Nintendo on Wednesday, a direct sequel to the legendary Wii Sports, a pack-in game for one of Nintendo’s most successful consoles, the Nintendo Wii. That’s great news for most people, but I barely noticed. Because despite the fact we’re very clearly living in 2022, I’m still playing my Nintendo Wii. And it turns out I’m not alone.
Some context: It was the summer of 2019, and I was a rising junior at the University of Texas focused on one, critical task: setting up a killer college apartment. My friend and I were moving into the place, and we were determined to make it snazzy for our guests. I was bringing the TV, she was supplying the vacuum. But we needed one more thing. Something that would truly take our pad to the next level.
That’s how, at age 20, I bought a second-hand Nintendo Wii, a gadget that had been a fixture of my childhood. It seemed like something other college students would appreciate if they came over, a blast from the past with tons of recognizable games. We paid $60 for the Wii from a seller on OfferUp, and slowly built a small stack of games that included some of the greats: Mario Kart, Wii Sports and Just Dance 3.
There are many reasons I continue to invest my time (and money) in this bulky, discontinued console, even as people I know are playing better-looking game remakes on the Nintendo Switch or waiting in line for a shiny PS5. The Wii is a conversation starter, and it isn’t hard to find affordable games. Bottom line: There’s just something about firing up a familiar, low-res Mario Kart circuit I can’t get anywhere else.
When the Wii debuted in November 2006, George W. Bush was president, SexyBack was high on the Billboard charts and Happy Feet was playing in theaters. The Wii cost $250, which was less than Sony’s Playstation 3 ($500 and up) and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 ($300 and up). Former Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime said Nintendo aimed to appeal not just to current gamers, but also to those who didn’t tend to pick up a controller. “The next step in gaming is bringing gaming back to the masses,” he said at the time.
The original US Wii bundle came with a single remote, nunchuck and the staple game, Wii Sports. The Wii’s new motion-tracking features were notable then, though seen less in consoles today, and Microsoft and Sony would respond with the Kinect and PS Move in 2010. Chris Tom, owner of video game repair store Game Republik remembers how tough 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 crazy hard to get.”
But eventually, people did buy Wiis — many of them. Before the Nintendo Switchin December, the Wii held up as Nintendo’s best-selling home console, with 101.63 million sold.
I spoke with Tom on a recent Monday, when Game Republik was repairing three Wiis and six Wii U consoles, the Wii’s stockier, less successful successor. He said they’ve been busy since the pandemic started, as more free time along with supply chain issues have led people to dig out their once-loved systems. “You couldn’t find Switches, you couldn’t find PlayStations, Xboxes,” he says. “I think it led to people dusting off their old consoles.”
When I searched online for Wii enthusiasts like me, 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 Facebook group “Wii/Wii U Collectors North America,” where folks share pictures of their huge collections and titles they’re selling. Venturing on to the Wii subreddit, I found more people showing off their stashes, as well as a meme of Drake shunning the new Switch Sports game. “Wii Sports will always be better,” the caption reads.
Just me and my Wii
Juan Rodriguez, manager at video game store Gamefellas, in Austin, Texas, thinks nostalgia is driving the decision to reinvest in Wiis. Whether it’s the Super Nintendo for early ’90s kids or the Nintendo 64 for folks who were kids in the late ’90s and early ’00s, there’s always a following from the people who grew up playing the system, he says. He also notes that because the Wii came out about 15 years ago, many of its initial players are now young adults — like me — and have disposable income.
I’m not going to pretend there aren’t downsides to owning a decade-and-a-half-year-old system. When I play Wii games with my friends, sometimes a remote randomly disconnects, and the inside of the Wii frequently makes a loud, humming noise, like it’s working a little too hard. Several months after I purchased my Wii, the console stopped reading discs, and I had to pay to get it repaired. But the Wii still keeps me engaged — or even active, depending on the game — and it’s fun to share with others.
Though Gamefellas sells more Wii games on some days compared with others, people generally come in looking for titles every day, Rodriguez says. At Gamefellas, cheaper Wii games that may not have nostalgic value are put out on the floor, but rarer games are kept behind the counter. “What we call rare is everything that’s worth over $24.99,” he says. “And most of this stuff is going to be filled with Mario titles, Mario Kart, Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Galaxy.” Pokemon and Zelda titles are big as well, he says.
Rileigh Braisher, a 21-year-old from California, says she usually gets new Wii games from eBay. She got into the Wii again after playing her boyfriend’s PS4. “It couldn’t fulfill what I remember my childhood Wii did,” she told me. “Nothing beats Wii sports, and I mean that.” So she went on Goodwill’s website a little over a month ago and purchased a Wii, which finally arrived last week.
In case I haven’t made the case for the Wii yet, here goes: The iconic, upbeat Wii Sports music, the Coconut Mall Mario Kart map, hooking a virtual shark in Animal Crossing, and turning your friends into an army of tiny avatars on the Mii menu.
Even though I’m no longer a college student aspiring to make an impression on my peers, I still consider my apartment — thanks to my Wii — to be the coolest on the block.