retro Studios. The end result tickles the nostalgia bone, no doubt, but doesn't feel like an old game lazily returned for the sake of it. Retro's take keeps what worked about the classics while adding new elements and giving it a seriously challenging edge. Long live Kong.

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Mario Kart Wii

Mario Kart Wii isn't the most inventive entry in the beloved racing series, but with accessible motion controls opening up the fun to an even wider array of players, it's yet another winner. The Wii Wheel shell for the Wii Remote was a fun touch, especially for kids, while online play was a blast and the addition of motorbikes added a neat twist to the familiar formula. If you have a Wii and plan to play with pals, then you have to have Mario Kart Wii alongside.

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Xenoblade Chronicles

Wii owners lucked out with a pair of Zelda originals, but those aren't the only role-playing epics worth remembering on the console. Nintendo's own Xenoblade Chronicles continued on the spiritual legacy of games like Xenogears and Xenosaga, this time delivering a vast open world to explore along with compelling characters and satisfying combat. It kicked off a series that has since continued on Wii U and Switch.