I’m sure you’ve heard it before. “I can’t believe Wii Sports is the best-selling game of all time! It’s not even that good of a game!”
Wii Sports may indeed be the best-selling game ever. Wikipedia has Tetris first, but that counts all variants of the classic stacking game. Other armchair experts claim that “bundles” (Wii Sports came with every Wii in all territories excluding South Korea and Japan) should not contest in the best-selling game discussion. In Japan, where Wii Sports was not bundled, it set a record for 2-day sales and was the best-selling game of 2007 anyways. However you feel about what is truly the “best-selling,” we can all agree that Wii Sports was nearly ubiquitous in the Wii’s heyday.
This popularity brought a wave of criticism, a lot of it coming from the “hardcore” crowd. It’s a casual game, they argued, and that is absolutely true. However, the argument that Wii Sports is, therefor, not a good game is absolutely false.
What do you look for in a “good game?” Story? Aesthetic? Gameplay? The social experience? Obviously, we cannot vouch for any kind of story in Wii Sports. The aesthetic, though inoffensive, was certainly not one of Nintendo’s greatest. However, Wii Sports absolutely nails our last two qualifiers.
The gameplay of Wii Sports is not everyone’s favorite. Yes, the motion controls were faulty. Yes, boxing never really worked properly. What we have to remember is that this was all new in 2007. What the Wii sacrificed in graphical fidelity it put into cheap, relatively accurate motion control. How is that for the Wii being less technically advanced? In 2007, we didn’t care if our left hook turned into a jab, or we swung a backhand at a tennis ball in front of us. Do you know who certainly didn’t care? Your mom.
No, seriously. My mother would not be able to point out an analog stick on a PS4 controller. My father played MLB Triple Play 2005 with me once before he called it quits. In 2006, my brother played Pokémon. Only Pokémon. All those people were able to play Wii Sports with me. There has never been a game, before or since Wii Sports, that every person on the planet could figure out in under a minute. A rural Indian villager could be be rolling strikes within 20. In a way never before realized, you were the controller.
The simplicity of the controls led to Wii Sports’ greatest achievement: the shared social experience. It was Nintendo at its very finest, them being the masters of local multiplayer. And yet, something was different. Those people nailing strike after strike were not your normal Smash Bros buddies. The woman rolling a 300 was your grandmother. Your doubles partner was mom. Never before had a video game brought these different people together.
I know we don’t all have fond memories of Wii Sports. I know by year two it was, to many, a plague upon the gaming industry. It was a casual game, that can’t be argued. Let’s look around right now, though. My grandmother will never play the 3DS game she got me for Christmas last year. My father isn’t bold enough to download a game to his phone (I have work to do!). My mother sees video games as a household epidemic.
I will never play a video game with any of those people ever again. And yet, all those people were willing to go Wii Bowling once a week or so. I think that’s incredible. I think Wii Sports is a crowning achievement of the “fun” that Nintendo strives for. And I think being casual is the least of its sins. Look at what the “casual” market contains nowadays. Candy Crush is played alone, except when you bother your Facebook friends. Clash of Clans is all online and far too dense for the non-gamer to understand without frustration. Both those apps are actively built to swindle money out of you. Wii Sports is the best casual experience possible. It is a social, easygoing, and welcoming game. Yes, Mario Kart is still here, and it is better than ever. Smash Bros., too, will not go away anytime soon. Those games don’t resonate with everyone, though. My family will never play those games.
Despite Wii Sports’ shortcomings in story and aesthetic, its revolutionary gameplay and transcendent multiplayer experience vaulted it to the forefront of pop culture. Never before, or since, has a game been so intuitive and friendly that it was understood by people of all ages and experiences. There may never be another game like Wii Sports. In a video game world of gritty violence and an increasingly online-multiplayer-only culture, that is a sad thought.
I miss you, Wii Sports.